6 Things to Do in Cardiff, Wales

By Liza Weisstuch
May 6, 2019
modern structure with old castle in background
This once industrial town makes for a vacation that blends history, culture, traditional bites, and craft beer.

Cardiff Castle, a medieval wonder, sits right in the city center, its presence a reminder of this rejuvenated town's rich history. In Victorian times, Cardiff was a coal capital of the world until the industry fell off, taking the city down with it. But in the last two decades, major projects have been unveiled, like a sleek government building and a modern performing-arts center, both of which contributed to the rejuvenation of Cardiff Bay. The Welsh capital is a mere 150 miles from London, easy to get to by train or bus and surrounded by bucolic country villages. Here are a few things to do—and see and eat and drink—in this revitalized urban destination.

1. Explore Cardiff Castle

Wales-Cardiff-Castle.jpg?mtime=20190502102036#asset:105695(Stelios Kyriakides/Dreamstime)

“I hope you like history, because I have 2000 years of it,” the guide said as he commenced a tour of Cardiff Castle (cardiffcastle.com). Indeed, the 11th-century castle, which was gifted to the city after World War II, is a living encyclopedia of Welsh history and architectural marvels. A tour is recommended so you can get a detailed explanation of the Roman ruins, the castle’s large structures, the ornate interior-design details, and the influential families that occupied its quarters over the centuries. Your ticket entitles you to an audio device for a self-guided tour of the castle grounds, including the keep. (You can climb a narrow, winding stairway to the top for sweeping city views). And make sure to visit the long underground tunnels: they served as a bomb shelter during WWII, and today, the stone walls are adorned with wartime-era posters and Churchill’s speeches are piped in on speakers. Also make time for the military museum in the basement of the welcome center, which chronicles three centuries of Welsh military history.

2. Walk Cardiff Bay

The very first thing to do when you get to the city is not read a guidebook or ask your concierge where to go. Head straight Mermaid Quay, the rejuvenated stretch of Cardiff Bay, for a crash course in the history of the town. The port was one of the biggest in the world at the turn of the 20th century, thanks to the region’s huge coal reserves. Today it’s a destination anchored by the Millennium Arts Centre (wmc.org.uk), a sleek building that hosts opera, symphonies, and theatrical productions, and the Senedd (assemblywales.org/visiting/senedd), home to the National Assembly since it opened in 2004. There's also Pierhead (pierhead.org), the port's old office building that now houses an exhibit about Welsh democracy. Along the water, check out a display that explains the port's role in the city’s economy. Then take a stroll along the waterside paved path to see the church where native son Roald Dahl was christened, as well as an adorable alligator sculpture that pays tribute to the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory author. From there, follow the crescent-shaped course just over two miles, across a short dam, to Penarth, a quaint town with shops, cafés, and casual eateries, or head back to the main area for a tour of the Senedd, coffee in the lobby of the Millennium Centre followed by a show, if you plan it right, and a twirl on the iconic waterside carousel.

3. Snack on Welsh Cakes

Welsh-cakes-Cardiff-Wales.jpg?mtime=20190502102908#asset:105697(Liza Weisstuch)

Italy has gelato, France has macaroons, and Tokyo has bubble tea. When it comes to sweets in this coastal capital, it’s all about Welsh cakes, a cross between a biscuit and a cake. You can sample an amazing variety of them around the city. At Fabulous Welsh Cakes (fabulouswelshcakes.co.uk), located in a shopping arcade a stone’s throw from Cardiff Castle, the staff prepares the cakes on a griddle visible through the window. They make over 50 flavors, which rotate regularly. At Victorian-style Pettigrew Tea Rooms (pettigrew-tearooms.com), you can have a more classic experience and order tea with your snack. Vegan options are available at Wild Thing (wildthingcardiff.com), an airy new eatery focused on meat- and dairy-free fare. And at the historic Cardiff Market, watch a small team of bakers in a compact kitchen make many flavors from start to finish, then taste them fresh from the oven. Just don't ask for jam. "You don't need anything on them, luv," the baker will tell you with a smile.

