May is your last chance to enjoy shoulder season’s lower prices, pleasant weather, and smaller crowds before the arrival of summer travelers. This month could be the right time to head to a national park, a sunny beach in the Caribbean, or one of the many festivals celebrating food, wine, music, and flowers happening in the U.S. and around the world. We tapped local experts to share their top travel tips so you can start planning your next long weekend getaway or weeks-long escape.
Here are the best places to travel in May in the United States and around the world.
The annual Memphis in May International Festival returns with the World Championship Barbeque Cooking Contest from May 15-18, and The Great American River Run on May 25 takes runners along the Mississippi and through downtown. “There’s something special about Memphis in May,” local artist Dorothy Collier tells Travel + Leisure. “What I love most is that it’s the perfect occasion to support local artists while also spending quality time with friends and family.” Live music on Beale Street, Elvis Presley’s Graceland, and the National Civil Rights Museum are popular Memphis attractions year-round.
Where to Stay: The Memphian Hotel features a rooftop cocktail bar and all-day dining at Complicated Pilgrim. Downtown wilderness-themed resort, Big Cypress Lodge, is located inside the Bass Pro Shops Pyramid, and boutique Central Station is an art-filled option above the train station.
San Diego, California
May’s moderate weather is perfect for biking, walking along the beach, exploring Balboa Park, or venturing to Carlsbad for the last weeks of The Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch. Fiesta Old Town Cinco de Mayo (May 3-5) celebrates with mariachi, Latin rock, a ballet folklórico competition, and other events. Gator by the Bay, from May 9-12, brings the Mardi Gras vibes with zydeco, Cajun, swing, salsa, and rock music along with Louisiana-style food.
Where to Stay: The classic Hotel del Coronado, a personal favorite for its beachfront location, offers elevated stays in Beach Village cottages and the Shore House. In the downtown Gaslamp District, check in to Pendry San Diego, or stay nearby in Encinitas at Alila Marea Beach Resort.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
It’s spring in the mountains, and diehard skiers can probably find some snow for a few late-season runs, but May is also an ideal time to explore two of the country’s best national parks before the summer crowds arrive. Grand Teton National Park’s Craig Thomas Discovery & Visitor Center opens May 1, and most Yellowstone National Park roads open in late April. May can be a great time to spot wildlife in both parks as deer, elk, and moose begin calving, and Old West Days and Elkfest bring a festive atmosphere to town. The Aerial Tram opens mid-month for scenic rides offering stunning views of the Tetons and valley below.
Where to Stay: The Cloudveil, voted one of the top hotels in Wyoming by T+L readers, is located right on the Town Square and features an expansive rooftop terrace. Boutique Hotel Jackson offers the Sacajawea Library, filled with Western literature and art, plus upscale amenities.
The Hamptons, New York
May is shoulder season on eastern Long Island, a time to enjoy local wineries, fresh produce, walks on the beach, and dining at restaurants that will soon have waiting lists for reservations. Take a bike ride or drive to Montauk Point State Park to hike on nature trails, stroll along the shore, or visit Montauk Lighthouse, the oldest in New York State. “May is amazing. Asparagus are popping along with fresh lettuces, green onions, peas, and other tasty green delicacies,” James Christopher Tracy, winemaker and partner at Channing Daughters Winery, tells T+L. “Spring also brings the release of new pink wines and fresh whites like sauvignon blanc and pinot grigio. Longer days, warmer temperatures, and yummy stuff everywhere — what could be better than the East End in May!”
Where to Stay: The Reform Club in Amagansett offers suites, cottages, and a four-bedroom residence. EHP Resort & Marina in East Hampton and wellness-focused Shou Sugi Ban House in Water Mill are other top choices.
From Carmel Valley to Carmel-by-the Sea, this Monterey Peninsula area is one of California’s most beautiful places to be in May. The weather is cool and sunny, ideal for being outdoors for a round of golf or a visit to Garland Ranch Regional Park where there are hiking trails, a waterfall, and gorgeous views. A drive towards the ocean takes you to Carmel-by-the-Sea’s art galleries, boutiques, restaurants, and Carmel Beach. The Carmel Art Festival is set for May 17-19 with entertainment and art for sale. When you’re thirsty, head to Carmel Valley’s wineries and Carmel-by-the-Sea’s tasting rooms for a glass of the local vino.
