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How to Do a Winter Weekend in New Hampshire

Embrace the snow this winter and get out of the house—New Hampshire has skiing, Ice Castles, and beer to motivate you.

Hotels for a Winter Weekend in New Hampshire: 

Named after the nearby rock formation, Indian Head Resort offers a full-service restaurant and lounge, private balcony rooms, and free shuttle service to local attractions. Situated on the edge of Lincoln and in the heart of the White Mountains region, Indian Head Resort is an excellent family-friendly option for those looking to get away for the weekend and is only a short drive from the majority of the area’s outdoor winter activities. 

The Woodstock Inn, Station & Brewery has everything you need for a romantic weekend away, with 40 different rooms, a lively restaurant and bar scene, and a brewery. Splurge on a room in the Cascade building, which has in-room fireplaces and Jacuzzi tubs, perfect for warming up after a long day on the slopes.

Friday: 

Drive up to the Lincoln area–if you can avoid leaving during rush hour, it should only take you about two hours to get up here from Boston.

Check in to Indian Head Resort and explore the moose-and-maple-syrup wonderland that is their gift shop before heading out to the Common Man restaurant for dinner. Snag a seat by the massive fireplace and enjoy the complimentary cheese and crackers (but save room for the hearty portions, complimentary homemade bread, and free white chocolate after dinner). The Common Man’s comfort-style food is great for cold nights, and the diverse menu (which has everything from vegetarian “almost escargot” made from mushrooms to surf and turf) will appeal to everyone in your party.

After you’re fortified against the cold, visit the famous Ice Castles, located just next door in North Woodstock. This frozen attraction takes over 4,000 man-hours to make every year and consists of delicately placed icicles embedded with colorful LED lights, ice slides, tunnels, and frozen thrones to pose on. Timed tickets are sold in half-hour increments, plenty of time to explore the halls of ice, wander the courtyards of frozen fountains, and treat yourself to sleigh ride to end the evening. If you can wait until the last ticket time of the evening, the Ice Castles will be virtually crowd-free and even more magical. Fortunately for travelers who don’t live in the New England area but want to get a taste of this unique experience, Ice Castles has five additional locations across the United States and Canada.

Join SmarterTravel’s video editor Carol as she braves the cold and takes you along on a weekend trip to Ice Castles New Hampshire, a glittering wonderland that you can only see in winter. So embrace the snow and buckle in – road trips aren’t just for summer anymore. Want more expert tips and vacation inspiration? Subscribe to SmarterTravel on YouTube!

Saturday: 

Fuel up for a day of skiing with breakfast at Flapjack’s Pancake House in downtown Lincoln. This hot spot offers classic breakfast and brunch comfort foods, from mouth-watering omelets to loaded chocolate chip pancakes (or rather, chocolate chips held together by pancake batter). With gluten-free and vegetarian options, it’s the perfect kick start you need for an activity-filled day ahead.

Strap on your skis or snowboard and hit the slopes at Loon Mountain, which has options for skiers of any skill level. Over 60 trails are spread out over three peaks, and 12 lifts help disperse the crowds, so you’ll never feel too cramped on the slopes and epic views of the White Mountains will reward you at the top of every run.

When you’re ready for a break, the Pemigewasset Base Camp will get you fed and back out there quickly, serving up made-to-order fresh sandwiches and paninis.

Head out just before last chair and over to the Woodstock Inn & Brewery, where you can check-in and drop off your stuff just in time to make the last brewery tour of the day at 4 p.m. This ultra-small “nano” brewery makes local beer that’s famous throughout the region, and the tour gives you the chance to sample five brews while learning about the production process.

Relax in your in-room Jacuzzi tub if you’ve booked a room with one, or simply warm up by one of the resort’s roaring fireplaces before enjoying dinner at the Woodstock Station Restaurant. (Be sure to make a reservation, as this is one of the area’s most popular dining spots.) This lively restaurant and bar uses local ingredients (including incorporating hops from the brewery into many items, like beer and cheese) and has a huge menu that will satisfy any craving you’ve worked up on the slopes. This lively spot really gets going after 9 p.m., when live bands strike up in the bar.

Sunday: 

Wake up in time for the first chair at Cannon Mountain, a state-owned ski resort in Franconia Notch State Park. But first, enjoy breakfast at Woodstock Inn—all entrees come with free homemade sticky buns, warm bread, juice, coffee, and home fries, so it would be financially irresponsible not to eat there.

Cannon is just a quick drive down the road, and there are 265 acres of trails for you to conquer, so it’s best to start early! Cannon has earned a reputation as a “skiers mountain” and it definitely lives up to it. When I visited, the snow guns were working overtime and providing great coverage; which combined with excellent grooming, made for perfect conditions. There are trails for every level, with lots of blues and greens for beginners/intermediates to black diamonds for those looking for a challenge.

Warm-up during lunchtime with a hearty meal at the Cannonball Pub. This restaurant’s wall of picture windows provides excellent views of the slope to entertain you while you eat. Go healthy with fresh salads, or indulge in Irish coffee and expertly seasoned waffle fries with garlic and rosemary if you want a treat after a morning of skiing.

Not one for skiing or hiking but still don’t want to miss out on those New Hampshire mountain views? Spend the afternoon taking a leisurely drive up the Kancamagus Highway, the scenic portion of Route 112 that starts in Lincoln and runs through the White Mountains National Forest. Affectionately known as “The Kanc”, travelers can stop at one of the many trailheads or designated lookout spots to enjoy sprawling vistas made even more stunning by their dusting of mountain snow. Take a picnic, or just your camera, and enjoy the view!

Stay long enough to snap a few pictures of the crystal clear winter sunset from Sugar Hill Lookout—there’s no reason to leave earlier, as you can be back in Boston in just 2 hours with plenty of time to rest and get ready for work the next day.

More from SmarterTravel:

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2017. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

Caroline was hosted by the New Hampshire Division of Travel and Tourism Development. Check out VisitNH.gov for help planning your New Hampshire trip! Follow her adventures around the world on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline and on Twitter @CarolineMorse1.

Carol McPherson contributed to this story.

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10 Best Places to Go in Florida

The United States is home to more than a dozen cities and towns named Florida, but none can compare with the real Florida’s natural fun-in-the-sun appeal.

The Best Places to Go in Florida

From the coolest cities in Florida, like Miami and Ft. Lauderdale, to top theme parks like Busch Gardens and Disney World, these must-see attractions top our list of the best places to go in Florida.

Walt Disney World Resort, Orlando, Florida

Disney Magic Kingdom

It’s no exaggeration to suggest that Walt Disney should have named his Orlando theme park Disney Universe—or even Disney Galaxy. The Walt Disney World Resort is so large, in fact, that it’s difficult to narrow down which of the four main theme parks and two water parks to make time for, let alone whether to stay at a hotel within the resort confines or conserve costs with a nearby off-resort stay. Even selecting your preferred theme-park entry ticket can be daunting.

Here is some helpful Walt Disney World Resort information to get you started at this must-see Florida attraction:

Disney World ticketing options include single-day, single-park passes for Epcot, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and the Magic Kingdom. You can extend your Disney World family vacation with multi-day passes, which reduce the per-day rate significantly. For example, you can purchase two-day passes, three-day passes, seven-day passes, and 10-day passes. All tickets must be used within 14 days of your initial visit.

With multiday passes, you don’t have to limit yourself to just one Disney theme park. Tack on the Park Hopper option (with access to all four parks) to increase your ticket’s flexibility: Admission to Magic KingdomEpcotDisney’s Animal Kingdom, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios is included.

For some Florida visitors, it’s not a vacation without wild water play or tee time. Disney knows how to round out the visit with two water parks (Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon and Disney’s Blizzard Beach), a nine-hole golf course, two mini-golf courses, the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, and DisneyQuest Indoor Interactive Theme Park. Access to these extras is included in the Water Park Fun & More pass. You can also combine both the Park Hopper and Water Park Fun & More options for an additional fee.

Budget-minded travelers will easily find an array of accommodations options, with thousands of hotel rooms from “budget” to “luxury” within driving distance of Disney World. Consider a stay at a Disney Resort such as the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin if you want to take advantage of early-morning and late-night access to select theme parks. Guests of Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista also have an added hour of play before the general public is allowed in and three hours after the parks close for the evening.

With so many parades and shows, peruse the Disney calendar to find scheduled events, plan your itinerary, and work around park closings. No matter what, you’ll find there’s plenty to do in Orlando—one of the coolest cities in Florida.

South Beach, Miami, Florida

lincoln road miami beach.

Lovingly dubbed SoBe, South Beach’s reputation as a gregarious scene for the fun-loving is well deserved among young and old visitors alike. From laid-back lounges to racy dance clubs, South Beach is world-renowned for its hot nightlife (many clubs operate until dawn). And while the robust club and dining scene is too caliente to sleep through every night, SoBe also knows how to play “grown-up” during the day.

Actually the southernmost tip of Miami Beach, South Beach is one of the best places to go in Miami Beach and home to many enriching cultural offerings, including Miami City BalletNew World SymphonyHolocaust Memorial of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, and Miami Beach Botanical Garden. And you’d be remiss to pass up a stroll along South Beach’s world-famous Art Deco District. This historical part of South Beach is easy to meander along—not only because of its vintage beauty, which is alive with more than 800 candy-colored art deco-style structures, but also because of its concentrated size: a single square mile. Learn about South Beach’s celebrated history by going on a guided art deco walking tour led by the Miami Design Preservation League.

