For many, the desire to travel peaks when summer rolls around. And with so many destinations experiencing warm weather and longer days, it’s hard to decide which vacation is right for you and your family. Maybe you’ll use this list to help you plan your vacation.
NEW YORK CITY
Cool, cosmopolitan, crowded, constantly evolving … the Big Apple blends big city splendor with small-town charm. Amid Gotham’s iconic landmarks and towering skyscrapers, you’ll experience a vibrant culture permeating each of the city’s distinctive neighborhoods and boroughs. Follow trendsetters to the East Village and Brooklyn to check out indie boutiques, iconic bakeries and trendy coffee shops. Afterward, peruse the racks of the sleek shops lining Fifth Avenue, admire the cutting-edge art collections at the MoMa and the Met, catch a memorable show on Broadway or sit down for a meal at the latest “it” restaurant.
As the most populous city in the U.S. – set at the forefront of food, fashion and the arts – NYC requires stamina. But don’t let the Big Apple’s frenetic sights and sounds intimidate you from soaking up its grandeur. Wander through the concrete jungle and you’ll discover roaring taxis zipping down bustling blocks, fast-paced pedestrians strolling past on their way to marquee galleries and trendy cocktail bars, and Times Square’s neon lights flickering at all hours. And yet, the city’s twinkling lights and chaotic corners also invite you to embrace every New York minute, explore every enclave and create your own urban adventure. There are endless ways to spend your time in the city that never sleeps, but before you leave, stop and look around – what’s here today will be transformed into something bigger and better tomorrow.
Even if you’re not mesmerized by the city’s soaring skyscrapers and monuments, you’ll be blown away by its flourishing arts, food, fashion and nightlife scenes. You can spend your morning browsing Fifth Avenue’s designer racks and your afternoon catching stunning city views from the Top of the Rock Observation Deck. Or, if you’re an art lover, you can admire the striking works on display at the Met and the Guggenheim before feasting on ethnic fare in Chinatown or Little Italy. If you still have some energy (and cash) left over, don’t miss the chance to snag tickets to an award-winning Broadway show or hop over to one of the low-key rooftop bars and jazz clubs illuminating the Meatpacking District after dark.
The City of Light draws millions of visitors every year with its unforgettable ambiance. Of course, the divine cuisine and vast art collections deserve some of the credit as well. The gentle River Seine rambles through the city, flanked by stately museums, centuries-old churches, and blocks of Rococo- and Neoclassic-design architecture, further enhanced by cascading trees and glowing streetlamps. Peppering the Seine’s cobbled walks and graceful bridges are impossibly chic Parisians, probably on their way to the market, cafe or cinema.
Containing world-class museums, fashion, cuisine and an atmosphere all its own, Paris is also a city of “many splendors,” as Ernest Hemingway recalled in his memoir, “A Moveable Feast.” Visit the beloved Musée d’Orsay, shop the biggest designers on the Champs Élysées or hit the boutiques in Le Marais, take in the view atop the Eiffel Tower, or even plan a day trip to Versailles Palace. But don’t miss out on the simple pleasure of meandering the marvelous arrondissements (districts), or snacking on street crepes either.
If it’s your first time to Paris, you’ll probably want to spend some time at the world-renowned Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and Notre-Dame, but don’t miss out on other notable city jewels such as the Musée d’Orsay, the Luxembourg Gardens or Le Marais. There’s no way you’ll get to do it all – museum-touring, shopping, cemetery-perusing, district-exploring, opera-attending – so plan your own itinerary, group sightseeing nearby attractions together and see Paris on your own terms.
Don’t believe everything you hear about Amsterdam. Yes, this Netherlands city takes a lax look at women beckoning business in the Red Light District and “coffee shops” selling an unorthodox type of herb to a toking clientele, but these descriptions only scratch the surface. At some point, during an excellent Indonesian meal, a twilight canal-side rambling or a shopping excursion through the boutiques of Nine Little Streets, you’ll realize – as many travelers have before you – that there’s much more to Amsterdam than you might’ve thought.
And although the city’s loose laws on vice seem to attract a college-age, male-dominant crowd, Amsterdam is also ideal as a romantic getaway for two or an educational excursion with the kids. With attractions that range from biking along a maze of canals to remembering the Holocaust through the eyes of Anne Frank; from exploring the swirling Expressionism of Vincent van Gogh to lazing in the expansive Vondelpark, Amsterdam suits a variety of traveler tastes.
Amsterdam offers a lot more than vice like the world-class Van Gogh Museum, the Rijksmuseum and shopping on Nine Little Streets. Families might enjoy a visit to the Vondelpark and the NEMO Science Museum, a family bike ride or an introduction to Amsterdam’s love of pancakes. But of course, the party scene of coffee houses, gay bars, nightclubs and more is not to be missed.
This little city, tucked amid the Tuscan hills, casts a long shadow through history. The wellspring of the Renaissance, Firenze (or Florence) sheltered the powerful Medici family and inspired artists like Michelangelo (David) and Brunelleschi (the Duomo). If it weren’t for the fashionable Italians and chic shops lining Via Tornabuoni, you might think you had traveled back in time to the 14th century. But Renaissance art is not the only reason to come: You also visit Florence for its gorgeous sunsets, its Italian cooking and its unbeatable romantic charm.
Florence’s attractions largely center on art – from the works hung in the Uffizi and the Galleria dell’Accademia to the architecture of the Duomo and the Palazzo Pitti. But all of the beauty hasn’t been captured in stone and canvas; make a retreat to the verdant Boboli Gardens, take a walk along the Arno and over the Ponte Vecchio or eat your way through Firenze’s cafes, gelato shops and ristorantes.
Barcelona contains both the authentically historic and the wildly bizarre. From the tree-lined Las Ramblas to the narrow alleys of Barri Gòtic; from the beachside nightclubs to the city’s dozens of sacred churches and cathedrals, this city by the sea seems to attract all types: the family, the adventurer, the couple, the backpacker, the culture lover — and more — with an almost overwhelming variety of things to do. You could stay for a few days, but chances are you’ll need a whole week to explore.
In Barcelona, even the beach is bustling, but it’s really the cosmopolitan city that gets all the attention. Much of the activity revolves around Las Ramblas, a series of narrow streets and alleys packed with restaurants, nightclubs and a vibrant pedestrian market. But you should also take a tour of Antoni Gaudí’s masterpieces; Gaudí is responsible for sites like Parc Güell, Casa Batlló and La Sagrada Familia. And it would also be absurd to miss out on the eclectic shopping scene and the region’s exquisite food and wine. Do you see why we suggest a week vacation?
Barcelona has some of the most unique and inspiring architecture in the world, so a tour of the city’s parks, museums and churches is a must. You won’t want to miss out on seeing Gaudí’s Casa Batlló, La Sagrada Familia and Parc Güell. Later, relax on the waterfront with a cool cerveza (beer) or glass of cava, accompanied by some tapas, all the while enjoying a picturesque view of the Mediterranean. After a brief siesta, we suggest you hit the nightlife in Las Ramblas.