Where to Stay: The newly renovated Carmel Valley Ranch offers golf, tennis, archery, horseback riding, and youth activities. Quail Lodge & Golf Club features tennis and pickleball along with golf and a nine-hole putting course.
The Palm Beaches, Florida
About 70 miles north of Miami, the coastal cities and beach towns of Florida’s Palm Beaches offer upscale shopping, plush resorts, and nearly 50 miles of beaches. In West Palm Beach, the Norton Museum of Art features an impressive collection and special exhibits, best explored during “Art After Dark” on Friday evenings. A National Historic Landmark, the Flagler Museum in Palm Beach is housed in the opulent Gilded Age mansion once owned by Henry Flagler. The annual SunFest waterfront music festival is set for May 3-5 in West Palm Beach, with headliners including Nelly and Bill Idol.
Where to Stay: White Elephant Palm Beach is a luxury boutique hotel housed in a renovated 1924 building. Golfers will love the PGA National Resort in Palm Beach Gardens, with six courses and a spa, and The Breakers was voted one of the best resorts in Florida in the 2023 World’s Best Awards.
Charleston, South Carolina
“Charleston is a year-round destination, but May brings something special,” according to Tyler Wright Friedman, founder of Walk and Talk Charleston. “Spring is turning to summer, and it’s time for the beach and boats, but also Spoleto and the arts.” The acclaimed annual performing arts festival, Spoleto, runs from May 24 to June 9. But before that, the North Charleston Arts Fest (May 1-5) highlights dance, music, theater, visual arts, and literature. Named America’s favorite city (again) in the 2023 World’s Best Awards, Charleston’s warm weather in the low 80s makes May a perfect time to explore all the city has to offer.
Where to Stay: T+L readers voted Wentworth Mansion — a boutique 19th-century home-turned-hotel with 21 guest rooms — the best hotel in Charleston in the 2023 World’s Best Awards.
Nicknamed “The Mountain State” and “Almost Heaven” (thanks to John Denver’s classic song), West Virginia is the home of America’s newest national park, New River Gorge National Park and Preserve. “Spring is truly one of the best seasons to visit the park,” Eve West, chief of interpretation and visitor services for the park, tells T+L. “In early spring before the trees leaf out, wildflowers of many colors and varieties literally carpet the forest floor. Later, the leaf canopy appears, and you can see shades of light and dark green as the leaves mature.” Hiking, river rafting, biking, and exploring by car are some ways to enjoy New River Gorge’s 70,000 acres of land and the New River — which, despite its name, is actually among the oldest rivers on Earth.
Where to Stay: There are eight campgrounds to choose from at the national park. ACE Adventure Resort also offers cabins, log homes, RV sites, and rustic campsites.
Georgia, called the birthplace of winemaking, is located on the border between Europe and Asia with the Caucasus Mountains to the north and the Black Sea to the west. “With fewer crowds, May is the perfect time for a Georgian getaway,” according to Levan Berulava, a Tbilisi tastemaker and general manager of Rooms Hotels. “Everything wakes up again in May — nature, trees, and Tbilisi itself all come alive with colors, mirroring the warmth and vibrant energy of its people.” Zero Compromise, a two-day wine festival dedicated to natural wine, will be held in May. Also in May, the New Wine Festival brings vintners from around the country to Tbilisi. “Long walks in a cobbled maze of balconied neighborhoods offer opportunities to stumble on art nouveau urban architecture and layers of complex history,” Berulava says of Tbilisi. “Indulge in Georgian cuisine, sit in outdoor cafes, slowly sipping wine.”
Where to Stay: Rooms Tbilisi is located in the Vera district, with 122 rooms and suites the hotel’s website calls “industrial chic.”
Oxford, United Kingdom
About 60 miles northwest of London, Oxford is home to the University of Oxford, the oldest university in the English-speaking world, dating back as early as 1096. “With its impressive historic buildings, ancient lanes, riverside walks, and timeless beauty, Oxford has been featured in many movies. Come in May, and you’ll also find cutting-edge culture, excellent and eclectic food, great shopping, and a host of springtime celebrations,” Lesley Wright of Experience Oxfordshire told T+L. We recommend adding the Museum of Oxford, Oxford Castle and Prison, and the many filming locations featured in Harry Potter and Downton Abbey to your itinerary.
