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Cheap Flights for 4th of July 2017 Vacations

By Robert Firpo-Cappiello
May 3, 2017
NYC 4th of July fireworks
Dreamstime
Fireworks! Ice cream! Cheap airfares! There’s plenty to celebrate this Independence Day, but you’ve got to jump on these vacation deals while they last.

Planning a 4th of July vacation? Our friends at Skyscanner.com have got plans for you: They’ve crunched the numbers on early July airfares to deliver some truly amazing deals. Your only challenge will be to pick one of these dreamy destinations and book now.

Atlanta, GA to Phoenix, AZ
Sunday, July 2 – Thursday, July 6
Starting at $276

Chicago, IL to Boston, MA
Saturday, July 1 – Wednesday, July 5
Starting at $275

Dallas, TX to Los Angeles, CA
Sunday, July 2 – Thursday, July 6
Starting at $240

Fort Lauderdale, FL to Denver, CO
Monday, July 3 – Saturday, July 8
Starting at $285

Los Angeles, CA to Chicago, IL
Sunday, July 2 – Wednesday, July 5
Starting at $247

Miami, FL to New York, NY
Saturday, July 1 – Wednesday, July 5
Starting at $219

New York, NY to Austin, TX
Sunday, July 2 – Thursday, July 6
Starting at $285

Philadelphia, PA to Las Vegas, NV
Monday, July 3 – Thursday, July 6
Starting at $277

San Diego, CA to Portland, OR
Sunday, July 2 – Thursday, July 6
Starting at $264

Washington, DC to Charleston
Sunday, July 2 – Wednesday, July 5
Starting at $153

Skyscanner is a travel search site offering a comprehensive range of flight, hotel, and car rental deals. To find more bargain fares like those listed here, visit Skyscanner.com.

