With the weather warming up, May is the perfect time to travel before destinations are overrun by tourists and touristy prices. Whether visitors want to stay close to home or head to an exotic location far, far away, we've found some of the greatest places to start the summer with a bang. Picking a destination can get tricky but depending on whether travelers are looking for a culinary adventure or an isolated getaway, they can head to the World of Coca Cola in Atlanta or the breathtaking UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Europe. There are so many options, so get choosing, packing, and enjoying!
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Durham is a modern, vibrant city in North Carolina. It is also a college town and home to Duke University. Surrounded by flat agricultural land and rolling hills, Durham was the center of the tobacco industry before technology took over – the city is now part of the Research Triangle Region. The Duke University campus is the location of the magnificent neo-Gothic Duke Chapel as well as the Nasher Museum of Art, featuring works by Christian Marclay, Ai Weiwei, and other contemporary artists. Durham’s Museum of Life and Science has a butterfly house, animal habitats for bears and lemurs, and a number of interesting exhibits. Eno River State Park is a great forested place to go hiking, fishing, and canoeing, while Durham Central Park is the location of many city festivals and the farmers market. Duke Homestead and Tobacco Factory tells the story of life on a 19th century tobacco factory and farm.
2. Bryce Canyon National Park
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Despite its name, Bryce Canyon National Park is not actually a canyon; instead, it is a collection of numerous naturally made amphitheaters along the Paunsaugunt Plateau. The stunning site is worth a visit for visitors to explore the distinctive hoodoo geological structures in detail. Hoodoos, or tent rocks, are formed by frost weathering and steam erosions from the lake bed -- the natural phenomenon leaves behind one of the most spectacular sites created by Mother Nature. Visitors can go on a scenic drive that accesses 13 different viewpoints over the amphitheaters, go hiking on one of the eight trails, or enjoy horseback riding. It is a gorgeous place to go camping since it has one of the darkest night skies in North America and is therefore perfect for stargazing.
3. Great Smoky Mountains National Park
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Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that welcomes over eleven million visitors a year. The park encompasses over 500,000 acres and can be accessed from its main entrances in Cherokee, North Carolina, and Gatlinburg, Tennessee. There are over 850 miles of unpaved roads and trails for visitors to hike on, including several miles on the Appalachian Trail as well as the Alum Cave Trail, which leads to the summit of Mount LeConte. Unique natural attractions and scenic overlooks are scattered throughout for visitors to explore. Overnight hikers can rent a room or cabin at the LeConte Lodge. Other than hiking and sightseeing, visitors can go fishing, fly fishing, water tubing, bicycling, and horseback riding.
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Known for its extensive role in arts and culture, Memphis is one of the most fun and memorable places to go on vacation. From the famed former home of Elvis Presley, Graceland, to the blues and rock and roll filled nightlife in the Beale Street Historic District, there is so much to see and do. One of the largest celebrations is Memphis in May, which attracts visitors from all over the United States; the four main events include International Week, the Great River Run, the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, and the Beale Street Music Festival. Another attraction that shouldn't be missed is the Memphis Walk of Fame, which is like the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but is dedicated to Memphis-based singers, musicians, writers, and composers such as B.B. King and Bobby Blue Band.
5. New York City
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Truly the city that never sleeps, New York City is a melting pot of different cultures, various types of art, and delicious culinary concoctions that can't be found anywhere else in the world. The number of things to see and do in New York is immeasurable but some of the most iconic include taking a walk or riding the carousel in Central Park, heading to the top of the Statue of Liberty, exploring the art deco Empire State Building, and taking in the lights and sounds of Times Square. There are some outstanding events held throughout the state that showcase some of the best music and art, especially during the busy Memorial Day weekend.
