There’s much to celebrate this month, not least of all the end of another school year. As such, destinations kick into high gear as crowds young and old seek out the best places to spend their long-awaited summer vacation.
Blame it on the heat, the sunshine, or the fact that picnic-in-the-park season is in full swing, but summer, for many, exudes an air of romance. Come June, the allure of Venice is irresistible: gondola rides down glittering canals, afternoon coffee breaks at sidewalk cafés, endless gelato between art galleries. You’ll find just as much magic in what some have dubbed the Venice of the North, Stockholm, where locals emerge from hibernation to don flower crowns and usher in the solstice. Meanwhile, summer in tropical Kaua’i—a Hawaiian fantasyland of cascading waterfalls, impenetrable rain forests, and rugged coastlines with some of the best beaches in the world as well as some of the best sunsets—is as beautiful as it gets.
But Kaua’i isn’t just for lovers; it’s also a favorite destination for families, especially in June. Now that school’s out, multi-gen vacationers make a beeline for its pools, surf, and laid-back lifestyle. Closer to home, Boston is another crowd-pleaser. Whether you’re looking to catch a ball game at Fenway Park, take in some history by the harbor, or shop to your heart’s content on Newbury Street, Beantown offers something for every age and interest. This year, the National Park Service celebrates its centennial, and parks nationwide—including those in Colorado—are welcoming a record number of visitors with newfound interest in their pristine landscapes.
However, just because June is widely considered the best time of year to visit many destinations doesn’t mean you can’t score a good deal. Frequent thunderstorms and humidity keep a lot of would-be visitors away from places like Cuba and Bangkok—but those that do have a better chance of finding better hotel rates and thinner crowds. The same goes for Beijing, one of the cheapest places to travel anywhere all month.
Whether you seeking the sun—and the crowds—or looking to escape them, these are the places to go to ring in the summer season. Trying to make plans for April, May, or the rest of the year? We’ve got you covered.
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There is no wrong time to visit Kaua’i, the oldest and lushest of all the Hawaiian Islands. Travel + Leisure readers consider it one of the world’s best islands, and why not? The timeless honeymoon spot is home to breathtaking scenery and a perpetually warm, tropical climate, while even its rainy winter season brings humpback whale sightings galore. Come June, rates plummet, temperatures are near-perfect, and the surf is the calmest it’s been all year—ideal conditions for leisurely boat tours of the north shore’s rugged Na Pali coast, swimming in Hanalei Bay, or taking in the dramatic cliffs and valleys of the Waimea Canyon, the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. Families love the Grand Hyatt Kauai, spread across 52 acres on the south shore, for its countless pools and position along Shipswreck Beach, while many couples prefer the quieter, sophisticated nature of the St. Regis Princeville on the north shore.
After joining two separate free walking tours in Stockholm and staying in artsy Story Hotel’s single twin room, it was clear this stylish Swedish city has a gift for attracting single travelers—especially women. The cobblestoned streets of Old Town, or Gamla Stan, with coffee shops, restaurants, stores, and even a castle, provided hours of endless adventures, while the modern areas surrounding it are easy to navigate through its string of metro stations, which double as art exhibits. And the hospitality caters toward solo females I was doted on by the wait staff at the Riche restaurant as I indulged in—what else? —Swedish meatballs.
Cuba was Travel + Leisure’s destination of the year in 2015, but the hype isn’t over yet. President Obama’s historic visit in March, which marked the first time a U.S. president walked on Cuban soil in 88 years, was just a prelude for all that’s to come for this once closed-off Caribbean isle. Direct service by major carriers including JetBlue and cruise lines like Carnival are opening up the country more than ever before, and signs of the times have already begun to creep in, from innovative new hangouts like art bar La Fábrica to a swath of hotel openings including Pullman Cayo Coco. June marks the beginning of hurricane season in the Caribbean, but Cuba is often less affected than other islands. Think languid summer days, occasional thunderstorms, and seriously low season fares—all the ingredients for a jaunt to frenetic, colonial Havana, with its ceaseless salsa and ’57 Chevys trundling down cobbled streets.
An estimated 45 million people pass through Bangkok each year, making it one of the most beloved—and busy—of all the world cities. Its typical monsoon season stretches from May through November, and those seeking to skip the thickest crowds would do worse than stopping by in June. The weather might be unpredictable, but there’s no end to what you can get up to while keeping dry, from digging into authentic Asian fusion cuisine to hopping between art galleries to indulging in spas specializing in aromatherapy and ayurvedic techniques to checking out the ever-evolving nightlife scene. Two spots of note: The House on Sathorn, set on a terrace in an 1889 mansion, and the upscale Rabbit Hole, with its signature white-truffle-gin martini.
Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Nature lovers are in their element this time of year, when parks and trails are fully open to the public. June sees a surge of adventurers, backpackers, and families of all ages streaming into America’s national parks in order to witness our country’s parklands at their most beautiful. In Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, the last of the remaining tree buds have opened, butterflies and birds have returned from migration, wildflowers flourish across its meadows, and newborn animals begin to emerge with their mothers. The Rockies are known for being one of the best parks for wildlife spotting, but visitors aren’t limited to flora and fauna. Nearby Estes Park is favorite mountain town getaway for its rustic cabin rentals, year-round festivals, and unbeatable proximity to one of America’s great landscapes.
Change is afoot in this colonial nation thanks to a promising shift in government—making it one of the best places to visit in 2016. Newfound energy is spurring international hotel development in Guatemala City, as well as a handful of new cruise ports and increased tourism to the country’s more remote regions. Mild February temperatures are ideal for exploring the partially excavated El Mirador and small, authentic Mayan villages on Lake Atitlán. Bed down at Casa Palopó, the country’s first Relais & Châteaux property, and soak in the views of three volcanoes.
Hot, summer days just beg for a sip (or two, or ten) from a glass of refreshing wine. Why not head to the source? Bordeaux in June is gloriously sunny, and most all of the château wineries are open for tastings. This year, La Cité du Vin debuts on the banks of the Garonne River, a $90 million wine museum worthy of its address. Stop by for interactive exhibits on winemaking in Bordeaux and regional tastings from the bar. After all the fun, bed down at the 19th-century La Grande Maison from wine magnate Bernard Magrez, complete with a Joël Robuchon restaurant and concierges at the ready to point you to your next vineyard tour.
Summer in Boston is a magical time, when one of America’s greatest walking cities comes alive. Residents and visitors fall into step as they peruse Faneuil Hall, shop family-owned boutiques along Newbury Street, browse the bookstores of Cambridge, stroll along the harbor, cheer on the home team at Fenway Park, and take in the history of one of the country’s oldest towns. If you visit near the tail end of June, consider sticking around for Independence Day—when hotel rates drop and the Boston Pops serenades the thick crowds that line the Charles River in preparation for the fireworks spectacular.
July is peak season for the Adriatic, when a crush of visitors makes its way to the coast for glamorous, see-and-be-seen boating and sunbathing. Consider June Croatia’s sweet spot, when the days are warm and long but hotels have yet to reach capacity. The islands along the coast are dream destinations, best seen by yacht and explored at one’s own pace, but Zagreb—the capital and heart of Croatian culture—is now the place to be. Here, offbeat museums, stylish bistros, and, this year, the debut of Design District Zagreb (a collective of art galleries, pop-up shops, and events) are creating a scene to rival Dubrovnik—not to mention its beautiful Austro-Hungarian architecture. That a new airport terminal is expanding passenger capacity by more than double in 2016 speaks to the rising appeal.
Everyone has an opinion regarding the best time to visit Venice—some love the mystical light and gentle breezes that arrive in spring, while others prefer its eerily quiet canals during the winter holidays. We might love it best in June, when the air is electric with air-kissing crowds from all walks of life. Every other summer, the Venice Biennale, an international arts showcase, takes over world pavilions scattered around the Giardini. This year, the 15th edition of the Venice Architecture Biennale will be curated by Pritzker-winning Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena and promises to be a memorable one. Make your base the new JW Marriott Resort & Spa, on a serene island dotted with willow trees just 20 minutes by boat from St. Mark’s Square. After a day of seeing the sights, lounging on the hotel’s rooftop with poolside views of the World Heritage city is just what the doctor ordered.
Not a single Chinese holiday or national celebration falls in June, which might be the reason why, though the weather is still pleasant, low visitor numbers make it one of the cheapest times to travel to Beijing. Those that take advantage of those deals will rejoice in an even greater perk: fewer crowds at typically swarming monuments such as the Great Wall and Tiananmen Square. The past and the future are married in China’s political capital, where hutong alleys compete with mega-malls, five-star hotels, and world-class art institutions. And Beijing has become a culture destination as well: this month, the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art unveils, The 1/4 Mile or 2 Furlong Piece by late American artist Robert Rauschenberg, shown for the first time in its entirety through late August.
London is always booming—and beckoning. England’s capital is also its crown jewel, as much entrenched in its history as it is in its future; just take a look at its glittering, unmistakable skyline, ever changing with the whims of today’s architecture heavyweights. Evolution has even made its way into the Tate Modern, one of the world’s most visited museums, which reopens this June to the tune of $370 million with a new expansion by Herzog & de Meuron that increases gallery space by 60 percent. The bigger news (arguably) is Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, a new play inspired by J.K. Rowling’s blockbuster series that is debuting this summer at the Palace Theater. But despite its eyes on the future, London’s buzziest new hotel is rooted firmly in the past. Betty Langley’s, in stylish Spitalfields, channels 18th-century sumptuousness à la Downton Abbey with its carved oak antiques, oil paintings, and crimson furnishings.