yunque national rainforest puerto rico
Now's the time to visit El Yunque, the only tropical rainforest in the US. | Cavan Images/Cavan/Getty Images
Now's the time to visit El Yunque, the only tropical rainforest in the US. | Cavan Images/Cavan/Getty Images

Spin Right Round Into Spring with These Travel Ideas

From Pi Day to St. Patrick’s Day, plus one frozen dead guy.

Like the ladies we celebrate this Women’s History Month, March never divulges her secrets. Will we plunge headfirst into a pleasant spring this March 20? Or will winter linger on? What we do know is that there is much to celebrate this month, no matter the temperature, including St. Patrick’s Day, Holi, spring break, and, sure, National Peanut Butter Lover’s Day, all sandwiched between February and April.

We’ve got wildflowers to sniff, frozen dead guys to celebrate, and Spanish beaches on which to bask. There are food festivals, a film about Cheetos at SXSW, and a new way to explore Puerto Rico. So join us as we march into March. And don’t forget to have a pie handy, or at least a round vessel filled with liquid—as math enthusiasts and dessert lovers will both remind you, March 14 is Pi Day.

Tip your hat to pioneering women

First thing’s first: It’s Women’s History Month. And one of the best ways to pay homage is to take a second look at familiar sites that you might not have known were transformed by the fairer sex. At Acadia National Park in Maine, for example, pay attention to the carriage roads designed by Beatrix Farrand, one of the first female landscape architects in the US. Or, if you plan to walk the Brooklyn Bridge this month, remember Emily Warren Roebling, who covertly led the completion of the bridge when her husband fell ill.

Celebrate the accomplishments of one of the nation’s most celebrated spies at the Harriet Tubman Museum & Educational Center in Cambridge, Maryland; visit the outdoor memorial at the Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Park in Richmond, California; or the head to the Women’s Rights National Historical Park in Seneca Falls, New York, where 300 women gathered to produce a declaration of rights for American women in 1848. And, most importantly, don’t forget to call your mom.

Get inspired in Amsterdam

March is a great month to hop over to Amsterdam—a time to enjoy milder weather, less crowds, and an early start to strawberry season. The month also marks the annual re-opening of the Keukenhof Tulip Garden, where you can immerse yourself in daffodils, hyacinths, and baby tulip blossoms. Every fall, the garden plants more than 7 million flower bulbs so that, come spring, the crocuses unveil before your eyes. For more floral sightings, head to Bloesempark, where 400 cherry blossom trees will begin their annual bloom.

You’ll also be able to catch some art and culture festivals in and around the city, like Roze Filmdagen, the longest running and largest LGBTQ+ film festival in the Netherlands, and international art fair TEFAF, taking place in nearby Maastricht (March 11–19). Window shop for Old Master-style paintings and antiques, as well as some modern and contemporary art and jewelry. And don’t miss The Amsterdam Coffee Festival (March 30–April 1), which celebrates Amsterdam’s vibrant coffee scene with everything from a Roast Masters tournament to latte art demonstrations.

See the sun rise during the spring equinox

Spring equinox marks the moment in which the sun moves north across the celestial equator, giving the world an equal amount of day and night. And it just so happens to occur around March 21 in the northern hemisphere.

You can bet there will be celebrations galore, spanning North America to Asia, and some with a visual accompaniment. At Yucatan, Mexico's UNESCO World Heritage Site Chichen Itza, witness the phenomenon of Mayan deity Kukulcan’s snake-like shadow descending the staircase of El Castillo (Kukulcán Pyramid). Across the pond, join the druids and pagans that gather at Stonehenge during early morning hours to witness the sun rise above the stones. Experience similar sun spectacles at the 402-acre Angkor Wat Temple complex in Cambodia, or over at the megalithic Mnajdra Temple in Malta. With all that sun, just remember to pack sunscreen.