6. Olympic National Park
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Incredibly scenic, Olympic National Park is one of the most visited places in Washington state and was designated a World Heritage Site as well as an International Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. The park has four regions to explore: forests, rainforest, alpine areas, and the Pacific coastline. There's a network of hiking trails for visitors to explore, which let visitors get up close and personal with flora and fauna such as black bears, mountain goats, and even cougars. Ornithology lovers have an opportunity to see many bird species such as bald eagles, spotted owls, and Swainson's thrushes. Whales, sea otters, dolphins, and other animals can be seen swimming offshore near the park. One of the unique aspects of the park is that it allows backpacking along the beach, while boating and rafting is extremely common in numerous areas of Olympic National Park.
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Philadelphia, commonly called the City of Brotherly Love, played an instrumental role in US history, especially during the Revolutionary War. Visitors will be able to go back in time and explore the meeting place of the Founding Fathers of the United States. Sites dedicated to the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution as well as the preservation of the Liberty Bell can also be seen here. In addition to the many historical attractions, there are also many iconic and memorable places for visitors of all ages to enjoy. Some of these include the Rocky Steps seen in the famed Rocky movies, the Philadelphia Zoo, and Adventure Aquarium.
8. Best Places to Vacation in May: Sedona
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Sedona is a geological wonderland found in the heart of Arizona. Often listed as one of the most beautiful places in America, Sedona is filled with towering multi-hued stone formations that create a vivid image that changes hourly along with the sunlight. The site is considered sacred by Native Americans and many visitors head there for spiritual healing; those who don't find it on the beautiful desert land may find it with soothing treatments in one of the many spa facilities in the area. There are numerous recreational activities in the national forest land to enjoy, such as hiking, biking, and going on jeep excursions. Visitors can also enjoy the exhibits at the 40+ art galleries in the area or a drink in the many area vineyards and tasting rooms.
9. Washington D.C.
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The nation's capital is often considered America's front yard, or even America's playground, and rightly so because there is much to see and do while in the District of Columbia. From guided tours of the White House to trying the drinks and cuisine at the many restaurants and bars, visitors will infinite ways to spend their vacation time. Even better is that a lot of the historical attractions are free; sites such as the National Mall, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Washington Monument are open to the public at no cost. Thanks to the Smithsonian, visitors can spend their time exploring museums, galleries, and the National Zoo for free as well. Sites that shouldn't be missed include the African American Museum, the Air and Space Museum, the American History Museum, and the Freer Gallery of Art.
10. May Vacation Destinations: Yosemite National Park
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Shared between parts of Nevada and Northern California, Yosemite National Park is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site and is visited by people from all over the world. The park is internationally recognized for its giant sequoia groves, mountains, glaciers, waterfalls, granite cliffs, and general biological diversity. The park is 95% wilderness, and there are many activities visitors can participate in while at the park, which is open all year round. The National Park Service offers nature walks, stargazing programs, and photography and art classes in addition to rock climbing classes, horseback rides, and bike and raft rentals. Other activities include hiking to waterfalls in Yosemite Valley or seeing the spectacular views from the scenic drive on Tioga Road.
11. Barcelona, Spain
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Barcelona is the second most populous city in Spain and has a population of 1.6 million people within the city limits. The major tourist destination has a rich cultural heritage and is known for its renowned architectural works, many of which have been named UNESCO World Heritage Sites. There are numerous recreational activities for visitors to partake in, including visiting one of the best beaches in the world, Nova Icaria Beach. The architectural landmarks and sculptural buildings shouldn't be missed; sites such as Park Guell, Sagrada Familia, and Casa Mila are great examples. Whether looking for delicious cuisine, ancient Roman cities, lush natural parks, or a party that never ends, Barcelona has it all.
12. May Vacation Destinations: Slovenia
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Comprising a rich heritage and interesting culture, Slovenia is sadly overlooked in many travel bucket lists. The rich history and stunning sites are some that shouldn't be missed as the country offers everything from comedy, cuisine, and dance to film, literature, music, and theatre. The diverse architectural heritage alone is worth exploring; many tours will take visitors through the thousands of breathtaking churches, castles, ruins, and special structures. Many UNESCO World Heritage Sites are in Slovenia, such as the Skocjan Caves, the Idrija mercury mining site, and the prehistoric pile dwellings in the Ljubljana Marshes. Some of the festivals, fairs, and events that shouldn't be missed include the Punch Festival, the Ljubljana Summer Festival, and the Pippi Longstocking Festival, which is perfect for younger visitors.