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Destinations

11 Best Winter Getaways to Lock in NOW

We know, we know: You've probably still got some sand in your shoes. Who wants to think about winter? But you might want to reconsider because we've got 11 irresistible winter getaways that can put you on world-class slopes or white-sand beaches. There's just one catch: If you want a price as dreamy as these trips, don't wait for the first snowfall to make your reservation. SEE OUR BEST-EVER WINTER GETAWAYS! 1. ORLANDO, FLORIDA. Theme Park Heaven There's a good reason folks around the world book theme park vacations a year or more in advance: While admission to the parks ain't cheap—often topping $80 per day for adults—you can get a break on airfare and hotel reservations by booking early. Orlando, Fla., is the epicenter for park sharks—it's home to Universal Studios Florida, SeaWorld Orlando, and Walt Disney World. Get There: Round-trip flights from New York to Orlando on JetBlue start at $218. Stay: Best Western Plus Orlando Gateway Hotel is near all Disney parks, Universal, and SeaWorld—truly a "gateway" to Orlando attractions (7299 Universal Blvd., bestwestern.com, doubles from $78). GET EXPERT TRAVEL TIPS AND DEALS WITH OUR FREE E-NEWSLETTERS! 2. LAGUNA BEACH, CALIFORNIA Surfin' Safari You're under no obligation to actually catch a wave just because you visit Laguna Beach, an iconic seven-mile stretch of sea and sand in Southern California's Orange County—most visitors are content to swim and soak up the warmth of the sun. But if you're so inclined, lessons with a champion surfer come with a money-back guarantee that you'll "get up"—surf slang for standing on the board on your first lesson (lagunabeachsurfinglessons.com, group lessons from $75 per person). If you can bring yourself to towel off and put your shoes back on, good vibrations can also be found in nearby Laguna Village, a prime spot for browsing quality art galleries and other shops—a reminder of the town's roots as an artists' colony. Get There: Round-trip flights from New York to Los Angeles on JetBlue start at $336; round-trip flights from Chicago on Frontier start at $288. Stay: Pacific Edge Hotel on Laguna Beach is right on the beach and walking distance from Laguna Village (647 South Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, pacificedgehotel.com, doubles from $140). 3. TULUM, MEXICO South of the Border Tulum invites you to do as much, or as little, as you like. On Mexico's Yucatan peninsula, the seaside community is home to pristine Caribbean beaches famous for their giant sea turtles and the site of pre-Columbian Mayan ruins, including temples and castillos dating back to the 13th, 14th, and 15th centuries. Admission to the cliff-hugging ruins is only about $5. Get There: Round-trip flights from New York to Cozumel on American start at $438; round-trip flights from Los Angeles on United start at $535. Stay: Palms Tulum Luxury Hotel is near Tulum National Park and the Mayan ruins (Calle Escorpion Sur Esquino Con Calle Andronmeda Oriente, 52/984-878-1016, doubles from $180). 4. PUERTO RICO Caribbean Dream Where can you prowl the winding streets of an old-world-style city, explore a rain forest, and pay an eerie nighttime visit to a bay that glows in the dark, all without leaving the United States? Only Puerto Rico offers historic Old San Juan, the teeming, colorful El Yunque Rain Forest, and the hauntingly beautiful La Parguera bioluminescent bay. Oh, and there's also the world-class beaches if you insist on doing nothing much at all. Get There: Round-trip flights from New York to San Juan on JetBlue start at $335. Stay: Embassy Suites Dorado Del Mar Beach & Golf Resort, just outside San Juan, includes an 18-hole Chi Chi Rodriguez-designed golf course built along the rocky cliffs and jetties of Puerto Rico's Atlantic coast; complimentary cooked-to-order breakfast is included (201 Dorado Del Mar Blvd., Dorado, Puerto Rico, embassysuites.hilton.com, doubles from $159). 5. OAHU, HAWAII  Pacific Paradise In the dead of winter, the classic image of Oahu's hotel-lined Waikiki Beach can either haunt your dreams or, if you book now, be yours to savor in person. The Waikiki neighborhood of Honolulu stretches from the Ala Wai Canal to Diamond Head, a volcanic cone misnamed by 19th-century explorers who believed the rocky cone held diamonds. Take a stroll on Beach Walk, where you'll find gift shops and art galleries (including a ukulele shop) and casual dining options that include traditional Hawaiian dishes and live music. Get There: Round-trip flights from San Jose, Calif., to Honolulu on United start at $502. Stay: Coconut Waikiki Hotel is an Art Deco-style boutique hotel with a tropical pool; it's a short walk from Waikiki Beach Walk (450 Lewers St., Honolulu, hotels.com, doubles from $169). 6. BOZEMAN, MONTANA Rocky Mountain Skiing For those who'd prefer not to escape winter but rather to plunge deeper into it, Montana throws its arms open wide. The minute you step off the plane in Bozeman, the cold, pine-scented air will remind you that you're not in Wherever You Came From anymore. Powder hounds swear by Bridger Bowl ski lodge, in the nearby Bridger Mountain range (part of the Rocky Mountains). The lodge offers ski lift/lodging packages with local hotels starting at $139/person for two days of skiing and one night's lodging. If you decide to mix your powder with a spoonful of learning, drop by the Museum of the Rockies, at Montana State University, to delve into Montana's Native American and pioneer history and to see some of the world's finest dinosaur fossils. Get There: Round-trip flights from Los Angeles to Bozeman on Frontier start at $350. Stay: Homewood Suites by Hilton Bozeman provides a cozy home away from home in the heart of this college town (1023 Baxter Lane, Bozeman, Mont., homewoodsuites.hilton.com, doubles from $104). 7. ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO Southwestern Sun A winter sojourn to the Southwest doesn't have to mean just golf courses and exhibition baseball. Albuquerque presents an eclectic dance card to visitors: The Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum is a hotspot for hot-air balloon enthusiasts—and also for those content to just watch those gentle giants take flight. The Pueblo Cultural Center presents one of the world's most impressive collections of Southwestern Native American art, including changing exhibits by contemporary artists. If, after soaking up New Mexico's distinctive desert landscape, you want to find out more about how the land took the shape it did, head to the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science. Get There: Round-trip flights from Chicago to Albuquerque on United start at $408. Stay: Nativo Lodge features an indoor and an outdoor pool, a fitness center, and spa (6000 Pan American Freeway North East, Albuquerque, N.M., nativolodge.com, doubles from $59). 8. COSTA RICA Tropical Fun This Central American nation's reputation for all-around beauty, adventure, and affordability is well deserved. Start with the markets, museums, and nightlife of capital city San Jose, then head to Arenal—the kind of rumbling, lava-spewing volcano you may have thought existed only in movies. And if an active volcano isn't enough to get your adrenaline flowing, dive into Manuel Antonio national park to cavort with monkeys, or just go take a hike—no, we really mean take a hike—in the cloud forests near Monteverde and Santa Elena along the continental divide. Get There: Round-trip flights from New York to San Jose, Costa Rica, on Spirit start at $441; round-trip flights from Denver to San Jose, Costa Rica, on Frontier start at $429. Stay: Hotel Presidente, in San Jose, offers boutique hotel style in a convenient central-city location and includes a complimentary continental breakfast buffet (Central Avenue Blvd., 7th Street, San Jose, Costa Rica, hotel-presidente.com, doubles from $89).  9. CORTINA D'AMPEZZO, ITALY Italian Skiing This stunning region of Italy's Dolomite Mountains—featuring peaks over 9,000 feet above sea level—was the site of the 1956 Winter Olympics and has always attracted a swanky European crowd, including movie stars and royals. But strict zoning has kept the area true to its surprisingly Teutonic roots, and you'll see white-timber houses that look as if they were transplanted out of a fairy tale. The popular Cortina d'Ampezzo ski resort offers a seven-day Dolomiti Superski pass, which gives you access to all the area's slopes for about $40 a day, and booking your trip now can nab you reasonable airfare and hotel rates for this tony enclave. Get There: Round-trip flights from New York to Rome on Alitalia start at $1,071. Stay: Domina Home Alaska is centrally located in Cortina d'Ampezzo and offers complimentary breakfast and a fitness center (39 Largo delle Poste, Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy, hotels.com, doubles from $150). 10. SMUGGLER'S NOTCH, VERMONT Northeast Skiing With incredible ski destinations in the American west and the mountain ranges of Europe, it's easy for easterners to forget that there are some awesome slopes under their noses. For one-stop shopping, Smugglers' Notch, in Vermont's Green Mountains, is convenient, affordable, and regularly ranks among the top favorites of ski enthusiasts. Here, a little more than an hour's flight from New York City, you'll find weeklong packages that include a mountainside condo, lift tickets, snow tubing, and a family entertainment and recreation center. Get There: Round-trip flights from New York to Burlington, Vt., on United start at $152. Stay: Smugglers' Notch ski lodge basic packages include a studio condominium and lift tickets (4323 Vermont Route 108 South, Jeffersonville, Vt., smuggs.com, doubles, including lift package for two, from $297). 11. NHA TRANG, VIETNAM The Perfect Beach Yeah, the airfare to Vietnam from the U.S.'s West Coast is not cheap, averaging between $900 and $1,300 round-trip, but once you get there, food and lodging can be quite reasonable. The beaches of Nha Trang, on the country's south central coast, are a major wintertime draw, and many visitors are more than happy to skip major cities like Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and Hanoi in favor of this laid-back beach town. Besides superb surf, scuba, and sunbathing, Nha Trang offers a number of temples dating as far back as the 9th century and Vietnam's signature cuisine, which blends French Colonial influence with traditional Southeast Asian claypot and noodle dishes. Get There: Round-trip flights from Los Angeles to Nha Trang, Vietnam, on China Southern start at $991. Stay: Novotel Nha Trang has an outdoor pool and a spa (50 Tran Phu St., Nha Trang, Vietnam, novotel.com, doubles from $82).

