The beach in Cayucos, Calif. Photo via Shutterstock.

Where To Go In May

BY Aliya Farrukh Shaikh | April 3, 2024

May has a newness to it that is at once refreshing and a little confusing. Spring has just ended, the flowers are in full bloom, limbs are freshly shaven and the newer and more daring iced drinks are introduced. It’s pleasant enough to be outside but hot enough to yearn for a retreat isolated from tourists, the voluminous onslaught of graduation spectators and obscenely high flight and lodging prices. You’ve planned an extensive and costly holiday for the summer but want to sneak in a desperate respite for Memorial Day weekend. Given these sun-drenched constraints, here is a list of the best getaways for the month:

Mackinac Island, Mich. 

Photo courtesy of Russ | CC BY 2.0

Have you ever wondered what a theme park in Victorian times would look like? Mackinac Island is the answer. It possesses an unrivaled charm, compelling you to let go of the luxuries afforded by the modern world and succumb to antiquity. Not too far from Traverse City, Mich., home to one of our favorite airports, the leafy island sits in the middle of the Mackinac Straits and is only accessible by ferry. There are no cars to be seen and the only mode of transportation are horse-drawn carriages or your feet. At the proverbial center of the island is The Grand Hotel, which our writer describes as an “enormous neoclassical [that] still proudly represents that mostly vanished world of stately and extravagant accommodations, where the hotel was a destination in and of itself.” The island is open for Memorial Day weekend but the crowds aren’t cumbersome, so you can easily frequent the world-famous fudge shops, soak in beautiful sunsets on the hotel’s wraparound porch and relax your legs in gardens. 

Seneca Lake, N.Y.

Image courtesy of John Menard | CC BY-SA 2.0

If you’re looking for an alternative to the Hamptons, Seneca Lake might be the perfect retreat. The biggest of the Finger Lakes, you will be taken by its sheer vastness and depth, the scenic beauty overlooking it and the abundance of surprisingly delicious wine available in the region. With an impressive total of 44 wineries, the area has an eclectic variety of grapes — much thanks to the different soil types that surround the lake — but rieslings grow best. The lake may be more relaxing than the popular Hamptons beaches too: you can sail an afternoon away, far from other people, snacking and sipping wine on the water. On land, there are waterfalls, 19 of them, which you can hike around as you pretend you aren’t hungover from all that white wine.

Joshua Tree, Calif.

Photo courtesy of Christopher Michel | CC BY 2.0

It will be hot. Temperatures will likely be in the late eighties in the Mojave Desert and this might be the most crowded option on the list (Joshua Tree could see up to a million visitors), but just because it’s not a unique experience, doesn’t mean it’s not worth it, right? You can be one with nature and stay at The Joshua Tree House or glamp at the boutique Autocamp. Either way, stargazing is a must and if you’re in luck, your lodging will provide an educational stargazing experience. Autocamp has a great night sky tour born of a partnership with the 29 Palms Astronomy Club that covers both nearby plants and far away stars. If you head to Joshua Tree in the middle of the month, there’s also the Joshua Tree Music Festival. Or you could just stick to nature and acquaint yourself with the Cholla Cactus Garden and Joshua National Park. 

New Orleans

Photo courtesy of Pedro Szekely | CC BY-SA 2.0

Everyone has to visit The Big Easy at some point. So why not now at the tail end of Jazz Fest, when the weather isn’t too hot, swamp tours aren’t too swampy and crawfish season is in full swing? At the start of May, you can catch the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, with its wide variety of acts ranging from traditional jazz to contemporary pop. As you sway to the rhythms of the headliners the Killers, Queen Latifah and The Rolling Stones, you can help yourself to Jazz Fest’s unparalleled concession stands, which serve up po boys, crawfish, shrimp bread and the irresistible Louisiana fried chicken. If the Fair Grounds aren’t for you and you’d rather saunter around town, the Creole architecture, cast iron balconies and Mardi Gras sculptures are enough to melt the heart of any art cynic. That’s part of the reason why we named The Pontchartrain Hotel one of The Greatest Hotels Ever in our most recent print issue. With a near maximalist aesthetic idiosyncratic to the New Orleans of the early twentieth century, it is the perfect place to stay if you want to bring the city’s old-world, French-Caribbean charm into your bedroom. 