On South Beach, both locals and tourists know how to share the sun, sand, and the occasional pickup volleyball game. Expedite a speedy hangover recovery with yoga lessons from 3rd Street Beach Yoga. Generous instructors facilitate donation-based “yoga from the heart” near the beach’s lifeguard hut.

Always a popular tourist destination, South Beach experiences its biggest influx of visitors in March (spring break), April (Pride festivities), and over Memorial Day Weekend (Urban Beach Week).

Everglades National Park, Florida

everglades national park

A visit to Everglades National Park isn’t just a must-see Florida attraction or one of the top things to do in Florida—it’s an adventure traveler’s dream. The Everglades offers canoe and hiking trails, airboat and tram tours, bird-watching expeditions, and camping.

Also a mecca for those seeking out wildlife sightings, the Florida Everglades’ ecosystem is one of the top attractions in Florida because it’s like no other in the world. Alligators, crocodiles, falcons, turtles, and even panthers are but a few of the many animals you can spot in the Everglades.

Not to be missed, Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge lies on the western edge of the Everglades. This 35,000-acre national refuge comprised of mangroves and islands provides refuge to endangered wildlife, among them West Indian manatees, bald eagles, and Kemp’s ridley sea turtles. There’s some debate about how many islands are actually in the Ten Thousand Islands area. Conservative estimates have it in the hundreds, while more robust assessments estimate at least 17,000 islands during low tide. The Everglades National Park as a whole spans about 1.5 million acres.

Fort Lauderdale

canals with large boats in florida

Ft. Lauderdale is known by many nicknames, among them the “Venice of America” (for its vast system of canals) and the “Yachting Capital of the World” (because locals collectively own 50,000 private yachts). Regardless of what you call it, there’s no disputing that this Florida must-see is a dream destination for boaters. For more than 50 years, Ft. Lauderdale has hosted the Ft. Lauderdale International Boat Show—the largest such event in the world.

But boaters aren’t the only ones docking in this local scene. Countless spring breakers flock to the city for hedonistic fun each March, beach bums bask on Ft. Lauderdale’s 23 miles of beaches, and snorkelers and divers seek out underwater adventures among the 75-plus artificial reefs.

Key West, Florida Keys, Florida

Key West Florida street.

The final stop on the Eastern Seaboard’s 2,369-mile Route 1, Key West really is the be-all and end-all. Geographically, Key West sits at the southernmost point within the continental U.S. and is closer to Havana than it is to Miami. In spite of its tropical climate (Key West boasts an annual average temperature of 77 degrees) and its low-lying land, Key West is hit by hurricanes less than other coastal regions.

While Key West is enthralling in and of itself, be sure to make it out to sea when in the area. Just a few miles off the coast is the third-largest coral-reef system in the world, the Great Florida Reef. Snorkeling, diving, and deep-sea fishing are popular area adventures. Man-made reefs offer wreck diving just a few miles offshore, too.

Key West was once home to Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams, among other celebrities of yesteryear. These days, its most famous residents come in a more natural variety: iguanas, feral chickens and roosters, and a clutter of cats, the latter of the excessive-toe variety, nestled in Hemingway’s former home.

Universal Studios, Orlando, Florida

Universal Studios, Orlando, Florida
(Photo: Universal Orlando Resort)

Just like Walt Disney World Resort on the other side of town, Orlando’s Universal Studios can hang with the big boys. And planning a visit in advance yields major savings.

Multiday tickets purchased online offer as much as $20 off gate rates. For single-park, single-day passes, you can choose between Universal’s Islands of Adventure or Universal Studios Florida. Single-park, multiday tickets are available two days, three days, and four days. Multipark, single-day passes are also available. Multipark, multiday options are available for two days, three days, and four days.

You can skip the lines while at the Universal Studios parks with the Universal Express Pass. A multipark, single-day Universal Express Pass option is also available; as are multiday and even annual pass options (with select blackout dates). Season passes are available that offer “red-carpet treatment.”

With so many theme parks, resorts, and other top attractions to choose from all in one place, it’s easy to see why Orlando is one of the coolest cities in Florida—not to mention one of the best places to go in the entire Sunshine State.

Sanibel Island, Florida

Sanibel Island

The beaches of Sanibel Island are revered around the world as one of the best places to go in Florida by conchologists (shell collectors). The practice of shell collecting is so popular on Sanibel Island’s shores that locals have nicknamed the act of bending down for a shell “the Sanibel Stoop.”

Sanibel Islanders celebrate the seashell with an annual three-day exhibit and festival that typically runs in March. Shell enthusiasts can also learn about shells and mollusks by visiting The Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum. The biggest prize on the beach is the junonia shell, which can land you in the local newspaper.

While shelling is serious business on the island, so is conservation. More than half of Sanibel Island is part of a designated wildlife refuge.

St. Augustine, Florida

St. Augustine, Florida

St. Augustine isn’t nicknamed “Ancient City” for nothing. Juan Ponce de Leon first explored the area in 1513 and claimed it for Spain. It was later turned over to Britain, then back to Spain, and finally ceded (with the rest of the Florida Territory) to the United States in 1819. Today it’s one of the coolest cities in Florida.

You can see much of its rich history infused into St. Augustine’s architecture in places like Ft. Matanzas National MonumentCastillo de San Marcos National Monument, the oldest wooden schoolhouse in the country, the Hotel Ponce de Leon (once a regal hotel, now part of Flagler College and also a designated National Historic Landmark), and, of course, the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park. (Folklore says that Ponce de Leon was searching for the elixir of life when he stumbled upon St. Augustine.)

St. Augustine is also home to the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park. The park opened its doors in 1893 and now houses more than 20 species of crocodile as well as other reptiles, a bird collection, and many mammals.

Busch Gardens, Tampa, Florida

Busch Gardens, Tampa, Florida
(Photo: Busch Gardens, Tampa, Florida via Shutterstock)

For those seeking an up-close look at safari wildlife without the high price of an airfare ticket to Africa, Busch Gardens is one of the best places to go in Florida. Among the 2,700 animals that call the 335-acre zoological-themed park home are elephants, cheetahs, hyenas, hippos, kangaroos, meerkats, and lemurs.

Busch Gardens Tampa also features an adjoining water park, Adventure Island. Seek out some water-filled fun on the twisting Aruba Tuba, the 55-foot-drop Riptide, and the 700-foot-long Key West Rapids. Adventure Island closes from November through February and reopens in March; see the current calendar for more information.

All theme-park tickets provide complimentary round-trip shuttle transportation from several Orlando pickup/drop-off points.

Amelia Island, Florida

Amelia Island, Florida

Among the southernmost of the Sea Islands, Amelia Island is an easy drive from Jacksonville and only about five hours from Atlanta. Two bridges connect the island to the mainland.

Amelia Island’s seashore provides plenty of adventures for all. Scallop digging, snorkeling, and horseback riding are all quintessential Amelia Island activities. Watch for the shoreline’s playful dolphins and (if you’re lucky) perhaps even a right-whale sighting.

Amelia Island offers upscale resorts, spas, championship golf courses, a variety of festivals, and of course beaches. Amelia is routinely recognized among the top 10 U.S. islands in Conde Nast Readers’ Choice Awards.

More from SmarterTravel:

Editor’s note: This story was originally published on March 1, 2013. It has been updated to reflect the most current information about the top attractions and best places to go in Florida. 

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Packing Weekend Getaways

The 10 Best Weekend Travel Bags for Men

Welcome back to Elevated: Travel Style for the Modern Man. In this month’s column, I’m focusing on men’s travel bags—specifically weekend bags and duffels. Whether it be an overnight trip or a long weekend getaway, a cool, casual overnight bag is key when a short stay is on the horizon. A good men’s travel bag looks good but is functional, too. From a classic pebbled leather number to a bag that adjusts to a variety of sizes, these shipshape options will outperform on your next trip.

Cole Haan GRANDSERIES Leather Duffle

Crafted to be the most dapper and sophisticated of the bunch, this pebbled leather duffel bag is one of the sleekest men’s weekend bags on the market. Yes, it’s a bit of a splurge, but its classic design makes it particularly versatile; it’s equally at home on a business trip and on a casual weekend away.

Everlane Mover Pack

From tossing it into gym lockers to lugging it through airport security, I’ve put my Mover Pack through the crappiest of experiences and it hasn’t underperformed yet. It can be carried either over the shoulder or by one of the grab handles on the top and sides. However, my favorite part about this bag is the separate shoe compartment because I hate when my clean clothes have to touch my dirty sneakers.

Etsy Personalized Weekend Bag

A quality, personalized weekend bag that ships fast and won’t break the bank sounds like it would never exist, right? Wrong—GiftsForGuysCo on Etsy offers exactly that. Featuring numerous stylish options and almost 1,000 five-star reviews, this bag is a solid self-buy or gift for a good buddy.

Public Rec Pro Weekender

For a minimalistic everyday option, the Pro Weekender has you covered. Though it’s not much of a visual standout, I love this bag for exactly that reason: It leaves me feeling super under the radar as I casually drift through my day. Built functionally and dipped with a waterproof polyurethane bottom, this one is a practical must-have.

The North Face Base Camp Large Duffle Bag

Anyone that’s experienced a brutal winter in the Northeast knows that The North Face builds some quality items, meant for wear and tear—and this duffel is no exception. No matter the weather conditions, this bag will get you through it with a water-resistant and sturdy ballistic nylon exterior.

