We talk about eating seasonally, and that same approach can be applied to travel. Just like tomatoes taste better in August, destinations simply shine certain times of the year. And it’s not always the places you think! I love to take advantage of great weather and events, all while trying to avoid crowds (and the price hikes that go with them!).
Here’s a few destinations that are perfect in May.
Seoul, South Korea
Seoul, South Korea is considered one of the greatest success stories of the 20th and 21st Centuries. From architecture to dining traditions, you’ll find the ancient juxtaposed with the modern, and in Seoul, it just works. Seoul thrives on rituals and traditions, all while embracing its place in a fast-changing world.
Why go now? Prime azalea season. Perfect weather.
What to eat: So many options. From barbecue to KFC (that’s Korean Fried Chicken) and vegetarian temple cuisine, there’s something for everyone. This list is a fantastic place to start.
How to feel like a local: Noraebang, baby! These Korean-style private karaoke rooms are hugely popular throughout the country, no matter your age. Finding a noraebang in Seoul is like finding a Starbucks in Manhattan… they’re friggin’ everywhere. Rooms are rented by the hour, and the neighborhoods with universities offer the most.
Hope you brought your allergy medication: Seoul truly explodes with springtime flowers. Visit the Garden of Morning Calm for their spring flower festival.
Mingle with the locals: The first week of May marks the Lotus Lantern Festival, or Yeon Deung Hoe, an annual celebration dating back over 1,200 years. It’s the lead up to Buddha’s birthday, and includes an impressive parade with over 100,000 lanterns.
Jet lag cure: Move over, Seattle! Seoul’s coffee scene is one of the most notable in the world. The Hongdae neighborhood teems with an incredible shop for every and anyone… including this one aimed at dog lovers.
Want more tips? Check out my favorite places in Seoul here.
Hello, Music City! Great weather, interesting history, and lots of live music make this destination fabulous for a spring trip.
Why go now? It’s right before the humidity skyrockets, and school lets out. I call that a win-win.
What to eat: You’d be remiss to skip Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack—the birthplace of the local culinary gem. Don’t have time to queue up for fried chicken? Hattie B’s also does a great hot chicken and offers multiple locations.
Where to stay: Channel your inner country superstar at the Aertson Hotel, a super-stylish Kimpton hotel in the heart of Music Row.
Live music alert: So many honkytonks, so little time. For the best all-around experience, hit up Robert’s Western World on South Broadway, known for its live music, divey vibe, and the best fried bologna sandwich you’ll ever eat.
Where to shop: Third Man Records, Jack White’s record store. Listen to records, or record your own in the refurbished 1947 Voice-o-Graph machine that records up to 2 minutes of audio and dispenses a one-of-a-kind 6″ phonograph. Bring the sound of Nashville home with one of their in-store recordings, featuring both legends (Jerry Lee Lewis) and indie stars (Jenny and Johnny).
Touristy thing you can’t miss: The Ryman Auditorium, aka the Mother Church of Country Music. Take a self-guided tour, or opt for a guided backstage tour which includes access to dressing rooms and the stage.
Tour with a side of trash: Though the Country Music Hall of Fame and RCA’s Studio B tour get a lot of press, the NashTrash tour is by far the most fun. The Jugg sisters’ Big Pink Bus doubles as a city tour and comedy show on wheels. It’s a rowdy, very risqué, one-of-a-kind musical-comedy extravaganza– all things I admittedly love, but I know isn’t for everyone.
Want more insight on Nashville? Go here.
A summer vacation in Nantucket sounds delightful to just about everyone. And because of that, crowds swell– 10,000 people live here year-round, but the populations is about five times that in the summer. Personally, I think there’s a lot a reasons to visit on shoulder season (aka spring or fall).
Why go now? If the kids are still in school, you can experience Nantucket’s greatness without the chaos. Stroll down quiet beaches, visit Sankaty Head Lighthouse, and tour Nantucket on bicycle without having to constantly shout “on your left!”
Where to stay: Drop your bags at a charming B&B, like the Brass Lantern [link]. Because it’s not quite high season, you’ll find rooms for non-bank-breaking prices.
Where to eat: Start the day out right at the Downyflake, known for their awesome breakfasts and doughnuts. 167 Raw boasts a lovely raw bar and food truck (they sell beautiful seafood as well). If you can score dinner at Nautilus, go! It’s a favorite spot for Asian-inspired eats and lovely cocktails, and typically packed during the season.
So fresh and so clean: Nantucket’s oldest and largest family-owned farm, Bartlett’s Farm adds some turf to the island’s surf. Seven generations of Bartletts have farmed this land. Visit their market for super-fresh produce, meat, cheese, wine, prepared foods and gifts.
Throwback time: Star in your own Normal Rockwell painting at the Nantucket Pharmacy’s old school soda fountain. Malts, ice cream, need I say more?
On the water: With all that ocean breeze, you’ll inevitably itch to get out on the sea. Book an excursion with Shearwater. This local company does sunset and cocktail cruises, as well as clamming excursions, seal and whale watching.
Want more on Nantucket? Go here.
I’ve only been to Bologna once, but it left a huge impression. It allowed me to experience Italian everyday life, relaxing in cafes as the sound of locals chatting in Italian, clinking espresso cups with tiny spoons, washed over me.
Why go now? May offers some of the best weather—not so hot you crave a pool, not so cold you’re bundling up with a thousand scarves, and not too rainy.
What to eat: Bologna is the home of many iconic Italian eats, including mortadella, tagliatelle, ragù, tortellini and fritto misto. Sample many of these dishes at Ristorante Da Cesari, which still has Italian grandmas rolling out fresh tortelloni daily.
Where to stay: For something that’s nice but budget-friendly, Hotel Metropolitan checks all the boxes. Stylish common areas, simple but yummy breakfast, clean and modern rooms, and just a few steps off Via dell’Indipendenza, you’re the in heart of it all.
See stuff, save money: If you love visiting lots of museums and historic sites, look into the Bologna Welcome Card. For 25 euros, you can score entry to many museums and churches, plus access to walking tours and more.
Modern Italian art: When you think Italian art, great painters like Davinci probably come to mind. However, the contemporary art collection at MAMbo is a nice change of pace. You’ll find Italian abstract art from the 1950s, as well as temporary exhibits from artist like the Argeninean-Israeli Mika Rottenberg.
Access to Italian Greats (without the chaos): Bologna is so close to many of Italy’s most notable destinations. Staying here puts you within an easy train ride of Florence, Venice, Milan and more.
Read more about Bologna here.
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