Put some spring in your travel step by planning a trip. The season offers a chance for a bonus jaunt, an extra treat before the vacation season hits: Consider a few places whose peak appeal comes in that Goldilocks moment between winter and summer—some of which might surprise you.
We’ve compiled seven smart options for a springtime fling, all with a compelling reason or two to travel there.
1. New Orleans
The Big Easy is a major hardship in peak tourist season—not only for the crowds, but also for its oppressively muggy weather. Sneak in before summertime, though, and you can enjoy breezy, pleasant conditions that make exploring the cobbled backstreets a joy rather than a battle; in April, expect the mercury to hover in the upper 70s and to experience only about four days of rain. Of course, spring’s big draw here is Jazz Fest. More than 5,000 musicians appear at this event, which started in 1970 and has grown exponentially since then.
New Orleans culture, though, isn’t limited to music, and there are other arty reasons to venture here in spring, like the Tennessee Williams Festival, a five-day celebration of the Streetcar Named Desire maestro; the Mississippi native lived here for several years in the 1930s and ’40s. among the highfalutin readings and tributes, there are fittingly subversive, fun offerings too—such as the annual Stella Shouting contest, where attendees can try out their best bellowing Stanley Kowalski. If you need inspiration, watch a video of some of last year’s attempts.
Where to stay
- Book now: Hotel Peter & Paul
The Marigny-based four-star hotel was carved out of a 19th-century church. Its surrounding buildings, including a school and convent, and its draped, ornate interiors are winningly over-the-top; the twin-bunk rooms in the former schoolhouse are a great family or friends option.
How to get to New Orleans
MSY airport is now a pleasure to experience, after it was reinvented via a $1.3 billion makeover five years ago. There is service across the country on most carriers: Breeze Airways connects it with Louisville, Kentucky, for example, and Southwest offers service from San Antonio, Texas.
2. Seoul, South Korea
We’ve already told you that the South Korean capital is one of the best cities in the world this year, but if you need another nudge, we highly recommend you go in spring. That’s when it’s festooned with clouds of pale-pink flowers, courtesy of the cherry trees that line the streets and parks, usually from mid-March to mid-April. Look for two kinds: the Yoshino—familiar from Washington, D.C., originating in Japan—as well as the King cherry, an indigenous species from South Korea’s Jeju Island. The latter has slightly larger, pinker flowers and will burst into bloom toward the end of the season.
The best spots to enjoy the cherry blossoms include the National Cemetery, where the drooping bows on trees look like floral waterfalls, and Seokchon Lake—the Lotte World theme park is there, and the Disney Magic Castle-like architecture looks straight out of a fairy tale when the cherry trees are in full bloom. Make sure to comb the aisles of the supermarkets here to pick up bizarre, intriguing cherry blossom–flavored snacks, limited-edition riffs released to honor the season.
Where to stay
- Book now: Rakkojae Hanok Collection
Consider a quirky crashpad like one of the traditional hanoks, the signature 14th-century structure with curved roofs and central courtyards that’s a shorthand for Seoul, complete with timber-framed windows and calligraphic decorations.
How to get to Seoul
Korea has not one but two national carriers: SkyTeam member Korean Air and Star Alliance’s Asiana. Together, they connect ICN airport through nonstop direct flights to Dallas, Seattle, and JFK in New York City. Delta also operates to Korea’s capital from Detroit and Minneapolis.
The tiny island 60 nautical miles or so off Sicily’s south coast is a place where the weather’s usually balmy in spring—much nicer than the often-oppressive heat of midsummer—and there are countless, less-known cultural sites that more than match better-known spots in Rome or Athens.
Take the Hypogeum. Tucked under a side street in the town of Paola is one of Europe’s most underrated but important Neolithic sites: a warren of tunnels carved out of limestone more than 5,000 years ago. The burial ground and temple was unearthed when someone tried to build a drainage channel for a modern house; to prevent the dampness of visitors’ breath damaging the extraordinary artworks daubed on the walls, entry is limited to 80 people per day. Later this year, keep an eye open for MICAS, the contemporary art museum arriving in Valletta that’s a glass box bolted onto the centuries-old fortified walls of the city.
Where to stay
- Book now: The Phoenicia
The handiest place to sleep is this hotel, right outside the main city walls of Valletta: The large rooms are comfy, and there’s a lovely, chintzy lobby that’s more like an English country house than a Mediterranean manor.
How to get to Malta
There are no direct, nonstop long-haul flights from North America. Given the long-standing cultural connections with the United Kingdom—Malta was a colony for 150 years—the best choice is to fly to London and connect from there. Look for service to LGW rather than LHR airport (JetBlue, Delta, and Virgin all operate to the former), as there is a greater number of options for short-haul connections.
4. The Hamptons, New York
Think the best time to visit the Hamptons is summertime? Think again. If you’d prefer to enjoy the bucolic calm of this gorgeous slice of New England, squeeze in a trip in springtime, when the locals far outnumber visitors and you’re likelier to spot a line outside a farm stand rather than a nightclub.
The standout spot right now is the most isolated Hampton enclave of all: Shelter Island, the almost 30-square-mile spot wedged between the north and south forks at the farthest east end. The spot has seen a flurry of new energy over the past couple of years, with several of its hotels undergoing major renovations or owner changes, including the Chequit—owned by NYC real estate tycoon Stefan Soloviev—and the Rams Head Inn.