Herschel Supply Co. Outfitter 50L Duffle

From backpacks to totes to messenger bags, Herschel Supply Company has been getting people’s stuff where it needs to be since 2009. Its 50L duffel in camo merges the brand’s grade-A design (complete with a shoe compartment and stow-away backpack straps) with its recognizable look and logo, creating a classic weekend duffel bag for men.

S-Zone Canvas Weekend Bag

The perfect weekend bag comes oversized in six classic colors from S-Zone. Because this has the most spacious design of the bunch, you can literally carry anything you need for a night or even a week if you have to.

Uncommon Goods Adjustable Bag

Deciding which size bag is the right one for any upcoming trip is a continuous issue I have that I am not proud of. I tend to go for the larger, figuring I’ll probably pick up an extra item or two up on my adventure, but I sometimes feel silly having such a large weekend bag to carry almost nothing. Thankfully, this adjustable bag from Uncommon Goods combats my problems by shapeshifting from a tightly packed smaller configuration at the beginning of my trip to an overpacked duffel bursting at the seams when I head home.

Peak Design 35L Travel Duffel

Considering the world feels like it’s ending these days, you may think it’s a bit late to get in on the sustainability game—but I can assure you, it isn’t. Peak Design’s 100 percent recycled, waterproof travel duffel is a timeless tote that’ll make you feel as good as you look carrying it. Whether you’re an all-black kind of guy or willing to spice it up with a bit of sage, this bag looks great no matter the choice.

Filson’s Medium Duffle Bag

A water-repellent exterior is key when it comes to getting your wardrobe to and fro in one piece—especially when it looks this good. Filson’s well-designed Medium Duffle has top-carry handles, an adjustable shoulder strap, leather trimmings, and rust-proof brass.

Tyler’s Fashion Picks for February 2020

For info on these editor-selected items, click to visit the seller’s site. Things you buy may earn us a commission.


Although we still have a bit more time in the brisk cold temps, I’m already trading in my winter coat for a classic Levi’s denim jacket in hopes of wearing the warmer weather into existence. Though it hasn’t worked just yet, I’m continuing to push through by adding a brightly colored undershirt from Everlane. Paired with a comfy pair of drawstring pants that I can get away with wearing at the office and these Cole Haan sneakers I refuse to take off my feet, I can go straight from work to happy hour afterward and fit the vibe both ways. I’ve also been super into carrying a disposable camera around recently whenever I remember. I figured it’s just a more exciting way to capture my life these days!

More from SmarterTravel:

Tyler Schoeber is a production specialist, photographer, occasional writer, travel style guru, and general Renaissance man at SmarterTravel. Follow his adventures on Instagram at @tylerschoeber.

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Arts & Culture Entertainment Weekend Getaways

11 Reasons Why Your Next Trip Should Be to Nashville

When you think of Nashville, you probably think of the Grand Ole Opry. But this up-and-coming city has a lot more going for it than country music. Think fusion BBQ, whiskey and craft beer distilleries, trendy shopping, rock and indie music venues, and off-the-charts affordability compared to other U.S. destinations. Need a reason to visit the Music City? Here are 11 of them.

Why Your Next Trip Should Be to Nashville

Nashville is home to some of America’s best BBQ, live music, and a true spotlight on creativity. With a growing population and plenty to do, it’s one of the nation’s up-and-coming millennial hubs, with lots to offer to visitors.

It’s Not Just About Country Music

nashville musician plays onstage Will Hoge

While Nashville’s reputation lends itself to cowboy hats and songs about trucks, the opposite could not be truer. Music legends like Paul McCarthy and Bob Dylan have both recorded songs and albums in the city. Rock and roll famed Kings of Leon call Nashville home as well as other artists like The Black Keys and Jack White.

This isn’t to say country music doesn’t fuel the sound of Nashville. For musical inspiration, check out the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, where you can find extensive digital archives and interactive exhibits that tell the story of country music. With many of the genre’s major recording labels in the city, as well as the Grand Ole Opry and historic Ryman Auditorium, country music is still a major part of Nashville’s culture.

It Has Some of the Best Craft Distilleries

With the world’s top-selling whiskey’s distillery (Jack Daniel) about an hour and a half outside of Nashville, distilling is a huge part of Tennessee’s culture. While the Jack Daniel Distillery is well worth a visit, so are some of the up-and-coming craft distilleries located much closer, right in the downtown area.

Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery in Marathon Village does distillery tours every half hour seven days a week and has an awesome gift shop. The distillery, which was originally operational before prohibition, was recently rediscovered and reopened by Charles Nelson’s great-great-great-grandsons.

Just right down the street in Marathon Village is Corsair Distillery, a trendy space with a taproom (they also brew beer), courtyard, and tasting room. The brew-distillery produces everything from a traditional artisan gin to experimental spirits like an elderflower bohemian malt whiskey. Tours are offered every hour over the weekend and limited times on Tuesdays and Fridays. The distillery also recently opened a second location in Wedgewood Houston area that also offers tours.

Its History is Rooted in Tradition

Grand ole opry red stagee

With strong roots in country music and the American South, Nashville has a rich history that can be seen through the city’s architecture, museums, food, and music. Davy Crockett, one of Nashville’s Congressmen, was known for his stories and fiddle playing, making music one of the founded characteristics in the 1700s.

Buildings like the Ryman Auditorium, which hosted the Grand Ole Opry (until it moved to Opryland) is known as the “Carnegie Hall of the South.” And the city even has its own Parthenon that is a full-scale replica of the Greek landmark located in Centennial Park, originally built for Tennessee’s 1897 Centennial Exposition.

The Food (and Coffee) Is Incredible

The Bluebird Cafe

Nashville has some of the South’s best food, from Indian-Southern food to traditional West Tennessee BBQ, the options won’t disappoint. Not only does Nashville do great meals, their coffee culture is up-and-coming as well with concept brands Bongo Java, Frothy Monkey, and CREMA. They’ve also got a mean brunch and food truck scene that’s worth indulging in.

Read our guide to the best restaurants Music City has to offer.

The Weather Is Better in Winter

The Parthenon at Centennial Park

While recent years have lent themselves to some snow and cooler winters, Nashville has a very mild fall and winter compared to other parts of the country with temperatures staying well above 40 degrees during the day. Summertime is often on the hotter side with the average summer temperature reaching its peak at 88 degrees in July.

We recommend going in March, April, May, and October for a mild climate and to avoid the city in the summer months if you don’t like the heat.

It Has Tons of Trendy Neighborhoods

Much like any up-and-coming city, Nashville has quite a few trendy areas that are attracting tourists and locals alike for their food, shopping, cafes, and galleries. While Downtown’s Broadway Street is always happening The Gulch, Germantown, 12South, Marathon Village, and Hillsboro Village can be just as exciting and are worth a visit.

It Has Both Traditional and Modern Museums

Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum

In addition to Nashville’s traditional art museums at the Parthenon, Belle Meade Plantation, Belmont Mansion, and Cheekwood, the city has a non-collecting museum in the city’s historic U.S. Post Office Building-Frist Center for the Visual Arts. The Frist Center has hosted exhibits with works from Frank Lloyd Wright to Michelangelo.

The city also has numerous music museums and tours starting with the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, as well as the Johnny Cash Museum. See where Elvis recorded the majority of his songs at RCA Studio B, and watch how a vinyl record is made at United Record Pressing.

Its Breweries Are Extremely Popular

Nashville is emerging as one of the nation’s leading craft brewery cities too. Many restaurants now have numerous local beers on tap, and new craft breweries are opening up shop as well.

Yazoo Brewing Company was one of the first on the scene in the early 2000s and is popular for its Embrace the Funk series of tart and sour beers. Yazoo offers tours on select days. While newer to the scene, Tennessee Brew Works is growing fast with its unusual beers. Stop by the brewery’s restaurant and catch some live music or take a tour on Saturdays.

Its Creativity Is Contagious

From music to publishing to performance art, Nashville is perhaps one of the most creative cities growing in the country. With so many people moving to the city each day, the creativity will only grow as its population does.

If you’re looking for some non-music or non-traditional offerings check out Hatch Show Print, the company which designs and prints posters for all the shows at the Ryman. The studio does tours for $15 and lets you make your own letterpress print.

OZ Arts is also a great creative alternative to the more traditional art venues in the city. It’s a newly converted gallery and performance space that was once the headquarters for a major cigar company. The space hosts a variety of creative performances and shows, often only one or two days long, so check their website for events when you’re visiting. On most Thursdays, they host TNT (Thursday Night Things), which showcases local artists in a casual manner as opposed to their traditional visiting artist programs.

Its Live Music Venues Are Some of the Best in the World

Tootsies

From Broadway’s honky tonks to intimate songwriting circles, there’s no doubt that this is Nashville’s most loved quality. No matter what kind of genre of music you like, you’ll be sure to find at least one live performance during your visit.

For modern-day country fans, we recommend hitting up Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, Robert’s Western World, or Legends Corner. If you want a more intimate experience, reserve a seat at the Bluebird Cafe, or if that is too cliché after watching the show Nashville, check out the Station Inn for some bluegrass jam sessions.

If country music isn’t your thing, Exit/In, The End, The 5 Spot, and The Basement all offer rock and indie bands, and you can catch larger touring bands at The Mercy Lounge.