Destinations

11 Coolest Winter Places in America

Snowstorms used to mean long days spent making snow angels and having snowball fights followed by big mugs of hot cocoa topped with marshmallows. Alas, we're not kids anymore. But that doesn't mean we can't still get outside and play. There are lots of grownup winter activities, like, say, leading a pack of sled dogs across the Maine wilderness or snowshoeing over pathways carved back in the Ice Age (when it was considerably chillier). One thing that hasn't changed? That cup of hot cocoa still hits the spot. CHECK OUT THE WINTER ACTIVITIES! Compete in your own Winter Games Lake Placid, N.Y. Ever watch bobsledders zooming down the track during the Olympics and think, "I could do that?" Well, in Lake Placid, you can. The town has hosted the Winter Games twice (in 1932 and 1980), and now caters to visitors seeking glory. Any reasonably fit person can take a bobsled run (with both a professional driver and a brakeman keeping things safe) at the Olympic Sports Complex. At the nearby Olympic Center, you can pretend you are Apolo Anton Ohno and speed skate around the oval. The center has activities for people of all ages, including a torch run, a snowboarding race, and hockey slap shot contests. 518/946-2223, whiteface.com, prices for activities vary. Get the best view of the Northern Lights Fairbanks, Alaska Thanks to its proximity to the North Pole, and the lack of urban light pollution, this isolated area is one of the best places to take in the Aurora Borealis. The green ribbons of light are caused by charged particles from the sun interacting with the earth's atmosphere, and the crystalline skies here, about 360 miles north of Anchorage, come alive (the local university offers forecasts for viewing). If you're looking for some guidance, book a Snow Coach Tour. The trips depart at 10 p.m. from Chena Hot Springs Resort, about 60 miles from downtown Fairbanks. The staff sets up a heated yurt where you can warm up after viewing the lights while sipping hot beverages. 907/451-8104, chenahotsprings.com/winter-activities, $75 per person. Relax with a glass of ice wine Traverse City, Michigan There aren't many places in the U.S. with the appropriate conditions to make ice wine (most of it is produced in Germany and Canada). This town, a four-hour dive from Detroit, is graced with panoramic views of Lake Michigan, and the cold air coming off the lakes is perfect for chilling grapes. The wine makers at Chateau Grand Traverse use Riesling grapes that have been left on the vine after the harvest to freeze in the chilly northern Michigan air. The winery offers free tours and tastings of its other wines, and you can also sample wine made from cherries, the area's other bounty. 12239 Center Rd., 800/283-0247, cgtwines.com. Ski down untouched trails Park City, Utah Park City has three resorts and some of the country's best skiing, but the best way to get off the runs and really experience the countryside is on a snowcat. Small groups of skiers pile into trucks with tracked wheels that can handle the area's diverse terrain and travel to parts of the mountain with "virgin" runs untouched by other skiers. Park City Powder Cats will take you to Thousand Peaks Ranch in the Uinta Mountains for up to 12 runs through quiet bowls and glades. 435/649-6596, pccats.com, from $449 for a day trip. Take a sleigh ride in the wilderness Jackson Hole, Wyoming Jackson Hole may be a premier ski destination, but a much less publicized highlight of a visit to the town is a sleigh ride at the nearby 25,000-acre National Elk Refuge. From mid-December to early April, visitors can enjoy a horse-drawn ride through the park to see thousands of elk. Guides with Bar T5 will also point out the park's other wildlife, such as eagles and trumpeter swans. Free shuttle buses depart from the Jackson Hole and Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center, 800/772-5386, bart5.com, $18 for adults, $14 for children 5-12. Zoom through America's first national park on a snow coach West Yellowstone, Montana Roads at the West Entrance to Yellowstone National Park are not plowed in winter. If you want access to this part of the park, populated by bison, pronghorn antelope, and bighorn sheep, you'll need to rent a snowmobile or book a snow coach tour. Some vehicles come equipped with handlebar warmers and you can even rent cozy layers if you didn't pack enough for the frigid air. The park's abundant animal population doesn't seem to mind the chill. destinationyellowstone.com/play/snow-coach, from $105 for trips not including park fees. Snowshoe the Ice Age Trail Chetek, Wisconsin Don't be intimidated: Snowshoeing on Wisconsin's nearly flat Ice Age National Scenic Trail is totally doable. The state's National Scenic Trail encompasses about 620 miles of marked pathways that feature landscapes left behind when glacial ice carved the earth more than 12,000 years ago. In winter, a section of this trail is open to snowshoers at Chippewa Moraine State Recreation Area. Rent your snowshoes from the visitors' center (free, but donations are encouraged) and loop the 6.5-mile trail, studded with frozen mini-lakes and countless five-foot-tall boulders. 13394 County Hwy M, 888/936-7463, dnr.wi.gov. Take the reigns on a dog sledding tour Millinocket, Maine This paper-mill town, a three-hour drive north of Portland, has charm to spare. Among its most popular winter sports is dog sledding, but this isn't just a simple guided ride. Maine Dog Sledding Adventures at Nahmakanta Lake is actually a training program. Here, guests learn how to harness and drive a team of five to six Alaskan huskies. Mush! 207/731-8888, mainedogsledding.com, from $375 for half-day trips for up to four people. Cross-country ski by lantern light Silver City, Michigan The Porcupine Mountains of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, affectionately known as the Porkies, offer 92 square miles of terrain for cross-country skiing. But you haven't really experienced the beauty of this pristine wilderness until you've traveled the trails by lantern light. Every Saturday through February 2012, a mile path will be lit by kerosene lanterns, with a comfort station at the midway point for a warm-up. 906/885-5275, skitheporkies.com, $30 for ski rental. Sled around a high-country hamlet Silverton, Colorado Forget cars. In winter, residents of Silverton prefer to get around on kicksleds (essentially chairs placed on six-foot-long steel runners). The townsfolk are so committed to winter fun that they refrain from plowing after the first bountiful snowfall so that the fresh powder will pack into a perma-crust for smoother sledding. Guests and non-guests can rent sleds (as well as skis, snowshoes, and other equipment) from the Wyman Hotel, and take advantage of the area's average annual snowfall of 150 inches. 1371 Greene St., 970/387-5372, thewyman.com, doubles from $125, kicksled rental $10 for guests and non-guests. See freaky ice formations beneath the earth Lava Beds National Monument, California Winter temps in this part of northern California average in the 40s during the day and the 20s at night. Not chilly enough? Go underground into some of the local caves, where the air hovers at the freezing point year-round. To safely journey into the caves at Lava Beds National Monument, rent a helmet and headlamp from the visitors' center. Then go 100 feet beneath the earth's crust into the Crystal Ice Cave, where freaky ice formations include a 20-foot-high crystal curtain. 530/667-8113, nps.gov/labe, $10 per vehicle for a seven-day entrance. SEE MORE POPULAR CONTENT: 5 Caribbean Island to Discover Now 25 Dazzling Snow Scenes 15 of America's Favorite Regional Sweets 12 Elevators You Have to See to Believe The Dirty Truth About Hotel Ratings

