Celebrate Earth's Bounty with These April Travel Ideas
Earth Day and 4/20 mean it's time to get weird with Mother Nature.
We have made it to the fourth month of the year, the one we kick off by fooling acquaintances for sport. A warning to our readers: Watch out for tricksters in the travel realm. Like the time WestJet toyed with our hearts by introducing the #FurryFamily program, which allowed all animals on board (that fit), or when Google Maps launched Treasure Mode, because when it comes to finding buried gold, hope springs eternal.
But you know who would never try to dupe us? The lady herself, Mother Nature. We celebrate her every April on Earth Day, during National Park Week (April 22 to 30), and especially on 4/20. So breathe deeply and waft into spring with a full slate of travel ideas and virtual events. Explore the expanse of (inter)national parks, treat yourself to an early summer in Cape Cod, eat your way through Mexico City, and celebrate the 50th anniversary of hip hop. Take up birdwatching, get lyrical for National Poetry Month, or find a beach to call your own. All this, plus gorgeous spring weather? April is about to be lit (pun intended).
Hike around the world
During the pandemic, you may have gotten well acquainted with our nation’s national parks. And you wouldn’t be the only one: Visitation exploded, to the point where trails were congested and wait times to get in often took hours, especially in the big, popular guys like Yellowstone and Zion. To highlight underserved parks last year, we brought you National Parks Uncovered, featuring gems like the almost entirely underwater Biscayne National Park in Florida and the gurgling volcanoes of California’s Lassen National Park. And if you fell in love with America’s Best Idea, we also provided blueprints for becoming a park ranger (if you made it, send us a postcard).
This year, like Pitbull, we’re going worldwide. In March we launched (Inter)National Parks, our guide to breathtaking parks from Japan to Botswana to Chile. Some parks are close by, like Baths National Park in the British Virgin Islands, while others seem like far off worlds, like Hallasan National Park in South Korea (seriously, check out the pictures). But none are inaccessible to the real explorers at heart. We’ve also included park tour recommendations, tips for renting a car overseas, and expert-sourced packing lists for all terrains, plus how to take incredible photos with just an iPhone so you can preserve your memories forever.
Visit a US Park that feels international
Say you want the feel of an international national park but, perhaps, haven’t gotten around to renewing your passport? We’ve got you. A large portion of the island of St. John makes up the US Virgin Islands National Park, with white sand beaches, coral reefs, historic sites, and Indigenous petroglyphs. While there, consider staying at Cinnamon Bay Campground, a great jumping-off point for adventures located right within the park. Choose your own level of roughing it, from a glamping-style eco tent to bringing your own accommodations and sleeping under the stars.
Or maybe you’d like something a little more metropolitan alongside your nature. Try the least-trafficked of the Virgin Islands, St. Croix. Here you can swim, snorkel, shop, eat, and sleep in gorgeous accommodations like King Christian Hotel or cliffside Waves Cane Bay. With private oceanside patios, you can listen to the waves crash below as you sleep. And if it gets too muggy, the 11 suites are all air-conditioned.
Summer in Cape Cod… but make it spring
We know what you’re thinking: Hey, it’s still pretty early in the year, is it even possible to summer like the Kennedys? But traveling to Cape Cod in the off-season has its perks: During this time, the New England island destination boasts milder weather, reduced rates at hotels, less traffic, fewer crowds, and way more friendly nods from locals. It turns out there’s also a lot to do in the high-50-degree weather—namely, activities you might not get around to when summer’s heat is calling your name.
Mid-April marks the start of Cape Cod’s whale watching season, when humpbacks return for summer feeding. Admire blooming crocuses at Heritage Museums & Gardens, bike the scenic Cape Cod Rail Trail, visit the JFK Hyannis Museum, explore the galleries of Provincetown, or take a road trip through the Mid-Cape Highway. Should you need a place to stay, the pristine, once-seasonal Wequassett Resort & Golf Club is now open year-round.
Celebrate the 50th anniversary of hip hop
As far as it can be pinpointed, hip hop was born on August 11, 1973, during a back to school party at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in the Morris Heights neighborhood of the Bronx. The party was thrown by Cindy Campbell and her 16 year old brother Clive, AKA DJ Kool Herc (nicknamed Hercules by his classmates, as he had an affinity for weightlifting).