Sample your way through San Sebastián

You know where would be ideal to spend the spring equinox? The Spanish coastal city of San Sebastián. It was once a favorite of Queen María Cristina, which means it’s probably something you would like as well. From stretches of easily accessible beaches to tasty, affordable pintxos to medieval ruins, nothing is too far out of reach, including the city itself—it’s just a five-hour train ride from Madrid.

While you’re there, step back in time at vintage amusement park Mount Igueldo, built in 1912 and designated a landmark in 2014. Travel to it via funicular, a 1912 wooden structure fit with the original vehicles (with some strategic updates, of course), to find 20 mountain top attractions including a mysterious river, a roller coaster, a canopy walk, and a house of terror. And when you’re done with that, simply sit back and enjoy the breathtaking views.

Say an “Irish hello” for a change

Sure, you could fly to Dublin and get down with the St. Patrick’s Day festivities in the Irish capital, but nobody does it better than the good ol’ US of A. Heck, we invented the celebration as we know it today. America held its first St. Patrick’s Day parade in 1762 in New York, while the Emerald Isle didn’t have its first one until 1903.

Today, in addition to New York’s events, we have parades going all out in Chicago (March 11), New Orleans (March 12), San Antonio (March 18—a river parade!), Boston (March 19), Philadelphia (March 12), Atlanta (March 11), and Savannah (March 17). Fun fact: Savannah, Georgia was actually the first city to dye their river green, but it didn’t quite work, so now they dye their fountains instead.

And for a taste of Dublin without the passport stamp, try Dublin, Ohio, (tagline: Irish Is an Attitude). With a population just shy of 50,000, March 11’s festivities—like a pancake breakfast and float balloon inflation celebration—are small enough to feel intimate, while the subsequent parade is large enough to feel like there’s some actual revelry going on. While you’re there, check out the Celtic Cocktail Trail and the Link, a pedestrian bridge connecting the historic downtown to Bridge Park, both part of Dublin’s DORA (Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area), where sipping adult beverages and strolling are allowed during designated times. Hey! Just like Ireland. (Or Savannah.)

Eat and drink your way through Charleston

Charleston might be known for its old-school Southern cuisine, but the richly historic South Carolina mainstay’s culinary offerings extend way beyond she-crab soup. At Charleston Wine + Food (March 1–5), you’ll learn about what makes the city a proper food destination, tasting local flavors while also mingling with chefs and winemakers from around the globe. Take part in a hip hop-inspired Cognac workshop, enjoy a Kamayan-inspired dinner, or stop by the (free) City of Charleston Wine + Food Street Fest.

If festivals aren’t your thing, take off on your own exploring the city’s diverse food scene, which draws on influences from Europe, West Africa, and the West Indies. The Quinte, a newly opened oyster bar, will get you a taste of that distinctly Charleston, ultra-fresh seafood. Vern’s, helmed by James Beard Award-semifinalist Daniel “Dano” Heinze, applies a Californian approach to local Lowcountry provisions. And if it’s a classic spot you’re after, you can’t beat Rodney Scott’s BBQ for pit-cooked whole hogs that define the region’s barbecue.

Wake up and smell the wildflowers (but mind your allergies)

Poppies are already beginning to bloom, and they say California could see a veritable superbloom this year. So pop those Zyrtecs and make your way to some natural beauty, keeping in mind the rules of preservation. We want to admire, not destroy.

So where should you go to bask in floral splendor? Well, California is always a good bet, especially with all the rainfall this year. Look for forthcoming blooms at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in eastern San Diego, which is already seeing patches of flowers, and the Carlsbad Flower Fields in north San Diego. And then there’s the famous Antelope Valley Poppy Preserve, which has its own live cam so you can know the exact moment the petals appear.

Elsewhere, Chappell Hill, Texas, is bluebonnet central, and the cherry blossoms are all the rage at The National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, DC, from March 20 to April 17. It features events that honor both American and Japanese traditions, plus sculptures of flowers, which is a great alternative should the real deal make you a little too stuffy.