Destinations

World's Prettiest Castle Towns

Historically, castle towns were designed to keep invaders out—the city walls, moats, and cannon ramparts all constructed to serve as protective barriers. But these days, those same majestic architectural features have proven irresistible to visitors, and now these communities welcome tourists with open arms—and gates (no storming the castle necessary!). We scoured the globe to find the most picturesque fortress towns in the world, places where you're just as likely to want to snap photos of the ramparts as you will street scenes of the locals. Best of all, these are real towns, so when you're finished exploring the castles' interiors, you'll have a reason to stick around and enjoy the royal backdrop while you experience the local culture. TOUR THE CASTLES 1. JAISALMER, INDIA  About 470 miles west of Delhi looms what is said to be the world's only continuously occupied fort town, Jaisalmer, India. Rajput warriors and Jain merchants founded the so-called Golden City in 1156 and—unlike many fortress communities—it was never abandoned. Jaisalmer Fort rises nearly 25 stories off the flat, seemingly endless floor of the Great Thar Desert in western Rajasthan. Its 99 bastions were constructed out of yellow bentonite sandstone—giving it the appearance of a massive, intricately carved, sand castle. Around the flourishing town, countless temples and mansions stand out for their Technicolor red-, indigo-, and yellow-dyed walls typically decorated with lace-like carvings.Getting There: A new airport will open near Jaisalmer in December 2011. Until then, you can reach the city via an overnight, 570-mile train journey from Delhi (tickets start at $3 per person, $6 per person for a sleeper-cabin seat), or else you can take a nine-day camel trip from Delhi (aetravel.com, prices vary).Visiting: Admission is $5. 2. RHODES, GREECE  The unique mix of Islamic minarets, European buttresses, and pebble-stone mosaic pavements in the ancient city of Rhodes makes it look like a clash of cultures—A Knight's Tale meets a 17th-century Turkish village. Indeed, the town is located at the very heart of the crossroads between the Middle East, Europe, and Africa, and its varied architecture reflects all of those influences. Within the city's thick sandstone and limestone walls, you'll find the Palace of the Grand Masters, built by crusading knights in the 14th century, alongside a candy-striped mosque, a Byzantine museum, and a Muslim library—all legacies from the time of Turkish rule. Today, many of Rhodes's Greek residents are shopkeepers who sell honey produced by the island's many beekeepers; others craft necklaces and souvenirs made from shells cast ashore.Getting There: The medieval town of Rhodes is located at the northern tip of the island of Rhodes—part of the Dodecanese chain. Olympic Airlines and Aegean Airlines both offer flights into the International Airport of Rhodes (prices vary), and five ferry lines connect to the island from the mainland (prices vary).Visiting: Entry to the town of Rhodes is free; admission to the palace, museum, and other sites vary. 3. NAGANEUPSEONG, SOUTH KOREA  South Korea may not leap to mind as a hotbed of castles, but in fact the country is flush with fortress towns built to thwart Japanese pirates. Instead of Braveheart-style stone fortresses, however, in Korea castles resemble elaborate pagoda-type buildings, surrounded by thick stone walls. The best preserved of these is in the town of Naganeupseong, a three-square-mile gem nestled in a valley beneath some low-lying mountains near the southwestern city of Suncheon. As remarkable as it is unpronounceable, Naganeupseong (nagan means "safe and pleasant"and seong means "castle") was built in 1397 and still has a couple hundred residents living in its hub of 30 or so thatched-roof adobe houses. Locals work in tile-roofed shops linked by pencil-thin stone alleyways, all of which lead to the town's focal point: the Nakpung-ru Castle. Most weekends, visitors can catch a changing-of-the-guard ceremony in front of its pagoda-style entrance, and every October, the town draws about 200,000 tourists to its Namdo food festival, where regional favorite dishes, such as sanchae bibimbap (a bowl of warm rice topped with vegetables), are served and traditional music is played on the 12-string gayageum.Getting There: The town of Naganeupseong is accessible via a 25-minute taxi ride from Suncheon. Expect to pay about $3.50.Visiting: Admission to the Nakpung-ru Castle is $1.75 for adults. 4. SEGOVIA, SPAIN  Even if you've never set foot in Spain, the Alcázar Castle will likely look familiar to you. It's believed to be the inspiration for the original Cinderella Castle in Disneyland, in Anaheim, Calif., and it has appeared in countless postcards and photos since. The original 14th-century structure was destroyed by a fire, but its cylindrical turrets, peaked roofs, and soaring stone walls were faithfully re-created in the 1880s, with marvelously designed murals inside depicting famous battle scenes. The Alcázar is surrounded by a deep moat and looms over the small, hill town of Segovia, which is connected by a drawbridge. The walled community itself is a faithful re-creation of the bright side of Middle Ages life, with crafts shops and beer halls done up in true retro style. Segovia also has an amazingly well-preserved Roman aqueduct with 166 graceful arches and the famous Vera Cruz church, which was consecrated in 1208 by the Knights of Templar to house a relic of the True Cross.Getting There: The town of Segovia is easily reached via a one-hour-and-45-minute high-speed train ride northwest of Madrid (tickets $11).Visiting: Admission to the Alcázar Castle is $6 for adults. 5. LOUISBOURG, CANADA  Set on the Atlantic Coast of Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, Louisbourg began life peacefully enough in 1713 as a fishing port. But when the Anglo-French struggle for Canada began a few years later, the French colonists started building a series of stone city walls, transforming the sleepy village into a massive fortress. Today, the entire town is a national historic site, crawling with visitors, historical reenactors, and—some say—more than its fair share of resident ghosts. There's a phantom sea captain who's said to haunt the ramparts that overlook Louisbourg's pretty harbor; there's the nurse known to walk among the remains of the old hospital; and there's the mischief-maker who causes trouble by the fort's coal-fired hearth, where white-aproned bakers make fresh bread every day for visitors. Just outside the bastion's walls is the Louisbourg Playhouse, which presents traditional colonial dance performances every day during the summer months.Getting There: From the mainland, Louisbourg is best reached by car. You cross the Canso Causeway onto Cape Breton Island. Continue on to the city of Sydney. From the NS Highway 125, you take exit 8 onto Route 22 to Louisbourg. Visiting: The fort is open from mid-May to late October. Admission is $17.60 for adults. 