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Escape to the Tropics or ski your heart out in one of the Stunning January US Travel Destinations

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Best Places To Travel In JanuaryBest Places to travel in the US in JanuaryNew York Best Place To visit in January in the USAJanuary Travel Destinations in the US

The holidays are over and the winter has set in throughout much of the United States in January, but that doesn’t mean that you have to settle in, too. If you are looking for the best places to travel in the US in January, look no further. January is a great time to travel in the United States. Whether you want to hit New York City for the ball drop and some winter museum hopping, escape the cold in southern Florida, see some whales in California, or take that tropical vacation you’ve always dreamed about in Hawaii, don’t wait until those spring rates go back up, hop on a plane or hit the road and explore one of these best places to travel in the US in January.

Best Places To Travel in January in the United States of AmericaBest Places To Travel in January in the United States of AmericaNew Year's DayOahu waterfall

Best Places To Travel In January In Florida

Florida is a natural choice for an eastern US winter escape in January. Here are a few gems from the sunshine state to warm up your winter.

Anna Maria Island, Florida

Anna Maria IslandAnna Maria Island

Anna Maria Island, Florida may very well be the best kept secret on the Gulf of Mexico. Located about an hour south of Tampa, FL this gem has managed to maintain the Old Florida feel with no high rise hotels and quaint shops and amazing restaurants. You won’t believe the colors and beauty of this place not to mention the mild temperatures in January with highs still in the low 70s. Take a day trip to Sarasota for some shopping or visit the Mote & Marine Aquarium with the kids. Read our full review of Anna Maria Island.

Amelia Island, Florida

OMNI AMELIA ISLANDOMNI AMELIA ISLAND

Looking for mild winter temperatures, great golf, historic travel, and a secluded old south feel? Consider a January vacation in Amelia Island, Florida. You probably won’t break out the swimsuit, but you may well not need that winter coat either. Take the kids to explore Fort Clinch State Park and make time to enjoy the historic downtown. Read our full review for more Things To Do in Amelia Island, Florida.

Panama City Beach, Florida

Panama City Beach, FLPanama City Beach, FL

Home to 27 miles of coastline, Panama City Beach, Florida is a destination that should definitely be on your US bucket list for a January vacation. Not only is it a tropical paradise, with palm trees and sandy beaches at every corner, there are Panama City Beach activities for everyone. 

If water adventure is your thing, we highly recommend shipwreck diving or spending the day on a fishing charter. Additionally, there are two amazing state parks in this town, Camp Helen State Park and St. Andrew’s State Park that are definitely worth exploring. And if you’re looking for a more relaxing day, pick your spot on the beach and soak up the sun. 

Panama City Beach is as adventurous or relaxing as you want to make it!

Hannah & Adam Lukaszewicz @GettingStamped

Fort Lauderdale, FL

Fort Lauderdale, FLFort Lauderdale, FL

Blessed with no fewer than 3,000 hours of sunshine per year and annual temperatures that average 75°F, Fort Lauderdale is one of the best spots in the US for a winter break in January. Hire a car in Miami and head north near the southern tip of the Florida Panhandle, an area home to amazing sand beaches and expansive wetlands. 

It’s an important starting and stopping point for cruises, while the city itself features a beautiful oceanfront promenade, a historic riverfront, canals, shopping opportunities and great food.

Active travelers can go diving and snorkeling in the Atlantic Ocean or go for runs on the many miles of beaches. A quick jaunt to the west brings you into the Everglades Wildlife Management Area. For a dose of culture, the Arts and Entertainment District is the place to go.

Matt from Go4CarRental.com

Best Places To Travel In January In California

Taking a road trip in California in January sounds like a great idea, doesn’t it? Here are a few of the great places to to visit on the way.

Santa Cruz, CA

Santa Cruz, CASanta Cruz, CA

Santa Cruz, California is a small beach town in the California central coast, just an hour and a half south of San Francisco. But Santa Cruz isn’t just great for summer travel, because the weather hovers in the 60’s most of the year, there’s plenty to do in January as well! 

January is the perfect time to do some whale watching along the Monterey Bay. While you can take a whale watching tour to get up close and personal, you can often spot the whales from the beachside cliffs, which is perfect and FREE. 

