Things to Do in May
While you wait for summer’s official arrival, there are still plenty of things heating up in May. Don’t miss May’s must-dos like the Kentucky Derby, National Bike Month, Cinco de Mayo and more.
National Bike MonthThe days are longer and the weather is getting warmer, so now’s the perfect time to leave the car in the garage and dust off your bike. Celebrate National Bike Month by taking your bike for a spin around the best cities for cycling in the US or plan a sip ’n’ spin weekend biking in wine country. Bathing suit season is almost here, so get on your bike now to spin your way to a perfect beach bod. 960 1280
Lotus Lantern FestivalIt’s Buddha’s birthday! One of the largest events in Korea, the Seoul Lotus Lantern Festival is a tradition that celebrates the birth of Buddha and the lanterns symbolize offerings of light, wisdom and compassion. More than 100,000 locals light up one of the city’s busiest streets as they carry illuminated lanterns in the shape of Buddhist symbols. 960 1280
Mother's DayDon’t forget about mom this month! Sure, mom would love a travel gift for her next vacation. But she would probably rather spread some quality time with you instead, so treat her to a Mother's Day escape like a fitness retreat, wine tasting, day at the spa or a fancy afternoon tea. 960 1280
Cannes Film FestivalFilm fanatics, the mother of all film festivals is here – Cannes Film Festival. This annual film festival brings Hollywood’s elite to the sun-drenched French seaside town of Côte d'Azur every year in May. If the stars on the red carpet don’t dazzle you, the picture-perfect beaches and chic resorts here certainly will. Or escape the paparazzi and head to the nearby picturesque beaches of Nice, Monte Carlo and St. Tropez. 960 1280
Cinco de MayoCelebrate Mexican heritage on Cinco de Mayo (5th of May) at over 120 official US celebrations, across 21 states, in cities such as Cleveland, Los Angeles, Dallas and Atlanta. No matter where you are on this day, we suggest celebrating Mexico the right away -- feasting on Mexican cuisine and washing it all down with a margarita (or 2). 960 1280
Monaco Grand PrixRev your engines for the world’s greatest and most glamorous motor race! Dating back to 1929, the Monaco Grand Prix takes place on the Circuit de Monaco. A playground for the rich and famous, the Monaco Grand Prix always attracts a bevy of Hollywood A-listers, like stars Cameron Diaz and Antonio Banderas. 960 1280
The PreaknessBaltimore’s Pimlico Race Course hosts the second leg of the US Triple Crown – the Preakness Stakes. While the Preakness has been a time-honored tradition since 1873, you can expect something new every year like this year’s headlining musical act by Lorde, the 17-year-old double Grammy Award-winning artist. 960 1280
NYC Fleet WeekNYC hosts Fleet Week -- a celebration of the men and women in the US Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard. A tradition since 1984, Fleet Week features several military demonstrations and a chance for the public to step aboard select military ships. Don’t miss the parade of ships in the harbor or musical performances by the sailors and marines. 960 1280
World BBQ ChampionshipIf you’re craving a good ‘ole fashioned BBQ showdown, watch the best-of-the-best from all over the world compete in Memphis in May's World BBQ Championship in Memphis, TN. Want a taste of the action? Don't miss the Willingham family's booth -- they're the only competitors allowed to sell their Southern specialties to the public. 960 1280
Memorial DayIt’s finally here – the official kick-off to summer! Pack your new suit and plenty of sunscreen for the first beach weekend of the season. Check out our 2014 Travel’s Best Beach Award Winners for inspiration on where to go. Whether you crave a family-friendly spot, sun and solitude, or a boisterous party beach, there’s a perfect beach for you just a drive away. 960 1280
Spring BreakEven if you’re years out of school, spring break can still be a a great excuse to get away. Just imagine lots of sun, sand and Absolut-ly good times with friends! Check out these spring break party spots to plan your warm-weather escape. 960 1280
St. Patrick’s DayEveryone’s Irish on March 17th. In celebration of Ireland’s most famous patron saint, don your best shamrock green, and head to one of these St. Patrick’s Day celebrations around the world. 960 1280
Napa Valley MarathonLooking for an inspiring place to get active? Few locales can beat sunny, scenic Napa Valley. 2014 will mark the 36th anniversary of the annual Napa Valley Marathon -- a 26.2-mile course bordered by world-class vineyards. 960 1280
HanamiGet ready for some “flower viewing.” From the end of March to early May, cherry blossoms (known as “sakura”) bloom all over Japan. The practice of hanami goes back centuries; today the tradition of flower viewing continues as thousands of people fill parks each year to hold feasts under the flowering trees or take boat rides nearby, like here in Tokyo’s Inokashira Park. 960 1280
Merrie Monarch FestivalThink “hula,” and you probably also think “Hawaii.” The person who helped ensure that long-standing association is Kalakua, the last reigning king of Hawaii, who revived the hula after it had been banned under Christian missionary influence in 1830. Celebrate the hula -- and the “Merrie Monarch” who fought for its preservation -- in this annual weeklong festival in Hilo, HI. 960 1280