6. MATSUMOTO, JAPAN  Matsumoto-jo is a compound set in the shadow of snow-topped Mt. Hotaka in central Japan. It was built in 1592, making it the country's oldest surviving wooden castle. The main tower is surrounded by pagoda-like tiers, which are painted black and white, and a moat teeming with colorful koi carp. The castle was built on top of a series of mazelike passageways, designed to disorient and trap intruders. Visitors today, however, are welcomed and given tours. Outside the castle walls, Matsumoto seems designed for pedestrians, with wide, tree-lined boulevards tracing the breezy Metoba River. You can also explore the fascinating merchant—or nakamachi—district, a hub of low-slung, tile-roofed buildings where local artisans sell crafts and handiwork, such as furniture made without any nails.Getting There: The Azusa and Super Azusa express trains run from Tokyo's Shinjuku Station to Matsumoto every half hour. The journey takes about two hours and 40 minutes, and one-way fares cost $79 for non-reserved seats and about $86 for reserved seats. The castle is about a 15-minute walk from Matsumoto train station. Visiting: Admission to the castle is about $7.80. 7. ROTHENBURG OB DER TAUBER, GERMANY  Germany's so-called Romantic Road—which slices north to south through the southern German state of Bavaria—earned its name for its string of stunning castles. But most of the region's bastions are stand-alone tourist attractions, not thriving municipalities. A charming exception is Rothenburg ob der Tauber, a red-walled town set up on a hill above the Tauber River. It has all the pastoral views and scenery of the Romantic Road's other castle stops yet has a strong civic pulse, too. Walt Disney was so taken by the town, in fact, that he used it as inspiration for the village in the movie Pinocchio. An earthquake destroyed the castle's main tower in 1356, but the town's red-roofed medieval and Renaissance houses have endured for centuries and were fully restored after World War II. Visitors can tour the castle's stone towers—protected beneath covered walkways—and stop by its base, where crafts shops sell everything from antique clocks to handmade garden gnomes. Cuisine is celebrated here in a way it isn't in largerGerman cities like Frankfurt or Berlin, let alone in castle canteens elsewhere. You may come here for the shining armor—but you'll return for the delicious renditions of Bavarian comfort foods (more spätzle, anyone?).Getting There: The closest major tourist city to Rothenburg ob der Tauber is Munich, which sits about 130 miles southeast. Train service runs between the two cities and takes about three hours (tickets from $67). You can also drive: The A7 autobahn runs right past town.Visiting: Visiting the town is free. 8. SINTRA, PORTUGAL  Sintra is like the one-stop shop for castle lovers, with not one, not two, but three gorgeous castles. This medieval stronghold town is so beautiful it was called Glorious Eden by the British poet Lord Byron. The town's focal point, Sintra National Palace, is distinctive for its whimsical interiors: columns twisted like barley, an Arab-style courtyard situated around pretty fountains, and glazed tile work known as azulejos. Beyond the town's fortress walls—but still within walking distance—Pena National Palace, with its cupolas, minarets, and lookout towers in cherry, lemon, and white hues, stands on a hilltop overlooking a green forest. On another nearby hill, a once-proud Moorish castle lingers in romantic ruins. In between, the old town of Sintra has a mix of Gothic, Renaissance, and art nouveau homes, not to mention many stone-wall shops selling authentic antiques, wine, and paintings—all of this framed by a lushly forested seaside national park.Getting There: Sintra sits about 20 miles northwest of Lisbon. Trains run between the two destinations about every 20 minutes, out of Lisbon's Rossio station, and tickets cost $2.60 each way.Visiting: Entrance fees to the town's three castles range from $9.50 to $16.20; visiting the ruins is free. 9. PALMANOVA, ITALY  Founded in 1593 as a stronghold of the Venetian Republic, this UNESCO World Heritage town was built in a unique, 18-sided octadecagon shape. When viewed from above, the fortress community looks like a delicately made paper snowflake, with streets radiating out of the structure like sunbeams. Tucked into a valley with a lagoon running into the Adriatic Sea, the land surrounding Palmanova yields high-quality Chardonnay, while the local waters are stocked with mullet, sea bass, and other delicious fish. In town, look out for the symbol of a leafy bough, or a frasca, hanging outside of restaurants to pinpoint ones serving regionally sourced food, such as the classic Venetian dish baccalà, made with dry-salted cod. At night, the city's earth-and-stone defensive works are lit up like a movie set.Getting There: Palmanova sits between Venice and Trieste in northeastern Italy. It's accessible by car along the A4 and A23 motorways and Highway 352. Venice is 75 miles to the southwest, while Trieste is 34 miles to the southeast. The town also sits close to the Cervignano del Friuli station and is serviced by the Udine railway (prices vary). Visiting: Admission to the town's three castles is free. 10. CARCASSONNE, FRANCE  The beauty of Carcassonne is in the details. The well-restored Romanesque fortress city in southwestern France is known by the locals simply as La Cité. The castle's crenellated walls punctuate the sky, and the double line of ramparts looks wonderfully forbidding. The cone-shaped, slate-roofed towers are postcard-perfect. The town's stone streets have been populated since the fifth century. Carcassonne sits a mere one-hour drive from the Mediterranean Sea, meaning it's thousands of miles from Paris in both distance and attitude. It's an unexpected gastronomic and artistic hotspot, with restaurants dishing up modern takes on classical French cuisine, such as cassoulet with partridge, and a neoclassic Musée des Beaux Arts, which stands out for presenting masterworks by Courbet, Chardin, and Ingres, among others.Getting There: Carcassonne is on the main train line linking Toulouse, 50 minutes away (tickets from $20), with Narbonne, 30 minutes away (tickets from $15), and Montpellier, an hour and a half away (tickets from $29). About a dozen trains a day run on this line. Also, Ryanair is the only airline that offers flights in and out of Carcassonne’s airport, about three and a half miles outside of town. It has daily flights to and from London's Stansted Airport and Brussels's Charleroi Airport. It also offers flights from Carcassonne to Dublin and Liverpool (prices vary). Visiting: There is an $11.50 entrance fee for adults to visit the castle. Once inside, you can join a free, optional 45-minute tour of the ramparts; guides speak English (carcassonne.org).