You Can Actually Afford It

When comparing to most major U.S. cities, the cost of living in Nashville for tourists and locals is relatively low. Parking, gas, food and drink prices, and admission prices are all on the lower end, however; year over year growth shows prices are increasing due to both the growing population and number of tourists the city has seen. Even so, low costs once you arrive are still a major benefit when comparing it to most major U.S. destinations.

More from SmarterTravel:

Ashley Rossi traveled to Nashville courtesy of Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp. Follow all of her adventures (big and small) on Instagram and Twitter.

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Fashion & Beauty Packing Weekend Getaways

The Ultimate Ski Trip Packing List

The ultimate ski trip packing list contains everything you need to be warm, dry, and comfortable on the slopes—whether you’re hitting the bunny slope or the black diamond. Below are the essentials you need to pack before your next ski trip.

Ski Trip Packing List: Clothes

  • Ski jacket: Patagonia’s 3-in-1 Snowbelle Jacket is my go-to. It’s cut for women can be worn in three different ways, so you’ll be prepared for any kind of weather conditions on the mountain. Helly Hansen’s Alpha 3.0 Jacket is a great option for men, as it’s lightweight and breathable but still warm enough for below-freezing days.
  • Base layers: Tani Thermals provide a warm base made with super-soft fabrics. Their moisture-wicking design means that if you work up a sweat, you won’t freeze in wet layers when you cool off.
  • Ski socks: The Falke SK2 Thermal Ski Socks feature thin cushioning on the shin, heel, toes, and ankles to save you from ski boot agony.
  • Apres-ski outfits: After a long day on the slopes, you’ll want comfort more than style. Pack cozy things like leggings or sweatpants if you’re just lounging around your vacation rental, or jeans and a fleece if you’re checking out the local nightlife.
  • Mid-layer: A mid-layer, like a thin jacket or fleece that fits under your ski jacket, is essential for unpredictable weather. Patagonia’s Nano Puff is thin enough to fit under most jackets without restricting your movement.
  • Shells: If you’re skiing on a warm day or doing trekking or touring, waterproof shells that can be custom-layered are a better bet than a full jacket or insulated pants. Fjallraven’s Bergtagen Eco-Shell Jacket and Bergtagen Eco-Shell Trousers are made from a lightweight, recycled material that blocks out all moisture without overheating you or making annoying “swishing” sounds like most rain layers. Both have the important RECCO reflector built in, which could save your life in an avalanche.
  • Glove liners: Wear glove liners under mittens to give your hands extra warmth. If you get touch-screen compatible ones like these from Columbia, you can use your smartphone without exposing your skin to the elements.
  • Ski pants: Obermeyer’s Bond Pant are my favorite women’s ski pant, as they are super stretchy and easy to move in. The Process Pant is a solid choice for men, with a built-in insulating layer.
  • Slippers: After a day spent in ski boots, you’ll be glad to slip into some warm slippers at your hotel or rental.
  • Swimsuits and flip-flops: You’ll want these if your lodging has a hot tub or heated pool. Click here for our round-up of active swimsuits.
  • Helmet liner: Make your helmet even warmer by wearing a liner underneath. This one by Turtle Fur is thin enough that it won’t interfere with your helmet’s fit, and can be worn alone as a hat once you take off your helmet.
  • Mittens: Tired of cold hands on the slopes? Invest in Backcountry’s Gore-Tex Snow Mittens, which deliver waterproof, breathable performance that are sure to keep your hands dry in the worst conditions.
  • Neck gaiter: A neck warmer is a must for skiing, keeping that gap between your jacket and face from freezing—plus it can be pulled over the lower half of your face for those cold lift rides. I love the Alpine one from Skida, which has a super-soft Polartec microfleece lining.
  • Casual boots: Don’t clomp around the lodge in your ski boots. Pack a change of footwear in your bag for after last chair and you’ll be grateful. The Shellista IV tall boots from The North Face are my favorite as they reach the knee (for extra warmth).

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Ski Trip Packing List: Toiletries

Of course, you’ll want to pack the essential toiletries that you always bring when traveling (toothpaste, toothbrush, etc.)

For a ski-specific trip, you’ll definitely want to add:

  • Leave-in serum for hair: If you have long hair, you know that no matter how you wear it during skiing, it becomes a giant tangle during the day. Working in a leave-in serum like this one from It’s a 10 can help prevent that.
  • Hair dryer: Odds are, wherever you’re staying will have one. But if not, a travel hair dryer is worth bringing, as going out to dinner with wet hair in the cold is pretty miserable. T3’s Featherweight Compact Folding Dryer is as lightweight as the name implies, plus it folds up for easy packing.
  • Hair elastics: So you don’t have to deal with your hair flying in your face as you speed downhill.
  • Pain relievers: Aspirin and ibuprofen are both recommended to help with sore muscles.
  • Lotion: Cold air dries out your skin faster, so make sure to pack an ultra-moisturizing lotion.

Toiletry Packing Options

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Ski Trip Packing List: Gear

  • Boot bag: I’ve had High Sierra’s Deluxe Trapezoid Boot Bag for years, and it’s held up perfectly. It can hold enough for a weekend trip, plus has two zippered side compartments with drainage that keep your snowy boots separate from the rest of your gear.
  • Ski bag: A ski bag makes it so much easier to carry your poles and skis (especially if you’re flying). This one from Athletico is a stellar option that won’t break the bank.
  • Skis: Dynastar’s Legend X 96 skis were named by Back Country Magazine as one of their Editor’s Picks for Best All-Mountain Skis.
  • Ski poles: Leki’s Artena S have grips that are sized down for a woman’s hands (which makes a big difference) and have a carbide tip that gives great grip even on icy surfaces.
  • Ski boots: Take this Ski Boot Finder quiz from Skis.com to find your perfect fit.
  • Helmet: For the safest option, look for a helmet with MIPS (Multi-directional Impact Protection System), which will better protect your brain if you fall at an angle. Giro’s Nine MIPS Snow Helmet is one of the most affordable versions with this technology.
  • Goggles: Zeal Optics’ Fargo goggles are sized for smaller faces. I like these because they have Optimum Lenses that help with visibility by cutting down on snow glare. They also offer 100 percent UV protection and are virtually fog-proof.

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Ski Trip Packing List: For Your Jacket Pocket

  • Tissues: When your nose is running on the lift, you’ll be glad to have a pack in your pocket, and these ones are much softer than ski lodge napkins.
  • Ski Balm: Skiing means subjecting the sensitive skin on your face to windburn and sunburn. Avoid both with this perfectly-sized tin of Ski Balm, which offers SPF 40 protection and prevents irritation from wind. It also works as a lip balm!
  • Snacks: Granola bars or anything else pocket-sized can save you from both an energy crash and from spending all your money at the waffle cabin.
  • Credit card: In case you need to buy anything.
  • Cash: Some spots on the mountain might be cash only.
  • ID: No matter how old you look, you might get carded at the bar—or need it in case of an emergency.
  • Extra hair elastic: In case you lose the one in your hair.
  • Hand sanitizer: You don’t want a winter cold or flu to slow down your ski season, so use this before eating those aforementioned snacks (or a meal).

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Ski Trip Packing List: Miscellaneous

  • Cell phone with shatterproof/waterproof case: If you yard-sale, your pride might be damaged, but at least your phone won’t be.
  • Backup portable charger: Phones die quicker in the cold weather, so a backup portable charger is a must.
  • Insulated bottle for hot drinks/food: If you don’t want to pay resort prices for a hot coffee or meal, pack an insulated bottle or thermos and stash your own in your ski bag. The Hydro Flask keeps food hot for up to three hours, while this bottle keeps drinks hot for up to six or cold for 24 if you’re bringing water.
  • Hand and foot warmers: HotHands have kept me out on the mountain longer on those ultra-cold days. (The toe warmers are the best.)
  • GoPro and harness or helmet clip: In case you want to film your adventures.

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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2018.

It has been updated to reflect the most current information.Caroline Morse Teel can be found on the ski slopes of New England for most of the winter. Follow Caroline on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline to see pictures from the mountains.  

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10 Best Things to Do in Aruba

The tiny Dutch Caribbean island of Aruba sees more than a million visitors per year—and not just for the beachfront resorts and romantic Aruba hotels. Travelers from the U.S. and beyond know Aruba for its bright blue waters and white sand, but there’s also rugged outdoor adventure and colorful Caribbean culture to break up your beach lounging.

The Best Things to Do in Aruba

Below are 10 of the best things to do in Aruba, including some lesser-known gems. And before you pack your bags, also consider these things you should know before traveling to Aruba.

Visit Arikok National Park

boca prins aruba.

Did you know almost 20 percent of Aruba is a protected national park? Arikok National Park stretches from the island’s arid center to its eastern and northern coasts, where it meets tropical blue shores and steep ocean cliffs.

Inside Arikok you’ll see centuries-old cacti and rock-face paintings. Cooling off means heading to its breezy coastal inlets, like Boca Prins (pictured) for far-flung ocean views.

Opt for a hike of the trails to see bright quartz peeking through the desert soil and succulents like aloe flourishing; then head toward the wind turbines in the distance (which create a significant portion of the island’s electricity) to experience the nearby sea cliffs and swimming spots.

Explore Caves

guadirikiri cave aruba.