If you’re in the mood to see more wildlife, you can check out the elephant seals in Ano Nuevo State Park.The breeding season starts in January, and you can see newborn baby elephant seals. You do need reservations for the guided tour, but the tour itself is pretty easy and the weather in Santa Cruz is beautiful so it’s not strenuous. Do yourself a favor and visit the Pie Ranch that’s on the other side of the highway from the park for some freshly baked pie.  It’s so worth it. 

Other things to do:

·      Go kayaking in the Elkhorn Slough to see California sea otters;

·      Go for a hike at Big Basin State Park and see the California redwoods;

·      Bike down Westcliff Drive and enjoy the views;

·      Walk along one of the many beaches and enjoy the crisp sea breeze. 

Ale at Elote Sisters

Monterey, California

Whale in Monterey Bay, CAWhale in Monterey Bay, CA

Monterey, California is great to visit at any time of year, but January is a wonderful time to see gray whales on their annual migration! And it’s not just a few whales, but 20,000 on their way to Baja California, Mexico from Alaska. You can also see Humpbacks, and Blue Whales, too. This is a fabulous time to book a whale watching tour, but you can often see the spouts from shore if you don’t fancy a boat trip. Do know it can be windy and cold on the water, so layer up!

You should also make time to visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium while you’re there! Tickets are a little pricey, but well worth it. It’s HUGE and the exhibits are extremely well done. They’re a wonderful organization that supports ocean research and conservation.

You also can’t miss Cannery Row, the historic street that was once upon a time home to sardine factories, but is now lined with shops and restaurants along the beautiful waterfront! Note that Monterey can be cold, foggy, and windy at any time of year, so prepare accordingly.

Kelsey from Sights Better Seen

Big Sur, California

Big Sur, CaliforniaBig Sur, California

One of the best places to visit in January in the USA is the stunning Big Sur region of California. Temperatures remain mild throughout the winter months and crowds are significantly lower than you would see during the busy summer months. Spend a day or two exploring the sites located in and around Big Sur including Bixby Creek Bridge, McWay Waterfall and Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park where there a number of trails to explore. It’s also worth taking the time to pull off the Pacific Coast Highway and enjoy the numerous coastal walks while watching the waves crash into the Californian coast. If you have enough time, it’s worth driving north from Big Sur and exploring Monterey or Carmel which are both lovely towns with interesting things to do and see. 

Michael of The World Was Here First

San Luis Obispo, California

San Luis Obispo, CA- Great January Travel DestinationSan Luis Obispo, CA- Great January Travel Destination

San Luis Obispo is a sleepy college town (home to Cal Poly SLO) with perfect weather all year round, and beautiful scenery. SLO (San Luis Obispo for short) has a lovely downtown area I’d also recommend walking around in. There are lots of shops, both small and large, and great places to eat. Go to Bubblegum Alley (and add a piece if you’d like!) and see Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa nearby!

Even if you don’t actually stay in one of the rooms, stop by the Madonna Inn for a tour. The rooms are uniquely decorated. They have a PINK tennis court and the men’s bathroom has a waterfall in it. It’s definitely an interesting place to visit if you enjoy eclectic and eccentric roadside attractions. While there, enjoy a meal or dessert at the Inn restaurant and a walk around the grounds.

Kelsey from Sights Better Seen

Best Places To Travel In January In Hawaii

Are you really looking for the great American escape for January? Why not consider the trip of a lifetime to one of the fabulous island destinations in Hawaii?

Oahu, Hawaii

Best Places to travel in the US in January for a tropical escape- Oahu, HIBest Places to travel in the US in January for a tropical escape- Oahu, HI

January in Oahu is perfect. The weather isn’t too hot and the further you get from the New Year holiday, the hotel rates plummet. It’s a great place to trade shoveling snow for digging your toes in the sand. Because most families are back in school, there are fewer crowds at popular tourist spots like the Polynesian Cultural Center, Dole Plantation, and Pearl Harbor.

January is also the start of whale watching season in Hawaii and you might get lucky and see the humpback whales migrating either on a boat tour or while relaxing on the beach. You can also go on amazing Oahu waterfall hikes, kayak in rivers, learn to surf, and enjoy a traditional Hawaiian luau. It’s a great place to kick off the new year!

Marcie Cheung of Hawaii Travel With Kids

Maui, HI

Travel to Maui, HI in January Travel to Maui, HI in January

Maui is blessed with dozens of golden sand beaches, January highs around 80 degrees, and reliably sunny skies. You can surf warm waves in the morning, and snorkel with dolphins in the afternoon.  And unlike crowded Honolulu, it’s easy to find an empty stretch of sand to relax on.  Best of all, January is peak whale season, so you can even spy a humpback breaching from shore.

