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Head to Melbourne for balmy weather and big laughs. (Tourism Australia)
Head to Melbourne for balmy weather and big laughs. (Tourism Australia)

5 great cities you should visit this spring Add to ...

Hiring a car (and appointing a designated driver) will get you around much of the region, which Lambert says is fairly easy to navigate. Guided tours are also available but make sure to pick one that you can tailor, she cautions. “Many tours take you on boring routes that detract from the magic of the Winelands.”

Eat: The Tasting Room, where chef Margot Janse serves African-inspired dishes with knowing international influences. The multicourse tasting menu is the way to go (lqf.co.za).

Stay: Grand Daddy Hotel, for its central location and funky rooms. Why not stay in one of the rooftop Airstream trailers (granddaddy.co.za)?

Tip: Visit Muratie Wine Estate, one of the oldest wineries in South Africa. Its romantic, blast-from-the-past ambience includes rustic out buildings and antique-lined interiors. Try the port (muratie.co.za).

NEW ORLEANS

“Cultural life in New Orleans is geared to spring,” says music writer Alex Rawls (myspiltmilk.com). “There’s the free French Quarter Festival one weekend followed by two weekends of Jazz Fest. It’s a great time to get warm before the summer swelter sets in.”

Officially deemed the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, 2013’s diverse draws include Billy Joel and Maroon 5. But to focus on the big names out of the hundreds acts doesn’t do it justice. “If people only see headliners, they see a festival much like any other. What makes Jazz Fest distinctive is the music from the state – and much of it isn’t jazz.”

Rawls suggests starting each day at the festival’s 11 a.m. kickoff, when emerging acts begin playing and the crowds are thinner – which means easier access to food booths that are soon swamped. But don’t over plan: “Better ideas often present themselves spontaneously here,” he says.

If you miss the festival, the city’s toe-tapping live scene is accessible any time. Rawls’s recommended venues include Tipitina’s for New Orleans funk, d.b.a. on Frenchman Street for local acts and Preservation Hall for some of the best trad jazz around.

Eat: Restaurant August for old-school ambience in a former warehouse setting – and top-notch dishes from crawfish agnolotti to 48-hour braised short rib (restaurantaugust.com).

Stay: La Maison Marigny, possibly the perfect B&B. It combines a great Bourbon Street location with antique-lined rooms that define comfort. The heaping breakfasts help, too (lamaisonmarigny.com).

Tip: Take a side trip to Lafayette’s Festival International. The largest outdoor free Francophone event in the United States, it offers dozens of shows over a party-like five day period (festivalinternational.com).

SAN DIEGO

Springtime San Diego combines ever-sunny skies and temperatures around 20 C. But it’s not just the tan-tastic weather that lures many to California’s second-biggest city, according to local master gardener Leslie Crawford (3000tomatoes.com).

Beach-fringed Coronado Island – technically a peninsula – is home to one of North America’s largest floral showcases. “April’s Coronado Flower Show has been a tradition since 1922,” Crawford says.

She recommends at least a day for the fragrant event, perusing tented displays that include orchids, roses, wild flowers and bonsai trees. “Save time for the bandstand music, the food stands and the marketplace,” she advises, adding that you can also tour prize-winning private gardens around Coronado’s sunny streets.

The show isn’t the area’s only green-thumb magnet. Palm-lined Balboa Park includes themed gardens and the tropical Botanical Building. “It’s a beautiful place,” Crawford says.

There are plenty of other activities to keep you occupied on a spring visit. Consider the USS Midway aircraft carrier museum and wander around the preserved adobe buildings at Old Town State Historic Park. Then rest your feet with a seasonal beer: San Diego is one of America’s top craft beer cities. Look out for hoppy IPAs from Stone Brewing, Mission Brewery and Ballast Point Brewing.

Eat: Coronado Brewing Company, for house-brewed beer and a full menu of perfect pub-grub comfort dishes. Go for the ale-soaked mussels (coronadobrewingcompany.com).

Stay: 1906 Lodge at Coronado Beach. Two blocks from the water, this lovely 17-room property is like a mini-resort. Treat yourself to a garden suite for an extra dash of luxury (1906lodge.com).

Tip: If you’re travelling with young children, Legoland California is a 30-minute drive north of San Diego in the sunny seaside town of Carlsbad (california.legoland.com).

Send your travel questions to concierge@globeandmail.com. John won’t plan your trips, but as a long-time traveller and guidebook writer, he has lots of tips to share.

NEXT WEEK: A reader heading to Budapest wonders what there is to see and do in the city. Have you been? Share your tips with us at concierge@globeandmail.com.

Follow Travel Concierge John Lee on Twitter @johnleewriter.

 

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