Photo by Pawel Kazmierczak/Shutterstock
Photo by Lesley Photograph/Shutterstock
In spring, cherry blossoms—“sakura”—bloom in Japan in places like Osaka.
Whether you want to admire Japan’s iconic cherry blossoms or snorkel off the shores of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, March is the best month to travel to these 10 spots.
By March, spring has sprung in many parts of the world. The summer heat has yet to descend on the Northern Hemisphere, and early spring is a great time to celebrate some of the season’s festivals and holidays, be it St. Patrick’s Day in a pub in Philadelphia or an art festival in Taiwan.
March is great for: aquaphiles
This hook-shaped speck of sand surrounded by turquoise waters is harder to get to than other Caribbean islands, but that’s the appeal. On the five-square-mile island, there’s not much to do beyond snorkeling the coral reef, relaxing in the sun loungers on Godahl Beach, or paddleboarding at Shell Beach. Travelers can also take a catamaran tour to Tobago Cays, where scenes from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies were shot. The tiny downtown area and marina are perfect for an unhurried stroll. The Mandarin Oriental, Canouan, the former Pink Sands Club resort that reopened in 2018, has just 26 suites, each with a marble seaside patio. The hotel’s Cargo 4 Kids program invites guests to bring much-needed school supplies from home and deliver them to local students.
Travelers can fly to the island’s seaside airstrip via shared or chartered Grenadine Alliance jet from St. Vincent, Barbados, St. Lucia, or Grenada. Another option is the 3-hour ferry ride from St. Vincent on the M/V Barracouda, which runs Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, the 2.25-hour ride on M/V Gem Star on Tuesdays and Fridays, or the 3-hour ride on M/V Canouan Bay on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
—Jennifer Flowers and Mekalyn Rose, as seen in the January/February 2020 issue
March is great for: hip folks, artsy types
Taipei is establishing itself as a hub for the arts in Asia, with small independent galleries complementing wide-ranging collections at much larger museums. In March, visitors can attend the 12th annual Taiwan International Festival of Arts, which will take place between February and April in Taipei and Taichung.
In between theater and music performances, though, explore some of Taipei’s museums. Start at the world’s largest collection of Chinese art, the National Palace Museum. Included in the museum’s collection are paintings, calligraphy, bronzes, lacquerware, ceramics, jade, and religious objects—many once owned by Chinese emperors. Although there are myriad attractions in the giant building, the best-known artifact is the jade cabbage, a precious marvel that appears to change color from green to white. Look closely at its leaves and you might be able to see the locust and katydid hidden within.
Taipei doesn’t lack in showcases for contemporary creativity, either. Once home to a tobacco factory, Songshan Cultural and Creative Park now hosts visiting exhibitions, art workshops, and cool stores. Other galleries dedicated to modern art include the Museum of Contemporary Art Taipei (MOCA), where artists from Taiwan and China are represented; 1839 Gallery, which focuses on photography; and Aki Gallery.
Those who like urban art will want to explore the trendy Ximending area in the Western District of Taipei. You’ll need to poke around a bit—exploring side streets and meandering through the neighborhood—but you’ll be rewarded with some interesting street art. —AFAR Editors
March is great for: history nerds
In March, visitors will avoid the crush of summer vacationers (and the humidity) and there are nearly 2,000 bars to choose from if you want a drink on St. Patrick’s Day (a good alternative: a stellar meal, thanks to the city’s dynamic food scene). And the recent opening of the new Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia means that if you book before March 31, 2020, you get 20 percent off your room rate.
But the real reason a lot of travelers put Philly on their to-see list is its status as the birthplace of the United States. That may not be surprising given the city’s role during Revolutionary times—the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution were both drafted and signed here. But you can really sense the depth of Philly history by walking around neighborhoods like Old City and Society Hill. So many historical nuggets appear, including the Betsy Ross House and Ben Franklin’s old newspaper office.
The most famous sites are clustered along several blocks of Independence National Historical Park, including Independence Hall, the modest red-brick building where the Founding Fathers declared independence. You’ll also spot the Liberty Bell Center, great for a close-up look at the icon from the 1750s. At the National Constitution Center, check out such important documents as Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and the Bill of Rights. Opened in 2017, the Museum of the American Revolution is a stunning newcomer with hundreds of artifacts, including the original headquarters tent that General George Washington used during the war. And 40 minutes north of town, Valley Forge National Historical Park tells the story of Washington’s pivotal 1776 Delaware River crossing. —AFAR Editors
March is great for: flower fans
Despite its big city status, Osaka has no shortage of parks and gardens. Tourists descend in droves in late March and April for cherry blossom viewing (hanami), so it will be crowded—but worth it.