4. Raise a Glass to Beer

Once upon a time, classic British pubs were your only option here. Today, however, craft beer is all the rage, and hip, lively bars serving lots of it are located just a few short blocks away from one another in the compact city center. Beelzebub (craftydevilbrewing.co.uk), which serves made-in-Cardiff Crafty Devil Brewing Company’s ales, is an airy pub with a long mahogany bar and outdoor seating that opened last year as a result of a crowd-funding effort. Get there early if the local rugby team is playing and even earlier if they’re playing at Principality Stadium, the nearby sports arena that’s home to the national rugby union team, as tables fill up fast. And don’t miss Tiny Rebel (tinyrebel.co.uk), a popular late-night haunt adorned with colorful murals. All the beers on tap are made at the brewery, about 13 miles north.

5. Shop Around

Cardiff is a city of glass-covered arcades, many of which have been standing since Victorian times. There are plenty of familiar shops and souvenir depots occupying the storefronts here, as well as high-end retailers specializing in distinctly British products like tweed and wool clothing. But stay attentive while wandering through the sheltered cobblestone streets, and you’ll be rewarded by an assortment of small shops that capture Cardiff’s indie spirit, including Spillers (spillersrecords.com), which dates back to 1894, making it the oldest record store in the world. The Castle Emporium (thecastleemporium.co.uk) is a spacious old warehouse with a collection of distinctly local businesses, like Head Above the Waves (hatw.co.uk), the retail arm of a nonprofit that raises awareness—and money—to promote mental health in the music industry. The hats, shirts, and other merchandise are emblazoned with positive-reinforcement messages. The Sho Gallery (thesho.co.uk) sells what co-owner Dan Hardstaff describes as “bits and bobs,” like locally made greetings cards, jewelry, and art as well as novelty stationery items and home goods. All the framed artwork is for sale. If you need a skateboard, tattoo, or haircut, you can check that off your list at the Emporium, too.

6. Day-trip to Hay-on-Wye

Wales-Book-shops-hay-on-wye.jpg?mtime=20190502102415#asset:105696(S Richardson/Dreamstime)

The countryside throughout the United Kingdom is dotted with villages that are typically described as charming and picturesque. Few, arguably, have the wow factor of Hay-on-Wye (hay-on-wye.co.uk), a small hamlet (population 1,500) about 60 miles north of Cardiff known as the Book Capital of the World. Some 250,000 literature fanatics flock here each spring for the Hay Festival of Literature and Arts, described by President Bill Clinton as the "Woodstock of the Mind" when he attended in 2001. The festival offers a packed schedule of talks, readings, and panel discussion with blockbuster writers, but bookworms make the pilgrimage-worthy journey here year-round because of the bookstores—nearly 30 at last count, all of them jam-packed, many of them featuring comfy couches and reading spaces, and most of them selling valuable antique volumes. There are themed shops, like ones that specialize in mystery or music, As well as antique stores, pubs, a market with local food and provisions, and a cheery modern general store called The Old Electric Shop, which sells charming home goods, handmade soaps, locally crafted wool hats and clothing, creative children’s gifts, and even more.