If you’ve had your fill of ocean activities, Maui offers a couple of amazing road trips; You can drive right to the the summit of Haleakala, a 10,000-foot dormant volcano.  And, the legendary “Road To Hana” takes you through 600 turns of tropical rainforest and waterfalls to a peaceful Hawaiian village. Read more about the best things to do in Maui here and about where to stay in Maui here.

Sam Wilbur of Worldwide Wilbur

Kauai, HI

Best tropical paradise to travel to in January Kauai, HIBest tropical paradise to travel to in January Kauai, HI

The island of Kauai, is known as the Garden Isle, meaning that it is the wildest and greenest of the Hawaiian Islands and a beautiful place to travel in the month of January.  Travelers might think that winter is the off season in Kauai, but the beautiful weather year-round has snowbirds flocking there to soak up the sun.

January is peak season in Kauai for watching humpback whales come to the tropical waters to birth their calves. It is worth traveling to Kauai in January for this reason alone! You can view these majestic creatures from the water on a boat tour with Captain Andy’s or you can watch from the shore at Kilauea Lighthouse.

The Na Pali coastline is Kauai’s stunning mountain lined beaches that can only be accessed by boat, helicopter or hiking. In winter, the waters are too rough for boat rides, but an aerial view will gift you with the most incredible views of the majestic ridges and gushing waterfalls. A helicopter tour would be one of the best activities to add to your Kauai itinerary. If you have young children with you, the private plane rides with Wings Over Kauai would be a great choice, and Jack Harter’s Door Off Helicopter Tour is best for thrill seekers.

Kauai’s green landscape is so vibrant and colorful due to its high rainfall, so staying in Poipu on a winter trip will bring you more sunshine and calmer waters for snorkeling. Poipu Beach Park is a great spot for seeing tropical fish and swimming during the winter months. A sunrise walk on Shipwreck Beach is also a perfect way to start the day in paradise.

Sierra Schmidt of Free to Travel Mama

Best Places To Travel In January For A Traditional or Adventurous Winter Vacation

If you aren’t necessarily looking to escape the winter, but rather want to enjoy some traditional US winter holidays, consider some of these iconic US travel destinations for January.

New York City, NY

Best US travel destination in January to ring in the New Year- New YorkBest US travel destination in January to ring in the New Year- New York

There’s no question that when one thinks of quintessential places to travel in January in the US, New York City come to mind. If you are dreaming of ringing in the new year in New York, don’t forget to leave time for all the other fabulous things to do in New York in January. Enjoy ice skating in Central Park, stroll around Brooklyn for fabulous views of Manhattan from the Brooklyn Bridge or walk on the Williamsburg Bridge for a different view of the Brooklyn Bridge and the incredible buzz of New York daily life. Finally, get out of the cold with a visit to one of New York’s amazing art museums such as the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum.

Claudia Tavani from My Adventures Across The World

Big Sky, Montana

Big Sky, MTBig Sky, MT

January is an excellent time to travel to Big Sky, Montana. The holiday crowds have mostly left and after the New Year is often a great time to find fresh snow and excellent powder – which is important if you’re planning on hitting up the excellent ski runs at Big Sky Resort. Beyond the skiing and snowboarding, the Big Sky Town Center has craft beer, delicious restaurants serving hearty fare, and cozy cafes – perfect for a hot drink or satisfying meal after a day on the slopes. Even non-skiers will enjoy cozying up in front of the fireplace during a winter stay at one of the many mountain lodges and cabins located around Big Sky.

There’s also an ice skating rink in the Town Center for some extra winter fun. Big Sky is located in the southwest part of Montana within the Rocky Mountain Range. Big Sky is about an hour’s drive north of Yellowstone National Park and an hour south of Bozeman, Montana, where you’ll find the state’s busiest airport. 

Gina of Travel Montana Now

Denver, CO

Inn restaurantMonterey

If you need to get away for a weekend getaway, visit the Mile High city. Two days in Denver this winter are all you need to step away from the stressful daily grind and return with a smile. What’s not to feel good about. The city is clean and buzzing with creativity. Plus, they use scooters to get around that people just drop off on the street. Like without a lock! Just one of the reasons to appreciate the vibe of this cool, laid back city. From the gorgeous Red Rocks Amphitheater, to endless music venues, breweries and public art there are countless reasons to spend a weekend in Denver this January. 