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Cherry blossoms appear throughout the city, including the Osaka Castle grounds, which has more than 4,000 cherry trees. Or check out the Expo 70 Commemorative Park with its over 5,000 cherry trees. While there, take time to marvel at the bright rows of tulips at the tulip garden.
Also packed with attractions is Tennoji Park, a huge expanse of green hiding the Osaka Municipal Museum of Fine Art, Tennoji Zoo, and traditional Japanese gardens. During cherry blossom season, all eyes and cameras will be on Kema Sakuranomiya Park, home to 4,800 cherry trees and magnificent views. The riverside setting, classical buildings, and pleasant jogging trails make it worth a visit at any time of year.
For a slice of real Osaka life, make your way just outside the city center to Nagai Park, home to two sports stadiums, the Nagai Botanical Gardens, and the Osaka Museum of Natural History. There are also some nice cycling and running trails and surprisingly few tourists. —AFAR Editors
March is great for: ardent anthropologists
Mexico’s largest city and its capital is sprawling and chaotic, yes. It can be a bit overwhelming, but is wildly exciting, too. In March, the purple jacaranda trees are in bloom all over the city, average airfare prices are among the cheapest they’ll be all year, and the weather is ideal for strolling the historic streets and marveling at the ancient architecture.
The National Museum of Anthropology, one of a number of museums ringing Chapultepec Park, is world-renowned and offers a window into the sweep of Mexican history, from prehistoric and indigenous (Aztec, Maya, Olmec, and others) times to the present.
Anyone interested in the city’s history should visit the Zócalo (also, Plaza de la Constitución), Mexico City’s main plaza and where the city’s cultural, religious, and social histories yield story after story. The plaza’s east side is home to the Palacio Nacional, one of the country’s main government buildings and where fascinating Diego Rivera murals are visible.
Worth a day trip is Teotihuacán, a massive pre-Hispanic complex 25 miles outside of the city that was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987. Its Pyramids of the Moon and Sun are its most significant features, but the Avenue of the Dead, its ornate Temple of Quetzalcóatl (the plumed serpent god), and the structured layout of the whole complex definitely impress. To avoid crowds, go on a weekday and try to arrive in the morning (it opens at 9 a.m.). —AFAR Editors
March is great for: chocoholics, beer drinkers
Brussels is the administrative center of the European Union, but despite that rather officious responsibility, it’s a vibrant city full of history and modern life. Although its famous brews and sweets taste good year round, visit during shoulder season in March; room rates will be cheaper than summer high season, and Chocolate Week takes place in nearby Antwerp from March 6 to 15, 2020.
If you don’t feel like making the hour-long train ride to Antwerp for the festival, there are plenty of places to sample Brussels’s best confections, including where it all started: the Neuhaus Chocolate Shop. Also visit Pierre Marcolini, who uses rare chocolate beans to create concoctions like traditional hazelnut praline or salted caramel with cardamom and dark chocolate. It’s the most sophisticated outfit in town; here, clerks literally handle the confectionary jewels with white gloves.
Meanwhile, the Belgian Chocolate Village is an entire museum dedicated to Belgium’s famous sweet. The interactive complex illustrates the stages of chocolate production, has an on-site greenhouse that simulates the tropical forests that grow cocoa beans, and a tasting room to sample the good stuff.
Want something a little stronger? In 2016 Belgium beer was added to the UNESCO intangible cultural heritage list for its centuries-long beer history, and with over 150 breweries in the small nation, the variety of beer in this country is incredible. The best way to appreciate Belgium’s unique beer-making history is to head to one of Brussels’s many beer bars. Start at perennial favorite Moeder Lambic Fontainas, which has a revolving tap menu and where you sip brews in an art deco space. Then head to Delirium, a craft beer bar with more than 2,400 beers, or indulge with a dose of history and atmosphere at La Porte Noire, a medieval tavern with approximately 200 beers to try. —AFAR Editors
March is great for: jacks and jills of all trades, oenophiles
United’s new nonstop flights between Newark and Cape Town offer the first direct path from the United States to South Africa’s legislative capital in many years—and a March trip to this AFAR Travelers’ Choice Award winner is just the ticket for travelers of all types. March marks the last days of summer, and the weather is warm and dry, perfect for hiking up to towering Table Mountain to catch stellar views of the city, or watching classic films like The Wizard of Oz or Juno under the stars on Wednesdays and Thursdays at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, or even taking an overnight trip to a nearby private game reserve to spot wildlife.