At the edge of Arikok National Park are shady caverns rife with ancient paintings, stalactites, skylights, and (only a few) bats that are sure to make you feel like a true explorer. Unlike Aruba’s beaches, these caverns rarely fill up with tourists—giving you a unique up-close experience with the island’s natural formations. Guadirikiri Cave is a favorite for its two large main caves connected by a “Tunnel of Love,” lit by skylights and dotted with thousand-year-old Arawak Indian cave paintings and hand prints.

Discover San Nicolas

baby beach aruba.

Most Aruba visitors stay in the resort-saturated Palm Beach area on the north coast, but the opposite side of the island has some of the best local beaches and cultural things to do in Aruba.

The San Nicolas area is home to colorful street murals, local art galleries and artisan shops, and Baby Beach—which earned its name for its calm, clear bay that’s fit for babies to splash in. You’ll get equal parts nature and culture in San Nicolas.

Go Snorkeling

sea turtle and snorkeler in aruba.

The clear, calm waters of Aruba make snorkeling a can’t-miss activity, and there are plenty of animals to see outside the water as well. Head to Arashi Beach or Boca Catalina for pristine waters full of tropical fish, or pick one of the many hotels on the island that have their own snorkeling and wildlife areas.

The Renaissance Aruba Resort in Oranjestad (Aruba’s capital) has its own private island complete with snorkeling, plus iguanas and vibrant flamingos that lounge on the beach with you.

Visitors can feed the flamingos the provided treats, although food isn’t necessary for the pink residents to walk right up to you on the soft sands. Colorful iguanas and blue lizards lounge on the beach next door as well, and a regular boat shuttle takes you back and forth from the hotel.

Celebrate Carnival

carnival performers in aruba.

Caribbean destinations like Aruba celebrate traditional Carnival annually, taking to the streets in ornate costumes and masks. The colorful events go on for weeks in Aruba between early January and late February. Locals and visitors alike honor the tradition with music, food, dancing, and parades—just in time for spring-break season. It’s one of the best things to do in Aruba if you want to experience the island alongside locals.

Most Arubans speak the local language of Papiamento, plus Spanish, Dutch, and English. It’s a treat to hear all the languages co-exist on this one happy island, and the friendly Arubans are welcoming of visitors.

Taste Aruban Flavors

mahi mahi meal in aruba.

The Dutch-Caribbean food scene is a unique one that includes both rich European flavors from Holland as well as spicy Caribbean flavors like seasoned seafood and fried plantains. For the latter, Zeerovers’ seaside picnic tables and fried fish baskets are island-famous and perfect after a long day at the beach. Local coffee, beer, and quick bites are a favorite at Craft Aruba.

For romantic dinners, Wilhelmina in Oranjestad offers Dutch-influenced dishes, local seafood options, and international fare. Papiamento Restaurant also stays true to local and Dutch flavors, and is located at a historic local house with intimate tables both inside the home and on its open-air patio.

Don’t leave the island without trying fresh local fish like red snapper, mahi mahi, and Caribbean rock lobster.

Learn About Aruban History

fort zouman aruba.

Aruba might be tiny, but it has a long history that dates back beyond the Arawak Indians, who drew Arikok National Park’s cave paintings about 1,000 years ago. You can learn about the original Arubans and see 4,000-year-old pre-ceramic artifacts at the National Archaeological Museum Aruba, or hear about the Dutch settlers and pirates that landed here in the 1700s at the Fort Zoutman Historical Museum.

Go Sailing

tranquilo tours sailboat aruba.

Take to the Caribbean Sea with a sailing expedition that will give you the full view of the island and an opportunity to experience various swimming spots all in the same day. Try Tranquilo Tours for a locally led daytime cruise around the island, with onboard lunch and off-boat swimming included.

Hit the Beach

divi divi tree on eagle beach aruba.

Aruba has over a dozen idyllic public beaches worth exploring, from Eagle Beach‘s white sand and Palm Beach‘s cabanas to Boca Prins‘ sea spray.

Locals and visitors alike take to Druif Beach for relaxation closer to downtown, while the calm waters of Baby Beach or watersports at Palm Beach might also be worth the trip for some water lovers.

Buy Local Goods

shopping in oranjestad aruba.

A haul of all your favorite Caribbean and Dutch goodies makes for great Aruban souvenirs, from European cheeses and chocolate to local spices and tropical jams—best found at local grocery stores. While retail shopping can be pricey on Aruba, especially near resorts, just strolling colorful Oranjested’s shopping district is worth the view.

Local crafts and goods made in the Netherlands or the greater Caribbean are worth getting since they’ll be cheaper than they are in the States. Look out for authentic items like Caribbean-made papaya hot sauces and Dutch sweets. Just be sure to declare cheeses and similar food items at customs if you do indulge.

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Associate Editor Shannon McMahon visited Aruba as a guest of Aruba Tourism Authority and JetBlue. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram. Search Aruba activities and where to stay on Aruba.com.

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9 Best Things to Do in Miami Beach (That Aren’t the Beach)

While most people head to Miami Beach for, well, the beach, there are plenty of activities off the sand as well. In Miami Beach you’ll discover fascinating history from the Al Capone era told through architecture, plus some of the best dining experiences in Florida. Here are nine of the best things to do in Miami Beach that don’t have anything to do with the actual beach.

Explore Art Deco Architecture

art deco buildings in miami beach.

One of the best things to do in Miami Beach is to discover its art deco architecture and history. The Miami Design Preservation League sponsors a 1.5-hour daily walking tour through Miami Beach’s historic district. Explore the history of Miami Beach through its architecture and style while visiting hotels, restaurants, and other buildings relevant to the art deco, Mediterranean revival, and Miami modern eras.

Hang Out by the Pool

pool at national hotel miami beach.

You don’t have to be rich and famous to enjoy some of Miami’s hottest hotels; many five-star and luxury properties offer a day pass for their pools, so you can lounge in style at a fraction of the nightly room rate. Hotels on Miami Beach offering day passes include The National Hotel Miami, Delano South Beach, Mondrian South Beach, and SLS South Beach.

Attend an Event

art basel miami beach.

One of the best things to do in Miami Beach is to go for an event. Because of its year-round warm weather, locals and tourists alike flock to the area’s famous annual festivals.

Standouts include Art Deco Weekend in January, the Miami International Boat Show in February, Ultra Music Festival and Music Week in March, Gay Pride in April, and Art Basel in December.

Visit a Museum

jewish museum of florida.

Miami Beach—which doesn’t even include the popular Wynwood neighborhood, downtown Miami, or the design district—has plenty of museums worth exploring. In the South Beach area you’ll find The Bass (contemporary art), the Art Deco Museum, Wolfsonian-FIU (art and design), the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU, and the ArtCenter South Florida.

Sample the Culinary Scene

chicken watermelon and waffles at yardbird miami beach.

Miami Beach has a varied culinary scene that ranges from well-known steak houses to incredible Cuban cuisine. Notable dishes include the Giant Chocolate Chunk Cookie from Big Pink, the Chicken ‘n’ Watermelon ‘n’ Waffles from Yardbird, and the famous Key lime pie from Icebox Cafe. And if you’re a seafood lover, one of the best things to do in Miami Beach is try the stone crab claws from Joe’s Stone Crab.

Play Golf

aerial view of miami beach golf club.

The Miami Beach Golf Club is a public golf course right in Miami Beach. Formerly an under-utilized course, Bayshore, it’s now regarded as one of the premier golf clubs in South Florida, and is one of the best things to do in Miami Beach outside of the beach.

Go Shopping

lincoln road miami beach.

Strolling along Lincoln Road is a must-do for anyone in the mood to shop. This pedestrian-friendly promenade is packed with trendy shops, restaurants, and entertainment. You’ll also find boutiques such as The Webster as well as high-end designer stores at the Bal Harbour Shops. With a style all its own and plenty of retail options, you’ll have a hard time leaving Miami Beach without buying something.

Enjoy the Nightlife

dj equipment.

One of the main attractions of Miami Beach is its nightlife, and South Beach and Ocean Drive don’t disappoint. From 24/7 venues to hotel nightclubs, you’ll find endless entertainment spots that stay packed into the wee hours of the night. Notable nightclubs include STORY, Basement (at the Edition Hotel), and LIV (at the Fontainebleau).

Or if you want a different type of nightlife, check out the events schedule for the historic Colony Theatre or The Fillmore Miami Beach—both host comedy, music, dance, opera, and films.

Hit the Boardwalk

miami beach boardwalk.

While some might consider this the beach, the Miami Beach Boardwalk is still one of the best things to do in Miami Beach—and it’s free. The 40-block path is great for running or walking, and part of the path is bike-friendly as well. A decent portion of the path is covered by palm trees, so you have some relief from the sun. Hop on and off the boardwalk and enjoy the shops, bars, and restaurants along Ocean Drive.

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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2017. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

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How to Do a Weekend in Sedona, Arizona

Famous for its red rocks landscape and known as the “Day Hike Capital of the World”, Sedona is a popular destination for couples, groups of friends, and families. While locals have pushed back a little on tourism in recent years, there are still some hidden gems and ways to avoid the weekend crowds in Sedona. If you’re really going for a holistic experience, I recommend adopting this three-day itinerary and visiting mid-week instead of on the weekend.

The Hotel: Hilton Sedona Resort at Bell Rock

hilton-sedona-resort-1

The Hilton Sedona Resort at Bell Rock is perfectly situated in the Village of Oak Creek, about eight miles south (about a 15 to 20-minute drive) from the downtown Sedona area. While it’s convenient to stay downtown, I recommend staying a little outside of the area as traffic, parking, and crowds can cause delays over busy weekends, not to mention these are typically more expensive.

