Spring Travel: Make your next vacation an urban adventure

Credit: Decross

Credit: Decross

Museums, restaurants, breweries and festivals beckon visitors to these 6 cities.

Tired of having to decide between the mountains or the beach when planning your next getaway? Change things up and take a city vacation where the list of things to do is long and varied. Cultural attractions, culinary adventures, historic landmarks, events and almost endless entertainment options are the allure of these six cities. Pack comfy walking shoes and learn what makes these destinations well worth the trip.

Knoxville, Tennessee

Drop your bags at The Tennessean Hotel ($229-$759, 531 Henley St., thetennesseanhotel.com), an 82-room property close to The University of Tennessee and downtown. Get to know the city with a panoramic overview from the observation deck of the Sunsphere ($5, 810 Clinch Ave., worldsfairpark.org), a golden globe-topped tower built for the 1982 World’s Fair that has become an iconic landmark.

Work up an appetite by biking, paddling or climbing at the Ijams Nature Center (free, 2915 Island Home Ave., ijams.org), a 318-acre urban greenspace with more than 12 miles of trails, the Ijams Crag for climbers and Toll Creek for swimmers and paddlers.

Quench your thirst along the Ale Trail (free, visitknoxville.com) that boasts 20 breweries and cideries, all located on a map app from the tourist center. Book a table at one of the newest venues, Dine at Harvest (141 S. Gay St., harvestknox.com), that features a seasonal menu of steak and seafood dishes.

A gem of the city’s cultural history, and a must-see for old-house lovers, is Westwood ($10, 3425 Kingston Pike, knoxheritage.org/westwood), the estate and former home of artist Adelia Armstrong Lutz. Last year, the National Trust for Historic Preservation listed the home in the Historic Artists’ Homes and Studios program. Music lovers won’t want to miss a performance at the Knoxville Opera ($15-$115, 612 E. Depot Ave., knoxvilleopera.org), where “The Marriage of Figaro” is set for April 28 and 30.

Knoxville Visitor’s Center Center, 301 S. Gay St., 865-523-7263, www.visitknoxville.com

Credit: handout

Credit: handout

Charlotte, North Carolina

As the city’s slogan says, “Charlotte’s got a lot,” and lately, it’s been adding even more. Para restaurant (235 W. Tremont Ave., paraclt.com) opened last year in the trendy South End neighborhood with a menu of small plates, including the Instagram-worthy lobster shooter that, with every order, donates a portion of the cost to the Its4TheKids Foundation. And don’t miss the classic Southern fare from 2023 James Beard Outstanding Chef semifinalist Greg Collier at Leah & Louise (301 Camp Road, leahandlouise.com) or the assortment of breweries within walking distance of Uptown.

Dive deeper into the beer scene by heading 20 minutes north of town to the North Carolina Brewers & Music Festival May 12-13 ($10-$125, 4431 Neck Road, Huntersville; ncbrewsmusic.com). Shoppers might want to clear out the trunk before the drive so there’s room for treasures from the Sleepy Poet Antique Mall (6424 South Blvd., sleepypoetstuff.com) where multiple vendors showcase collections.

No visit to the Queen City is complete without a visit to the NASCAR Hall of Fame ($20-$27, 400 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., nascarhall.com) where the organization is marking its diamond jubilee with the new exhibit, “Glory Road: 75 Years.” The car theme keeps going May 26 at the Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR Cup Series at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ($10-$400, 5555 Concord Parkway, charlottemotorspeedway.com).

Take a break from the action at The Ivey’s Hotel ($279-$1,059, 127 N. Tryon St., theiveyshotel.com), a posh, 47-room property designed with a French flair.

Charlotte Visitor Info Center, 329 S. Tryon St., 800-231-4636, www.charlottesgotalot.com

Credit: Jie Liu

Credit: Jie Liu


Seattle offers a unique glimpse into the Pacific Northwest that’s packed with culinary and cultural adventures. Perhaps its best-known product is coffee, thanks to the folks from Starbucks (1912 Pike Place, stories.starbucks.com), who launched a java empire across from Pike Place Market in 1971. The original location draws customers who queue along the sidewalk each day to squeeze into the modest space. Grab a to-go cup and head off on a two-hour Seattle Coffee Culture Tour ($59, 1604 Broadway, viator.com) to explore the wealth of caffeinated locations around town.

Historic Pike Place Market (free, 85 Pike St., pikeplacemarket.org) is packed with booths brimming with fresh produce, flowers, local crafts, seafood, sweet treats and more. The iconic, waterfront property has been a landmark since 1907, and this year marks the 15th for the Flower Festival May 13-14. Pick a clear day to take get a bird’s-eye view of the city, Lake Union, the University of Washington and the iconic Space Needle via a Kenmore Air seaplane ($109, 950 Westlake Ave. North, kenmoreair.com). Back on the ground, check out the 605-foot Space Needle ($26-$37.50, 400 Broad St., spaceneedle.com), built for the 1962 World’s Fair with an observation deck that offers views of the Cascades, Olympic mountains and Puget Sound. Next door is the Chihuly Garden and Glass ($16-$27, 305 Harrison St., chihulygardenandglass.com) where noted glass artist Dale Chihuly displays some of his most jaw-dropping creations.

