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5 great places to visit in April

For some folks, April is the month to travel. Something of a mirror...

Posted: May 10, 2018 2:12 PM
Updated: May 10, 2018 2:12 PM

For some folks, April is the month to travel. Something of a mirror image to October, it's a "shoulder season" time as the Northern Hemisphere shakes off winter and the Southern Hemisphere cools off from its summer.

Depending on your destination, you might be able to get off-peak prices while vacationing in lovely weather in April. At the same time, April demands some flexibility from travelers; the month can also bring storms, rains and unpredictable temperatures. But when you get that perfect April day, what is better for travel?

Julie Hall, AAA spokesperson, advises April tourists to plan early in 2018.

"AAA expects this to be a busy spring and summer travel season, especially following this year's harsh winter," she says. "Warm-weather destinations, including theme parks and beaches, are particularly popular this time of year.

"Spring is a popular time for family travel, so book early for the best deals and availability on hotels, airfare, car rentals and more."

With that advice in mind, here are five great places to visit in April:

1. Paris

"April in Paris, this is a feeling. No one can ever reprise."

Sometimes, you have to go with a classic, the tried and true. And what's more classic than April in Paris? France's capital delights all year, but spring brings a special charm.

As the month progresses, it tends to rain a little less and warm up. You should pack for both cool and warmish weather and have rain gear for those spring showers.

Here are a few events and places to consider in April:

-- Art Paris Art Fair: More than 100 art galleries gather under the glass ceiling of the Grand Palais to exhibit contemporary art. Various countries, regions and continents get a special focus each year, varying from places such as Switzerland to Africa.

-- March- aux fleurs: On the -le de la Cit- between Notre-Dame Cathedral and Sainte-Chapelle, this flower market has been operating since 1830.

-- Grand Mosqu-e of Paris: This oasis in the Latin Quarter was constructed in the 1920s and is home to a lush and calming garden.

-- Pere Lachaise: The beautiful cemetery, in a picturesque hilly setting, holds the graves of Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf, Jim Morrison and other luminaries.

The AAA's Hall has her own recommendation: "The gardens at the Palace of Versailles are beautiful in the spring. On weekends beginning in April, some of the garden's 55 fountains come to life for a musical fountain show."

You may want to visit Parc Monceau in the eighth arrondissement. Ricki Stevenson, who runs Black Paris Tours, says it was a hangout in the 1920s for African-Americans living nearby, including Josephine Baker and Langston Hughes.

Looking for a great place for French food? Bistrot Paul Bert (18 Rue Paul Bert, 75011 Paris; +33 1 43 72 24 01) provides a classic bistro experience. It's noted for its steak frites and apple tart.

2. Kyoto, Japan

You can enjoy stunning architectural wonders, delicious Japanese cuisine and geisha culture in Kyoto any time of year.

But it's in early to mid-April (and sometimes the last part of March) that you get to see exquisite cherry blossoms in Japan's historical heart. To gaze upon these sakura at their peak requires both flexibility and planning on your part, as Mother Nature works on her own timetable.

Kyoto is in the southern part of the Japanese island chain, so its blossoms come earlier than places farther north such as Sapporo, where they tend to open in May. You can check websites such as Japan-Guide.com for yearly predictions.

Here are a few favorite spots for viewing:

-- Along the banks of the Kamogawa River.

-- Shinto Heian Shrine with its numerous pink weeping cherry trees.

-- Kyoto's Gion district, which is also a prime area for visitors interested in geisha culture.

Should you miss the blooms at their peak -- or just need a change of color -- dive into the green depths of the Sagano Bamboo Forest. Head there early in the morning and avoid weekends to enjoy a serene immersion. Its growing popularity means big crowds, which there are already plenty of in April.

Another reason to brave the crowds of April -- this is prime dance season for the various geisha districts of Kyoto. These performances of timeless beauty are unlike anything you're likely to see again.

For a memorable meal in Kyoto, try Okudan Shimizu. If you're not a fan of tofu, this place will change your mind. The restaurant has had almost 400 years to perfect its art of serving Buddhist vegetarian cuisine.

Kyoto is a long flight for travelers outside East Asia. Hall has some tips:

-- Consider signing up for Global Entry. That's a US Customs and Border Protection program that allows faster clearance for preapproved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States at select airports.

-- Be at the airport at least three hours before international flights. If you're traveling during peak times, you should plan to get there even earlier.

-- To ease jet lag, drink plenty of water but avoid alcohol, caffeinated beverages and salty foods.

3. Austin and San Antonio, Texas

April is a great month to mess around in this part of Texas, because summer comes early and stays late in the Hill Country. In April, it will be nice and warm but probably not too hot yet.

Austin, the state capital, and San Antonio, one of the 10 most populous cities in the United States, are the two major urban draws in the area. Just 80 miles apart, visitors can enjoy two distinct flavors of Texas with very little traveling time between.

Austin

Austin's claim to fame is music and rightly so. If you go in April, you'll miss the famous SXSW festival by a month (it's in March), but don't despair. You'll also miss the packed crowds and can see plenty of great musical acts with less confusion (and probably for less money) in April.