Plan Your Next Getaway
Keep reading
Budget Travel Lists

Music Lovers: 8 Hotels That Rock

These days, there’s a hotel out there playing your song. Whether your musical appetite skews along the lines of jazz, country, or good ole rock 'n' roll, you can find a property that combines comfort with creativity. Many highlight music memorabilia in the common areas and guest rooms, others offer fun features such as in-room record players, music lending libraries, and even a community radio station broadcast from the lobby. From coast to coast, each of these hotels has something special to offer any music lover. 1. Hotel Max: Seattle, Washington For anyone who's creatively inclined, a stay at Hotel Max, located six blocks from Pike Place Market in downtown Seattle, will really strike a chord. The first thing you see upon walking into the lobby is a signed bass guitar, the prototype of the one designed by Nirvana’s Krist Novoselic. On the fifth floor, the hotel partnered with Seattle’s most influential indie label, Sub Pop Records, to design 19 guest rooms, each equipped with turntables and a selection of curated vinyl, courtesy of the record label. Images by photographer Charles Peterson, who documented Seattle’s music scene during the late '80s and '90s, adorn rooms and hallways on this floor. But guests throughout the property can get a taste of Seattle’s grunge attitude with the hotel’s cheeky hoodie-style bathrobes. 2. Hotel Saint Cecilia: Austin, Texas (Nick Simonite) Named after the ancient Roman patron saint of musicians, Hotel Saint Cecilia draws inspiration from 1960s- and 1970s-era musicians and writers. It’s also a favorite spot for musicians to stay—the Foo Fighters recorded here and even named an album after the property. Each of the 14 rooms and suites are dedicated to a famous musician or artist, and guests are invited to borrow from the hotel's lending library of vintage LPs to play on the turntables in their room. Book lovers, meanwhile, can indulge in the collection of rock biographies and poetry anthologies. And for musicians, there's a concierge program that includes guitar loans in partnership with Gibson and private vintage-vinyl shopping services, courtesy of local music store Breakaway Records. 3. The Elizabeth Hotel: Fort Collins, Colorado (Courtesy The Elizabeth Hotel) From the artwork to the amenities, the Elizabeth Hotel incorporates a musical touch into seemingly everything. The hotel's lending library is stocked primarily with stringed instruments, but keyboards, amps, and accessories are also available for in-room jam sessions. Or borrow vinyl from the house collection of hundreds of records and create a personal soundtrack for your stay. For those seeking a more impressive experience, stay in the Music Suite, which features a classic baby grand piano as the centerpiece of a room decked out with music-themed art and decor. 4. The Evelyn Hotel: New York, New York The Evelyn Hotel in New York’s NoMad neighborhood dates back to 1905, when it first opened as Hotel Broztell. It’s since been re-christened in honor of Evelyn Nesbit, the famed 20th-century actress and model, and her influence can be found throughout the property. The hotel’s 159 Art Nouveau-influenced guest rooms pay homage to the style of the Jazz Age heyday with nods to nearby Tin Pan Alley, the once-scrappy street that inspired early jazz musicians' snappy sound. Signs of the hotel’s musical past are subtle but stylish—you’ll find touches like gramophones that connect to your smartphone, chandeliers mimicking the shape of a trombone, and music notes gracing bathroom tiles. 5. Hotel Preston: Nashville, Tennessee (Courtesy Provenance Hotels) When the Hotel Preston was renovated in October 2018, it was imbued with a free-spirited vibe that’s evident everywhere you turn. You’re in Music City, after all, so it should come as little surprise that you can call down to the front desk and have an acoustic guitar delivered to your room free of charge, along with a signature guitar pick as a souvenir. Featuring 196 guest rooms that channel the creativity of the city, the decor reflects the vibrancy of Nashville’s music scene. (See: neon signage that urges guests to "Hustle, Be Happy, and Shine On.") The hotel is also close to many of the city’s noted sites, like the Music City Walk of Fame. 6. The Moxy Hotel: San Diego, California Fun is the Moxy Hotel’s stock in trade, and that’s evident from the moment you arrive. But first, you have to find the check-in desk, which is cleverly combined with the lobby’s centerpiece, a fully stocked bar. In the evenings, this is the place to be, as a DJ spins dance hits while guests play a variety of arcade and board games, including a giant Jenga. There’s even a secret speakeasy hidden somewhere in the hotel. (Hint: you’ll need a password to gain entry.) The hotel is paces from the Gaslamp Quarter, where you’ll find several popular music venues, such as the House of Blues and Tin Roof. 7. Verb Hotel: Boston, Massachusetts The Verb Hotel is within walking distance to Boston’s centrally located Fenway Park, which makes it a great home base for tourists. (Just be sure to check the Red Sox schedule if you want to avoid the game-going crowds.) With rock ’n’ roll memorabilia like photos, instruments, and framed concert tickets scattered throughout the common spaces, the hotel feels like a temple to the city's music history. Record players and a small vinyl collection can be found in every room, and you can browse the record library, which is well-stocked with albums from local bands. The property, originally built as a Howard Johnson’s motor inn in 1959, was shuttered for many years before its refurbishment in 2014, a revamp that maintained its retro appeal. 8. Line DC: Washington, D.C. Housed in a former neoclassical church in the eclectic Adams Morgan neighborhood, Line DC is home to Full Service Radio, a community station that broadcasts out of the lobby and live-streams to each room. The station spotlights live performances by DJs and interviews with local musicians. Line’s 220 guest rooms incorporate an urban-chic aesthetic, with artwork and photography from local female artists. The hotel also features a satellite location for D.C.'s public library, stocked with books for young adults and children that can be checked out during a stay.

