red rocks
Catch a concert at the Red Rocks amphitheater. | Radomir Rezny/Shutterstock
Catch a concert at the Red Rocks amphitheater. | Radomir Rezny/Shutterstock

Travel Ideas to Help You Re-Emerge Into Society This Month

Just like billions of cicadas, vaccinated Americans are surfacing.

NOTE: We know COVID-19 is continuing to impact your travel plans. As of April 2021, official guidance from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention states that fully vaccinated people can travel at low risk, though safety precautions are still required. Should you need to travel, be sure to familiarize yourself with the CDC's latest guidance as well as local requirements/protocols/restrictions for both your destination and home city upon your return. Be safe out there.

May has always been a month of transitions, when the pleasant chill of spring gives way to long, lazy summer nights, when school lets out and Memorial Day kickstarts the season of raucous boat parties and beach town boardwalks. Nature is also fully up and at 'em, including our very chatty cicada friends who have returned this year after 17 years underground.  

Vaccinated Americans are also re-emerging this month as we figure out how to exist around other humans again. If you’re ready to cautiously dip your toes back into the realm of restaurants, concerts, theaters, and travel, we’ve got some ideas for places to visit. But we’re not fully out of the woods yet, so if you’d rather stay inside and stream a concert then hey, we’ve got you there, too. And if you’re already mid-flight to newly-opened Iceland or Croatia, just remember to be extra safe, and please send us a postcard.

Celebrate our architectural icons 

The Empire State Building turns 90 this month, and our Art Deco gal is celebrating in style. Visitors can sign up for a VIP “90 in 90” tour: 90 years of history in 90 minutes, with plenty of behind-the-scenes access. 

And if New York is a little far, why not celebrate the architectural icons in your neck of the woods? Be DJ Tanner at the Painted Ladies in San Francisco, or daydream about old Hollywood in Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House in Los Angeles. Maybe get a little whimsical with the Doullut Steamboat Houses in New Orleans or the historic “witch house” in Beverly Hills. Check out Albert Kahn’s Art Deco Fisher Building in Detroit, or take a tour through the unexpected mid-century modern hub of Columbus, Indiana. And if you’re in Connecticut, see a transformation in process with a floating Marcel Breuer building which will reopen as an ultra-sustainable hotel this fall. You can say you knew it when.

Get the summer vibes started at a drive-in theater

It’s the much anticipated Summer of the Drive-In Part 2, and you can keep this nostalgia gravy train going at one of the drive-in theaters around New YorkLas Vegas, Atlanta, DC, San Diego, and PhillyYou’ve also got your giant peach projector in Monetta, with the season opening mid-May, or the classic cars of 99W in Newburg, Oregon, in operation since 1954. And you’ve got five—count ‘em, five!—screens at the Ford Drive-In in Dearborn, Michigan, the largest in the country, whose movies currently include Godzilla vs. Kong and Mortal Kombat.  Stick your head through your sunroof and go to town on some popcorn why dontcha.

Take a star shower 

Call it Meteor May because this month marks the return of excellent stargazing weather and some very cool celestial sights. We’re plowing through debris left over by Halley’s Comet, which creates the Eta Aquarid meteor shower. The peak is May 5th, with as many as 40 meteors per hour under dark skies in the early hours of May 6. But if you *checks watch* missed the main event, don’t fret because the shower can be seen all month, and you’ll also have a shot at seeing Venus and ever-elusive Mercury. (Intrigued but also confused? Check out our guide to stargazing for beginners.)

Dance with wolves

Wolves only have one litter per year and you guessed it —it happens in spring. Which means there are currently wolf pups roaming around our great land, practicing their howls and causing an adorable ruckus. You’ll find two at the Richmond Zoo, their first litter ever, or in Colorado, you can treat your wildlife-enthusiast mom to a wolf tour at the Wolf and Wildlife center’s Mother’s Day event.

Alternatively, go looking for some wolves in our National Parks. Your best bets are in Wyoming, where you can take a wildlife-viewing safari with Eco Tour Adventures in Grand Teton; or visit Yellowstone, where eight wolf packs currently roam after being reintroduced to the population in 1995. To see them and their pups, stay north, or just look for any orange traffic cones.

See some live music (finally)... 