And Austin still doles out plenty of events in April. Here are just a few examples of the cultural riches:

-- Poets and poetry fans from around the world come for the Austin International Poetry Festival, where they enjoy live readings, workshops and more.

-- The annual Old Settlers Music Festival, southeast of Austin in nearby Dale, has Americana as well as jazz, blues and bluegrass performers. And you can camp there if you like.

-- They pride themselves on weirdness in Austin, so Eeyore's Annual Birthday Party fits the bill: Think acrobats, drum circles, costume contests and the like. The proceeds go to local charities.

Even in April, it may get pretty warm in Austin. If you catch it on heatwave, cool off in the brisk water of Barton Springs, a delightful natural pool in Zilker Park. It's a great place to watch the locals and other visitors enjoying themselves in the Texas sun.

Hall points out that April falls within the time for one of Austin's quirkier pastimes.

"From early March through October, watch the flight of more than a million bats from underneath the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge" at dusk, she says. The sight is breathtaking, but sometimes the smell of the bat guano can be breathtaking, too.

If you're looking for a dinner-and-music combo one night, try this South Congress Avenue duo: Guero's Taco Bar for great food and, just down the street, the Continental Club for great sounds. You can keep it a South Congress night by staying at the funky Hotel San Jose, which started as a 1930s motor court.

San Antonio

Austin's neighbor to the south is an even bigger city and has a distinct mix of American and Mexican cultures.

And remember, it's home to the Alamo. The historic fort is right in the heart of downtown San Antonio and is one of several mission sites scattered around the city. Check out at least one of four others that make up this national historical park as well. At these, you'll get a better sense of time and place with fewer people. If the Alamo is on your agenda, Hall says AAA suggests going in early to midafternoon when crowds are sometimes lighter.

It's hard to talk about things to do in San Antonio without bringing up its famous Riverwalk. The small waterway winds through the center of the city and is lined with hotels, cafes and entertainment venues. You can take boat rides and enjoy the sights at a slow, relaxing pace.

If you're all about basketball and being in the thick of crowds, the men's NCAA Final Four and Championship games will take place from March 31 to April 2 in 2018.

If all that hoopla does not ring your buzzer, here are some other annual events in San Antonio and the Hill Country in April:

-- First and foremost, there's Fiesta, San Antonio's massive, citywide party that lasts 11 days. You can enjoy mariachis, food tastings, fashion shows, live music, a military parade and more. Anything that says "San Antonio" is here.

-- If golf is your game, then you can attend the annual Valero Texas Open and see the top pros in action.

-- The little town of Poteet celebrates all things strawberry each April if you're in the mood for a smaller Texas venue with a carnival, gunslinger shows and rodeo performances.

-- Fans of the ubiquitous bluebonnet may wish to attend the annual festival celebrating the signature Texas flower bloom in Burnet, about 55 miles northwest of Austin.

4. Nicaragua

Nicaragua's time as "best-kept travel secret" of Central America is probably over, but it's still less visited than Costa Rica and Panama if you like to break away from the crowds.

The kind of weather to expect in April depends on where you go.

On the Pacific side, it's the tail end of the dry season. This means crowds may be thinning out after the peak of high season in winter and your outdoor activities won't be spoiled by downpours. On the down side, you won't see much in the way of lush greenery this time of year on this coast (but wildlife is easier to spot).

The Atlantic side of Nicaragua is much more humid and rainy. This is where to head if you're in the mood for a verdant landscape. It's warm to hot most everywhere, but the mountainous interior is relatively cooler.

A popular place for travelers is the country's Emerald Coast. It's a roughly 30-mile span of pristine Pacific coastline and dry tropical forest. You'll find world-class surf here, friendly locals and luxury resorts that have an ecology focus.

History buffs and architecture fans will want to head to Leon, located between Lake Managua and the Pacific. The Cathedral of Leon, finished in the early 1800s, is touted as the largest cathedral in Central America. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2011.

Another city for history and beautiful old buildings is Granada, which rests alongside Lake Nicaragua. Parque Central is a great place for people watching and soaking in the culture.

For travelers who like to snorkel and scuba dive, the Corn Islands off the Caribbean coast may prove to be an irresistible lure. There's a Big one that's more developed and a Little one that's more natural.

You can also take advantage of Nicaragua's volcanic landscape with hiking tours. The really adventurous can even do something called "volcano boarding" at Cerro Negro, not far from Leon.

Hall has some tips for people who might be traveling to Central America for the first time and are a little nervous:

-- Check the latest information for Nicaragua on the US State Department website.

-- You can go to the travel page of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for important health information.

-- Consider enrolling in the State Department's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. STEP helps make it easier for the nearest embassy or consulate to contact US citizens in case of an emergency.

Finally, Hall says to "make extra copies of all travel documents, itineraries and emergency contact information. Leave copies with friends or family back home, and keep an extra set with you in case originals are lost."