Budget Travel Lists

20 Best Bang-for-Your-Buck Vacation Rental Destinations

Here at Budget Travel, we appreciate a deal as much as the next frugal traveler, but for our purposes, budget doesn’t necessarily translate as cheap. To do the mental math on what, exactly, qualifies as a good-value proposition, we take into account tangible factors like location, weather, and experiences to have along the way. But we also think about the intangibles—less quantifiable, more subjective elements like uniqueness and Instagrammability. It’s a complicated equation, but home-share rental site Vrbo (vrbo.com) is attempting to simplify things a bit, courtesy of its first-ever Bang for Your Buck Index. The company recently released a list of domestic and international destinations that provide travelers with the best value, based on last year’s booking data. Factoring in considerations like proximity to the beach, diversity of dining options, and the array of activities on offer, here's where you'll get the most for your money—all for $250 per night or less. Top 10 Domestic Destinations for Rental Value With an abundance of beaches—not to mention its collection of theme parks—it’s no wonder Florida claims five of the 10 spots on Vrbo’s domestic list. Daytona Beach, Cocoa Beach, and Cape Canaveral offer prime opportunities to work on that tan, while Orlando is the gateway to Disney World and Universal Studios’ Wizarding World of Harry Potter. For a break from the ocean, book a trip to Lakeland, east of Tampa, to explore the city’s eponymous lakes, or venture out of state and head west instead: Tucson and Prescott, Arizona, both cracked the top 10, as did Moab, Utah, in the heart of canyon country. Looking for something a little less expected? Branson, Missouri, receives surprisingly high marks, while family favorite Myrtle Beach rounds out the list. Overseas Bargains If, in your mind, it doesn’t count as vacation unless you've stepped off a plane onto foreign soil, not to fear—there’s plenty of value to be had in Europe, Asia, Canada, and the Caribbean, as long as you know where to look. For a truly economical experience, forgo hotspots like London, Paris, and Rome in favor of the Iberian peninsula: Porto, Lisbon, Madrid, and Seville all provide warm weather, great food, and arts and culture galore, minus the sticker shock of their higher-profile European peers. (On the continent, Prague and Berlin are also good bets.) Chasing those sunny days? You can’t go wrong with Puerto Rico, and Carolina is Vrbo’s pick for the island’s best-value destination. Up north, Calgary and Halifax offer boundless natural splendor and cultural institutions in profusion, plus a favorable exchange rate to boot. And on the other side of the world, Tokyo is an unexpectedly budget-friendly gem.

