Just before Memorial Day‘s “official” beginning of summer, the month of May is ideal for beating the crowds to places like New York’s Hamptons and Nantucket. May is also perfect for getting ahead of hot summer temperatures in spots like Nashville, Chicago, and Fort Lauderdale. In Carlsbad, California and Texas Hill Country, late spring flowers are the attraction, along with welcoming weather and outdoor activities.
If you’ve been waiting for the right time to travel, May could be the ticket. A trip to the Bahamas for warm weather, water sports, or relaxing on the beach or by a pool might be the best antidote for a winter of staying in and daydreaming of a tropical vacation. Here are eight of the best places to travel in May.
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Less than two hours south of Los Angeles, Carlsbad offers beaches, quiet lagoons, hiking and biking trails, craft breweries, shopping, golf, and more. Spring brings The Flower Fields, 50 acres of colorful giant ranunculus blooms that last from March through early May. Advance tickets are required, but there’s still time to make plans to enjoy the spectacle and perhaps pick some blueberries while you’re there. Stay at the newly renovated Park Hyatt Aviara set on more than 200 acres near the Batiquitos Lagoon, and enjoy fresh seafood and vintage steaks at their signature restaurant, Ember & Rye. The Cassara Carlsbad is offering a free shuttle to the Flower Fields and two admission tickets. Or take advantage of the offer of a one-hour complimentary bike rental per day from the Sheraton Carlsbad Resort & Spa, and pedal to the Flower Fields or explore Carlsbad on two wheels.
Late spring is lovely in Nashville, with temperatures in the high 70’s and the concert schedules resuming at the Ryman Auditorium, Bridgestone Arena, Grand Ole Opry, and more. It’s a great time to be outdoors exploring Centennial Park and the Nashville Zoo or taking in views from the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge. Musician’s Corner concerts on Saturday evenings in Centennial Park begin in May, and the new Museum of African American Music is now open. Stay at The Joseph in downtown’s SoBro district and enjoy the art-filled spaces, signature restaurant, Yolan, and weekly “King of Cheese” ceremonial cutting of an 80-pound wheel of Parmigiano-Reggiano along with aperitivo. At the downtown Noelle Hotel Nashville, enjoy the views at the Rare Bird rooftop bar and live music on weekends. The Bobby Hotel in the Printers Alley neighborhood features a rooftop bar and balcony lounge for live music. For a luxe spa experience and city views from its rooftop lounge, stay at the Westin Nashville.
The Hamptons, New York
The towns on the eastern end of Long Island come alive on Memorial Day weekend, the official beginning of the summer season, making May the ideal time to get ahead of the crowd. Hit the beach, visit one of the area’s excellent wineries, or visit the Parrish Art Museum for its exhibition opening May 2, “Affinities for Abstraction: Women Artists on Eastern Long Island 1950-2020,” highlighting the work of female artists who have called the Hamptons home. Be one of the first to enjoy The Roundtree, a 15-room boutique hotel in Amagansett, located steps from the town and a short walk to the ocean. Gurney’s Montauk, set on the beach, offers 146 rooms, suites, and oceanfront cottages, each with views of the sea. In the town of Water Mill, Shou Sugi Ban House, a destination spa and wellness retreat, features meditation, hikes on the beach, and digital detox for a relaxing, healthful experience.
Snowbirds and peak season visitors have gone, and the weather is still great with highs in the mid-80s, just ahead of summer’s rainier season. Health measures require a negative COVID-19 test within five days prior to arrival along with an online application for a Travel Health Visa. With that, visitors can enjoy the warm sunshine, turquoise seas, water sports, and the welcoming residents and resorts of these popular islands. With many hotels and resorts to choose from, guests can stay on South Abacos Island at the eco-friendly Relais & Chateaux Tiamo Resort in one of their 13 stunning bungalows. The Ocean Club, a Four Seasons Resort located on Paradise Island, features Versailles-inspired gardens and restaurant by Chef Jean-Georges. The beachfront Grand Hyatt Baha Mar offers golf, tennis, eight pools, and an array of restaurants and lounges. Also at Baha Mar, the SLS and Rosewood offer a variety of amenities including the largest casino in the Caribbean.
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
This Florida city just north of Miami is an ideal May destination for pleasant weather (with temperatures in the low to mid 80s), arts, culture, and luxe hotels. The city is home to a series of canals, and visitors can tour aboard a water taxi, hopping on and off at various stops, or cruise the Tarpon River past downtown for views of elegant waterfront mansions.The Fort Lauderdale Air Show will be held May 8-9 featuring the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, Air Force F-16 Viper Demo Team, Special Operations Command Parachute Team, and aerial daredevils. If your timing is right, you might catch one of the monthly full moon kayak tours (May 28), for a one-mile paddle along an ancient freshwater ecosystem in the Everglades. Stay at the all-suite Conrad Fort Lauderdale Beach with nautical design touches highlighting the city’s reputation as the yachting capital of the world. Also reflecting Fort Lauderdale’s yachting influences is the newly renovated oceanfront Ritz-Carlton, Fort Lauderdale. The Pelican Grand Beach Resort or the waterfront boutique Atlantic Hotel & Spa are also excellent options for your Fort Lauderdale vacation.
The days are getting warmer and longer, and both locals and visitors are taking advantage of rooftop bars, parks, and outdoor activities. A favorite spot in Millennium Park is the shining Cloud Gate sculpture known as “The Bean” featured in thousands (at least!) of Instagram shots. Chicago Botanic Garden offers springtime blooms, activities, exhibitions, and the debut of the Model Railroad Garden. A chilly or rainy day will be the perfect excuse to enjoy Chicago’s marvelous museums. It’s a great food city, from its deep-dish pizza, hot dogs, and Italian beef sandwiches to exquisite upscale dining spots. Be one of the first to stay at the new Pendry Chicago, set in an original 1929 Art Deco landmark. Or choose the elegant Langham Chicago or Ritz-Carlton Chicago. Baseball fans might want to be near Wrigley Field at Hotel Zachary. A bit out of town, the Drake Oak Brook, once frequented by Frank Sinatra, is set on ten lush acres. About 40 minutes north in Lake Forest, the newly restored Deer Path Inn is reminiscent of a 15th-century Tudor manor, complete with afternoon tea and an English garden.
Texas Hill Country, Texas
Recently named one of Travel + Leisure’s top 2021 destinations, Texas Hill Country blooms in the bluebonnet and wildflower season for a colorful road trip between March and May. It’s an ideal time for outdoor activities as well as nightlife in nearby Austin, before the hot summer weather arrives. Stay at the luxurious Omni Barton Creek Resort & Spa with three pools and four championship golf courses. The JL Bar Ranch Resort & Spa, a boutique 32-room property, is set among rolling acres of oak trees with a full equestrian program, offroad ATV adventures, wine tastings, and more. For 1920’s style and glamour, vintage furnishings, and formal gardens, stay at the Auberge Resorts Commodore Perry Estate.
We have one more quick suggestion for those who want to enjoy the spring weather, beaches, restaurants, and charm of Nantucket before the summer crowds arrive beginning with Memorial Day weekend. Check the new Travel + Leisure Nantucket Guide to plan your trip and congratulate yourself for getting a head start on summer.