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AFAR readers voted Charleston their favorite U.S. city.
Want to catch tulips in the Netherlands or take a dip in clear Tahitian waters? These are the 10 best spots to travel in April.
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April is the perfect time of year to enjoy sunny days and, in many places, avoid high-season hotel rates. Whether you have an artistic soul or want to spend as many hours at the beach as possible, make your spring break plans for one of these destinations, all of which are ideal for April travel.
AFAR readers’ favorite U.S. city, Charleston, is steeped in history. English settlers established Charles Towne (its original name) in 1664, and the city grew quickly. Many of its centuries-old buildings—including the iconic church steeples that warrant the nickname “The Holy City”—still stand today. In April, catch the Festival of Houses and Gardens put on by the Historic Charleston Foundation, where you can get insider access to some of the city’s most incredible homes. Or see a musical showcase of the hottest indie and alt-country acts at High Water Fest, curated by local darlings, folk duo Shovels & Rope.
But also save plenty of time for a key Charleston activity: eating. You’ll find shrimp and grits on nearly every menu in Charleston; start with the most classic of interpretations at the aptly named Hominy Grill, where James Beard Award–winning chef Robert Stehling still tends the fire most mornings.
Another iconic dish is she-crab soup, a creamy amalgam of crab meat and sherry. Stalwart restaurants 82 Queen and Anson offer the city’s most splurge-worthy takes on this beloved Southern cuisine. And when a heaping platter of fried oysters and shrimp are all you need, satisfy that craving at The Wreck of the Richard & Charlene on Shem Creek, where the walls are plastic sheeting, the beers are ice cold, and the vibe is decidedly relaxed.
The Big Island of Hawaii has obsidian beaches, tropical rain forests, and a crown of polar tundra—thanks to Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, two of the planet’s tallest peaks. Visit in April for the end of whale season, plus mild weather and fewer winter holiday crowds. (But be mindful of prices during the last week in April, which coincides with “Golden Week,” a popular time for Japanese travelers, who remain a large portion of Hawaii’s tourism.)
While there’s snorkeling aplenty on the Big Island (off the western coast, spot manta rays with wingspans of up to 23 feet or slip through a fantasyland of lava tubes and submerged grottoes), it also offers plenty of ways to get in touch with Hawaiian culture. At the Four Seasons Hualalai, guests can now learn from cultural ambassadors about how ancient Hawaiians used to harvest salt, collect it, and then use it during a cooking class. Or, from April 21 to 27, attend events such as a parade and dance performances that are part of the week-long Merrie Monarch Festival, which promotes and preserves Hawaiian culture. Most events are free, but you’ll have to reserve tickets in advance for the renowned hula competition.
There’s plenty of memorable hiking, too. For a moderate day hike on the Big Island, try the four-mile Kilauea Iki loop in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. It traces the caldera’s rim then descends to a solidified—but still steaming—lava lake from a 1959 eruption. From the same trailhead, delve into the 500-year-old Thurston Lava Tube (also known as Nahuku). New lighting illuminates the paved route, which runs a third of a mile, but rangers shut it off between 8 p.m. and 10 a.m. Bring a headlamp: Cell phones can’t guide you safely.
According to Expedia, airfare to Seoul is nearly 10 percent cheaper than average in April. One of the world’s biggest cities, the South Korean capital has emerged as a go-to travel spot in Asia, thanks in large part to its burgeoning food, arts, and fashion scenes.
A vibrant gallery scene is thriving alongside larger museums and traditional arts. Many top Seoul galleries line the streets of the Samcheong-dong neighborhood, including Kukje Gallery, with its Alexander Calder mobiles and Bill Viola video art; and Gallery Hyundai, a pioneer in the Seoul arts space. The National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art will keep visitors busy: It has four unique branches. Other major collections in town include the Seoul Museum of Art, especially known for its permanent exhibition of Korean artist Chun Kyung Ja’s colorful female and floral paintings.
While Seoul might be establishing itself in the arts world, its quirky obsession with animal cafés is long documented. You’ll find cafés and coffee shops scattered all over town. But a unique twist is how many of Seoul’s cafés have specific themes that help them gain buzz and stand out.
Animals are the in-house stars at Thanks Nature Café, the Hongdae spot that’s home to two sheep, and Blind Alley in Cheongpadong with its pair of raccoons. Cat lovers will want to check out Godabang Cat Cafe for a latte and a pile of cats hanging out inside (allergy sufferers might want to skip this one).
If animals aren’t your thing, Banana Tree in Itaewon serves sweet coffee concoctions like cotton candy lattes in edible “flowerpots.” Bibliophiles can unwind at the library-like Sum Island, or hang with Sherlock Holmes himself (well, with his statue) at 221B, dedicated to all things elementary.