Budget Travel Lists

7 Places to Experience Incredible Interactive Art

Quiet galleries lined with impressive collections displayed at arm’s length will always have their place, but lately, multi-sensory art installations that put the observer at the center of the action are capturing people’s attention. Destinations where visitors can interact with art through movement, touch and sound—often using the latest in digital technologies—are popping up everywhere. Here are seven solid locations that offer immersive experiences for a variety of audiences. 1. Meow Wolf's House of Eternal Return: Sante Fe (Kate Russell/Courtesy Meow Wolf) Built in a former bowling alley in Santa Fe and funded by Game of Thrones creator George R.R. Martin, Meow Wolf’s House of Eternal Return launched in 2016 and quickly garnered a reputation as an iconic immersive-art destination. Meow Wolf visitors start by entering the home of the fictional Selig family and, before long, start to discover portals throughout the house (hint: check the refrigerator), leading to fantastical spaces created by local artists. These surreal environments, which combine light, sound, and all manner of images and structures, are part of a mysterious story line involving the Selig family. While some visitors work hard to unravel the mystery, most just choose wander, explore, and experience the sensory wonderland. Meow Wolf is wildly popular, so expect to wait in line. Plans are in place for Meow Wolf Las Vegas AREA15 to open at the end of 2019. There are also spinoff experiences in the works for Denver and Washington, D.C.Admission from $17; meowwolf.com. 2. The City Museum: St. Louis Located in a repurposed shoe warehouse, the City Museum has been pushing the limits of art and fun since 1997, long before anyone thought to use the term “immersive art” to describe the sculptures, climbing structures, subterranean passageways, and multi-story slides filling the 600,000-square-foot space. Sculptor Bob Cassily and a team of around 20 artists created the destination’s large-scale, fanciful features using salvaged construction materials and other reclaimed objects found throughout St. Louis. The school bus hanging over the edge of the museum’s roof provides a hint of the over-the-top experience that awaits inside; an airplane fuselage suspended by a construction crane and accessible by a winding maze of caged ladders also beckons from the front of the building. Admission, $15; citymuseum.org. 3. Factory Obscura: Oklahoma City (Todd E Clark/Courtesy Factory Obscura) Those born after the ‘80s may not have cherished memories of creating or receiving a custom-compiled mix tape, but Factory Obscura aims to explore and evoke the nostalgia of this bygone art form with its first permanent installation, Mix Tape. An immersive art collective that got its start creating temporary installations throughout Oklahoma City, Factory Obscura introduced the first phase of Mix Tape, including a giant interactive boom box built into the building’s façade, in March of 2019. The full 6,000-square-foot playlist-themed multi-sensory adventure opens in September 2019. Fans of the OKC-based band the Flaming Lips may recognize the location: a brightly decorated downtown art complex called the Womb, located in Oklahoma City's historic Automobile Alley building and created by front man Wayne Coyne. It's been an event venue, music-video set, and art space for the Lips. An installation by Coyne, titled King's Mouth, is the centerpiece of the Mix Tape lobby. Free; factoryobscura.com. 4. Wisdome: Los Angeles (Courtesy Wisdome LA) People who have attended festivals like Burning Man or Lightning in a Bottle will likely feel at home at Wisdome, an immersive entertainment art park in downtown L.A. that opened at the end of 2018. Wisdome’s five 360-degree geodesic domes offer digital art, surround sound, and virtual reality experiences, often with a psychedelic bent. Samskara, the featured installation for 2019, is the work of artist Android Jones and includes a 3-D digital-art exhibit, a fractal-heavy 360-degree film that viewers take in while lying on the ground, and an interactive VR gaming experience. Wisdome also regularly hosts concerts and special events that are enhanced by the venue’s immersive elements.Admission $29 adults, $19 for students, $9 for children; wisdome.la. 5. ARTECHOUSE: Miami & Washington, D.C. (Courtesy ARTECHOUSE) Featuring a new installation every three months, this intimate experiential digital-art gallery gives visitors a chance to see how different artists are currently combining art, technology, and science. The ARTECHOUSE flagship location in Washington, D.C., which opened in 2017, features three distinct digital-art spaces as well as a popular bar that overlooks the exhibits and serves augmented-reality cocktails that imbibers activate with their phones using an ARTECHOUSE app. ARTECHOUSE opened a Miami Beach location in 2018, and a New York City location is set to open in 2019. D.C. admission from $16 for adults, $13 for students, seniors, and military; Miami admission, $24 for adults, $20 for students, seniors, and military, $17 for children 14 and under; artechouse.com. 6. Asleep in the Cyclone at 21C Museum Hotel Louisville: Louisville Asleep in the Cyclone offers the unique opportunity to have a site-specific art installation all to yourself for an entire night. Located in a guest room at the 21C Museum Hotel in Louisville, Asleep in the Cyclone is the work of artists Jonah Freeman and Justin Lowe, who say the installation is meant to create a parallel universe where guest inhabit an environment created wholly by the artists. Inspired by the 1960s hippie commune Drop City, some of the room’s features include a colorful geodesic ceiling, a record player with a vinyl collection selected by the artists, and a curio cabinet filled with collages, books, and sculptures they created. Nightly rates from $341; 21cmuseumhotels.com/louisville. 7. Mattress Factory: Pittsburgh While some interactive art destinations cater to all ages with an almost amusement park-like atmosphere, this contemporary museum housed in a former mattress factory is not the kind of place you take the kids for a free-ranging play date. (No kids under 14 are allowed without parental supervision). The Mattress Factory has been specializing in site-specific installation art since it opened in 1977 and currently contains permanent installations from a number of well-established artists, including two Infinity Mirror rooms by Yayoi Kusama, light sculptures by James Turrell, and the final work by the late transgender artist Greer Lankton, “It’s all about ME, not you,” a haunting and emotionally raw recreation of her Chicago apartment filled with paintings, dolls, and other personal ephemera.Admission, $20; mattress.org.