MSC Preziosa CruiseAll aboard! March 2014 will mark the 1-year anniversary of this luxury cruise ship owned and operated by MSC Cruises. The maiden voyage starts from Saint-Nazaire (in western France) to Genoa, Italy. The ship will feature 1,751 cabins, as well as 21 bars, 4 principal restaurants and much more. 960 1280
HoliPaint the town red … and yellow … and whatever other colors you can get your hands on. This annual spring festival of colors, marked by Hindus worldwide, celebrates spring’s abundant colors. Participants throw colored powder at each other … and go wild. 960 1280
Las FallasOne onlooker described this annual fiesta in Valencia, Spain, as “a cross between a bawdy Disneyland, Fourth of July and the end of the world.” Each year, the town oversees “Las Fallas” (which literally means “the fires” in Valencian), a 5-day celebration involving the creation and burning of ninots (“puppets” or “dolls”). Pyromaniacs welcome. 960 1280
Spring EquinoxAh, the first day of spring. On the equinox, night and day are exactly the same length (12 hours) all over the world. (The term “equinox” means “equal night” in Latin.) Celebrate the first day of spring at Mexico’s Kukulkan Pyramid (pictured), where locals and tourists come to recreate the parties that accompanied the equinox celebrations thousands of years ago (minus the cutting out of hearts!). 960 1280
SXSWHead to the largest music festival of its kind in the world! 2014’s South by Southwest festival in Austin features a conversation with Edward Snowden and a keynote address by actress Lena Dunham. 960 1280
Mad About March 11 Photos
The Middle of Middle-earthA giant sculpture of Gollum, created by local special-effects studio WETA, welcomes the throngs of Hobbit fans at the Wellington Airport in New Zealand. The airport terminal has also been renamed, greeting arrivals with a sign saying, "The Middle of Middle-earth." The whole airport is dedicated to Hobbit-fever -- even luggage is collected from "Baggins Services." 960 1280
Tongariro ParkTongariro National Park was selected by filmmaker Peter Jackson to stand in as J.R.R Tolkien’s ominous Mordor. This 300-square-mile park on New Zealand’s North Island is full of natural wonders, including active volcanoes and emerald lakes. The park’s popular Alpine Crossing was ranked one of the world’s top 10 day hikes by National Geographic. 960 1280
Weta CaveVisit the Weta Cave Museum in Wellington to see J.R.R. Tolkien’s universe come to life. Hobbit fans can meet some of the characters from The Lord of the Rings trilogy, learn about the movie’s special effects and get a sneak peek at behind-the-scenes videos. This Middle-earth mecca is open 7 days a week, with free admission. 960 1280
Middle-earth MeccaA 2-hour drive from Auckland will lead you to the famous rolling hills of Matamata’s countryside. Here you’ll find Hobbiton, the mecca of all Hobbit tourism. Fans can visit Hobbiton Movie Set Tours, where a Middle-earth expert will guide you through the famous Lord of the Rings trilogy film set. 960 1280
Mt. Aspiring National ParkMount Aspiring National Park, located in the Southern Alps of New Zealand's South Island, was a location for the fortress Isengard in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The park is a popular sport for tramping (the New Zealand term for hiking and trekking). 960 1280
Hobbit HoleVisit the Hobbiton Movie Set Tours to see where the furry-footed creatures live. There are 44 Hobbit holes on the site, which were recreated in 2011 for more Hobbit filming. The tiny Hobbit holes were remade with permanent materials, so the set can continue on as a permanent tourism attraction. 960 1280
Westland Tai Poutini National ParkWestland Tai Poutini National Park, located on the West Coast of New Zealand's South Island, appears in the trilogy’s third and final installment, The Return of the King. The 290,000-acre park showcases a stunningly diverse landscape of glaciers, snow-capped mountains, forests and beaches. 960 1280
Lord of the Rings Horse TreksGlenorchy on New Zealand’s South Island is an area known for its horse riding and spectacular scenery. Trek on horseback 10 miles north of Glenorchy to an area known as Paradise. This rural treasure was the filming location for scenes in The Lords of The Ringstrilogy. 960 1280
Everglades National Park, FloridaThe most threatened site in the US is the beautiful “river of grass” flowing into the sea on the southern tip of Florida, whose habitats provide sanctuary for a wide variety of birds and reptiles, as well as threatened species such as the manatee. Reinstated on the list in 2010, the fragile aquatic ecosystem is threatened by nearby development and pollution upstream. 960 1280
Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra, IndonesiaMade up of 3 national parks, the Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra is home to 10,000 plant species, 200 mammal species and 580 bird species in its protected area, many of which are endemic and endangered. Construction, poaching and illegal logging are just some of the threats to the island and its unique inhabitants, such as this Sumatran orangutan. 960 1280
Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, BelizeThe series of coral reefs lining the coast of Belize alongside picturesque sand cays, lagoons and offshore atolls makes up the largest barrier reef system in the Northern Hemisphere. The possibility of swimming alongside threatened species such as sea turtles and manatees makes it a diver’s dream, but continued development of formerly public lands could destruct the mangrove and marine systems. 960 1280
Niokolo-Koba National Park, SenegalThe plush savannas along the banks of the Gambia River are ripe with birds, chimpanzees, lions, leopards, elephants and Derby elands, the largest type of antelope, which have faced threats of overgrazing and poaching in recent years. 960 1280
East Rennell, Solomon IslandsEast Rennell is on the southernmost island of the Solomon Island group in the western Pacific and the largest raised coral atoll in the world. A former lagoon on the island, Lake Tegano, has a dense forest canopy (soaring more than 65 feet), rugged limestone islands and many endemic species threatened by logging. 960 1280
Air and Ténéré Natural Reserves, NigerSituated in the Sahara desert lies the largest protected area in Africa and an isolated volcanic rock mass with its own unique climate, landscapes, vegetation and wild animals. Military conflict and civil unrest have made the area unsafe since 1992. 960 1280
Timbuktu, MaliFor children, Timbuktu is synonymous with the end of the Earth, although few of them know where its remote location actually is — perched on the edge of the Sahara in Africa — or that in its golden age, the city was a spiritual and intellectual hub for some of Africa’s richest empires. Although its great mosques, Djingareyber, Sankore and Sidi Yahia, are continuously restored, they are still threatened by desertification and militants (who destroyed sacred tombs in 2012). 960 1280
Chan Chan Archaeological Site, PeruSome 600 years ago, the city of Chan Chan in northern Peru was the largest adobe city in the world. Before being conquered by the Incas, some 60,000 people lived within the walls of the 9-square-mile city. The intricate labyrinth forms 9 separate citadels, or palaces, that mirror the Chimú’s strict social stratification. The ancient structures now endure heavy rainfall, which will slowly turn the once-brick walls into mud without constant conservation. 960 1280
Medieval Monuments of Kosovo, SerbiaThese 4 Serbian Orthodox churches and monasteries represent the high point of Byzantine-Romanesque ecclesiastical culture, a unique fusion of east and west, with a distinct style of wall painting developed in the Balkans. Upkeep of the Decani Monastery — which was built in the mid-14th century for the Serbian king Stefan Decanski and also serves as his mausoleum — as well as the other historic buildings, has given way to political unrest in the area. 960 1280
Portobelo-San Lorenzo, PanamaThe ruins found at the port city of Portobelo and nearby Fort San Lorenzo hark back to the height of the Spanish colonial empire and were built to protect trade, particularly that of silver, between the Americas and Spain. Some parts of the walls have been lost to decay, but the most impressive section, at the mouth of the Chagres River, overlooking the Caribbean Sea, has been maintained. 960 1280
Old City, Jerusalem, IsraelJerusalem, as the holy city for Judaism, Christianity and Islam, has always been of great religious symbolism. Of its more than 200 historic monuments, the most significant may well be the Dome of the Rock, which is recognized by all 3 religions as the site of Abraham’s sacrifice. 960 1280
Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem, West BankJust south of Jerusalem lies what has been considered the birthplace of Jesus since the second century. The pilgrimage route is shared by Latin, Greek Orthodox, Franciscan and Armenian convents and churches. Much work is being done to safeguard the authenticity of this vulnerable site, which includes elaborate floor mosaics from the original building. 960 1280
Maritime Mercantile City of Liverpool, EnglandThe city of Liverpool, surprisingly, is home to the most endangered site in the United Kingdom. The historic center and maritime mercantile docklands played an important role in the growth of the British Empire in the 18th and 19th centuries; however, today, its preservation is threatened by new development along the waterfront. 960 1280
Great Barrier Reef, Australia?Off the coast of Queensland, Australia, sits the largest coral reef system and one of the most complex ecosystems in the world. While the Great Barrier Reef has not yet been named “in danger,” recent plans for rapid coastal development have a vocal group of leading scientists and activists calling for UNESCO to add it to the list during its annual review in June. 960 1280
Out: Meet at the Airport Bar
Forget sidling up to the airport bar alone, hoping to make that magical connection with someone during the doldrums of an hours-long layover. The new website MeetAtTheAirport.com gives tech-savvy travelers the chance to, er, hook up with a possibly special someone in advance of bellying up to the bar. Simply register on the site in a few simple steps, and you'll be able to discern other singles traveling through the same airport you're flying through. You'll be able to meet over a coffee or cocktail, or heck, why not really turn things up a notch, and grab a few slices from the food court Sbarro?