Blake at Style Island

Grand Canyon, AZ

New Year's DayOahu waterfall

The South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park is an excellent place to travel in January. Located in Arizona, this national park is home the world’s most famous red rock canyon, one of the seven natural world wonders. It is beautiful year-round and attracts visitors from around the world during all seasons, but winter at the Grand Canyon is a wonderful time to visit if you would like to avoid excessive crowds. You will find that you have most of the trails to yourself, you will not have to wait to take photos in popular spots, you be able to dine at the lovely restaurants without reservations (although they are recommended if you want the best views), and you will have no trouble finding a parking spot for your car.

Exploring the Grand Canyon in January will also allow you to avoid the excessive heat. With highs in the upper 50s (F), you will need warm layers. Warm coats, hats, gloves, and sunglasses are recommended. Snow storms are a possibility, so wear proper shoes for exploring in the snow. Keep in mind that the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is closed in January, so you will need to stick to the South Rim.

Leah from An Adventure Is Calling

You Might Also Be Interested In our Other Best Places To Travel In The US Guides

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10 Best Places to Travel in May

food festival

If you’re ready to get a jump start on summer travel, here are our picks for the ultimate May trip, whether you want to lounge beachside, experience natural beauty, chow down during a food festival, or meander through medieval city centers.

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Looking for a Memorial Day trip or inspiration for a late spring break? May is the best time to take advantage of shoulder season in historic cities such as Stockholm, or if you prefer, to avoid rainy season and enjoy sunny days in Cuzco. Here are the 10 best places to travel.

Spend time in such places as the Moderna Museet (the Museum of Modern Art), one of the myriad museums scattered throughout Stockholm.

Stockholm

May is good for: history buffs

The Swedish capital is made up of 14 islands linked by more than 50 bridges, and it is full of charms for people of all ages. May is one of the best months to go—temperatures are mild and days are long, but the high-season prices haven’t hit yet. If you arrive as early as May 1, you’ll experience May Day, when festivals and parades abound.

Get a sense of Stockholm’s medieval history by wandering the cobbled alleyways of the Old Town (Gamla Stan) and its many historical buildings and sites. Here, you’ll find the Storkyrkan, the city’s main cathedral, and the Museum of Medieval Stockholm, which tells the city’s tale during the age of nobility and knights. Catch the pomp of the changing of the guard at the Royal Palace (12:15 p.m. on weekdays and 1:15 p.m. on Sundays).

A favorite city retreat is Hagaparken, a large royal park just north of the city center. It has lawns, lakes, and woodland, not to mention three regal residences and the Butterfly House with its 700 butterflies flitting about. A great end-point from a long walk is Koppartälten (the Copper Tents), three copper structures painted bright blue and gold that resemble something straight out of a Narnia novel. Constructed in 1787 and once used as royal stables, they were designed by King Gustav III’s theater architect. Today, one of the faux tents houses a café.

Another popular city center oasis is Djurgården, where you can experience rolling Swedish countryside a short bus ride away. Besides being a lovely place for locals to picnic and take summertime walks, the island is home to many historical sites and museums like the Abba Museum, the Spirits Museum (liquor, not ghosts), the maritime Vasa Museum, and more. —AFAR Editors

While different whales migrate through Monterey Bay year-round, May is an especially great time to spot humpback, killer, and blue whales.

Monterey, California

May is good for: sea lovers, whale watchers

Located on California’s central coast about a two-hour drive from San Francisco, Monterey Bay spans 40 miles from Santa Cruz in the north to Pacific Grove; it is teeming with sea creatures, thanks in part to Monterey Canyon, a submarine canyon descending 6,000 feet below sea level. Visitors can witness the migration of different whales year-round, but in May there are opportunities to spot killer, humpback, and blue whales, which migrate through December. Music lovers can also appreciate the increasingly popular music festival, California Roots Music & Arts Festival, held over Memorial Day weekend.

Ranked among the world’s greatest marine museums, Monterey Bay Aquarium is the area’s main tourist draw and welcomes 2 million guests a year. Floor-to-ceiling glass viewing walls allow visitors full views of underwater ecosystems, like the Kelp Forest (where leopard sharks roam) and Open Sea (home to sea turtles and huge schools of sardines). Morning feedings of the African penguin colony and the always-playful sea otters are crowd-pleasing delights.