Party with the cryogenically frozen in Colorado

Seems they’ll celebrate anything in Colorado—including the cryogenically frozen Grandpa Bredo Morstoel, who died of a heart attack in Norway (so the story goes) in 1989. He was transported to a cryonics facility in California by his daughter and grandson, both advocates of cryogenics, where he was stored in liquid nitrogen. He was then brought to stay with them in Colorado, and is now the reason it’s illegal in Nederland to store a dead guy on your property.

The son was deported, the daughter evicted (details get murky here), but Grandpa Bredo was grandfathered in, as it were, and is currently kept inside a Tuff shed on a bed of dry ice replenished every so often by an iceman named Brad. And since 2002, the community has honored him with the Frozen Dead Guy Days festival (March 17–19), a morbidly rambunctious weekend of coffin races (BYOC), a hearse parade, frozen t-shirt contest, costumed polar plunge, human foosball, bands, and a brain freeze contest where you slurp down icy slushies. This year, in the festival's new location of Estes Park, they’ve also added roaming circus acts and a deadman fashion show. Might we suggest some frozen hairstyles?

See what’s new at South by Southwest

We may still be mourning HBO’s unceremonious plug-pulling of Los Espookys, but soon there will be another chance to witness the brilliance of creator Julio Torres. His film Problemista—following a toy designer from El Salvador making a life for himself in New York City, and co-starring Tilda Swinton—premieres this March at South by Southwest, along with films like the Eva Longoria-directed Flamin’ Hot, about the janitor-turned-inventor of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, and Cora Bora, starring Meg Stalter and Manny Jacinto.

See them plus many more when the 10-day extravaganza of music, film, and tech once again takes over Austin. If you’re not able to be there in person, you can pick up an online pass for access to all streaming programming. But if you do make it down, we’ve got the best places to eat near the fest—because, trust us, you do not want to hit it on an empty stomach. And don’t forget Black-owned businesses to patronize, the hottest spots to drink, craft breweries, donut shops, and some delicious-sounding vegan ice-cream.

Explore Puerto Rico on foot

Here’s the thing: We have to consider the fact that perhaps the groundhog was right, and we still have some time to go before the weather is consistently pleasant. Which is why March is an ideal time to head to Puerto Rico. Not only are there pristine beaches, delicious restaurants, bustling cities, and incredible culture, but also the only tropical rainforest in the US. And within it all, a new backpacking trail.

Yes, it’s the El Yunque rainforest’s time to shine, after necessary reforesting in the wake of hurricanes Irma and Maria. (This January also marks the one-year anniversary of the new visitor center, which was closed for four years.) And one particularly spectacular way to explore is the NorEste Trail, which follows the Corredor Ecológico del Noreste, or Northeast Ecological Corridor Natural Reserve. Biologically diverse, it stretches from the Cabezas de San Juan Nature Reserve in Fajardo—which envelopes coral reefs, mangroves, and a bioluminescent bay—to the top of El Yunque. Along the trail, you’ll also pass beaches and sea turtle nesting grounds. And though according to National Geographic, the trail is only 90% finished, what is done is ready to receive hikers right now. What are you waiting for?

Partake in “National Take a Walk in the Park Day”

Sure, March 30’s holiday might be fake, but it’s an excellent way to be reminded of a totally free, yet markedly beneficial human activity. And you can spend it however you’d like. Take a little extra time roaming around your nearest patch of green, or think big: Use that PTO and explore the national park you’ve been meaning to check out, see your city from a new vantage point, or ride a new coaster at your favorite theme park (that counts, right?). If all else fails, there are always state parks and city parks. Grab your four-legged friend, pop on a podcast, and get those steps in.

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Vanita Salisbury is Thrillist's Senior Travel Writer. 
Jessica Sulima is a staff writer on the Travel team at Thrillist.