Hilton Sedona has beautiful grounds, a convenient and delicious onsite restaurant, a spa and wellness center, as well as a large outdoor pool. Spacious rooms with kitchenettes are available and ideal for group trips like a girls’ weekend or family getaway. Parking is free and plentiful, and you’re right near the trailheads for Bell Rock and Courthouse as well as the area’s golf courses. You can also purchase the Red Rocks Pass at the hotel, which is required if you’re parking at most trailheads.

Itinerary: How to Do a Weekend in Sedona

Sedona weekend guide

Friday

  • Afternoon: Check-in to the hotel and walk around Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village. This is a large shopping complex with unique stores and galleries selling Southwestern art; the complex also has a few food and drink spots including a brewery.
  • Night: Head into town and have dinner at Saltrock. Located in the Amara Resort & Spa, Saltrock serves Southwestern cuisine and has a spacious outdoor patio with fire pits as well as fun inside bar and lounge area.

Saturday

  • Morning: Pick a day hike from The Hike House. Start your hike earlier in the day to avoid the crowds. Devil’s Bridge is a scenic, intermediate loop with an optional, but daring bridge cross. You can also combine it with the Chuck Wagon Trail for a slightly longer hike.
  • Afternoon: Take a lunch break at The Hudson located at the Hillside Shopping Center and take in the gorgeous red rock views on the outdoor patio.
  • Night: Go on a sunset off-roading drive in a famous Pink Jeep with Pink Adventure Tours. Choose from a variety of routes and pick the 4 p.m. or 5 p.m. departure time (where applicable). Have dinner back at the hotel at ShadowRock. Insider tip: The Prickly Pear Margarita is delicious.

Sunday

  • Morning: Go to Red Rock Cafe for brunch; it’s close to the hotel and is popular with locals.
  •  Afternoon: Drive to one of the famed vortices—the Airport Mesa Vortex is one of the closer spots with easy access.

Other

Restaurants & Cafes

Note that for most seasons reservations for dinner are highly recommending anywhere you go in Sedona.

Day Hikes

The Hike House is an excellent resource for visitors. They have an interactive map and trail finder and the sole purpose is to help you find the perfect day hike for your ability and comfort level. If you can’t make it to the downtown location, check out the website or purchase the book. You can also book a guided hike adventure with them.

  • Airport Loop (Moderate)
  • Boynton Canyon (Moderate)
  • Broken Arrow (Moderate)
  • Cathedral Rock (Difficult)
  • Courthouse/Bell Rock (Moderate)
  • Devil’s Bridge (Moderate)
  • Fay Canyon (Easy)
  • Little Horse Train (Easy to Moderate)
  • Soldiers Pass (Moderate)

Things to Do

Highlights from my Weekend in Sedona:

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SmarterTravel Editor Ashley Rossi traveled to Arizona courtesy of Visit Mesa. Follow her adventures (big and small) on Twitter and Instagram.

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Packing Weekend Getaways

The Ultimate Weekend Packing List


When it comes to packing for a weekend trip, the contents of your suitcase (or backpack/duffel, if you’re flying Spirit) will depend what you’re doing. But whether it’s a ski trip, a wedding, a thrilling outdoor adventure, or a beach getaway that dictates you pack mostly bathing suits, you’ll want to consult a list of all the items you could possibly want in your arsenal, and narrow it down accordingly.

Some things you can leave off your weekend packing list, however. This includes any toiletries you could go a couple of days without, especially in lieu of whatever the hotel has: shower toiletries and hair-styling tools included. Can you use the hotel blow dryer instead of your own? Probably. Can you go even further by forgoing shaving supplies for a couple of days? Not a bad idea—but it’s ultimately up to you, and what you will need once you’re in the destination.

[st_related]The Essential Carry-on Bag Packing List[/st_related]

Here’s what to think about bringing for your weekend getaway, and what to leave in order not to overpack, from toiletries to gadgets and beach necessities.

What to Pack for a Weekend Trip

Think about what you’re going to actually be doing and plan outfits for each day to narrow down your clothing needs. You can do the same with toiletries, electronics, and essentials: What will your few days away actually demand? Only bring those things.

Toiletries

Toiletries packing list

Items that you might usually bring but can forget about for a few days include a first-aid kit, shaving supplies, your full-size makeup bag (maybe just put the essentials into a smaller sleeve) or bulky shaving kit, and the unnecessary bathroom items that you can get for free at the hotel, like moisturizer, shampoo, conditioner, and a comb.

Aftersun/aloe and bug spray might also not be necessary—or could be available on site wherever you’re staying. Because most weekend trips aren’t international, we’ve left off most medications and similar over-the-counter items you can easily buy if you end up needing them.

  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Deodorant
  • Hair-styling products
  • Glasses and/or contact lenses/solution
  • Makeup/makeup remover/any other face necessities
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Medicines/birth control/vitamins you need daily
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Sunscreen/lip balm with SPF
  • Disposable wipes

Beach Gear 

Beach Gear packing list

If you’re taking a beach trip, the packing gods rejoice: Most necessities are small and worth throwing in your bag. Just forget the bulky items like a beach umbrella, beach chairs, snorkel gear, and floatation devices (what hotel doesn’t have these nowadays?). Don’t bother with coolers or beach safes unless you’re driving, and towels can also probably be found at the resort. The only few things left to consider are: 

  • Waterproof phone case
  • Portable speaker
  • Bathing suits
  • Cover-up
  • Sunglasses
  • Hat
  • Sandals/flip-flops
  • Collapsible beach bag

Clothes/Accessories 

Clothes/Accessories packing list

If you’re not planning on heading to the gym, forget the athletic shoes and workout gear and walk everywhere instead. In fact, try to narrow your shoes down to one pair that you can wear the whole time. Leave behind pricey jewelry you might lose and won’t need for a few days. But don’t skimp on clothes, and ones you love to wear—you’ll want to be comfortable so you can focus on the destination. It’s unlikely you need all of the following, but here’s what to consider: 

  • One pair of versatile, casual shoes
  • Underwear
  • Socks
  • Undershirts/bras
  • Sleepwear
  • Shirts
  • Jeans/pants
  • Shorts
  • Dresses/skirts
  • Light jacket/sweater
  • Belt
  • Small purse/clutch
  • Athletic shoes
  • Workout gear

Travel Essentials

Travel Essentials packing list

Every trip demands a reusable water bottle and some snacks for the road, but you can probably leave behind longer-trip necessities like a laptop, emergency contacts, and an itinerary (or just keep the latter info in your phone).

  • Water bottle
  • Passport/ID
  • Credit cards
  • Cash
  • Snacks

Electronics

Electronics packing list

Aside from the usual phone, chargers, and maybe a small tablet for reading, go light on the electronics for a few days—you don’t have too much time to explore, after all. But if you’re flying with strict weight limits, as most weekend-getaway flights are basic-economy, you might also want to stash a portable luggage scale in your bag.

  • Cell phone
  • Kindle/tablet
  • Electronic chargers
  • Adapter
  • Headphones or earbuds
  • Portable luggage scale

Other Weekend Getaway Packing Tips

What’s Essential: If you only leave the house with a tote bag’s worth of things, they should be your wallet (ID, cards, maybe some cash), whatever toiletries you require (medications, toothbrush/toothpaste, and makeup and/or face and hair creams you need daily), and a handful of versatile clothing items you love to wear. All of those things can fit into a pretty small amount of space, basic-economy restrictions be damned.

Secret Weapon: Packing cubes that are on the smaller side can help compress everything you need and organize it by type. Also consider that you’re probably allowed both a carry-on bag and a personal item—which makes a roomy personal-item bag a great hack for getting more onto the plane.

Leave at Home: When it comes to a three- to four-day weekend, no one needs half the stuff they pack into their suitcase for a usual longer trip. Step away from the large electronics, any unnecessary creams or gels (the hotel or rental’s will probably suffice for the few days), outfits you’ve never worn before, and pairs of shoes that are questionable when it comes to comfort.

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How to Do a Weekend in Miami Beach

Miami Beach is the perfect winter or spring getaway from many Eastern Seaboard and Midwest departure points, and best of all, it can easily be done in a weekend. From its underrated museum district to prestigious golf clubs, there’s plenty to do for everyone on a weekend in Miami Beach. So take a stroll down Ocean Drive, and dive into Miami Beach for an upcoming weekend.

How to Do a Weekend in Miami Beach

Hotel

As you near the corner of 21st Street and Collins Park, you come across a fabulous Art Deco gem. The newly opened Plymouth Miami is immaculately decorated, with friendly staff and hidden pool and patio area. With your booking, you get free breakfast, two beach chairs at the beach (just two blocks away), and access to the outdoor pool. On-site you’ll find Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill, from sushi master Toshi Ueki; and Plymouth Cafe for breakfast and poolside drinks. The hotel is opposite Collins Park and close to many of Miami Beach’s museums, beaches, shops, and restaurants. You’re blocks away from nightlife, but you won’t feel overwhelmed by Ocean Drive’s strip since the hotel is tucked away.

Friday

After arrival, check out the area surrounding the hotel and relax either at the beach or poolside. You can also rent bikes or walk/run along the path that runs down South Beach. This is a great way to get to know the area. For dinner, check out the renovated garage space, aptly named Sushi Garage, near Purdy Ave. Make sure to get the fried rice stone pot, which finishes cooking tableside.