Photo courtesy of Lars Plougmann | CC BY-SA 2.0

What better place to celebrate National Barbeque Month than in the home of some of the country’s finest smoked meats? Dallas, Texas that is — Not Austin. Grab a table at the city’s legendary Slow Bone BBQ or Terry’s Black BBQ at lunchtime and invoke your inner carnivore as you dig into briskets, ribs and sausages. Apart from BBQ, the city has an impressive culinary scene — thanks to its well established and growing immigrant population — with Tex Mex, sushi and street tacos being amongst the most popular food choices amongst locals. With the historic Longhorn Ballroom reopening last year, it’s a good time to indulge Texas’s western ranch aesthetic and learn about the Ballroom’s past through musical memorabilia, photo galleries and concert posters, all while sipping on some Dallas Blonde. But the city isn’t limited to just the indoors. The outside beckons with its scintillating downtown skyline — easily noticeable from quiet gardens, like the Dallas Arboretum, where you can take self-guided tours and welcome the warm weather with picnics. And if the Texas heat starts to feel like hellfire, you can drive 40 minutes west to Fort Worth and take a dip in a water park cum swimming hole called Burger’s Lake. (Did you know Texas is plump with swimming holes?)

Portsmouth, N.H.

Photo courtesy of JackPeasePhotography | CC BY 2.0

New Hampshire might have the smallest coastline in the country, but Portsmouth has a scenic waterfront and maritime heritage like no other. As you walk down the cobblestone streets, it’s hard to miss the enchanting brick and slate buildings and colonial architecture. If history is your thing, you can also pop into the open-air Strawbery Banke Museum or Portsmouth Historical Society. But if you’d much rather experience a New England summer like a true local, you can munch on some lobster rolls at Sanders Fish Market, sea gaze while stretching your legs in New Castle Island, welcome the sunset on a boat or catch a show at the Portsmouth Music Hall.

The Shoals, Ala.

Photo courtesy of amanderson2 | CC BY 2.0

The Shoals — comprising four cities in northwestern Alabama — might have the beautiful Tennessee River cutting through it and it might be the birthplace of Helen Keller, but it is the region’s music scene which has garnered it historic popularity. If you’re a melomaniac and if the thought of just occupying the same space musical giants such as Aretha Franklin, Paul Simon and Etta James breathed in, this is the place for you. Go to Fame Recording Studio, Alabama Music Hall of Fame and Muscle Shoals Sound Studio. Learn about the history of the blues at WC Handy Museum and Library. And if you have moments to spare, stroll around McFarland Park or book a reservation at a local spot and chomp on some Southern-style steak. 

Cayucos, Calif.

Photo courtesy of Jerry Kirkhart | CC BY 2.0.

This Memorial Day weekend, find a new favorite beach. Cayucos is low-key, cozy, breezy and one of California’s best-kept secrets. It has all the qualities of a coastal town without the anticipated bustle of visitors. Cayoucs doesn’t bog you down with a single activity. Feeling adventurous? Learn how to surf with Serene Waters and Good Clean Fun. Craving for some downtime? Walk the vintage Cayucos Pier and take in its picturesque view. In the mood for seafood? Get your fishing rod ready and catch some bass and halibut or dine at some of the chic local spots such as Sea Shanty and Schooner’s. Feeling the need to burn a hole in your wallet? Drive just 20 minutes south to the arid green hills and stellar shopping of San Luis Obispo. Want something more bucolic and, perhaps, tannic? Point that car to the northeast, into the hills, toward Paso Robles, home to Central California’s emerging vineyard scene — there’s more to California than Napa Valley.