The holidays may be over, but it's never too late to go on a weekend trip for a little rest and relaxation. While South Beach, Miami or California remain outstanding choices to escape the winter doldrums, many international destinations close to home may prove to be a better option and offer a far more unique experience. Two neighboring countries worth considering are Mexico and Canada, where exchanges rates remain favorable towards the American dollar and, with regards to Mexico, the weather is likely to be much warmer. The following are five of the best international trips you can do in a weekend.
Less than an hour's flight from Miami, the Bahamas is one of the best destinations for a weekend visit. In addition to convenient flights from the East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico, high-speed ferry boats operate between Fort Lauderdale and Freeport, taking just 2.5 hours and costing under $50 one way. Additional ferry service connects Miami and the tiny island of Bimini, which in recent years has exploded in development and popularity. With winter temperatures averaging from the mid-70s to mid-80s, the high season runs through mid-April, making hot spots like Freeport and Nassau extremely popular for college students during spring break. One of the top attractions of the Bahamas is Paradise Island, just a short ride via water taxi or ferry from Nassau. The crown jewel of Paradise Island is Atlantis Paradise Island, a mega-resort-waterpark known for its familiar Royal Towers, which appear to rise from the sea, and suites reported to be among the world's most expensive. Nevertheless, Atlantis consistently offers sales throughout the year for other rooms that are far more affordable.
Cabo San Lucas, Baja California, Mexico
Located at the southern tip of Baja California, Cabo San Lucas is known for world-class resorts, warm waters, championship golf courses, deep sea fishing, great dining and a vibrant nightlife. A flight from Los Angeles takes just two hours and 20 minutes, and coupled with an abundance of cruise ship operators, Cabo San Lucas is one of the most popular weekend destinations along the Mexican Riviera. In addition to sport fishing, the community often referred to as Cabo has a wealth of outdoor activities, including waterskiing, kayaking, scuba diving, snorkeling, parasailing, mountain biking, horseback riding and ATV tours. Nightlife in Cabo goes well past 4 a.m. and some of the best clubs to visit are Sammy Hagar's Cabo Wabo, the always-entertaining El Squid Roe and the Giggling Marlin, known for its lively audience participation contests.
Arguably the most popular destination for a weekend trip to Mexico is Cancun and neighboring Isla Mujeres, Playa del Carmen and Cozumel. Its location along the southeastern coast of the Yucatán Peninsula allows for a tropical climate, with the high season occurring in early spring. Most of the world class resorts, water activities and Las Vegas-like nightlife can be found along a long, narrow strip of seaside land known as Canucun Zona Hotelera (hotel zone), six miles from Centro Cancun. More than 150 resort hotels are located in Cancun, many offering all-inclusive amenities such as meals, drinks, 24-hour room service and wireless internet access. In addition to the lavish resorts and white sandy beaches, Cancun's nightlife is extraordinary. Among the top clubs worth visiting are CocoBongo with an 1,800-person capacity and multi-level seating, The City, billed as the largest and most important entertainment center in Latin America with a capacity of 5,000, and Dady'O, described as one of the three best nightclubs in America. Visitors on an extended weekend in Cancun might want to take an all day trip to the Mayan ruins, particularly Chichen Itza, one of the seven New Wonders of the World, widely recognized for its prominent MesoAmerican step-pyramid.
Visitors to Montreal can enjoy a mixture of Old World charm and contemporary glamour and appeal. With close proximity to major urban areas along the East Coast, Canada's second largest city is a perfect choice for a weekend trip, with nonstop flights taking under two hours from New York City. Many first-time visitors swear they're in a European city, in part because French is the native language in Montreal and parts of Old Montreal look strikingly similar to Paris. Like any major North American city, Montreal offers hundreds of hotels, fine dining, historical landmarks and cultural attractions. Among the highlights to visit in a weekend trip are a visit to Old Montreal, to admire Notre Dame Basilica, Marché Bonsecours (Bonsecours Market), city hall, the harbor and Rue St. Denis. Spring is one of the best times of year to visit Montreal, when prices are still low, temperatures are mild and flowers burst into an array of spectacular colors.
The largest city in British Columbia and eighth largest in Canada, Vancouver can be reached from Seattle in a number of ways - via car, ferry, train, bus or plane. With quick flights from Seattle, Portland and San Francisco, a weekend trip to Vancouver is a smart choice for a weekend trip, for affordability, convenience and warmer weather than other major Canadian cities. Plenty of activities abound for visitors, such as a visit to Stanley Park, the grizzly bear refuge at Grouse Mountain, the Capilano Suspension Bridge, a Vancouver Canucks hockey game or Canadian Football League (CFL) game to see the BC Lions. There are also plenty of great places to shop in Vancouver, including Gastown, Robson Street and South Granville, Chinatown and Pacific Centre, the largest downtown mall. Vancouver's music scene is on par with other major destinations and hosts great events all year like the Vancouver International Jazz Festival, events at BC Place, the former Olympic Stadium during the 2010 Winter Olympics and Rogers Arena, featuring the biggest names on the contemporary music scene.
Randy Yagi is a freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. In 2012, he was awarded a Media Fellowship from Stanford University. His work can be found on Examiner.com Examiner.com.
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