Saturday

Enjoy your complimentary breakfast at the hotel and then head to the Art Deco Museum on Ocean Drive for a 90-minute walking tour; daily departures are at 10:30 a.m. You’ll learn all about Miami Beach’s history, from Al Capone’s days to the “Miami Vice” era. Grab some lunch at The Nautilus and dine poolside at this exclusive South Beach hotel. After lunch, continue exploring Miami Beach’s art scene and visit either the Art Deco Museum, The Bass, or The Wolfsonian-FIU.

For dinner, head to Lolo’s Surf Cantina—don’t leave without trying the corn cake—for Mexican food on the strip, and then head out for a night on the town. If clubs aren’t your scene and you’re looking for something more low key but still busy, check out The Broken Shaker in the courtyard of Freehand Hostel.

Sunday

Wake up for Sunday brunch at Icebox Cafe; favorites here include lemon ricotta pancakes and avocado toast as well as the bloody Mary bar. Shop along Lincoln Road Mall and enjoy the last few hours of your weekend in Miami Beach soaking up the sun at the beach or pool before you head to the airport.

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Ashley traveled to Miami Beach courtesy of Miami Beach Visitor and Convention Authority. Follow all of her travels on Instagram and Twitter.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2017. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

Categories
Beach Cities Historical Travel Weekend Getaways

How to Do a Weekend in Charleston and the Isle of Palms

Coined the World’s Best City by Travel + Leisure in 2019, Charleston is having a moment and everyone is booking a ticket to the colorful metropolis. From the blooming architecture and flourishing culinary scene, the city of Charleston offers a slew of hotels right in town. But what many tourists don’t realize is that just outside downtown are spotless beaches and ocean views good enough for celebrities like Bill Murray and Stephen Colbert.

The Isle of Palms is a place where you can have it all: ocean, golfing, tennis, and of course, proximity to Charleston. So if you love city-living as much as you love relaxing on the beach, follow this weekend itinerary and experience the best of both worlds in Charleston, South Carolina.

Hotel: Located twelve miles from downtown Charleston on the Isle of Palms, the Wild Dunes Resort, is a peaceful and leisurely retreat from the bustling city. With access to tennis courts, bike rentals, two top-rated golf courses, restaurants, and beautiful beaches, Wild Dunes has plenty of options to entertain families. You can book a room at the newly renovated Boardwalk Inn or rent one of their properties located within the resort and have the golf course and beach right in your backyard.

Friday: Once you’ve checked in, take the day to explore your new home at Wild Dunes. You can ride a bike through the resort and check out some of the glamourous vacation homes or rent some tennis rackets and enjoy a quick match. Don’t forget to get in at least a good hour or two at the beach, where the warm water is clean and the waves are gentle.

If you’re feeling adventurous, sign up for an eco-tour at the front desk to explore South Carolina’s barrier islands and learn more about their environments. Have dinner at Coastal Provisions, a high-class restaurant located on the first floor of The Boardwalk Inn—you can even choose to eat poolside or enjoy cabana service. After dinner, head to the nightly bonfire and pick-up s’more supplies at Hudson’s Market.

Saturday: If you’re traveling to South Carolina for golf, Wild Dunes is a great place to get an early tee time at either the Harbor or the Links Course. If you’re not a golfer, you can wake up early to enjoy a beautiful sunrise on the beach before heading into Charleston for the day.

To get a ride into the city, forget Uber and call Captain Bob, a town car service that will give you a ride from Wild Dunes to downtown for just $20. (Ubers are hard to come by on the Isle of Palms.) If you’re lucky, you may even get to ride with the affable Captain himself, who is more than happy to make recommendations for what to do, see, and eat in town and he’ll even customize a special tour just for you.

Once in Charleston, sign up for a carriage tour of the city. This is great for kids and the best way to explore its offerings at a leisurely pace. You’ll be able to buy tickets for the carriage rides in town but can also book ahead online. After the carriage ride, take some time to explore the rest of Charleston, but don’t leave without stopping for dinner and drinks at the stunning 5Church restaurant. Located inside a renovated mariner’s church, this is the perfect place to enjoy the harmony of old and new in Charleston.

Sunday: Make the most of your last morning at Wild Dunes by relaxing by the pool or beach. After checking out (and depending on how much time you have before your flight), head back downtown for the afternoon and grab lunch in Charleston, or make a stop on the way to the airport to tour the magnificent Magnolia Plantation and Gardens. For lunch, I recommend the Amen Street Fish & Raw Bar and if there’s time, visit the Old Slave Mart Museum or Nathaniel Russell House.

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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2016. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

Jamie Ditaranto traveled to South Carolina as a guest of the Wild Dunes Resort. Follow her on Twitter @jamieditaranto.

Categories
Active Travel Adventure Travel Weekend Getaways

Killington and Pico: Two Mountains, One Weekend


The forecast called for a complete washout—record-breaking warm temperatures in January and non-stop rain all weekend. Reservations were already made, so we hopped in the car anyway and headed north to Vermont on Friday night.

The destination? Killington and Pico, Vermont’s second and fifth tallest ski mountains. The plan? Ski both in just one weekend.

We checked into The Killington Grand Hotel, which is an easy walk from the slopes at Killington. This sprawling hotel has firepits, hot tubs, a heated pool, a spa, and everything you need to relax after a day on the mountain—plus a complimentary shuttle to take you to the nearby access road, which is lined with lively bars and restaurants.

You don’t need to leave the hotel to find great food—Preston’s, The Killington Grand Hotel’s on-site restaurant, is a member of the Vermont Farm to Plate network and utilizes local ingredients in its cuisine.

After dinner, we headed up to our room and watched the groomers on the mountain from our balcony, sending up our best snow dance (or at least anti-rain dance) to Mother Nature.

Against all the forecasts, Saturday morning dawned dry and warm. Thanks to the tireless work of the snowmakers earlier in the week, there was still plenty of snow on the slopes, even as the temperatures crept above 50 degrees. Killington is nicknamed “The Beast of the East”, and it’s easy to see why—this massive mountain has the highest vertical drop in New England (just over 3,000) and some of the most trails around (155), almost all of which were open that Saturday.

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The Saturday felt like a mid-week ski day—the forecast had scared away the crowds, and we skied right onto every single lift without having to wait in line, something that’s unheard of for a Saturday in January. The trails were empty, so we took our time on each descent, reveling in the quiet open spaces.

 

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Skiing in New England, I’m used to having to take frequent breaks inside to warm up in between runs and lift rides; but on this magical weekend, we only felt compelled to stop when we were too hungry to keep going. We skied down Needle’s Eye Run and right up to the Jerk Jamaican Mountain Grill, where we sat outside with our food and enjoyed the sunshine before getting right back on the lift—a definite treat in January.

After lunch, we headed back out to the slopes and kept going until last chair, after which we watched the sunset over drinks outside at the Umbrella Bar at the base of the mountain.

One quick and free shuttle ride down the street, and we were at the famous Wobbly Barn, a local steakhouse with a legendary nightlife. A great live music scene here will get you on your feet, no matter how tired your legs are from skiing.

The next morning made the forecasters look even more foolish, as it was another dry start to the day. We packed up the car for a quick 10-minute drive down the street to check out Pico Mountain. If you have a Killington lift ticket, you can ski at Pico for free.

Pico Mountain is more old-school and family-friendly than Killington. All of the trails lead down to the same single base area, so you’ll never get lost and find yourself on the opposite side of the mountain.

There are fewer trails (57) here than at Killington, but also smaller crowds, as this mountain is more of a secret than “the Beast,” but there’s enough terrain here to satisfy beginners and experts alike.

After a solid half day of skiing, the anticipated rain finally came, and we took refuge in the old-fashioned lodge by the real wood-burning fireplace.

If you’re planning a Vermont ski weekend this winter, combining a trip to Killington and Pico will let you experience both sides of New England skiing—from the big, flashy, and new Killington to the quiet, laid-back, and traditional Pico.

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Caroline Morse Teel was hosted by Killington. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline for photos from the mountain. 

Categories
Arts & Culture Cities Experiential Travel Family Travel Group Travel Historical Travel Road Trip Weekend Getaways

10 Essential Civil Rights Movement Historic Sites to Visit


The story of the African-American civil rights movement runs from the kingdoms of Africa to the Jim Crow South, through the Black Panther movement, and into current-day events across the country. Each year, the history, present, and future of racial justice in the U.S. comes into focus with Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in January and Black History Month in February.

10 Essential Civil Rights Movement Historic Sites to Visit

But these exceptional museums, monuments, and historic centers dedicated to the civil rights movement deserve the attention of travelers seeking the story of America all year long.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington, D.C.

In D.C., the National Museum of African American History and Culture opened in 2016 with much pomp and circumstance and ticket lines that ran around the building. If you still haven’t gone, you’re in for an exceptional experience: Exhibits span five floors and explore topics ranging from pre-slavery kingdoms in Africa to Jim Crow Segregation, and beyond, to modern day issues and achievements. The museum does a great job of bridging the job of informing without overwhelming, but trying to do it all in one visit will be tough. Timed entry passes are required on some days; check online for advance tickets or take your chances on a same-day request line at the museum.