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Wine aficionados can venture outside the city to catch harvest season and go tasting in places like Constantia (the oldest winemaking region in the Southern Hemisphere), or partake in a special celebration of cabernet at the Stellenbosch estate. Adrenaline hunters can go diving, be it into the water with great white sharks or from the sky to take in even better views than they got at Table Mountain. For music fans, from March 27 to 28, Cape Town will host its 21st annual international jazz festival, the largest music event in sub-Saharan Africa.
Families and art lovers shouldn’t miss the collections and architecture of the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa; on exhibition until March 23 is Why Should I Hesitate: Putting Drawings to Work, showcasing 40 years of acclaimed artist William Kentridge’s oeuvre. And until March 30, catch the museum’s first exhibition curated especially for children, And So the Stories Ran Away. —Sara Button
March is great for: ski bunnies
Thanks to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, skiers and snowboarders can carve tracks across more than 22,000 acres of trails at 28 resorts. It’s no wonder the state was voted Best Ski Destination by AFAR readers in this year’s Travelers’ Choice Awards. Although Colorado is home to Arapahoe Basin resort, which stays open sometimes as late as July (one of North America’s longest ski seasons), skiers should go in March. All of the state’s resorts are still open that month and the days are getting longer, meaning more daytime hours on the slopes.
Springtime also means the weather is a little warmer—sunny outdoor après-ski activities are possible, as are outdoor performances (two of Aspen’s three free Hi-Fi Concert Series shows are in March). In addition to its swanky reputation and four-resorts-in-one-lift-ticket fame, Aspen allows free uphill skiing. (For a more affordable alternative to Aspen, check out nearby Carbondale.) In Telluride, find 2,000 acres of multilevel terrain and, when you’re spent, nab a drink at a historic spot like the New Sheridan Hotel (don’t let the name fool you—it’s been open since 1895). Vail is a strong choice for intermediate and advanced skiers, and beginners will find an accessible home on Breckenridge’s slopes. —Sara Button
March is great for: color fiends
March in Jaipur, the capital of the Indian state of Rajasthan, brings warm temperatures and festive celebrations. On March 10, the Hindu festival of Holi takes place, celebrating spring and the triumph of good over evil. While different regions celebrate the holiday in slightly different ways, recognizable nationwide is the riot of colors that occurs in the streets as people toss vibrantly colored powders or soak one another in colored water.
Beyond the hue-heavy holiday, Jaipur, like the rest of India, has a rich cultural heritage. See evidence on display at the new Amrapali Museum, which highlights Indian craftsmanship, especially through jewelry and body adornment. (In fact, Jaipur is a hub for gem-cutting, with many family jewelry businesses going back generations. The Gem Palace has been owned by the same family for more than 250 years.) Take an electric rickshaw tour led by one of the ladies from the nonprofit Pink City Rickshaw Company; they’ll transport you to spots like the iconic pink Hawa Mahal Palace or the City Palace. Or to feel like the royalty you’ve been reading about in the museums and palaces, book a stay at the decadent Suján Rajmahal Palace—the wallpaper alone will make you want to move in. —Sara Button
March is great for: night owls, music mavens
Austin is a welcoming place and has a solid mix of tasty food (and noted food trucks), extensive live music venues, and a vibrant arts scene, but be careful: Spend too much time here, you just may never leave—especially if you visit in March, when the desert weather is right for sitting on a back patio watching some live tunes.
Austin calls itself the Live Music Capital of the World, and who’s to argue? Name your genre, and there’s a stage supporting your sound. Old-school punk rock? Head to Emo’s on East Riverside. Alt-rock up-and-comers? Check the Mohawk on Red River, a raging live music block. Want a classic South Austin blues-rock sound? Make your first stop the Continental Club on South Congress. Honky-tonk meets Americana? Hit the White Horse in East Austin.
The clear headliner is the South by Southwest Conference and Festival (SXSW), running from March 13 to 22 in 2020. SXSW (often shortened to “South by”) has grown from a modest unsigned band competition into one of the world’s leading gatherings for music, film, comedy, gaming, and tech. It’s where up-and-coming bands, budding filmmakers, and tech startups overlap, looking to sign industry deals. Over 400,000 people attend this 10-day extravaganza of 2,700 music performances, 400 movie screenings, and 80 gaming sessions. If you’re traveling in March and you’re not planning to go to SXSW, keep in mind that hotel and Airbnb prices will be high during the festival and the city will be a lot more crowded than normal. —AFAR Editors
This article originally appeared online on January 3, 2019; it was updated on December 18, 2019 to include current information.
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