Where to Stay: Set to open in April 2024 in the heart of Oxford, The Store is a boutique hotel located in a historic building that was once a family-owned department store.
The shoulder season month of May is a great time to visit St. Lucia thanks to dry weather with temperatures in the 80s. Visitors can try the island’s delicious cuisine, zipline across the forest canopy, swim in the hot springs, lounge on gorgeous palm-lined beaches, and hike along the Pitons, dramatic volcanic mountains that are recognized as a World Heritage Site. The St. Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival (April 30-May 12) presents international and local musicians representing a wide range of genres.
Where to Stay: St. Lucia’s best all-inclusive resorts make vacation planning easy. Wellness resort BodyHoliday offers a variety of spa treatments and wellness experiences, while Jade Mountain offers stunning views of the Pitons from private, in-room infinity pools.
Located on the Caribbean Sea, Belize is made up of 450 islands and a mainland area with rainforests and mountains. May is warm and dry, an ideal time for diving in the Belize Barrier Reef, the second largest coral reef in the world, or in the famous Blue Hole, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Snorkelers will enjoy a boat trip to Hol Chan Marine Reserve to swim among tropical fish, sharks, rays, and sea turtles. From May 17-19, visitors can check out the annual Chocolate Festival in southern Belize.
Where to Stay: I stayed at Alaia Belize on Ambergris Caye and appreciated the great staff, tasty food, and convenient location steps from San Pedro. For something a little more secluded, Cayo Espanto is an all-inclusive private island resort with seven villas.
There’s still a chill in the air in Ireland, but May is one of Dublin’s driest months, so it’s a good time to pack a jacket and enjoy the city before summer crowds (and higher prices) arrive. Go for a stroll through expansive Phoenix Park or centrally located St. Stephen’s Green, visit Trinity College to see the famous Book of Kells, and learn about Irish history at the National Museum of Ireland and Kilmainham Gaol. Don’t miss the music, fun, and friendly atmosphere of Dublin’s pubs, and learn to pour a proper pint at the Guinness Storehouse before you enjoy 360-degree views of the city from the Gravity Bar.
Where to Stay: The Shelbourne, celebrating its 200th anniversary in 2024, was voted one of the top Dublin hotels in the 2023 World’s Best Awards. Throughout its storied past, the hotel has hosted iconic guests including John Wayne, Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and Grace Kelly. The Leinster is scheduled to open on Merrion Square this February with a Jean-Georges rooftop restaurant.
Located in southwestern Germany in the Black Forest, Baden-Baden is known for its world-famous spa culture and abundance of natural thermal springs. Caracalla Therme and Friedrichsbad Spa are among the best-known bathhouses, located at the site of original Roman baths dating back 2,000 years. In May, the Spring Meeting opens the horse racing season, welcoming thoroughbreds from around the world for three days of events. The opulent Baden-Baden Casino, Germany’s oldest casino, is also worth a stop.
Where to Stay: Roomers Baden-Baden, Autograph Collection features a rooftop terrace, outdoor pool, spa, and gym.
Balearic Islands, Spain
Located in the western Mediterranean Sea, the Balearic Islands offer a mild climate year-round, but May is the best time to enjoy warm weather with fewer visitors. Ibiza is lively in summer, but in May you can enjoy quieter visits to markets, beaches, and the hillside town of Dalt Vila. Menorca offers a more low-key atmosphere, Mallorca is the largest of the islands with lots to see and do, and Formentera, the smallest of the inhabited islands, treasures its natural beauty. Whether you’re after nightlife, water sports, quaint towns, or a tranquil escape, you can find your perfect spring vacation in the Balearic Islands.
Where to Stay: In Menorca, Villa Le Blanc offers beautiful Mediterranean views and a Thai-inspired spa. In Mallorca, the adults-only Hotel de Mar and Zafiro Palace Andratx are five-star options. In Ibiza, Ibiza Gran Hotel offers an array of wellness experiences and Michelin-starred La Gaia by Óscar Molina.