Out: Meet at the Airport Bar
Out: Cruise to the Caribbean
In: Cruise to Exotic Destinations
No longer are discerning travelers content to sip a mai tai on the starboard deck while watching tried-and-true ports of call like St. Thomas slip by. In fact, cruisers are looking toward destinations once rarely frequented by cruise lines, like the western coast of South America, Northern Europe, India, Africa and the Middle East -- and the cruise industry is responding in kind. In the midst of a definitive spike in the popularity of exotic cruise destinations, for 2013 companies such as Princess Cruises and Royal Caribbean have more exciting destinations on the docket than ever before.
Out: Cruise to the Caribbean
Where once-upon-a-time backpackers to Southeast Asia once heralded Laos for its lush environs, Buddhist culture and fascinating temples, today the nation has become more of a frat party for ill-behaved backpackers getting wasted on a variety of substances and partying along riverbanks. Today, smart travelers are setting their sights elsewhere. In fact, you can barely discuss intrepid travel destinations without someone crying out "Myanmar!" these days. With the lifting of a travel ban imposed on rights activists to the once-fiercely ruled country, travelers have been pouring in.
Out: Western Europe
In: Eastern Europe
Oh, we know that Western Europe will never actually lose mass popularity among travelers, nor should it, but at times its prices can be staggering for Americans dealing with a weaker dollar. As 2013 approaches, more and more travelers are seeking out wonders beyond the Roman ruins and Parisian museums. Eastern Europe, once avoided during periods of extreme political upheaval and unrest, is now bubbling up as the go-to destination for many travelers. Take for example, mountainous Slovenia; it's being touted by travel and adventure publications as the new Alps.
Out: Western Europe
Scores of travelers take advantage of their vacation downtime to indulge in a spa treatment, typically a soothing Swedish or aromatherapy massage. And yet, that's so 2012. The next trend in restorative treatments is hammams, often referred to as Turkish baths. The traditional hammam experience typically involves stripping down, donning a small towel, loosening up in a steam room and getting the living daylights scrubbed and rubbed out of you by your treatment provider while lying on a marble slab. The whole ordeal is often capped off by a refreshing (albeit, startling) dunk in icy cold water.
Out: Non-Organic Foods
In: Foraged Cuisine
Ever since the Copenhagen restaurant Noma was named 2011's World's Best Restaurant by Restaurant Magazine, foodies have been turning a keen eye toward chef René Redzepi's unique twist on dining: forage cuisine. Wondering what on earth that means? Basically, the chef forages through the region to unearth, obtain and cook unexpected ingredients found in their natural habitats, like mosses, lichens and pine needles. Now, come 2013, it's not unusual to find restaurants such as Elizabeth in Chicago and Atera in New York City following suit. Best part: In this heightened embrace of nature, there's no space for pesticide-sprayed foods.
Out: Non-Organic Foods
Out: Thai Islands
In: Philippine Islands
Once upon a time, long, long ago, the young Leonardo DiCaprio starred in The Beach, filmed on Koh Phi Phi, and Thailand's beaches and islands would never be quite the same. As Thai islands have become overrun with backpackers, jacking up prices and leading to oft-crowded party zones on once-secluded beaches, travelers are seeking respite in as-yet-encroached places, such as the Philippine Islands. Head to the Palawan region but head there soon: As tour providers discover the area's growing popularity, more airlines are offering flights to the region, and we'll be again looking for the next epically isolated island experience.
Out: Thai Islands
Out: City Lights
In: Northern Lights
Catching a glimpse of the Northern Light's ethereal, dancing lights display, also known as aurora borealis, is the highlight of a lifetime, much less a vacation, for many travelers. The lights can be seen during periods of heightened solar activity, which happens to peak cyclically, every 11 years. Astronomy experts have predicted the lights will reach their next apex between now and April 2013. While a Northern Lights-spotting trip cannot guarantee a successful sighting -- there are certain Northern Hemisphere locations where sightings are more successful than others, such as Greenland, Iceland and parts of Canada.
Out: City Lights
Out: Pricey Hotels
In: DIY Vacation Rentals
Tired of paying out the wazoo for hotel stays that don't even include the cost of parking, Wi-Fi, breakfast or resort fees? We are too. Luckily, in 2013, there are alternatives for travelers with an open, DIY mindset. Rather than forking over the steep nightly rates of many hotels, travelers, and families in particular, are seeking accommodations through sites such as Airbnb and VRBO (Vacation Rentals by Owner). These sites allow vacationers to rent furnished condos, apartments or houses directly from their owners. While you might not get daily maid service, you will get steeply discounted rates, sometimes as low as $30 per night.
Out: Pricey Hotels
Out: Ignoring the Mall