Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Best Summer Vacations

San Francisco
Why go: San Francisco is one of the best vacation spots in the world at any time of the year. But it really shines in the summer, with comfortable temperatures and a fun atmosphere. Crowds can make sightseeing a bit annoying, but not to an unreasonable level. Note: If you're looking for a California beach experience, you'll be better served by Southern California -- Los Angeles and San Diego, in particular.

Why go: If you're looking to add some pizzazz to your beach vacation, Mykonos is the place to go. This little island in the Mediterranean is Greece's party central, where bars, clubs and beach parties thrive until the small hours of the morning. On this island, a day at the shore isn't just a luxury, it's a must for those looking to save their energy for sundown. While you can easily spend a week here on the beach or touring the cultural sites, Mykonos also makes for a great stop if you're looking to island-hop across the Greek Isles.


Why go: When it comes to soaking up the sun in the lap of luxury, there's no better place than the French Riviera. Perched on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, Nice makes for a great home base for a Riviera getaway. If you tire of Nice's museums, shops, sidewalk cafés and pebbly beaches, Cannes, Antibes, Valbonne and Monaco are just a short train ride away. Just make sure to bring your credit card -- as a favorite summer haunt among celebrities including the Beckhams and Jennifer Lopez, vacations in Nice and along the French Riviera can be expensive.

Why go: For miles of soft, multi-colored beaches and mind-boggling scenery, Maui is the destination of choice. Spend your vacation watching humpback whales, hiking through the lush Haleakala National Park or being pampered at one of the islands many tranquil spas. If you grow tired of the beach, spend some time exploring one of the islands funky villages or take a drive along the renowned Road to Hana. No matter how you choose to pass the time, save some energy for after sundown, when some of Hawaii's best nighttime hotspots come to life. 

Why go: What can be said about Paris that hasn't already been said? It is the "City of Lights" as well as the "City of Love," but perhaps, more importantly, "Just a Really Great Place to Take a Vacation Anytime." Visiting here in the summer does have its cons, primarily in the form of an army of tourists descending on the city. But we feel that the excellent weather more than makes up for it. Additionally, Paris is a great base of operations for those doing an extended tour of Europe in the summer -- beautiful beach destinations are only a scenic train ride or a short flight away.

Los Angeles
Why go: We can't advise you to visit Los Angeles in the summer for the weather, as the weather is almost always ridiculously awesome in this city. However, with that being said, there is just something about L.A. in the summer that is a classic American experience. Taking in the Venice Beach scene on bike paths on a rented beach cruiser, strolling around the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, sunbathing on Manhattan Beach and about a million other options make a summer trip to L.A. an annual tradition for many.

Why go: Now that the chilly winter breezes have passed, Montreal is a great choice for travelers looking for a taste of European culture without the trans-Atlantic flight. Fascinating historic sites, hundreds of shopping venues, world-class eateries and a pulsating nightlife scene will keep you busy for at least a week. And if you find yourself growing weary of the city's fast-paced environment, seek refuge on Mont-Royal, a natural sanctuary nestled in the heart of this urban jungle.

Why go: Seattle is one of America's most unique destinations and summer is definitely the time to go. The sun is out, the skies are clear and the temperatures are comfortable. Granted, hotel rates are higher and tourists are prevalent, but we feel that the weather makes for a more than fair trade-off. Tip: Add a few extra days to your trip, and make a side trip to Portland and/or Vancouver.

Why go: If you thought the Caribbean was off-limits due to tropical storm threats, you'll be happy to hear that Aruba's location outside the hurricane belt makes this island a great summer getaway spot. Home to stunning beaches, thriving cities and the rugged terrain of Arikok National Park, Aruba offers a variety of ways to fill your days. And don't forget about the nightlife: this island's buzzing bar and club scene rivals that of many a large city.

Why go: While everyone else flocks to the beach, head to Munich for a more off-the-beaten-path summer vacation. Instead of fighting for prime shore-line real estate, spend your time in the hub of Bavarian culture touring medieval palaces, wandering through art galleries, biking down historic streets and lounging in beer gardens. If you find yourself growing restless, Munich is also a great jumping-off point for trips to Zurich, Prague and Vienna.

West Palm Beach
Why go: Close to a longtime harbor for America's millionaires, West Palm Beach is now a premier Floridian destination in its own right. Peak season may be winter, but you can still enjoy the tranquil near-the-water breeze year-round. Partiers will be better served farther south, but most others will find the comfort, class and charm of downtown more than enough to entertain them away from the shore.

Las Vegas
Why go: Yes, Vegas is hot in the summer. Ok, it's really, really hot in the summer. But two factors pushed it on to this list (albeit, barely) in spite of this fact. Number one: Most of the appeal and action in this city resides indoors, with the casinos, fine dining and insane night clubs. Number two: those looking for some respite from the heat have perhaps the most over-the-top collection of behemoth swimming pools in the world at their disposal. Those that can handle the heat will be treated to a vacation they won't soon forget.

Fort Lauderdale Florida

Fort Lauderdale Travel Tips

To the citizens of Fort Lauderdale, their home offers quintessential Florida -- beaches, palm trees, shopping and relaxation -- without the see-and-be-seen attitude and the exorbitant prices of the state's other beachside cities. You can judge if they're right, but certainly expect a different atmosphere than their close rival, Miami Beach. Fort Lauderdale's wide stretches of white sand surpass those of its southern neighbor and, to some, are the best shores statewide. And when you consider its fantastic scenery, great dining options and a range of things to do, Fort Lauderdale is also somewhat affordable compared to similar vacation spots. The "Venice of America," nicknamed for its 185 miles of waterways and canals, is slowly but surely climbing the ranks of top beach destinations to the cheer of its residents.

Why Go: Not as party-hardy as Miami Beach or as pricey as West Palm, Fort Lauderdale is the relatively affordable south Florida option. Many honeymooners overlook the city's charms, but the "Venice of America" has 185 miles of canals and plenty of beaches to set a romantic mood. Plus, the Las Olas Boulevard neighborhood hosts cute cafés and boutique shops for some memorable meals and souvenirs.

Best Times to Visit Fort Lauderdale

The best time to visit Fort Lauderdale is between November and April. Yes, any time in that whole half of the year. The warm climate (between around 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit) makes it a great winter getaway for the elderly, families and college students. Plus hotel rates remain fairly constant. Summer and early fall are susceptible to tropical storms and hurricanes. If you're traveling at that time (particularly the summer), pack light clothing, a hat and umbrella, and plenty of sunscreen.