The Best Places to Travel in April
If snow sounds appealing, you might enjoy spring skiing in Aspen. April is a favorite time for many skiers because there’s fresh powder, longer days, warmer weather, and season closing parties. Zurich’s ski mountains are a short drive from the city center, and you can officially say goodbye to winter after a few days in the snow if you visit for the annual spring festival on April 20. Summer arrives early in Clearwater Beach, Florida, and you can enjoy early autumn in Cairns with a visit to the Great Barrier Reef.
In southern Italy, the weather is warming, and a trip to Puglia means great food, history, wine, and unique architecture. Porto’s ancient streets, port wine, and the Douro River make Portugal an increasingly popular destination. April holidays in Tel Aviv, along with museums, beaches, and markets, attract visitors to the city’s lively atmosphere.
Closer to home, Santa Barbara welcomes travelers to enjoy the outdoors, and in Oklahoma City, midwestern traditions are on display with its annual American Quarter Horse show in April. Boston celebrates Patriots’ Day with a full weekend of activities commemorating the American Revolution, culminating with the famous Boston Marathon.
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The official end of winter is celebrated in Zurich with the Sechselauten spring festival, when a nearly 12-foot-tall snowman-like creature called the Boogg is burned to represent the end of the season. On April 20, church bells, parades, and celebrations will accompany the six o’clock burning, and according to locals, the faster the Boogg’s head explodes, the better the summer will be. The celebration continues with processions, parties, and sausages grilled on the burning embers of the Boogg’s pyre.
Even if you miss the festival, there’s plenty to see in Zurich, and April is a lovely time to visit. With a stunning backdrop of the Swiss Alps, Zurich is set along Lake Zurich and the River Limmat, so exploring by boat is an ideal way to see the city. In the Old Town, stroll the narrow streets to see medieval houses, Renaissance buildings, the Grossmunster church, Peter’s Church (with Europe’s largest clock face), and Fraumunster, a church known for stained glass windows created by Giacometti and Chagall. World-class skiing is available within a few hours of Zurich, and famed wellness destination Grand Resort Bad Ragaz is an hour away. The historic and elegant Dolder Grand is situated above the city in a beautiful building. Reborn after several months of renovation under Philippe Starck, La Reserve Eden au Lac debuted in January. The seaside retreat on Lake Zurich is set in a 100-year-old historic building, offering 40 rooms and suites with city and lake views and a restaurant with outdoor seating overlooking the lake.
Clearwater Beach, Florida
The name of this coastal town on the Gulf of Mexico says it all. Clear, warm water and soft, white sand on its miles of shoreline have established Clearwater's reputation as one of the top beaches in the country. Visit in April when temperatures reach the low 80’s and sunsets are spectacular. From April 10-26, the Pier 60 Sugar Sand Festival, also appropriately named, attracts sand sculptors from around the world to create fantastic sand sculptures and to compete for the best in show. Visitors can walk through the art exhibit to view the work of more than 14 sculptors who use 1,000 tons of Clearwater Beach sand for their creations. Live entertainment, fireworks, and demonstrations add to the fun.
Pier 60 is the place for entertainment every night, with concerts, street performers, artisans, food, and special events with Sunsets at Pier 60. The Clearwater Marine Aquarium houses dolphins, pelicans, sea turtles, otters, and sharks, and its marine life rescue program is home to Winter the Dolphin of Dolphin Tale. Beachgoers can park for free in Clearwater and then take the ferry to the beach area. Visit nearby Sand Key Park’s picnic areas, grills, dog park, and sea turtle nesting area. A range of lodging is available, including the beachfront Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach, with sea turtle and dolphin themed rooms, spa, fitness center, pool, and views of the Gulf and Intracoastal Canal.
In the heel of Italy’s boot, this region of the country borders both the Ionian Sea and the Adriatic. Historic towns, elaborate churches, stunning beaches, luxurious hotels, delicious food, local wines, and the unique whitewashed conical-roofed trulli houses make Puglia a fascinating vacation destination. Weather is usually warm in April with spring’s early arrival in southern Italy, although it may be a bit chilly for swimming. There’s still plenty to see and do, with fewer visitors than in the summer months. The restored 13th-century Castel del Monte, set high on a hill above the town of Andria, is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a popular tourist spot, with its unique octagonal shape, eight towers, and eight pillars. Visitors also enjoy guided tours of the Grotte di Castellana, not far from Alberobello. Inside the caves, you can find fossils, canyons, and unique formations.