Destinations

10 Gorgeous Pools You Won't Believe Are Public

Forget every drab, rectangular, over-chlorinated pool you knew as a child: We found 10 shimmering oases across the globe that come with pleasing aesthetics, funky shapes, and naturally sourced water, injecting some novelty into your traditional summer cooldown. Best of all, they're all wallet-friendly, so pack up your crew, practice your cannonball, and dive right in! See the slide show! Sydney, Australia For more than a century, Tasman Sea waves have crashed against—and into—the Bondi Baths, an Olympic-size pool that became the home of the Bondi Icebergs, a winter swimming club, in 1929. Because of its solid concrete construction, the pool is always slightly colder than the ocean, even though it uses the same water—you can follow the fluctuating temps on its Twitter feed. The public is welcome here, but locals who want to become Icebergs (i.e., earn their official stripes as winter swimmers) must log 75 swims here during what most would consider the "off-season" (when pool temps dip below 60ºF in wintry July). Casual visitors favor summertime dips, when the water warms to the high 70s by February. Upon emerging from the striking shoreside pool at the Icebergs, bathers enjoy the amenities of its modernist, beachy clubhouse complex, which includes a gourmet bistro, two bars, fitness facilities, and a 1,600-square-foot sundeck.Accessibility: Year-roundAffordability: Day pass for nonmembers $6Hours: Mon.–Fri., 6 a.m.–6:30 p.m., Sat.–Sun., 6:30 a.m.–6:30 p.m. Closed for cleaning every Thurs. 1 Notts Ave., Bondi Beach, 011-61/2-9130-3120; icebergs.com.au Vienna, Austria Perhaps "Krapfenwaldlbad" doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, but it happens to be the name of one of Vienna's loveliest neighborhoods—as well as its renowned park with four heated pools for swimmers, socializers, and families. First opened in 1923 and perched like a leisurely sentinel on a hill, the main pool has become a fixture in the city's summer social scene. Accordingly, amenities run the gamut from a restaurant and a bar to table tennis, soccer, beach volleyball, and a children's playground. While the pools themselves may be standard fare, their exclusive views over the entire city, vineyards, and, well, other bathers, are what make them exceptional.Accessibility: May 2–Sept.Affordability: Adult admission to the park, including pool access, $6.70Hours: Mon.–Fri., 9 a.m.–8 p.m.; Sat., Sun., and holidays, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Krapfenwaldgasse 65-73, Vienna, 011-43/1-320-1501; wien-konkret.at (German only, see above link for English) Copenhagen, Denmark Kastrup Søbad, a circular wooden pavilion in the Baltic Sea, captures the essence of Danish design with its clean lines and natural finish. Created in 2005, the "sea bath" rises up at the end of a 328-foot boardwalk that connects it to shore (where visitors will find showers and lockers) and spirals in a way that shields bathers from sea winds. The walls of the $1.3 million structure intentionally slope to provide a vantage point for admiring the three miles of beaches nearby. The swimming here is probably most enjoyed by those of hearty Scandinavian stock, given that the clear waters only reach the low 60s at their warmest. But it's a perfect place to experience hygge—an all-encompassing Danish term that means spending quality time with good friends—and it's only a seven-minute train trip from the heart of downtown.Accessibility: June–Sept.Affordability: FreeHours: 24 hours a day, June–Sept. 15; generally supervised from 11 a.m.–8 p.m., but check schedule for times. Amager Strandvej 301, Copenhagen, 011-45/3251-5135; visitcopenhagen.com Bath, England The Thermae Bath Spa taps into the same thermal springs that once soothed Roman conquerors in 43 A.D. From the naturally heated rooftop pool on the spa's New Royal Bath building, visitors can take in a panorama that includes the ornate towers of 17th-century Bath Abbey in the center of town. This building also houses the Minerva Bath, the largest and most futuristically stylized of the three on offer, with massage jets, a whirlpool, and a "lazy river." Here, as well as in the more intimate Cross Bath building (erected on a Celtic goddess-worshipping site), the mineral-rich water boils up out of the earth at 113ºF but is mechanically cooled to a comfortable 91ºF. While in town, it's worthwhile to check out the ruins in the nearby Roman Baths museum, where the spirits of those who soaked before you roam.Accessibility: Year-roundAffordability: Two-hour spa usage, including pool access, $40Hours:New Royal Bath, 9 a.m.–10 p.m.; Cross Bath, 10 a.m.–8 p.m.6–8 Hot Bath St., Bath, 011-44/1225-331-234; thermaebathspa.com Montpellier, France Visitors to Montpellier's Piscine Olympique d'Antigone are simultaneously greeted by Antigone and Venus—that is, the Olympic-size lap pool and leisure pool—upon entering the modernist bi-level sports complex. Downstairs, Antigone hosts everything from lap sessions to sports matches—and some of France's elite Olympic athletes train here, if you're looking to bump into the water-polo team. Upstairs at Venus, bathers' diversions include a five-lane pool, a sun terrace beneath the retractable roof, a whirlpool, and the most chic waterslide you've ever seen (leave it to the French).Accessibility: Year-roundAffordability: Adult day pass $7Leisure pool hours: Mon.