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April is a big month in Amsterdam. The biggest bash on the city’s busy social calendar is King’s Day. Held on April 27—the birthday of current monarch King Willem-Alexander—it’s known far and wide as one of Europe’s most exuberant street parties. Count on free public concerts, jam-packed pubs, canals full of brightly decorated boats, and a citywide flea market where anyone can sell anything. You’ll see the national color orange everywhere—crazy orange outfits, pets in orange gear, dyed orange hair. The event culminates with an outdoor concert at the Museumplein, where travelers can find some of the world’s top art museums.
But the other reason to go to Amsterdam in April is for the flowers. For the whole month, travelers can see the country’s famous blooms for free in 85 public spaces during the annual Tulip Festival. And any trip to Amsterdam is even more magical with a stop in Vondelpark, the city’s most popular green space (it gets approximately 10 million visitors a year). First opened to the public in 1865, the park covers 120 acres and is now a nonstop party where children cartwheel, friends play songs on guitars, and cyclists wheel by.
Westerpark is another rollicking playground. Slightly west of the city center, it has reedy ponds, willow trees, and lush lawns where locals hang out. The bonus here is that the park extends into Westergasfabriek, a former gasworks revamped into a cultural complex brimming with hip cafés, breweries, theaters, and other creative spaces.
French Polynesia’s largest island, Tahiti, is a favorite destination for romance and relaxation, but it has adventurous delights, too—in AFAR’s latest Travelers’ Choice Awards, it won as the top spot for water sports. April is the end of the wet (and low) season, so it’s also the ideal time to catch a ride on one of Air Tahiti Nui’s or United’s Dreamliners, or to find a sweet deal on low-cost carrier French Bee, which launched its first route to the islands last spring.
The islands of Tahiti charm water lovers with lively colorful reefs and clear water. Expect to see sharks angling through the balmy 80-degrees seas, as well as mantas barrel-rolling, mouths agape to devour plankton. Strap on a mask and hover above wrecks at The Aquarium site near the international airport.
After a long day of swimming, relax with a massage (a long-standing tradition in the area). Most massages use monoi: coconut oil infused with Tahitian gardenia, prized for its ability to deeply moisturize skin and hair. Make sure to schedule a traditional Polynesian massage known as Taurumi, which focuses on the body’s energy lines. The massage starts at the head (at the nini point, where the soul enters the body), then works its way down to the feet.
Kuala Lumpur wasn’t designated as a municipality until 1972, but it punches above its weight when it comes to history and heritage. This richness derives from a mix of ethnicities and influences, with colonial architecture alongside Chinese shophouses and grand mosques. Yes, April is one of the wettest months, but according to Kayak, it’s the cheapest month to fly to Malaysia.
One of the most enjoyable ways to get to know Kuala Lumpur is to hit its street markets. From bustling free-for-alls full of fragrant spices to calmer affairs frequented by upper-class hipsters, Kuala Lumpur has markets to suit all stripes. Given the local obsession with food, eating is a vital component at virtually every market in the city. In fact, it is pretty much the chief draw at wet markets such as Pudu and Chow Kit, where vendors serve an array of Malay, Chinese, and Indian hawker favorites such as curry noodles, chicken rice, and popiah (Chinese fresh spring rolls).
The Kampung Baru night market is a great spot for Malay goods like sarongs and songkok, the black felt caps that men all over the city wear. No surprise either that food plays a large role here as well—with grilled fish and meats, nasi lemak (a national dish of rice cooked in coconut milk, usually served for breakfast), and rojak (a spicy fruit and vegetable salad).
The most popular street market in Kuala Lumpur is Petaling Street’s night market. Premium quality goods are in short supply here, but the novelty of haggling for a counterfeit watch while inhaling the aroma of sizzling fresh seafood is a worthwhile experience. A more generously stocked treasure trove is Taman Connaught Night Market, held every Wednesday, where over 700 stalls sell everything from books, bags, and handicrafts to clothing and accessories. While there, brave a taste of chili-drenched tofu.
Stylish, sophisticated, and friendly, Melbourne is Australia’s most cosmopolitan city and one of the most liveable cities in the world. Visit in April, when the autumn weather is still warm enough to enjoy the outdoors but the holiday crowds have dispersed. (Plus, you might be able to catch West Side Story at the Arts Centre or Harry Potter and the Cursed Child at the Princess.)
Melbournians have taken street art to the next level—the thought-provoking art changes daily, if not hourly, and you can often see the artists at work. The artwork itself is also edgy and often political in nature. Hosier Lane is the most famous of the laneways, but be sure to check out Centre Way, Rutledge Lane, AC/DC Lane, and Caledonian Lane as well. There are plenty of walking tours—like those available from Melbourne Street Tours—that will take you to the best hidden spots for a sense of Melbourne’s fascinating urban art history.
