The Best Places to Travel in April
A partial packing list for this month's hot spots: ponchos, parasols and orange party pants. Or if blue's more your colour, there's a spot for that, too. Point is, April unleashes a kaleidoscope of festivities across the globe, from the wet and wild to the stirring and soulful. Read on for seven of the best places to see (and celebrate) for yourself.
Spring is synonymous with maples in Quebec—where 80 percent of the world’s maple syrup is produced—and sugaring off is a cultural rite-of-passage all over the province, but is especially charming in the rural Laurentians. Take a seat with locals to eat hearty treats doused in thick, delicious maple syrup, plus staples such as homemade pea soup, baked beans and salty ham. Afterward, you can reward yourself with deep-fried dough and twirl gooey maple taffy onto a stick in the snow. There’s usually traditional music, tractor rides and strolls through the woods, and you might be able to catch a log-sawing competition and sample a flight of maple wine. It doesn’t get more Canadian than this and it’s all par for the season.
The birthplace of the Delta Blues—and hometown of Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker, among other legends—Clarksdale is a must during Juke Joint (April 21-24), when the whole town goes Blues-bonkers. Beyond the wall-to-wall music, the festival brings out the best local food vendors (think deep-fried bologna and cheese sandwiches, Delta hot tamales and moonshine-spiked pralines)—plus monkeys riding dogs herding sheep. (Go ahead, YouTube away. We'll wait.) Learn about the wild lives of B.B. King and Son House at the Delta Blues Museum. Order ribs and beer from Abe’s Bar-B-Q—at the same crossroads where bluesman Robert Johnson purportedly sold his soul to the Devil. Have a drink in the lobby of the town hot spot and gorgeously restored historic Travelers Hotel. And hunt for artisanal treasure at the recently opened Collective Seed & Supply Co.
Even the baseline blinginess of Tulip Festival Amsterdam is eye-popping throughout April—when any old stroll could take you past dozens of live floral installations. But to experience full-blown tulipmania, dig into its history at the Amsterdam Tulip Museum, then head to the centuries-old flower fields south of town, and tour the nearby Keukenhof Gardens—home to 800 tulip varieties, 7 million blooming bulbs and one epic flower parade not to be missed. Actually, Keukenhof is just a part of the 42-kilometre route, which starts at the beachfront of Noordwijk, passes through Lisse, and ends in Haarlem. For the craziest view, book a fly-over of the parade route.
And if that's how you're going to roll, consider another swank add-on to your itinerary: Easter Brunch at the Grand Hotel. The April 21 festivities take place in the wood-panelled Council Chamber, where Queen Beatrix was married in 1966. She was also the honoree of a post-Easter national holiday until she abdicated in favour of her son in 2013. Now called King's Day in honor of Willem-Alexander's birthday, April 27 is really an excuse for a 24-hour al fresco party, complete with street performers, DJs, and Rio-style drumming bands. And there’s no better place to get in on the action than the nation’s capital, where you’ll join a million other revelers as they line the city’s streets, balconies, and canals. Just be sure to pack your finest orange-wear. Like everyone else you, you'll want to sport the royal family's signature colour.
For tequila and mescal lovers—one the fastest-growing segments of the booze biz—things don't get much better than Tucson’s Agave Heritage Festival (April 28 – May 1). The signature event—the Saturday night Agave Fiesta at the century-old Hotel Congress—includes more than 30 agave-based spirits, live music, an agave cocktail showdown—even agave art. But died-in-the-sisal fans can also attend panel discussions, documentary screenings, a live roasting demo and an all-agave expo. On the opening night of the festival, the inimitable Lila Downs will perform at Centennial Hall. And here's a bonus: Festivalgoers get 20% off at Hotel McCoy, a lovingly restored mid-century bolthole where you can spend a sunny afternoon sampling local spirits by the glittering pool.
Water guns, water buckets, or good old-fashioned water balloons. Choose your weapon as you enter the biggest water fight the world has ever seen: the Thai New Year celebration of Songkran, which fills Bangkok’s Silom Road and Khao San Road with celebrants from April 13-15. But not all the waterworks are strictly for fun: You'll also see people bathing the sacred statue of Buddha—an act believed to bring good luck for the coming year.
Another aquatic activity worth pursuing: a spin through Sea Life Bangkok Ocean World, Southeast Asia's largest aquarium, where you should check out the giant spider crabs and giant Pacific octopus, for starters. And with apologies to all those lovely tank residents, we'd suggest you also visit Siam Wisdom, a Michelin-starred restaurant famous for its seafood. Order Chef Thaninthorn Chantrawan’s speciality, Pla Nung Manao—a whole steamed sea bass with crushed chili, garlic and cilantro.
Start with Spanish baroque architecture, cobblestone streets and a ring of volcanos—add in some of the most colourful and devout religious pageantry on earth—and you'll start to get an idea of Semana Santa in Antigua (April 14-20). For a better grasp on the whole thing, join the half a million or so pilgrims who descend on the old colonial capital for Holy Week after locals have painstakingly decorated the streets with jewel-toned mosaics—each crafted from a blend of of sawdust, flower petals and pine needles. Aptly translating to "carpets," these alfombras are the multicolored answer to the red carpet, which in this case has been rolled out for Jesus. You'll see Roman centurions come through with an image of Christ on the cross, incense-swinging cofradias don all manner of mask and robe—and devotees turn out for the processions in stunning indigenous finery. You might also catch a reenactment of the crucifixion or resurrection.
For a breather from the festivities, consider an overnight Volcano Tour: On the nearby Volcan Acatenango, you’ll watch the sun set as you roast marshmallows at 13,000 feet. The next day, reward yourself with jasmine and blackberry gelato at Sobremesa a restaurant-cum-art gallery in the centre of town.
Where better to ride out the countdown to the Game of Thrones series finale than King's Landing—or at least the city's real-life stand-in? (Just make sure that if you're here on April 14th—and you don't happen upon a viewing party for the first episode—you've made technical provisions.) Even a quick walk along the towering stone battlements will put you in a Thronie state of mind, but take a location tour for maximum effect. Almost all include the Red Keep, Cercei's Walk of Shame and Blackwater Bay, among other familiar sights around town. But opt for a tour that gets you out into nature, too, so you can see House Tyrell's ancestral Highgarden—and the island that stands in for Qarth.
If you're looking to channel your inner Tyrion, the third week of the month brings a banner opportunity: Festiwine (April 22 – 28), which showcases some of the best regional winemakers with lectures, guided tastings, and food-and-wine-pairing workshops. Don’t miss the opening ceremony at the newly-opened Sunset Beach Resort, or the gala dinner at Hotel Dubrovnik Palace (a sister property to the longtime GOT cast favorite,Villa Orsula). Should you find yourself wanting to work off a few calories in the aftermath, the Dubrovnik Half-Marathon conveniently falls on April 28. The course snakes through the heart of Old Town, where—with any luck—a little birdie (one of the Grand Maester's, of course) might tell you how everything ends. In which case, please tweet us at once.
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