Using two trusty turntables and a mixer, graffiti artist Herc isolated the percussive “breaks” that would accidentally and fortuitously become the backdrop for rapping, originating a musical style and spurring a movement that's spanned five decades and is still going strong, inspiring regional styles not just beyond New York's borders, but the US's. Throughout 2023 you’ll find tributes, and you can take your pick on where to pay homage, from Atlanta to Houston to Memphis to Los Angeles, but we’d recommend starting in its birthplace. The Universal Hip Hop Museum in the Bronx opens later this year, but inside the Bronx Terminal Market you’ll find the [R]Evolution of Hip Hop pop-up exhibit, giving you a taste of what’s to come. Then head down to Manhattan to Fotografiska, a museum where Hip-Hop: Conscious, Unconscious traces the genre’s lineage and cultural impact through dynamic photographs, While you’re there, check out their lineup of events relating to the exhibition, and just for fun, the excellent Loft Comedy show, as tickets include museum admission.
At the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), you’ll find Fresh, Fly and Fabulous, Fifty Years of Hip Hop Style, an impressive free exhibit on sartorial choices, with artifacts from Dapper Dan’s bomber jackets to Rihanna’s Pumas to originators like FUBU, Rocawear, Phat Farm, and Baby Phat. Later, swing by Adam Yauch Park in Downtown Brooklyn, named for the peace-loving Beastie Boy, stroll past Weinstein Hall, the NYU dorm where producer Rick Rubin founded Def Jam, hit the legendary Apollo Theater in Harlem, which launched careers like Biz Markie and Lauryn Hill, and sure, hit Jay Z’s 40/40 Club—if you can get in, that is.
Spend spring break in Mexico City
They say the best time to visit this ancient city is between March and May, when it’s not too chilly, too hot, or too rainy. Once in CDMX, it’s imperative that you center your days around food: For a curbside snack, check out Jenni’s Street Quesadilla in Roma Norte and load up on fresh blue corn tortillas stuffed with squash blossoms.
When night falls, head to Imbiss to sludge down whiskey-infused bone marrow. Enjoy hot-from-the-fryer churros alongside a chilled chocolate bev any time of day at Churrería el Moro. Then walk it all off. The violet-hued Jacaranda trees will be in full bloom, so make sure you pay a visit to Chapultepec Park to bask in their glory. For a little entertainment, see L’Imperatrice and Rosalía perform at the Axe Ceremonia Music Festival (April 1–2). And if you’re in need of some cinematic inspo before your trip even begins, be sure to catch Alejandro González Iñáritu’s Oscar-nominated Bardo, which trains the lens on some of Mexico City’s most famous sites.
Have one more fling with winter
Sunlight has been stretching farther into the evening and that’s great, but maybe you’re not quite ready for the warm weather that will eventually come along with it. Never fear, or you, there’s still opportunities to play in the snow. HillFest (April 7–9) in Eden, Utah, is a 3-day snowmobile hill-climbing race where snowmobiles, well, race uphill. There’s also a live music festival, with chill bands like the California Honeydrops and Dead Floyd, a Grateful Dead-meets-Pink Floyd cover band.
The racing is done by professionals like the decorated Keith Curtis, but the slopes of Powder Mountain—North America’s largest ski resort, apparently—will also be open for civilian skiing and snowboarding. Plus, there’s a downtown with wooden facades from the 1890s to explore, and the whole thing’s just about an hour’s drive from Salt Lake City. Stream the snowmobile races online if you’re stuck at home, and if you can’t get enough, there are more to watch the following weekend in Garden City—that one’s called the Beaver Mountain Bash.
Get inspired in Dallas
April is Dallas Arts Month, and that means lots of happenings in the Downtown Arts District. Check out the Dallas Art Fair (April 20–23) showcasing a selection of modern and contemporary works, or join in on the Arts District Block Party to watch enormous illuminated animals roam the streets. Dallas International Film Festival also returns April 28 through May 5 to screen the best narrative and documentary features and short films from around the world. But if festivals aren’t your thing, now’s a good reminder to check out the Octavio Medellín exhibit at the Dallas Museum of Art, or Black Cowboys: An American Story at the African American Museum of Dallas.