–Fri., 9 a.m.–9:30 p.m., Sat. 9 a.m.–7:15 p.m., Sun. 9 a.m.–1:15 p.m. and 3 p.m.–7:15 p.m. 195, Avenue Jacques Cartier, Montpellier, 011-33/4-67-15-63-00; montpellier-agglo.com (French only) Berlin, Germany Berliners clamber aboard the Badeschiff (literally, "bathing ship"), which floats southeast of this vibrant cultural hub's city center, in the Spree River. The 90-foot-long, seven-foot-deep, bright blue pool was created in May 2004 from a converted barge and is now open throughout the year. Come summer, yoga classes, concerts, and movie screenings lure hipsters here to hang out on the adjacent floating wood platform, at the cafe, and on the man-made beach. During the winter, a translucent shell protects swimmers, and a pair of saunas materializes alongside the pool.Accessibility: May–Sept., Nov.–Mar.Affordability: $6Hours: Summer, daily, 8 a.m.–12 a.m.; winter, $17 for three hours, opening times vary according to day. Eichenstrasse, 4, Berlin; arena-berlin.de/badeschiff Budapest, Hungary While the Gellért Thermal Baths buildingdates from 1918, records of the healing waters on-site date back to the 15th century. First opened with an offering of six thermal baths, the complex today is an expansive Eastern European respite decked out in intricate stonework and mosaic tiles on a grand scale. The effervescent swimming pool in the art-nouveau-style main hall is arguably the showstopper, sparkling 98 feet long under the double-height glass roof and inevitably inspiring fantasies of swimming in champagne. The rest of the building encompasses the original mineral-hot-spring baths, plus cold baths, saunas, a steam room, a spa, and two outdoor pools, including a 130-foot-long open-air wave pool.Accessibility: Indoor, year-round; outdoor, summertimeAffordability: Pools only from $20Hours: Daily, 6 a.m.–8 p.m. Kelenhegyi út 4, Budapest, 011-36/466-6166; budapestgyogyfurdoi.hu Grindavík, Iceland The aptly named Blue Lagoon outside of Reykjavík draws more than 400,000 visitors a year to its 1.6 million gallons of approximately 100-degree seawater. Steam rises from these sky blue hot springs across a surreal landscape of black lava mounds, and bathers slather themselves with silica mud, precipitated from the spring water and known for its relaxing (and purported healing) properties. Formed in the 1970s as a by-product of the neighboring geothermal plant (after the plant used the hot water, it was led back to the lava field and formed the lagoon), the Blue Lagoon spawned a wellness center in 1999. With a restaurant, a spa, a dry sauna, and steam baths, the facility draws visitors from around the globe.Accessibility: Year-roundAffordability: Day pass $42Hours: Sept. 1–May 31, 10 a.m.–8 p.m.; June 1–Aug. 31, 9 a.m.–9 p.m. 240 Grindavík, 011-354/4-208-800; bluelagoon.com   Austin, Tex. The natural springs that feed the 1,000-foot-long Barton Springs Pool were once considered sacred by Native Americans, who believed in their healing powers. A dip in these waters is certainly rejuvenating, as is the time you'll spend lounging poolside on grassy knolls shaded by ancient oak and pecan trees in surrounding Zilker Metropolitan Park. The idyllic 355-acre green sprawl south of downtown is host to the annual Austin City Limits Music Festival and features Frisbee golf, playgrounds, and the Zilker Botanical Garden, which includes the Isamu Taniguchi Japanese Garden.Accessibility: Mar. 12–Jan. 24Affordability: Adults $3Hours: Apr.–Sept., 8 a.m.–10 p.m. 2100 Barton Springs Rd., Zilker Park, Austin, 512/867-3080; ci.austin.tx.us/parks/bartonsprings   Coral Gables, Fla. Like something out of a watercolor found at a Florida antiques show, Coral Gables Venetian Pool is a man-made, jade green, eight-foot-deep lagoon created in 1924 by the city's founding father, George Merrick. Drained every night and refilled with 820,000 gallons of spring water, the pool—listed on the National Register of Historic Places—is connected to a pair of waterfalls (one of which is 25 feet high!) and grottoes worthy of Michelangelo's eye. Hold court at the poolside cafe during the afternoons; as night descends, Venetian-inspired lampposts bestow a 1920s glamour on this secluded spot, but, sadly, moonlight canoodling is deterred by closing times that precede sunset.Accessibility: Year-roundAffordability: Day pass for nonresident adults $11Summer hours through Aug. 21, Mon.–Fri., 11 a.m.–6:30 p.m., Sat.–Sun., 10 a.m.–4:30 p.m.; Aug. 22–Oct. 31, closes weekdays at 5:30 p.m. 2701 De Soto Blvd., Coral Gables, 305/460-5306; coralgablesvenetianpool.com SEE MORE POPULAR CONTENT: World's Most Amazing Hotel Pools Secret Beaches of North America 25 Most Photographed Places on Earth 10 Most Beautiful Churches 26 Stunning Ireland Photos

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