Active travelers of all levels will find a suitable land or sea adventure in Monterey. To truly immerse yourself in the local lifestyle, grab a kayak, get out on the ocean, and watch the clouds and coastline drift by. Gliding across the waters of Monterey Bay in near silence can be a humbling and serene experience, or it can turn into a bucket-list encounter with playful schools of dolphins or breaching whales. —AFAR Editors

Churchill Downs opened in 1875 and has been home to the Kentucky Derby ever since.

Louisville, Kentucky

May is good for: booze hounds, equestrians of all levels

The Kentucky Derby captures international headlines on the first Saturday in May, with mint juleps, elaborate hats, and edge-of-your-seat horse racing, but it’s the Kentucky Derby Festival that puts on the real show. Although there are events as early as November, the festival ramps up during the two weeks prior to the Derby, and pretty much anything goes: a steamboat race, hot air balloon chase, marathon, and concerts with big-name acts.

The horse race isn’t the only reason to visit Kentucky in May. Cocktail connoisseurs will appreciate the city’s reputation as the center of the bourbon-making universe, with most of the world’s supply coming from the city and its surroundings. In downtown, the elixir bubbles forth from gleaming copper stills at the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience. Family friendly exhibits take you back to 1783, when bourbon making began, while production tours show how it’s done today. A few blocks away, elegant Angel’s Envy offers tours and tastings of its slightly sweet, port-cask-finished whiskey.

To visit the distilleries like Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark, you’ll have to road-trip into the surrounding countryside. Kentucky’s Bourbon Trail provides itineraries for 19 small craft distilleries or 18 big-name ones, and visitors can get a passport stamp to show that they’ve visited (and opportunities for prizes). If you decide to take the double trail tour, plan on at least a week to visit all 37 distilleries. —AFAR Editors

Machu Picchu, a UNESCO World Heritage site, sits in the Andes Mountains, only a day-trip away from the city of Cuzco.

Cuzco

May is good for: adventurous spirits, hikers

The Andean city of Cuzco was once the heart of the Inca Empire. Situated 11,000 feet above sea level, this UNESCO World Heritage site is one of the most visited cities in Peru. Although May is winter in the Southern Hemisphere, it’s also the beginning of the dry season and hasn’t quite hit high season for crowds yet. The area is the gateway to the Sacred Valley and stunning swaths of the Amazon Basin, as well as Machu Picchu.

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Set in a remote, achingly beautiful corner of the Andes—all emerald peaks, snaking mists, endemic orchids, and meandering llamas—the most famous Inca citadel has the rare power to induce one of life’s pinch-me moments. To work around the crowds, consider a hiking adventure that puts you at the ruins before daybreak. The classic Inca Trail takes you from the outskirts of Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu’s Sun Gate over the course of three nights and four days. Though the trek isn’t easy—the Inca era was clearly the golden age of comically steep mountain staircases—there’s an embarrassment of riches along the way: the ever-shifting terrain, microclimates, flora, fauna, and plenty of Instagram-worthy views (hello, snowcapped Vilcanota Range), to say nothing of the Inca ruins sprinkled throughout. Another way to work around the crowds? Opt for a conservation trip with AFAR Travelers’ Choice Award–winner REI Adventures to help preserve Machu Picchu’s archaeological heritage.

Other amazing ruins to see include the terraced circles at Moray, believed to be an agricultural complex (but no one knows for sure); the stronghold at Ollantaytambo, which served as the base for the Incas’ Spanish resistance; and the underrated house complexes at Winay Wayna along the Inca Trail. All are near Machu Picchu, although some are harder to get to than others. —AFAR Editors

Orcas swim off the coast of Vancouver Island

Vancouver Island, British Columbia

May is good for: active travelers, road-trippers

Melting snow and blooming trees mark the beginning of spring in British Columbia. Bears come out of hibernation, orcas and humpbacks start their migration north, and restaurants brim with spring seafood (salmon, halibut, spot prawns) and foraged treats (spruce tips, fiddlehead ferns). May 1 marks the start of hiking season on the renowned West Coast Trail.