Another reason to visit Dallas this month? Your chance to cut in on the Big Dance—the Women’s NCAA Final Four is coming to the American Airlines Center (just a stone’s throw from the Arts District), from March 31 through April 2. Future stars of the WNBA will be storming the court in an attempt to make—or, perhaps, repeat—history. Hit related events around town, namely the free Super Saturday Concert at AT&T Discovery District (surprise headliner TBA), Parties on the Plaza before each game (a red carpet will be involved, so make sure to wear your finest Jordans), and Tourney Town inside the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, the beating heart of the fan zone stocked with food and drink, live entertainment, games, and expert talks about empowering women and girls through sport. Book a room right in the thick of it, with plush nearby accommodations including the Sheraton Dallas Hotel, AC Hotel, and the Adolphus, a historic Beaux-Arts gem originally built for Anheuser-Busch’s Adolphus Busch back in 1912. You heard it here first: There’s never been a better time to travel for sports.
Head to Western Australia to witness an astronomical marvel
On April 20, the shadow of the moon will move across the face of the sun over Australia’s coastal Ningaloo coast, a World Heritage Site famous for its coral reefs–one of the longest near-coast reefs in the world, with underground caves on land a favorite meeting spot for whale sharks in the ocean. But it's the small resort town of Exmouth, jumping off point for water activities and hiking in Cape Range National Park, that will fall in the path of totality, allowing the sun to completely obscure the moon for a powerful 62 seconds.
If that minute of celestial splendor (and the rugged outdoors) isn’t enough reason to make the voyage, perhaps the Dark Sky Festival (April 14–25) is. The program’s starry-themed experiences include eclipse concerts, astronomy-led photography lessons, outdoor films, seafood barbecues, and Aboriginal art workshops. The event also coincides with the start of whale shark season in Ningaloo, when you’ll be able to spot the gentle giants on a daily basis. And if you’re brave enough, you can even swim with them.
Say thanks to the Earth
There’s never a bad time to embrace your inner Greta, but it’s especially welcome to do so on April 22, better known as Earth Day. If you’re looking for a way to pitch in, or simply learn more about our planet on this and every day, find an initiative near you at Earthday.org, which lists things like foraging walks, online seminars, tree-planting projects, and The Great Global Cleanup, where you can join a group cleaning up somewhere nearby, or get tips on how to launch one of your own. They even have something called “plogging,” which is apparently picking up trash while jogging. Fun to do (if you like jogging) and fun to say.
Elsewhere, consider catching the Yanomami exhibit in New York (now through April 16), focused on preserving rainforest and Indigenous rights, or take a stroll through downtown Columbus, Ohip to check out climate-focused art installations displayed in storefront windows. Support organic ingredients at your nearest farmer’s market (and collect your goods with a reusable bag), or make that new vegan restaurant your next haunt. It’s all about being consistent by implementing tiny, greener habits.
Explore some cannabis-friendly spots
Another way to say thanks to the earth? Enjoying her great bounty. Yes, we’ve arrived at 4/20. And we’ve got a bunch of suggestions on how to celebrate, from the best stoner movies on Netflix to the best countries in the world to smoke. And much, much more, including the best dispensaries in your favorite cities and how to smoke without annoying your neighbors. That’s important. Feeling a little DIY? We’ve got the best pot brownie recipe, and instructions for cannabis tea. Oooooh, and salted mocha caramels. Not to mention hot pot.
This year’s 420 on the Rocks concert happens a couple days after on April 22, which… seems about right. At the Red Rocks Rocks Amphitheater near Denver, Wiz Khalifa and Joey Bada$$ headline a roster that includes Action Bronson, Marlon Kraft, and Chevy Woods. If you’re less about music and more about looking for some psychedelic landscapes to enhance the experience, try the swirly, sherbet-hued Vermilion Cliffs of Arizona, or the red rock vortexes of Sedona. Or heck, the Grand Canyon. Happy celebrating.
Jessica Sulima is a staff writer on the Travel team at Thrillist.