13. Best Places to Vacation in May: Edinburgh
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Edinburgh, the capital city of Scotland, is the second most popular tourist destination in the United Kingdom mostly because of its many historical and cultural attractions. There are over a million international visitors every year who come from all over the world to visit its many sites and experience its uniqueness. The city is famous for its annual Fringe Festival, which is the world's largest arts festival, and the Edinburgh International Festival, which brings top class theatre, opera, and dance performers from around the world. Institutions such as the National Museum of Scotland and the Scottish National Gallery are open to visitors all year long, while other historic sites that shouldn't be missed are Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace, and the Canongate.
14. Machu Picchu
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Found in the Cusco Region in Peru, Machu Picchu is a stunning 15th century Inca citadel that is at the top of many travel bucket lists. Situated on a mountain ridge, archaeologists believe that it was constructed as an estate for the Incan emperor Pachacuti in the 1400s. Visitors can explore the "Lost City of the Incas" on their own or with a tour company and learn all about the structure and its history. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is considered one of the New Seven Wonders of the World and comprises almost 200 buildings in various kanchas or compounds. Visitors will be able to see archaeological treasures such as the Intihuatana, the Room of the Three Windows, and the Guardhouse, which is stunning three-sided building known in Inca architecture as the wayrona style.
15. Isla Mujeres
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Isla Mujeres is an island located off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula in the Caribbean Sea and is popular for many water activities such as snorkeling and scuba diving among other things. Visitors will be able to see sea turtles, swim with dolphins, and experience other activities while there. A particularly popular attraction that visitors of all ages will love is the Cancun Underwater Museum, which has over 500 sculptures, many of which are submerged in the ocean. There are many hotels and resorts for visitors to choose from during their stay depending on their budget. The mixture of delicious cuisine to try ranges from fresh seafood cooked with traditional recipes to restaurants with everything from Mexican and Italian food to French, Thai, and Maya cuisine.
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Rome is the most popular tourist destination in Italy and the third most visited location in the European Union. Rightly so, as the global city is one of the most prominent art and culture capitals of the world. Roman mythology dates the founding of Rome back to 753 BC and its historic ruins and attractions take visitors back to that era. Sites such as the iconic and ancient Colosseum and the Vatican Museum, which is filled with Renaissance art, have made Rome a must-visit destination. Other attractions that shouldn't be missed include St. Peter's Basilica, the Pantheon, the Sistine Chapel, the Catacombs of Rome, and the cobblestone streets of Trastevere.
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Comprising a main island and six smaller islands, Grenada is a melting pot of French, African, Indian, and Carib Amerindian influences. Visitors will be able to see this amazing combination in its natural and historic attractions as well as its delicious cuisine, which ranges from green bananas and yams to cassava and curries. The Grenada Underwater Sculpture Park is one of the most visited sites and is popular with snorkelers and divers who want to explore the unique underwater sculptures. With everything from lush national parks to pristine white sand beaches, visitors will have much to see and do during their vacation.
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An island country in the Eastern Mediterranean, Cyprus is a combination of Greek and Turkish influences. Not just in terms of cuisine and generous hospitality, but the residents also have a shared interest in arts, music, and dance. Visitors will be able to experience these social activities by viewing traditional dances such as tsifteteli or dining on delicious halloumi and souvla. The annual Limassol Carnival Festival is a very popular event, and visitors who are there during that time will be able to participate in the 10 days of singing, feasting, playing, and general enjoyment.