Budget Travel Lists

10 Best Bargain Trips for Spring

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to get out there and savor everything a spring vacation has to offer. We've rounded up some of the best beaches, parkland, and cities where your dollar will go further this time of year—that means lodging well under $200/night, and an accessible array of food and activities that won't break the bank. From the South Pacific to the Caribbean, from the Gulf of Mexico to the Rocky Mountains, the only problem you may have with this top 10 list is choosing just one trip. 1. Dominican Republic Punta Cana, Dominican Republic (Binu777/Dreamstime) If your idea of spring break involves affordable all-inclusive resorts and perfect beaches, the Dominican Republic offers just about everything you might want. We love Punta Cana—just a two-hour flight from Miami—for reliable resorts like the Majestic Colonial Beach Resort and Bavaro Beach with gorgeous white sand, clear Caribbean waters, and an offshore coral reef. Or head to the charming off-the-beaten path fishing village of Las Terrenas, in the Samaná province, for “secret” gorgeous beaches and good deals. Exploring the DR’s natural wonders is a must as well: Los Haitises National Park is the place for kayaking the lagoons and mangrove canals and viewing wildlife such as pelicans and iconic leatherback turtles; the Cordillera Septentrional Mountains are a magnet for hikers. 2. Oahu, Hawaii Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii (Izabela 23/Dreamstime) With Southwest (winner of the 2018 Budget Travel Award for Value Airline) now flying to Honolulu, there’s no better time to hop over the Pacific to get to know the Hawaiian Islands, starting with Oahu, the most populous and accessible of the islands. The weather is almost always perfect on Waikiki Beach, and you are an easy drive from nearby mountains (including iconic Diamond Head) and an array of other, wilder beaches where, depending on the time of year and the weather, you may witness “monster” waves and the professional surfers who challenge them. As much as we love Honolulu’s accessible beachfront and affordable lodgings such as Hotel Renew, we also urge you to make the 15-minute drive to the mountain side of Diamond Head to get to know Kaimuki, a residential area we named one of the best budget destinations in America, where you’ll find amazing seafood, Japanese fare, and tasty regional dried fruits, among a wide array of other delights. 3. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming (Jaahnlieb/Dreamstime) At 147 years old, Yellowstone (nps.gov/yell) is the world’s oldest national park, but it still has a trick or two up its sleeve. A 3,472-square-foot swathe of land straddling Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana, it’s busiest during the peak summer months, especially between July and August, when 55% of the park’s annual visitors descend to take in the geysers, wildlife, history and more. But the park’s roads begin to open in mid-April, and nature lovers would do well to consider a springtime visit. From May to June, in particular, young elk, bison, and pronghorn calves are finding their legs, wolves are on the prowl, and momma bears and their cubs are on the hunt. To catch the animals on parade, your best bet is to wake up before the sun—wolves and bears get moving early—though, with mountain goats, bighorn sheep, and birds out and about later in the day, there’s action to be had even if you’re not a morning person. June is prime wildflower season, and the park’s waterfalls are seriously impressive then too, thanks to snowmelt runoff that sends 63,500 gallons of water per second over the Yellowstone River’s Lower Falls. Plus, with substantially fewer visitors during the spring months, deals on accommodations abound, and you won’t have to jostle for position around Old Faithful. 4. Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama Orange Beach, Alabama (Courtesy Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism) The mention of Alabama probably sparks thoughts of the civil rights movement, football, fried green tomatoes, and Lynyrd Skynyrd, who made it sound like everybody’s sweet home. But for spring travelers, Alabama should also mean the Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, 32 miles of silken sand along the Gulf of Mexico. With April temps reaching mid-70s, it’s not quiet beach-lounging time yet, but the area provides a bounty of things for spring breakers to check out, an assortment of 200 local restaurants not least among them. Families can prepare for summer with classes at Sand Castle University (sandcastleu.com) for a crash course in building the impressive palaces out of sand. To explore the area’s natural treasures, the 28-mile Backcountry Trail (backcountrytrail.com) in Gulf State Park covers a tapestry of nine ecosystems that are best explored on bike or a guided Segway tour. And to fully immerse yourself in the rich landscape, made a reservation at the Lodge at Gulf State Park, which opened at the end of last year and features 350 Gulf-front rooms. 