5. Morocco

It's one of the most romanticized places on Earth and a whole other world from Western culture. Yet it's just across the Strait of Gibraltar from Spain. (The point: It's easy to get there from Europe).

It's starting to warm up in April. You should expect sunny days with rare showers and cool nights, especially in mountains and the desert interior.

Morocco is a treasure trove of places to go, and Marrakech is at the top of many a traveler's list.

April is a splendid time to wander through its old medina, where you shop for carpets, Moroccan slippers, ceramics and more. Or you can just watch the fascinating parade of people coming through. A few other Marrakech highlights especially nice in April:

-- The Jardin Majorelle is a peaceful garden of rare flowers that blends Moorish and art deco features.

-- El Badi Palace is in ruins, but there's still enough there for you to glimpse into the past glories of a 16th century sultan's home.

-- A sunset camel ride will leave you with a lifetime of memories. Consult your travel agent or guidebooks for a tour that fits your desires and budget.

Beyond Marrakech, there's so much more to see. Here are some other cities to consider:

-- Check out the caf- culture of Tangiers, a northern port city.

-- Fez features an amazing medina and strong reputation among foodies.

-- In Casablanca, the impressive Hassan II Mosque is open to non-Muslims. It's set along the sea and can hold around 25,000 people at one time. And jazz fans are in for a real treat: April is when they hold their annual Jazzablanca music festival.

If you want to branch out from the cities, you might consider a journey into the Atlas Mountains, where you can trek to remote villages, take in Berber culture and gaze on stunning scenery. Dress accordingly -- these mountains have snow.

April is also the time the annual Merzouga festival is held. This part of Morocco is deep in the desert interior, not far from the border with Algeria. The festival is a fusion of culture, art, music and more with aspirations of peace and connecting with nature.

Hall says tourists should "consider seeing Morocco with a private tour guide for an authentic experience. Local guides are usually very familiar with the area and can provided great suggestions."

She also has some clothing tips when you're in Morocco:

-- Wear lightweight, modest clothing. For women, a long skirt or pants are most appropriate, with a loose-fitting shirt. For men, long pants and collared shirts are most appropriate.

-- When going to mosques and sacred sites, wear modest clothing. For women, wear clothes that cover up to the wrist and ankles and bring a scarf or hijab to cover your hair.

-- You will also have to take off your shoes in the mosques. Have something such as a backpack or bag to keep your shoes while walking through the mosques.

"Just like any sacred site, be quiet and courteous to the people and surroundings," Hall says. "In addition, Friday afternoon is a sacred day for Muslims; mosques may be closed to the public or have limited accessibility, so plan ahead."

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 915942

Reported Deaths: 9606
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Hennepin1786832038
Ramsey739711046
Dakota67683587
Anoka64112577
Washington40545359
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St. Louis29591409
Scott25994186
Wright25957217
Olmsted22339130
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Carver1670669
Clay12104105
Blue Earth1147970
Rice11451138
Crow Wing11213123
Chisago995379
Kandiyohi9815108
Otter Tail9813127
Benton9033125
Beltrami816997
Goodhue811798
Douglas7875101
Itasca772299
Mower733449
McLeod713084
Winona710258
Isanti700783
Steele685731
Morrison672879
Becker628574
Polk603187
Freeborn561246
Carlton546974
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Lyon528461
Nobles525054
Nicollet522460
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Todd492843
Brown470759
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Meeker433458
Martin386544
Wabasha375510
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Dodge361112
Hubbard355249
Roseau316231
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Houston272017
Renville268451
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Sibley252317
Pennington252130
Kanabec250136
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Aitkin222450
Chippewa220542
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Rock177729
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Swift173123
Stevens167511
Jackson161016
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Marshall153522
Murray151811
Pipestone149729
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Wilkin121116
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Norman10509
Grant101510
Big Stone9485
Lincoln8805
Kittson73223
Red Lake71410
Traverse6056
Unassigned545124
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Cook3071

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 525758

Reported Deaths: 7379
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk81677809
Linn32838430
Scott27126295
Black Hawk22334382
Woodbury20736263
Johnson20150108
Dubuque18996243
Pottawattamie16215214
Dallas15573115
Story1398059
Warren8637107
Cerro Gordo8141125
Clinton7928115
Webster7419124
Des Moines7153106
Marshall675494
Muscatine6717117
Wapello6546145
Jasper630591
Sioux622477
Lee5977106
Marion567697
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Plymouth493388
Henry427155
Benton414760
Jones413564
Bremer403873
Boone397042
Washington395464
Carroll373355
Mahaska372366
Crawford355647
Jackson324047
Dickinson317555
Buchanan312743
Delaware303255
Clay297636
Kossuth293477
Fayette290356
Hardin289253
Tama282878
Page276133
Wright270050
Cedar269527
Winneshiek267744
Hamilton262757
Floyd261049
Clayton252360
Poweshiek242043
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Butler237346
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Iowa234336
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Lyon209842
Allamakee209456
Calhoun199519
Shelby199542
Union197141
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Mitchell184343
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Louisa178653
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Adair118239
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