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For an indoor art experience, get tickets to a show. The theater experience in Melbourne is evocative of another era illustrated by its gorgeously preserved art deco and Victorian theaters. The Princess Theatre was built in the 1850s with the kind of sumptuous glam that only a gold rush can fund, and the Regent Theatre is a rococo dreamland. But the icing on the cake is the gloriously over-the-top Forum Theatre with its Moorish-inspired minarets and Hogwarts-style enchanted ceiling. Melbourne also has fantastic contemporary venues such as the Arts Centre Melbourne, recognizable by its Eiffel Tower–inspired spire.
Located on the western coast of the state of Jalisco, Puerto Vallarta’s waters are an irresistible siren song for anyone who enjoys snorkeling or scuba diving. Go in April, when the weather is dry but not too hot yet. For travelers who want to experience a less crowded PV, visit at the end of the month to avoid Holy Week crowds from April 14 to 21 (or brave those for local religious parades and Easter celebrations).
Puerto Vallarta may draw visitors primarily because of its sun and sand, but the Sierra Madre range in the northwestern part of Jalisco state has just as much appeal. Travelers who enjoy hiking can lace up their boots and hit the trail with an outfitter like Vallarta Adventures. You can participate in one of its package tours, which includes rappelling and ziplining, or request a custom tour that involves more boots-on-the-ground time.
Birders will want to book a trip with Nature Vallarta Birding Tours. Guide Gerardo Hernández consistently receives rave reviews for his avian knowledge, and the forest hike, which begins at dawn, is an atmospheric experience. Discover exotic-looking birds like the black-throated magpie jay, tiny camouflaged Mexican parrotlets, and nocturnal northern potoos.
For those who prefer their hikes more easy going, head to the Vallarta Botanical Garden. From its well-maintained viewing trails, you can spy orchids, passion flowers, carnivorous plants, and many endemic species. Bring a bathing suit if you want to swim in the garden’s river or just roll up your pants and cool your feet after your ramble.
We’ve already mentioned those Holy Week and Easter crowds, and Rome is no exception (for devout Catholics, it might be the place to go for the holiday). But April is still a great time to visit “The Eternal City.” Flight prices are much lower than the summer spike (in some cases, by almost half), the weather can be cool and may be a little dreary, but it’s still good for walking around.
Rome is a must-visit destination on so many fronts. You can find amazing art in churches and palaces throughout the city, but the main art museum attraction isn’t in Rome—it’s in Vatican City, the enclave inside Rome. The Vatican Museums have roughly nine miles of art-filled galleries. Lines are notoriously long, so guided tours that avoid the queues are strongly recommended.
Another must-see is the Galleria Borghese, a private art collection from the wealthy 16th-century Cardinal Scipione Borghese that’s housed in his former villa. Upstairs you’ll find the picture gallery with noteworthy pieces from Caravaggio while downstairs is an amazing collection of sculpture, such as Bernini’s masterpiece Apollo and Daphne, as well as Roman mosaics and frescoes. Visits must be prebooked so reserve online before you arrive. Before or after your indoor visit, stroll or picnic in the Villa Borghese gardens.
Beyond the art, Rome is famous for its ancient ruins, which dominate the cityscape in the form of the towering Colosseum and the Forum. To skip lines and get more context, it’s worth hiring a guide. And if you somehow get tired of the art and archaeology, visit one of the city’s many outdoor markets, where you can shop and people-watch at the same time. Italian food lovers should head to the 400-year-old Campo de’ Fiori, home to one of the best-known food markets in Rome, including lots of flower stalls (the square’s name means “Field of Flowers”). Or check out the Fontanella Borghese Market for old prints and maps, vintage posters, cheap books, small art objects, and lively vendors who are more than happy to share the history of your most recent find.
Montego Bay is the main gateway to Jamaica’s sunny Caribbean north shore, with resorts and locally run guesthouses on the beach that cater to every interest and budget, a lively downtown known for duty-free shopping, and nightlife on the “Hip Strip” running alongside the bay. A modern coastal highway gives visitors to “Mobay” convenient access to resort towns like laid-back Negril to the west and the port town of Falmouth to the east. Crowds die down after mid-April, and booking a trip later in the month may get you great hotel and tour deals to take advantage of Jamaica’s beautiful beaches.
Despite its shiver-inducing name, the Widowmaker’s Cave is the most popular dive site in Montego Bay. Divers enter this fish-filled cave at a depth of 80 feet and exit from a hole at the top at 30 feet. Closer to Negril is the Throne Room, another cave, that’s home to a king-sized sponge. Doctor’s Cave Beach in downtown Montego Bay has calm waters for snorkeling, and you’ll find the edge of the protected marine park just a few strokes out. Montego Bay’s quieter Cornwall Beach and Seven Mile Beach in Negril are other places where you can snorkel right from the shore.
>>Next: Where to Go in 2019
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