The Best Places to Travel in March
Technically, winter doesn’t duck out for another few weeks—but the world isn’t standing on ceremony, and neither should you. Go shake off the blahs at any of these early spring flings, whether your idea of a good time involves bonfires, bagpipes or balmy Brazilian nights.
Fireworks, bonfires, music—and all-night carousing. That’s Valencia’s Las Fallas (March 15-19): the fuego-fuelled party to end all parties, possibly born of pagan spring rites, subsequently overlaid with Catholic symbolism—and now a largely secular display of insanely elaborate paper mâché puppets. These so-called ninots come in endless varieties, from film stars to politicians to mythological beings, but almost all meet the same fate: an enormous bonfire that gets going just after midnight on March 19. (The ninot that’s judged the best of year is spared from the flames and preserved in the Museo Fallero). If you can’t get here on that exact date, know that the preliminary daily festivities kick off on March 1, and involve everything from fireworks to a paella competition (you’re in the dish’s birthplace, after all). And whether or not you’re in town for the cook-off (March 8), you’ll find life-altering paella. First stop: La Pepica, a hundred-year-old seaside restaurant that was once a favourite of Ernest Hemingway, Orson Welles, and Queen Sofia of Spain.
St. Augustine, Florida
Hold on to your paddy caps: The world’s oldest St. Patrick’s Day Parade is not actually in Dublin—or for that matter, Newfoundland—but in northeastern Florida. Research suggests that Irish missionaries and soldiers who landed here with the Spanish conquistadors launched the world’s first procession in honour of St. Patrick at the turn of the 17th century. The town has since grown into Celt central—at least in March—when partygoers get their green on with marching bands, floats and Irish dancers over the course of three days (this year, March 11-13). Hit the Celtic Music & Heritage Festival for all the visiting Irish and Scottish musicians; the Highland Games for the caber tosses and stone puts—and the signature parade for the bonanza of bagpipes, dancers and drummers. At a certain point—after the whiskey tastings and Irish food stall rounds—you’ll want to give your body a break. And that’s where these two-hour guided kayaking tours of the local salt marshes come in: Keep your eyes peeled for dolphins and sea turtles as you glide past the Spanish fort towards the four-hundred-year-old Mission Nombre de Dios.
In case of severe winter blues, get on a plane to Brazil stat and head north to Olinda, where the temperatures will be hovering around 30 degrees, and carnival season will be well and truly raging. Smaller, cheaper and arguably more colourful than Rio’s, Olinda’s legendary carnival surges right through the historic city center: a UNESCO World Heritage Site packed with many rainbows’ worth of stunning colonial facades. Recife is just a 30-minute drive south, so be sure to check out that carnival, too, as long as you’re in the neighbourhood. Keep things extra festive with caipifrutas, fruit-filled variations on the caipirinha theme. Update: This year's carnival season has been moved to April 20-30.
Whistler, British Columbia
With a long ski season that stretches some 200-plus days, choosing the best time to visit Whistler in the winter can be difficult. March is when the twin mountains of Whistler Blackcomb still have peak skiing conditions but also the benefit of warmer temperatures, longer days and sunny patios to enjoy a refreshing apres drink to rehash your day. Beware arriving the same window as March Break (March 14-25), when the resort town fills up with school-age kids and their families. Off the mountain, this is your chance to give adventure-filled activities like bobsledding, dog-sledding and zip lining a try. Two hours south, while more eastern destinations like Toronto and Montreal are still buried in snow, the coastal city of Vancouver is enjoying its first taste of spring and the arrival of pink and white cherry blossoms.
In the springtime, Carmel and the surrounding coastal communities are blanketed in wildflower blossoms in a range of dramatic colours. Coming out of a winter that may have hindered outdoor adventures, you'll be dazzled by the warm embrace of nature in Monterey County, where kayaking, hiking, biking, boating, and basking in the sun are favourite seasonal pastimes. A journey of discovery on water or land is sure to lead to stunning finds as fresh new life is awakening along the coast. It's the perfect time for a visit to Point Lobos or Andrew Molera State Park. If you like your celebrations a bit more subdued and swanky, GourmetFest unites some of the world's finest chefs and restaurateurs for a luxurious four-day event in March (postponed to March 2023), including wine tastings, cooking demos, VIP parties, and much more.
If you were the kind of kid who vibed on water fights or colour wars, India’s Holi Festival (March 17-18) is for you. Think 48 hours of outdoor mayhem—revellers of all ages smearing each other with multi-coloured powders, drenching each other with water guns, and generally acting like crazed kids mid-sugar rush. Except that there’s a millennium and a half of history behind this celebration—a celebration of (among other things) the love between Radha and Krishna. In Mathura, the birthplace of Lord Krishna, locals hang—then swing at—buttermilk-filled ceramic pots, India’s answer to the piñata. And in Udaipur, the Mewar royal family hosts a grand parade, followed by cocktails and fireworks at their stunning lakeside residence: Manek Chowk. To rub shoulders with the local glitterati, book a room at the drop-dead gorgeous 18th-century Taj Lake Palace.
Though it may not come with millennia-old traditions, SXSW has—in its 35 short years—become one of the planet’s most iconic events. And given the 2022 lineup (from the world premiere of Everything Everywhere All At Once to performances by Beck and Lizzo), you may well decide that this is your year, especially after the major cancellation of the event in 2021. Just be aware that South by Southwest is actually a series of successive and sometimes overlapping festivals: the Film Festival (11-19); the Music Festival (14-20); and the Comedy Festival (11-15). For bonus performances with a side of legendary BBQ, hit Stubbs. And when you need a breather, head to Barton Springs, a tree-fringed natural swimming hole, just fifteen minutes’ drive from the centre of town.
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