5. Williamsburg, Virginia Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia (Aviahuismanphotography/Dreamstime) Colonial Williamsburg is right up there with Disney World and the Washington Monument when it comes to iconic American sites that every family should have on its bucket list. But when it comes to grownup escapes, the greater Williamsburg region has no shortage of offerings, whether you’re reuniting with friends from high school or taking a second honeymoon. First, there are the restaurants. Farm-to-table is the norm here, and so is sea-to-table, what with Williamsburg’s location between the James and York rivers. Fresh oysters are the draw at Waypoint Seafood and Grill and Fat Canary is known for its creative dishes using ham and lamb from local farms. Where good food goes, drinks follow. Wine lovers can visit Williamsburg Winery (williamsburgwinery.com), Virginia’s largest, beer drinkers have their choice of breweries with taprooms, Copper Fox Distillery (copperfoxdistillery.com) is a small whiskey-making operation that pioneered the craft scene back in 2005, and in keeping with the area’s historic viewpoint, there’s even a meadery that produces the ancient style honey wine. Toss in posh spas, shopping, and a long-running comedy club and there you have it: a spring break for the history books. 6. Skagway, Alaska Skagway, Alaska (Izabela 23/Dreamstime) Skagway is a small town in southeast Alaska, along the Inside Passage, with a population of about 800, but in June, July, and August, that number swells to about 3,000. But before the many cruise ships dock here throughout the summer months, April and May are ideal times to explore the quaint, historic township. It’s one of the few towns in Alaska with a road directly into the continental U.S., albeit a long one. It’s about day-and-a-half drive from Seattle through British Columbia, but if you’re looking for a road trip, this is certainly a pretty one. Should you arrive by boat, you’ll sail through dramatic fjords that are merely a hint of the scenery you’re in for. Skagway is famous for its Klondike Gold Rush legacy, and that history plays out in the well-preserved buildings from that era, which are part of Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park (nps.gov/klgo/index.htm). There are also water adventures, like Ocean-Raft Alaska (oceanraftalaska.com), a high-speed group ride in a motorized boat, the Chilkoot Trail for hikers who aren’t afraid of serious incline, and brewpubs. 7. Savannah, Georgia Savannah, Georgia (David M. Sacerdote/Dreamstime) With stunning Gothic Revival architecture, ancient live oaks dripping with Spanish moss, and a picturesque location on the banks of the Savannah River, this Southern charmer offers a sophisticated yet accessible urban escape for all ages. A free walking tour will give a good overview of Savannah’s history, from its antebellum past to modern days. (Don’t forget to tip!) Stop for a photo op in front of Forsyth Park’s highly Instagrammable fountain, and sneak a peek at Girl Scouts founder Juliette Gordon Low’s birthplace and the Scouts’ first headquarters. Hungry? You’ll probably have to queue for brunch at the Collins Quarter, but between the short-rib hash and the brioche French toast, it’s worth the wait. Bernie’s Oyster House on River Street serves cold beer and fresh oysters by the bucket, while Bayou Cafe slings stiff drinks and Cajun fare with a side of live blues. For an upscale affair, check out the Grey, where James Beard Award finalist Mashama Bailey is turning out refined Southern plates in a beautifully restored art deco Greyhound station. (Stop by at happy hour for discounted wine, beer, and oysters before your reservation.) Savannah College of Art and Design is where aspiring Picassos from around the world come to hone their craft; it’s affiliated with a world-class art museum. In the Historic District, the Telfair Museum is the South’s oldest public-art museum, and