Museums worth visiting include the Museo Faggiano in Lecce, a private home where an excavation unearthed more than 5,000 treasures covering 2,500 years of history. There’s also the Museo Nazionale Archeologico in Bari, housed in the 19th-century Palazzo Jatta. Lodging ranges from a stay in one of the trulli to opulent hotels, like La Fiermontina, an urban resort built around a 17th-century home in Old Lecce, with olive trees, a pool, sculpture garden, and restaurant serving modern Pugliese cuisine.The Borgo Egnazia, in Savelletri di Fasano, recreates a borgo (or village), with pools, private beaches, a golf course, restaurants, cottages, and villas. For a different way of exploring Puglia’s towns and wine country, DuVine Cycling + Adventure Company offers bike tours that include a night in a restored trullo.
Cairns, Queensland, Australia
Known as the “Gateway to the Great Barrier Reef,” Cairns is located on the east coast of Far North Queensland. April weather is warm and dry as autumn sets in, and the area has not been affected by the devastating bushfires that happened in other parts of Australia. The Great Barrier Reef, a World Heritage Site, is the largest coral reef system in the world, consisting of 900 islands in the Coral Sea. Visitors scuba dive, snorkel, or cruise in a catamaran, sailboat, or glass-bottom boat to experience the colorful coral and marine life that includes sea turtles, eels, anemones, and a wide variety of fish.
Glide over the jungle canopy and explore a rainforest on the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway, with boarding just minutes from Cairns. Stop and visit Kuranda Village for wildlife, shopping, dining, and a chance to hand-feed wallabies and kangaroos at Kuranda Koala Gardens. Ride the Kuranda Scenic Railway for views of waterfalls, Barron Gorge, and the surrounding mountains on your journey to the village of Kuranda, or take a relaxing riverboat cruise. In Cairns city, you’ll find restaurants, shops, cafes, and the Esplanade Lagoon, a huge year-round saltwater public swimming facility. Learn about Australia’s aboriginal people at the Tjapukai Cultural Park, with tours, entertainment, dining, and historical information.
Tel Aviv, Israel
April is an ideal time to visit Tel Aviv, before warmer summer weather sets in and more travelers arrive. Temperatures are in the low 70’s with nights in the high 50’s. Passover (April 8-16) means that most of the city’s museums are free, including the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Design Museum Holon, and Yitzhak Rabin Center. Walk along the newly reopened Tel Aviv Promenade that takes you the entire length of the city along the Mediterranean Sea. Israel celebrates Independence Day on April 28, and the country’s largest festival includes parties, performances, live music, and fireworks. Explore walkable Tel Aviv to enjoy the food, street art, and famous Bauhaus architecture dating to the 1930’s. Be sure to visit Carmel Market for food, spices, produce, and its exciting, authentic atmosphere.
The ancient port city of Jaffa (Yafo in Hebrew) in South Tel Aviv is home to ancient buildings, narrow winding streets, boutiques, restaurants, and the popular flea market. Tel Aviv’s beaches are world famous, and with miles of shoreline, there’s a perfect beach for everyone. The same goes for places to stay, with the new Bauhaus-themed boutique hotel Theodor, with a spa and 34 rooms and suites. The WOM Allenby pod hotel offers trendy, affordable rooms in the city center just a block from the beach. The 40 compact rooms come with a king size bed, two single beds, or one single bed, desk, sink, TV, AC, WiFi, and shared bath.
Santa Barbara, California
Mild springtime temperatures, attractive rates, and lots to do in Santa Barbara make April a great time to visit. Whether you’re looking for outdoor activities, a downtown stroll, a wine tasting, theater, or art, you’ll find something to please and impress you in Santa Barbara. Bike along the beach, through town, or head for more challenging mountain trails. Hikes, from gentle to difficult, take you to stunning views of the sea, mountains, waterfalls, and other discoveries along the way. Downtown’s Funk Zone, an evolving district adjacent to the Amtrak station, boasts restaurants, cafes, galleries, tasting rooms, and shops. Don’t miss MOXI, the Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation, a hands-on opportunity for fun and discovery for all ages that blends art, science, technology, and creativity.
For a unique outdoor experience, reserve a tour at Ganna Walska Lotusland, an extensive horticultural display created by Madame Walska, a former opera singer and socialite who began her garden during the 1940’s. Set in a world-class winemaking region, Santa Barbara is the perfect home base for exploring local wineries or tasting in the downtown Urban Wine Trail. Stay at the luxurious, pet friendly Ritz-Carlton Bacara, with ocean views, a spa, three zero-edge saline pools, beach access, a wine-tasting room, tennis, and six restaurants, including the ocean-view Angel Oak steakhouse.