Still, it retains much of the countrified charm that drew weekenders in the first place: Take a 10-mile bike ride around the entire island, about a third of which is a protected nature preserve, or hang out on one of the beaches at sundown; if you want to take the plunge into the brisk Atlantic waters, try Shell Beach, where the kayaking and paddleboarding is easier thanks to the protected inlet at West Neck Harbor.
Where to stay
- Book now: The Pridwin
The Pridwin is another hotel that’s undergone a radical reboot, after the longtime owning family partnered with developer Cape Resorts: The 10-acre property has 16 new cottages dotted around its grounds.
How to get to the Hamptons
If you’d rather travel in comfort to Long Island, skip the crowds of the LIRR train and try one of the luxe bus services: The Luxury Liner runs starting in May, and the Hampton Jitney runs year-round. Expect comfy seats, snacks and Wi-Fi, and regular stops connecting NYC and the major hubs out East.
5. Costa Rica
The best time to explore Costa Rica is the dry season, or summer, which runs from December through April. It’s when the views of its spectacular countryside, such as the more than 5,300-foot-tall Arenal Volcano, are clearest (get up early to avoid any cloud cover) and when the bird population is at its peak, with millions arriving here to overwinter. Even better, of course, the dry sunny weather keeps temperatures in the mid-80s most of the time and makes for picture-perfect beach days.
If you want to explore the jungle up close, make La Fortuna your base. It’s the adventure hub of the country: Wander across the swinging, vertigo-inducing metal walkways that are the Arenal hanging bridges of Mistico Park, or careen down seven consecutive ziplines, including one that punctures through the branches. For surfing, your best option is Santa Teresa on the west coast, a high-end hippie town that’s the local counterpart to Mexico’s Tulum. Or, indulge your inner om with a trip to Nosara, the wellness spot and yoga lovers’ paradise.
Where to stay
- Book now: Nayara Tented Camp
The eco-luxe spot is the standout of the three sister resorts here under the Nayara umbrella: Sit in your private plunge pool outside the canopied bedroom and consider the superb views of the Arenal Volcano, the ultimate Costa Rican backdrop.
How to get to Costa Rica
The capital, San José (SJO), has service from Orlando (JetBlue, Spirit) and Charlotte (American), among cities. The other main air hub in Costa Rica is Liberia (LIR): Among the routes from the United States, there are Southwest flights to Baltimore, and American and JetBlue flights to JFK.
6. Tangier, Morocco
Take a trip to Tangier, a city we’ve already identified as one of the must-visit spots worldwide for 2024. The northernmost spot of modern Morocco has a thrillingly eclectic cultural history, having spent several decades of the 20th century as a de facto stand-alone site, an international zone administered by a cluster of European countries. That history bestowed on the city both an architectural originality and a devil-may-care edginess that it retains today—no wonder the fashpack who flocked to Morocco in the 1970s, including Yves Saint Laurent, found Tangier so intoxicating and seductive.
Follow in their footsteps and you’ll find that contemporary Tangier is a hot spot for local creatives, whether artist Yto Barrada who runs café and gallery Cinémathèque de Tanger or the funky concept store Las Chicas. Bring a copy of the extraordinary autobiography of Ahmed Errachidi, The General, to read at his restaurant Café Terrasse Boulevard. The Tangier-born chef was working in Pakistan when he was arrested and sent to Guantanamo Bay for five years before his innocence was proven. He returned home and opened this space with his family.
Where to stay
- Book now: Villa Mabrouka
Designer Jasper Conran reopened Yves Saint Laurent’s onetime home as a luxe 12-room boutique hotel, amping up its interiors with louche maximalism.
How to get to Tangier
The best option from North America is to fly into Casablanca, the capital, the terminus for long-haul flights; Royal Air Maroc operates from Washington, D.C., JFK, and Miami. Then hop on the gleaming new high-speed train to reach Tangier; it’s barely a two-hour journey.
7. Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Don’t assume that ski-centric destinations lose their luster the moment snow starts to grow sparse on the slopes. In fact, they’re often some of the most appealing out-of-season spots, when their other assets aren’t overshadowed by the superb skiing.
Jackson Hole is typical. Winter is when it’s known for skiing, and summertime features a vibrant whitewater rafting scene—but spring, always overlooked, is also trip-ready. Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks may be a little muddy, but their rugged isolation is much more in evidence in spring than in high-traffic peak times. The wildlife, of course, is less skittish with fewer people around: Animals are raring to go after emerging from their winter slowdowns. Expect particularly frisky bison and elk, which begin to migrate north for summer around this time.
Old West Days are a staple of the springtime here, too, a late-May bash that’s a tribute to the Western culture here, whether via the High Noon Chili Cook-off between local restaurants or Teton Powwow, showcasing Indigenous dances and traditions.
Where to stay
- Book now: Amangani
The ultra-luxe Asia-originated chain opened its first stateside property here, a 40-room resort with a heated outdoor infinity pool overlooking the rugged landscape.
How to get to Jackson Hole
JAC airport is surprisingly well served by direct nonstop flights across the country: United flies from EWR in Newark, New Jersey, and HOU in Houston, Delta from MSP (Minneapolis/Saint Paul) and SLC (Salt Lake City), and American from DFW (Dallas).
Correction (January 16, 2023): The original version of this article mentioned that the Villa Mabrouka has 120 rooms. The actual number is 12 rooms.