Speaking of Wyoming, the Terry Bison Ranch has teamed up with concert promoters AEG for live shows on their grounds all summer long. The concert series kicks off May 7th with genres spanning from bluegrass and rock to electronica. They're also hosting drive-in movies and drive-in concerts, which we guess is similar to listening to music in your car, but like, louder. 

Outside of Denver, the iconic Red Rocks amphitheater has reopened just in time to celebrate its 80-year anniversary. One of the most unforgettable places to see a show, this month you can catch sets by Diplo, Southern rockers Lucero, and the music of John Williams by the Colorado Symphony. The Jurassic Park soundtrack bouncing off the ancient rocks where dinosaurs actually roamed? Sign us up. (And if you happen to be in the area and in the mood for hops, a new spa just opened up where you can literally soak in beer.)

But if you’d rather stick to your living room, that’s cool too

There’s plenty of streaming shows happening in May, should you enjoy your rock from the comfort of your couch. On Saturday, May 8th, catch Jennifer Lopez, Foo Fighters, Eddie Vedder, H.E.R. and more for VAX LIVE: The Concert to Reunite the World (apparently Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are also making appearances).

If you forgot to get mom something for Mother’s Day, perhaps she’d like some tickets to Dionne Warwick, who streams two shows on Sunday. And mark your calendars for May 22nd, when there’s an acoustic set by Band of Horses, a celebration of Bob Dylan’s 80th birthday by Patti Smith and bandmate Tony Shanahan, and the streaming Glastonbury Festival, “Live at Worthy Farm,” with performances by Damon Albarn, Haim, Coldplay, Idles, Michael Kiwanuka, Wolf Alice, and more.

Rollercoasters by the shore at Cedar Point Amusement Park. | Joe Hendrickson/Shutterstock

Amuse yourself at a lesser-known amusement park 

Sure, sure, Disney World is open and so is Disneyland for California residents. But why not take this opportunity to skip the crowds and discover a few sleeper hits? Like, have you ever seen Colorado’s Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park? It sits on a mountaintop so when you’re on a coaster or the Giant Canyon Swing (!)  you’re actually dangling 7,160 feet above sea level with ridiculous views. The park also has caves which you can tour and, more importantly, an underground ride called the Haunted Mine Drop.  

With 18 coasters right on the shores of Lake Erie, Cedar Point in Ohio bills itself as the Roller Coaster Capital of the World (they also have pedicab boardwalk wine tours for those of us who enjoy our thrills in liquid form). The 125-acre Valley Fair in Minnesota opens May 22nd. And if you got the Moderna vaccine, pay homage to Dolly Parton at Dollywood, now officially open for all the country music lovers out there.

Dip a toe into overseas travel 

There are plenty of good reasons to stay close to home right now. But if you’re fully vaccinated (+ two weeks!) and rearing to go, a handful of countries have opened their doors. Perhaps you want to dive the Great Blue Hole in Belize, languish contentedly in the spectacular national parks in Croatia, or plunge into the lagoons of Iceland

Or, strike several bucket-list items off with a double-hit to Ecuador and its Galapagos islands. Hang with giant ancient turtles, swim with equatorial penguins, and climb Chimborazo, the highest summit in Ecuador and the closest point to the sun on earth. And when you’re done, hit up some natural hot springs in the town of Baños.

Or stick around and check out an underrated domestic island 

If you’re sticking stateside you can still find your Island in the Sun. Perhaps even one that tourists haven’t yet swarmed. Like the blissful beaches of Tybee Island off the coast of Georgia, just 20 minutes away from Savannah. Or the Channel Islands off of California, which have been called the “Galapagos of the North” for their natural beauty and diverse wildlife. Harness the Wild West in Utah’s Antelope Island State Park, which has no permanent human residents, but is home to bison, bighorn sheep, coyotes, bobcats, and pronghorn antelope. Or take a ferry across the harrowing strait known as “Death’s Door” for a cozy cottage getaway on Wisconsin’s Washington island. Meanwhile Block Island in Rhode Island is all New England charm, with the recently-renovated Champlin’s Marina & Resort boasting a double-decker over-the-water bar. A bar. What’s that like?

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Vanita Salisbury is Thrillist's Senior Travel Writer. She's never met an island she didn't love.