Portugal’s ancient city of Porto is about 200 miles north of Lisbon on the Douro River and the Atlantic Ocean. Springtime visitors will find pleasant temperatures, few tourists, attractive prices, and possibly a shower or two. The city, sometimes called Oporto, dates back to the Roman Empire, and its historic center, Ribeira, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site filled with narrow cobblestone streets, restaurants, and lively nightlife. The Livraria Lello & Irmão, a historic bookshop said to be one of the most beautiful in the world, is decorated with wood paneling, a red velvet staircase, and stained glass windows. Harry Potter fans will be interested to know that the shop is said to have inspired J. K. Rowling, who spent time in Porto as a teacher. Well known for the production of Port, a fortified wine, Porto offers many tasting rooms and shops.
Porto is a hilly city, built on the slopes that rise from the Douro River. Take a short boat cruise along the river for spectacular views, or even better, immerse yourself in Portugal’s history, cuisine, scenery, and people with a weeklong cruise through the Douro River Valley, starting and ending in Porto. Uniworld’s S.S. São Gabriel will debut in April, and it will be the newest ship on the Douro, with lavish suites, butler service, fascinating shore excursions, and locally sourced cuisine. Guests on the Uniworld cruise learn about the history of port, visit tiny medieval villages and a port wine estate, and enjoy a tasting, of course.
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
This city’s western-style cowboy culture, sports, museums, and varied attractions make it a great place to visit, especially in spring when the weather is warming up to the 70’s. April begins Quarter Horse season with the Oklahoma Quarter Horse Spring Show from April 1-5 at the State Fair Park, featuring barrel racing, roping, jumping, and other equestrian competitions. April also brings a sad reminder of the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building 25 years ago. The National Memorial’s empty glass and bronze chairs recall the 168 victims of the bombing in a moving testament to them and to the resilience of the city. April also marks the 20th anniversary of the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon, dedicated to the victims with the theme, “Run to Remember.” The city’s Redbud Classic on April 4-5 is in its 38th year of celebrating fitness with running, cycling, and fundraising events.
Be one of the first to visit the new Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center in its new 4.6 acre campus featuring a main gallery, classroom, special exhibitions, community lounge, and outdoor spaces. The USA Softball Hall of Fame Complex, Triple-A baseball team OKC Dodgers, NBA Oklahoma City Thunder, OKC Energy soccer, boating, and paddle sports keep local and visiting sports fans busy and happy. Visitors should also be sure to experience the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum with its extensive collection of art and artifacts representing western history and culture.
Sports and history fans may want to consider Boston for an April trip. The celebrated Boston Marathon, the world’s oldest annual marathon, will be held on April 20, marking the 124th running of the event. The entire weekend is a time of celebration and remembrance of Boston’s role in the American Revolution, leading up to Patriot’s Day on April 20. At the Old North Church, lanterns are lit on April 19 as they have been since 1875. Nearby in Lexington and Concord, reenactments, parades, tours, and special events commemorate the opening battle of the Revolution. Baseball fans will head to Fenway Park on April 2 for the home opener when the Red Sox will play the Chicago White Sox. Spring flowers should be making an appearance at the Boston Public Garden, and you can be among the season’s first to take a swan boat ride when they reopen on April 18.
Stroll through Boston Common, America’s oldest public park, and follow the Freedom Trail, a self-guided 2.5 mile path that takes you through downtown Boston, stopping at 16 historic locations throughout the city. Visit the Museum of Fine Arts for their extensive collection, special exhibits, dining, tours, and demonstrations. You may also want to time your trip around the Boston International Film Festival, featuring screenings and live events, from April 16-21. Stay in the Beacon Hill neighborhood at The Whitney or opt for the new Yotel in the city’s seaport district. The Godfrey Hotel Boston offers a modern boutique hotel experience in the convenient Downtown Crossing neighborhood.
Aspen Snowmass, set in the Roaring Fork Valley of central Colorado amid the Rockies, boasts four mountains, including Aspen Mountain (which is conveniently located just steps from downtown). Skiers can take advantage of spring skiing and then celebrate the season’s official end on April 19 at Aspen Mountain’s closing day parties. A 1980s themed party at the Sundeck and the Ajax Tavern will include the crowning of the prom king and queen (as well as plenty of drinks and street food-inspired bites). Skiers can get the latest conditions by checking the new snow cam. Even if downhill skiing isn’t for you, there’s cross country skiing, snowshoeing, and fat biking to get you out to enjoy the scenery. Dinner on the mountain with a ride up in a snowcat vehicle is another way to appreciate Aspen’s stunning mountains.
Downtown Aspen offers shopping, restaurants, and the Aspen Art Museum. Two must-see exhibits ending in May are the Oscar Murillo “Social Altitude” installation and the stunning Kusama “Where the Lights in My Heart Go,” a unique visual experience in a mirrored room. Make it a special visit with a stay at The Little Nell, the only ski-in/ski-out hotel at the base of Ajax Mountain with pool, hot tub, fine dining, and extensive wine collection. Pets are welcome, and they’ll even provide a Puppy Jet Lag Kit to help them get used to the altitude.