Vancouver Island—which has the capital city, Victoria, and the wood-shingled surf town Tofino—packs a lot into its 12,000 square miles. Come 2020, there are even more ways to explore. In Tofino, where travelers can surf and kayak, there are new additions to the town’s flourishing culinary scene, such as the Tofino Distillery and the vegan restaurant Bravocados, and new suites at the Pacific Sands Resort. The reigning queen of Tofino hospitality is still the Wickaninnish Inn, however. Its renovated Pointe Restaurant and On the Rocks bar—all wood and ocean-view windows, with a bar fashioned from local marble—will open a new wine cellar and event space in time for World Oceans Day (June 8). A new, nearly 15-mile multiuse trail that stretches from Tofino to its coastal neighbor, Ucluelet, is in the works. Travelers can book cycling tours with Pacific Rim Eco Tours in Ucluelet. The island is also home to 50 First Nations communities, with many offering immersive ways for travelers to connect with Native traditions. Homalco Wildlife & Cultural Tours is slated to run three trips along the island’s northern coast that highlight various aspects of the Homalco culture.

By the way, Vancouver Island is about 70 miles west of Vancouver. A road trip is one of the best ways to connect with the land and sea: Travelers can rent a car in Vancouver and take the 95-minute ferry to Victoria, or they can take a roughly 30-minute flight from Vancouver and rent a car from Victoria’s International Airport. It takes 5.5 hours to drive the island from end to end. A more enjoyable experience? Opting for the Oceanside Route, which parallels the water as it leads through quaint towns on the island’s east coast. —Serena Renner, as seen in the January/February 2020 issue

Salar de Uyuni is the largest salt flat in the world.

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

May is good for: stargazers

The world’s largest salt desert, located in Bolivia’s high-altitude plateau, is becoming a luxury outpost. And May—the tail end of the wet season and the beginning of the dry season—is an ideal month to visit: The flats, located in southwest Bolivia, are more accessible, and thanks to the mix of sunny and rainy days, travelers may be able to see the salt flats both dry and when they are flooded, which creates the surreal mirror effect captured in countless photos.

In May 2019, the Swiss outfitter Amazing Escapes partnered with Bolivia’s indigenous Jirira community to open Kachi Lodge, the region’s first permanent luxury lodge. The highly sustainable camp, located at the foot of the Tunupa volcano, comprises six solar-powered geodesic domes with wood-pellet stoves, bay windows, and incinerating toilets. Reclaimed wood furniture, traditional bayeta textiles, and artwork from Gastón Ugalde (considered the Andean Andy Warhol) decorate the lodge. Claus Meyer, the Michelin-starred chef behind the destination restaurant Gustu in La Paz, oversees the menu, and dishes are made from native Bolivian ingredients. Guests can stargaze through the onsite telescope, take culinary classes, get an art lesson from Ugalde, or explore with a private guide part of the otherworldly terrain that spans over 4,000 square miles.

—Nora Walsh, as seen in the January/February 2020 issue

Sailing is a popular way to explore the British Virgin Islands.

British Virgin Islands

May is good for: snorkelers

Skip hurricane season (June through November) and visit this Travelers’ Choice Award–winner in spring, when the weather is balmy and underwater visibility is high, revealing colorful reefs and historic shipwrecks.

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Besides, with the reopening of several major resorts in 2020, this is the year the British Virgin Islands fully rebound from the devastating 2017 hurricane season. Richard Branson’s Necker Island reopened after multimillion-dollar renovations in late 2018, unveiling additional accommodations and wind turbines that produce almost all of the resort’s energy. Over on Virgin Gorda, Rosewood Little Dix Bay reopened in January 2020 with midcentury modern interiors that hark back to when the resort first opened in 1964. As for the Willy T, the beloved floating bar and restaurant destroyed in Hurricane Irma? A newer, larger replacement serves up rum-soaked fun just off Norman Island, believed to be the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.

There are no direct flights to the islands from the U.S. mainland, but several airlines connect to Tortola via San Juan, Puerto Rico, and other Caribbean hubs. Travelers who fly to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands can ride the ferry to Tortola—part of the local ferry network that makes island-hopping easy and scenic. Those who prefer to plot their own course between turquoise coves and pirate caves will find crewed yachts and catamarans ready to charter. —Kristina Malsberger and Lyndsey Matthews, as seen in the January/February 2020 issue

Coqui frogs are endemic to Puerto Rico—and travelers can spot them in El Yunque National Forest.