African American Museum, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

This dedicated museum predated Washington D.C.’s National Museum of African American History and Culture by 40 years, and was the first in the country to be dedicated solely to exploring African-American heritage. The African American Museum in Philadelphia is a fantastic visit for all ages, but does a particularly good job of communicating with the under-12 set who will engage with exhibits like the hands-on Children’s Wall, which details the lives of historic African Americans. The permanent “Audacious Freedom” display details the contributions of people of African descent in Philadelphia during the years immediately following the founding of the United States.

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The Civil Rights Institute, Birmingham, Alabama

Gain insight into the rise and fall of segregation in Alabama with a visit to this well-appointed museum. Your self-directed exploration through the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute will take you through various timelines and details of the movement. When you’re done, cross the street to the 16th Street Baptist Church, where in September 1963, a bomb was set off killing four African-American schoolgirls who were attending Sunday School. The church still holds Sunday service each week at 11.

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National Civil Rights Museum, Memphis, Tennessee

It’s been over 50 years since the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr: In 1968 the world-respected leader was standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel when he was shot. Since 1991, that former motel has housed the National Civil Rights Museum with a goal of sharing the lessons of the movement while also addressing the goals of equality and freedom around the world. Thanks to a $27.5 million investment in 2013, interactive exhibits have been added that enrich the visit.

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Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, Washington. D.C.

Frederick Douglas started his life as a slave; then taught himself to read, outsmarted his captors, and escaped. He used his newfound freedom to become one of the most famous abolitionists in history and gained the respect of President Abraham Lincoln. Cedar Hill, the home he lived in from 1877 until his death in 1895 is now the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site. Daily ranger-led tours offer a glimpse into the impressive man, his family life, and his work alongside five American Presidents.

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Missouri History Museum, Missouri

The Missouri History Museum offers a glimpse into how one city has made an impact on the national story of civil rights. Here you’ll find exhibits on the story of the four precedent-setting Supreme Court civil rights cases that had their start in St. Louis, as well as artifacts collected during the 2014 uprising in Ferguson, Missouri. Don’t miss the section of live exhibitions, where actors bring historic events and people to life right in front of your eyes. Admission is free.

Ben’s Chili Bowl, Washington, D.C.

This iconic family-owned fast-food spot opened in 1958 with a simple take on the chili dog. Today, Ben’s Chili Bowl’s half-smoke—a half-pork, half-beef sausage topped with onions, cheese, and the restaurant’s signature chili—is a D.C. must-eat. But beyond the food and friendly service, the Chili Bowl on U-Street—in a historically African-American area of Washington D.C.—also has a place as an important part of the American civil rights movement. It was at ground zero of the 1968 race riots following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In fact, the restaurant—at the request of famous Black Panther Stokely Carmichael—stayed open despite curfews in place to feed protestors and police officers alike. Today, the walls of the shop hold photos of celebrities, public figures and local icons. And a mural on the wall outside features celebrated figures in the community. Though patriarchal namesake Ben Ali passed away in 2009, the property remains in the hands of his wife and children. And the half-smoke is still on the menu.

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Freedom Rides Museum, Montgomery, Alabama

The African American civil rights story depended in part on allies from other races, communities, and countries. It’s a story that is diverse in class, age, and race. The Freedom Riders—groups of volunteers who drove into segregated areas in 1961 with a goal of desegregation—are a prime example of exactly that. Before venturing off, Freedom Riders often wrote wills and goodbye letters to their families. Many of them would be killed and none of them was older than 22. The Freedom Rides Museum shares the story of 21 of these young people who took on the nonviolent protests encouraged by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and sacrificed for the movement.

Civil Rights Memorial Center; Memorial to Peace & Justice, Montgomery, Alabama

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While in Montgomery, don’t miss a chance to visit the Civil Rights Memorial and Civil Rights Memorial Center. The monument chronicles the history of the Civil Rights Movement, while the memorial plaza offers a contemplative place to remember those killed during this turbulent period of American history. And nearby, the massive new Memorial to Peace & Justice from the Equal Justice Initiative aims to remember the thousands of African American men, women, and children who were lynched in America.

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Oakland Museum of California, California

The southern and eastern states get the lion’s share of attention when it comes to Civil Rights, but California played a role too. Famous Black Panther members Bobby Seale and Huey Newton founded the party in Oakland. You can still tour the neighborhood where things began, and alongside a former Black Panther thanks to the Oakland Museum of California’s ongoing exhibition series about the group. More exhibitions and dates can be found here.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2018. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

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Heather Greenwood Davis is a lifestyle journalist and a National Geographic Travel columnist. Follow her on Twitter @greenwooddavis or keep up with her family’s adventures on GlobeTrottingMama.com.

Categories
Beach Cities Entertainment Food & Drink Weekend Getaways Women's Travel

10 Best Bachelorette Party Destinations (That Aren’t Las Vegas)


Whether you’re a soon-to-be bride or the maid of honor, the best bachelorette party destinations are the ones that have something to please everyone in the bridal party.

The Best Bachelorette Party Destinations

From a secluded New England island to a city tucked away in the Appalachian Mountains, these non-Vegas destinations are the perfect spots to celebrate the future Mrs.

Miami and Miami Beach, Floridabest bachelorette party destinations

Beaches, nightclubs, hangover-curing cuisine, and one of the most famous Instagram backdrops in the world—the Wynwood Walls—what more could you want in a perfect bachelorette party destination? Miami and Miami Beach are two of the best bachelorette party destinations in the U.S.

Spoil the bride-to-be at The Confidante where you can book a private beach workout session, blowouts, mani/pedis, brunch, a poolside bungalow, cocktails, spa treatments, champagne buckets, and request connecting suites with ocean views and a private terrace.

Other bachelorette party ideas in Miami include a private yacht charter, exploring the city’s museums—like the fitting World Erotic Art Museum—a walking Art Deco or cocktail tour, and rooftop-bar hopping.

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Nantucket, Massachusetts

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For info on these editor-selected items, click to visit the seller’s site. Things you buy may earn us a commission.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2017. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

 

Categories
Family Travel Romantic Travel Weekend Getaways

The 3 Most Festive Christmas Destinations in the World


With the holiday season upon us, many travelers will be heading home to celebrate with family. But, some Christmas destinations are magnificent enough to make us wonder if there really is no place like home for the holidays.

Whether you’re looking for a tropical spot or a winter wonderland, there are endless possibilities for holiday travel. However, these three destinations are a step above the rest. Here’s why you should have Puerto Rico, London, and Munich at the top of your Christmas getaway list.

London

(Photo: Christmas in London via Shutterstock)

This one seems like a no-brainer—London is a world-famous Christmas destination, and for good reason. From ice-skating and festive lights to Christmas markets, musicals, and caroling, Britain’s capital has something for every holiday-season traveler.

There are dozens of Christmas markets in London alone (see also Manchester, Birmingham, and Liverpool) that boast shopping, food, crafts, and games. Hyde Park’s massive Winter Wonderland features acrobats, carnival rides, and a full ice rink. These markets typically have free admission and are open until a few days before Christmas.

But, the celebrations don’t end there.

December 26 is Boxing Day in the UK, which extends the festivities. This national holiday is another historic day of giving, on which English servants used to get gift boxes from their employers. Nowadays most people don’t have to work (or, in this year’s case, get the following Monday off), and will spend the day with family, outdoors, at sporting events, and take advantage of holiday savings at the start of an annual sales season.

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Puerto Rico

(Photo: Bogdan Migulski via flickr/CC Attribution)

If the holiday season flies by too fast for you every year, try heading somewhere warmer. The American Caribbean territory of Puerto Rico boasts the longest Christmas season in the world, and for good reason. While London’s celebrations are supplemented by Boxing Day and go until New Years, Puerto Ricans stay full of holiday cheer until the Festival of Saint Sebastian in mid-January. There’s also Three Kings Day—a staple in most Hispanic countries—which is celebrated January 6, and New Years, which is just as fun as Christmas. All of these days come with a long list of traditions.

Christmas is the island’s busiest time of year. Tourists and locals alike eat seasonal treats like arroz con dulce (rice pudding) and coquito (coconut-based eggnog with rum), while carolers mill about and an endless array of festivals take over San Juan.

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Each December 31st, Puerto Ricans ring in the New Year with parties around the island. Revelers take part in the popular yet odd tradition of eating a grape for each chime of the clock in the seconds before midnight. Three Kings Day means parades a plenty, and the following week you can dance and shop your heart out at the Festival of San Sebastian. Local artisans will set up shop and Puerto Ricans will parade around Old San Juan in honor of the patron saint of soldiers and athletes.

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Munich

(Photo: Christmas in the Marienplatz via Shutterstock)

Germany has some of the oldest and most heralded Christmas markets in the world and is about to see an influx of tourism in 2016 thanks to the German Beer Purity Law’s 500-year anniversary. Each Christmas, the massive Christkindlmarkt in grandiose Marienplatz Square emerges to mark the beginning of holiday celebrations in the heart of Bavaria.

Winter festivals, toy villages, and craft markets take over early, with most opening in mid or late November. Germans don’t have a Thanksgiving to delay their affinity for strings of lights and decorated trees. Even Munich’s five-star airport is home to a seasonal Christmas Market, which stays open until December 27, so visitors returning home can be immersed in the festivities until they’re boarding their departing flight.

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You Tell Us: Which winter wonderland suits you best? Comment below.

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Editor Shannon McMahon has visited both London and Puerto Rico and can attest to their Christmas spirit. Follow more of her adventures on Twitter @shanmcmahon_.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2015. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

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