Head back to the Sound’s Alki Beach for a feast at the new Driftwood (2722 Alki Ave., driftwoodseattle.com) where the menu specializes in “mountain to sound” tastes. Top off any meal with a sweet treat from Fran’s Chocolates (1325 1st Ave., frans.com), whose caramels, peanut butter cups, truffles and more were White House staples during the Obama years. The Hilton Motif ($318-$1,155, 1415 5th Ave., hilton.com), opened in January, boasts an ideal location from which to explore downtown’s attractions.

Seattle Visitor Center and Concierge Service, 701 Pike St., 206-228-7291, visitseattle.org

Credit: handout

Credit: handout

Taos, New Mexico

The Land of Enchantment comes to life in Taos, a mountain town known for its art colonies as well as its 1,000+ square miles of public wilderness ideal for skiers, kayakers, climbers and other outdoor enthusiasts. Along with adventures in nature, Taos has a rich history ready to be explored. Start at the Harwood Museum of Art ($10, 238 Ledoux St., harwoodmuseum.org) with roots that go back to the formation of the Taos Society of Artists in 1923. Since then, the museum has earned an international reputation for showcasing a diverse collection featuring historic and contemporary works.

Stroll the streets of Taos Plaza (100 Plaza North, taos.org) in the heart of the town’s historic district, a favorite gathering spot for local farmers, food trucks and visitors who enjoy live music performances, shopping and art galleries. Many of the multi-storied adobe buildings have been continuously inhabited for more than 1,000 years. The food here can be as creative as the artworks, with local breweries, wineries and distilleries providing locally inspired beverages. Sample the traditional New Mexican fare of enchiladas, tamales, burritos and more prepared with red and green chiles. Discover how James Beard-nominated chef Andrea Meyer is putting her stamp on the culinary scene at The Love Apple, (803 Paseo del Pueblo Norte, theloveapple.net), where hormone-free beef, lamb and bison are paired with organic, local produce and served in a former church that dates back to the 1800s.

Settle in for the night at El Monte Sagrado ($183-$314, 317 Kit Carson Road, elmontesagrado.com), a pueblo escape a short walk from downtown where guests are surrounded by the area’s natural beauty and wildlife.

Taos Visitor Center, 1139 Paseo Del Pueblo Sur, 575-758-3873, taos.org

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

Edinburgh, Scotland

Scottish-born comedian Billy Connolly once said Scotland has two seasons: June and winter. But no matter when they visit, tourists will find Edinburgh a warm, welcoming city that seamlessly blends its rich history with modern-day accents. It recently welcomed two new luxury hotels: Virgin Hotels ($448-$479, 1 India Buildings, Victoria Street, virginhotels.com) and the Gleneagles Townhouse ($560-$780, No. 39 St. Andrew Square, gleneagles.com), an intimate retreat with 33 guest rooms, an all-day restaurant and rooftop bar overlooking St. Andrew Square. They’ll fill up quickly Aug. 4-28 when the Edinburgh Festival Fringe (free-$43, 180 High St., edfringe.com) takes over multiple venues around town with theatrical productions, circus acts, children’s shows, musicals, opera and its main attraction: performances by some of the world’s funniest comedians.

Along with major attractions such as the Edinburgh Castle, the Parliament House, Holyrood Palace, St. Giles Cathedral and the Royal Mile, explore local cuisine at the “gastro diner” The Duck & Waffle (400-402 St. James Crescent, duckandwaffle.com) and check out the local brewing scene at Holyrood Distillery ($17-$43, 19 St. Leonard’s Lane, holyrooddistillery.co.uk). For those who prefer a different type of spirit, a City of the Dead tour ($17-$20, High St., cityofthedeadtours.com) provides a chilling glimpse into the city’s eerie history.

To learn more, visit the official guide to Edinburgh at edinburgh.org

Credit: AJ Mast for Chevrolet

Credit: AJ Mast for Chevrolet

Bowling Green, Kentucky

Discover the Bluegrass State with a visit to Bowling Green. The newly opened Embassy Suites by Hilton ($130-$167, 556 Hub Blvd., hilton.com) can serve as a comfortable home base for all the town has to offer. Start with a stop at the Corvette Museum ($18, 350 Corvette Drive, www.corvettemuseum.org), a 115,000-square-foot facility featuring more than 80 Corvettes on display. The museum also offers a combo ticket to the museum that includes a tour of the GM Corvette Assembly Plant (350 Corvette Drive, www.bowlinggreenassemblyplant.com) for $50. Plant tours can only be booked through June 30.

At nearby Motorsports Park ($20-$1,483, Kimberlee A. Fast Drive, motorsportspark.org), get behind the wheel or strap into the passenger seat of a new Corvette Z06, drive your own car on the track or challenge the kiddies to a go-kart race.

Relax after the adrenal rush at the Be Happy Yoga and Salt Cave ($25-$100, 2710 Nashville Highway, behappybg.com), a custom-built refuge modeled after the European salt caves with more than 6 tons of Himalayan salt. Along with deep-breathing sessions, indulge in a massage or stretch out with a yoga class inside the salt walls. At Aviation Heritage Park (free, 1825 Three Springs Road, aviationheritagepark.com), explore the 11,000-square-foot museum with interactive exhibits on regional aviators and seven aircraft, including a NASA T-38 Talon flown by every moonwalker and a replica of the Marine One helicopter, the official helicopter of U.S. presidents. Savor the flavors of Spanish and Latin cuisine at Toro (1760 Scottsville Road, torobg.com), where dinner options range from a variety of small plates to the decadent, 26-ounce, bone-in ribeye.

To learn more, visit the official Bowling Green guide at www.visitbgky.com