Puerto Rico

May is good for: nature nuts

Many consider mid-April to late May in Puerto Rico the sweet spot: Winter crowds clear, prices drop, and official hurricane season (June through November) has yet to begin. Travelers who want to experience the bioluminescent glow of Mosquito Bay (off the island of Vieques) should plan a trip over Memorial Day weekend to coincide with a new moon.

In the wake of Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico has rebuilt itself better and stronger. With renewed pride and increased self-sufficiency, the island offers a flurry of new enticements. They include new and refreshed hotels: in the Condado district, La Concha, dating back to 1958, has unveiled a $15 million renovation; and El Conquistador in Fajardo, on the eastern end of the island, will fully reopen this year. On the culinary front, Puerto Rico’s most famous restaurant, José Enrique, which features locally sourced ingredients, recently reopened closer to the beach in San Juan. There’s Spoon Food Tours’ modern chinchorreo, a party bus that makes culinary stops throughout the countryside, and the new Ron de Barrillito Visitor Center in Bayamón, where guests can enjoy tours and tastings and fill their own bottles with Puerto Rico’s oldest rum. In the capital, the recently opened entertainment complex El Distrito San Juan lures visitors with a concert arena, restaurants, bars, a dance club, and Puerto Rico’s first urban zip line. And while there’s no zip line in El Yunque, the only tropical rain forest in the U.S. national forest system, visitors will find fascinating species—including the Puerto Rican screech owl and the indigenous coquí frog—that have weathered the storms. —K.M.

Hundreds of restaurateurs and thousands of eaters will gather for the fifth annual Food Zurich festival in May.

Zurich

May is good for: chocolate fans, food lovers

Though Zurich might evoke images of a city full of financiers in business suits, the historic lakeside city in northeastern Switzerland is also a lovely summer stop for travelers. And May is the perfect time to visit: Peak season has yet to strike, the weather is mild, and some noteworthy flavors are on display. First up is Food Zurich, an 11-day culinary fete that offers more than 100 food-centric events: Attendees get to taste both traditional Swiss fare and experimental dishes, take part in cooking workshops, watch talks and demonstrations by lauded chefs (kitchen battles, anyone?), and more. Then, from May 8 to June 7, the seventh annual Street Food Festival will take place. Sushi! Cupcakes! Dumplings! Tacos! And musical entertainment is on tap for eaters, too.

But perhaps the most thrilling event in May isn’t a food festival at all, but a building opening—the Lindt Home of Chocolate in Kilchberg, about 25 minutes outside Zurich by public transit. This May, the 65,000-square-foot complex will open, containing the world’s largest Lindt shop, as well as interactive exhibits on cacao and Switzerland’s chocolate pioneers, a “Chocolateria” where up to 60 participants can learn the art of chocolate making, plus a nearly 30-foot-high chocolate fountain. —Sara Button 

The Infiorata flower fest is one of a number of events taking place across Sicily in May.

Sicily

May is good for: all types of travelers

“One doesn’t come to Italy for niceness,” British novelist E.M. Forster once wrote. “One comes for life.” Indeed, May is a great time of year for a trip to Sicily, the largest island in the Mediterranean, just west of Calabria, the tip of the Italian boot. May still counts as shoulder season; warm days mean the water is comfortable enough to take a dip but the weather is not as toasty as it gets in summer. Starting May 20, 2020, a new seasonal United flight from Newark Liberty International Airport to Palermo Airport is opening up the beautiful isle to American flyers with the only daily nonstop option.

Even better? The gem of an island has something for every type of traveler. Love food? Snack on the freshest of seafood (think super fresh prawns and stuffed sardines) or arancini (bites of breaded, deep-fried risotto) or sweet ricotta-filled cannoli. Hiking more your style? Join a guided hiking tour to summit Mount Etna, a UNESCO World Heritage site and Europe’s highest volcano (budding volcanologists, take note: it’s active). Is “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” your theme song? Every May, San Vito Lo Capo, a seaside town with white sand beaches and turquoise waters, hosts an international kite festival. Have an ardent love of arias? Teatro Massimo, Palermo’s opera house, is Italy’s largest and reportedly has perfect acoustics; in May, catch The Merry Wives of Windsor. Consider yourself a flower child? During the Infiorata di Noto on the third Sunday of May, master florists cover a main street in the baroque town of Noto with designs composed entirely of flowers.

We could go on, but you should just book the ticket and let us know what your favorite part was. —Sara Button

This story originally appeared on February 20, 2019. It was updated on February 11, 2020, to include current information.

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