the Jepson Center has a stellar modern collection; the model ships at the Ships of the Sea Museum are a must-see for nautical enthusiasts. There’s retail therapy on Broughton Street (we like the Paris Market for fanciful home decor and 24e Design Co. for upcycled vintage finds), and when you need a break from the city, the sandy shores of Tybee Island are just a few miles away. 8. Sunny Isles Beach, Florida Sunny Isles Beach, Florida (Pressfoto/Dreamstime) Maybe you haven’t visited Sunny Isles Beach, Florida, yet? Maybe this is the first time you’ve even heard of this inviting family-friendly community between Fort Lauderdale and Miami? If so, that's what Budget Travel is here for—introducing you to beautiful places you didn't know you were missing. And you are in for an affordable world-class vacation in Sunny Isles. This decidedly lovely community on a barrier island in Miami-Dade County offers a 2.5-mile stretch of uncrowded white sand, fishing off Newport Fishing pier, exploring nearby mangrove preserves, and enjoying your proximity to Miami’s exceptional neighborhoods, parks, aquariums, and vibrant culinary scene. An array of local lodgings are offering spring deals, including Marenas Beach Resort, JW Marriott Miami Turnberry Resort & Spa, and Solé Miami, A Noble House Resort. 9. Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado (Cheri Alguire/Dreamstime) Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978 for an impressive concentration of ancestral Pueblo Indian dwellings dating from the 6th to the 12th centuries, southwest Colorado’s Mesa Verde National Park (nps.gov/meve) makes for a unexpected—and stealthily educational—spring destination. With more than 4,700 archaeological sites to explore, from cliff dwellings to mesa-top villages with pit houses and pueblos, the kids will barely notice they’re learning things on their time off. The self-guided Mesa Top Loop Road auto tour, open year-round, is a six-mile drive with 12 sites and scenic overlooks easily accessible via short, paved walking trails; ranger-guided tours of the cliff dwellings begin in mid-April (though they’re visible from various overlooks any time) and backcountry hikes and special tours begin in mid-May. The park’s only lodge opens in mid-April and campsites are available in early May, but the nearby town of Cortez makes for a good base of operations if you’d prefer to sleep off the premises. Granted, a springtime visit may require leaning into winter a little longer, as the Mesa Verde plateau’s altitude of more than 8,500 feet above sea level means that warm weather arrives a bit later here (snow storms in April have been known to interfere with the park’s operations), so be sure to check the weather forecast before you go, and stop at the visitor’s center when you arrive for the latest road and trail conditions. 10. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina Myrtle Beach, South Carolina (Sean Pavone/Dreamstime) South Carolina’s most popular beach town ranks third among most-searched travel destinations in the world and draws about 19 million visitors annually. That’s liable to change soon because over the past year, in addition to sleek new condo buildings and hotels, exciting new projects are underway or already open for business, likely bringing even bigger crowds. But before the beach bums set up camp for the summer, use spring break as a sneak peek at Myrtle Beach 2.0. October saw the opening of THEBlvd (theblvdmyrtle.com), a sprawling complex on the boardwalk with a concert venue, stores, and dining. The local arts scene is more active than ever, as evidence by the debut of the Grand Street Arts Trail (theartsgrandstrand.org), comprised of 18 galleries and three restaurants. The famously family-friendly destination got even friendlier in February with the opening of EdVenture (edventure.org/myrtle-beach), a new incarnation of the South Carolina Children’s Museum. Aviation and astronomy take the spotlight in the exhibits here, so kids can get an education on vacation. If you’ve got a getaway with your significant other or a group of friends on the calendar, Myrtle Beach has plenty of fun dining and drinking options. The sustainability-obsessed chef Heidi Vukov, long known for her cheery café Croissants, is expanding her footprint Hook & Barrel, which focuses on sustainable seafood. You can get local wine in Myrtle Beach, too. La Belle Amie Winery (labelleamie.com) is a farm-set destination known for owner and operator Vicki Weigle’s Twisted Sisters brand of wines.