19. Best Places to Vacation in May: Cayman Islands
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Turquoise waters and golden sands combine to make the Cayman Islands one of the most pristine beach destinations in the world. Seven Mile Beach is considered one of the main attractions and visitors from all over the world head there to enjoy the sand, sea, and sun. The range of hotels, as well as restaurants, offers a variety of accommodation and dining options for visitors to enjoy. The island is popular for its many scuba diving sites, especially Stingray City or the MC Captain Keith Tibbetts shipwreck. Other attractions include the Pedro St. James Castle, the Cayman Turtle Farm, the Ironshore Landscape of Hell, and the Mastic hiking trail. Pirates Week is attended by visitors from all over the world and is a fun place to relax and enjoy island life at its finest. Things to do on Grand Cayman
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Toronto is often recognized as one of the most cosmopolitan and multicultural cities in the world. Considered Canada's center of culture, arts, finance, and business, visitors are in for a treat when vacationing there. The diverse population allows visitors to experience a melting pot of cultures, from the arts to culinary concoctions. The city attracts over 25 million visitors a year, many of whom come to visit the museums and national historic sites, watch sporting events, or attend festivals. Things to see and do range from fishing in Lake Ontario, dining in the revolving restaurant atop the iconic CN Tower, and seeing the huge range of culture and nature exhibits in the Royal Ontario Museum.
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The coastal seaport city of Vancouver is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in all of Canada. Often called "Hollywood North" since it's become one of the largest film production centers in North America, visitors will be able to visit various film sets and theatres or even attend the Vancouver International Film Festival. Art aficionados can head to the Vancouver Art Gallery, which has over 10,000 items in its permanent collection including many works by Emily Carr, or the Contemporary Art Gallery, which showcases works from many up-and-coming Vancouver artists. Other attractions include Stanley Park, the Vancouver Museum, Science World, and Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden.
22. Best Places to Vacation in May: Aruba
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Aruba is one of the premier beach destinations in the Caribbean and is a fun-filled island full of friendly people. It is perfect for a romantic getaway, family vacation, or even a solo trip to focus on yourself. Other than sun bathing or swimming at the beautiful beaches, visitors can also go sailing, snorkeling, scuba diving, or parasailing, or even try a memorable jetpack adventure. There are events held throughout the year, such as volleyball tournaments, fishing challenges, art fairs, Aruba Fashion Week, and the Aruba Carnival, which is a month-long celebration that is considered the island's biggest party of the year.
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Found in southeastern France, Provence has diverse landscapes, and visitors can explore everything from pine forests and lavender fields to olive groves, vineyards, and the Southern Alps. While there, visitors shouldn't miss seeing the frescoes in the 14th century papal palace, Palais de Papes, or taking in the atmosphere in the French Riviera. Verdon Gorge is a great site for adventure seekers, who enjoy spending their vacation exploring the canyons, hiking, or going rock climbing. There are many festivals and events held throughout the year that focus on music, art, theater, or the carnival.
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The capital of the State of Georgia, Atlanta has become one of the most popular travel destinations in the Southeast. The city has a rich history and played an important role in events such as the Western and Atlantic Railroad, the Civil War, and the Civil Rights Movement. Visitors there can indulge in everything from historical sites and museums to award-winning restaurants and an exciting nightlife. Some attractions that shouldn't be missed include the birthplace of Martin Luther King, Jr., the Atlanta History Center, the CNN Center, and the Atlanta Botanical Garden. The Georgia Aquarium and the World of Coca Cola, conveniently located right across from each other, are extremely fun ways to spend the day while there.
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From steep cliffs and verdant valleys to stunning lakes and towering mountains, the Adirondack region has it all. There are over a hundred welcoming communities in this winter wonderland in northern New York for visitors to explore and enjoy. Local experts are more than happy to point visitors in the right direction, whether it be toward a hearty ale at the local brewery or to go ice fishing on Piseco Lake. Other fun regional activities include skiing down the alpine slopes, enjoying the various events held throughout the year, canoeing and kayaking on Saranac Lake, or hiking in the High Peaks Wilderness. The family-friendly vacation destination has something for everyone, no matter their age or interests.
The 25 Best May Vacation Destinations near me today according to local experts are: