As the weather warms up, flowers bloom and spring festivals take place, May is a terrific time to take a trip. Some of the best destinations are in their shoulder season before the busy summer season. If you are looking for one of the best places to visit in May in the USA or Europe, check out our top 10 picks. Some may surprise you and others are probably on your bucket list.
Whether you plan to get away for Memorial Day weekend or set off oversees, take advantage of the beautiful weather and sights to see this month.
The Best Places to Visit in May in the USA
1. Louisville, Kentucky
Louisville, Kentucky is one of the best places to visit in May if you are a fan of horse racing or amazing hats! The infamous the Kentucky Derby is held at Churchill Downs on May 6th. There is a buzz in the air even if you don’t make it to the track.
There are plenty of great places to visit, both inside and outside the city. Start with the Louisville Slugger Museum, which tells the story of the city’s famous baseball bat manufacturer.
For history buffs, the Muhammad Ali Center is worthwhile. The center tells the story of Ali’s life, both as a world-famous boxer and as a social activist. Or, if you’re interested in learning about the city’s rich bourbon heritage, you can take a tour of the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience.
Louisville is home to several great parks, including Cherokee Park and Waterfront Park. For those who want to experience Louisville’s natural beauty, Iroquois Park provides 725 acres of hiking trails, picnic areas, and top-notch views of the city.
- Why Visit in May: Kentucky Derby
- Hotels: The Grady Hotel (9.0) or 21C Museum Hotel Louisville (8.9)
- Best Tours: Derby Week Bourbon Distillery Tours or Old Louisville Walking Ghost Tour
2. San Diego, California
Visiting San Diego is always a great trip and it’s also one of the best places to visit in May. The weather is warm but not too hot, and there are plenty of things to do around the city. Start with a day at the beach! San Diego has some of the prettiest beaches in Southern California and one of the best places to kayak in La Jolla.
With Cinco de Mayo celebrations, a stroll through the historic district of Old Town San Diego is extra fun packed with quaint cafés serving authentic Mexican cuisine to shops. Of course, Old Town is also home to a rich variety of museums and historical landmarks that are sure to delight history buffs.
San Diego is all about enjoying the outdoors. Walk or hike through one of the many scenic parks in the area, such as Balboa Park or Mission Trails Regional Park. Visit the world-famous San Diego Zoo, Safari Park, Legoland or take a harbor cruise.
Downtown, explore the historic Gaslamp Quarter, where you can find a variety of shops, restaurants, and bars. May is also a great time to see the Padres play at Petco Park. Whatever you decide to do, you’ll have a great time in San Diego in May!
- Why Visit in May: Multiple Cinco de Mayo events, nice weather
- Hotels: Rancho Valencia Resort and Spa (9.4), Fairmont Grand Del Mar (9.1) or La Valencia Hotel (8.2)
- Best Tours: La Jolla 2-Hour Kayak Tour or San Diego: Dinner Cruise or Old Town San Diego: Hop-on Hop-off Tour
3. Finger Lakes, New York
When you see the State Parks around the Finger Lakes region, you’ll understand why New York is one of the most beautiful states to visit in the USA. Filled with amazing hikes and flowing waterfalls, May is an ideal time to visit.
In Watkins Glen State Park (shown above), you can hike to the top of waterfalls and admire the crystal-clear pools below. Taughannock Falls State Park is a great place to explore nature, go for a swim, or just relax by the falls. Buttermilk Falls State Park is perfect for a picnic or a hike through the woods.
Another great thing to do is enjoy a day of wine tasting at one of the many local wineries. The Seneca Glen wine trail is a great way to sample some of the best wines in the region. The take a boat tour of beautiful Seneca Lake, which is also known for great fishing. The National Lake Trout Derby is a crowd favorite over Memorial Day Weekend.
Whether you’re looking for adventure or relaxation, the Finger Lakes has something for everyone.
- Why Visit in May: Waterfalls are flowing and Memorial Day Weekend activities
- Hotels: Mirbeau Inn & Spa – Skaneateles (9.1) or The Bond 1835 (9.6)
4. Holland, Michigan
Want to see brightly colored Tulip fields and enjoy a taste of Dutch culture without a big plane flight? Then Holland, Michigan is the place to go in May for the Tulip Time Festival and tons of outdoor fun!
Windmill Island Gardens is a crowd-pleaser, with its authentic Dutch windmill, 36 acres of gardens with more than 100,000 tulips in spring, and charming European touches throughout. Veldheer Tulip Garden is another lovely spot to see tulips in bloom.
Do a little shopping in Downtown Holland and don’t miss the ever popular restaurant, The Windmill, where you can get breakfast all day. You can also find traditional Dutch architecture and delicious Dutch food in Nelis’ Dutch Village.
The Big Red Lighthouse stands proudly at the entrance of the Holland channel that connects Lake Michigan to Holland’s home on Lake Macatawa.. Holland State Park welcomes visitors to explore it’s hiking trails and sandy beaches.
Rent pontoon boats and kayaks to get out on the lake. Better yet, bring your own inflatable kayak or canoe and also head to Pigeon Lake, a popular spot for paddlers. Art lovers will appreciate a trip to nearby Saugatuck/Douglas for galleries, exhibitions and art installations. Saugatuck Dunes State Park and Oval Beach is also worth a visit.
- Why Visit in May: Peak tulip season, Tulip Time Festival and Memorial Day Parade
- Hotels: Courtyard by Marriott (9.2) or CityFlatsHotel Holland, Tapestry Collection by Hilton (8.6)
- Best Tours: Holland Princess River Boat Cruise
The Best Places to Visit in May in Europe
5. London, England
London is one of the most iconic cities in the world, brimming with countless things to do and May is an exciting month to visit. Flowers are everywhere, especially on display at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show and Chelsea in Bloom. May is also the month of the FA Cup Final – so whether you’re supporting the men’s or women’s team, make sure to catch all the action!
For the more traditional activities, see the cityscape from above with a ride on the London Eye ferris wheel or below on a River Thames Cruise. Westminster Abbey and Big Ben are two architectural masterpieces that have stood as symbols of Britain’s rich history for centuries.
If you’re looking to dive into all things royal, be sure to visit the Tower of London to see the Crown Jewels. Then head over to Buckingham Palace to witness the Changing of the Guards ceremony. The Hop On Hop Off Bus is an easy way to get around.
- Why Visit in May: Flower shows in Chelsea, FA Cup Final, Nice weather
- Hotels: Number Sixteen (9.2), The Mandrake (8.8) or Ham Yard Hotel (9.4)
- Best Tours: Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studio or Full-Day Windsor, Stonehenge, and Oxford Tour
6. Madeira, Portugal
Madeira is a Portuguese island off the coast of Africa, that is a 90 minute flight from Lisbon. The island has a subtropical climate, so it is generally warm and sunny all year round. In May things are warming up just in time for the Madeira Flower Festival floats to travel through the streets of Funchal.
In Madeira, you can go hiking or biking in the mountains, go surfing or windsurfing at one of the many beaches, or head to Ponta de São Lourenço, a beautiful peninsula that boasts unspoiled Madeira beaches and splendid views of the Atlantic Ocean.
Levada Walks are one of the best things to do on Madeira. There are flat trails all over the island that follow irrigation channels, guiding you through verdant valleys and hills filled with unique flora and fauna. You’ll also see waterfalls and incredible views.
And for fun in the city, there is always Funchal Cable Car, which takes you up to Monte Palace Tropical Garden where you can marvel at delicate orchids and lush greenery amidst an oasis of sunshine. View lovers will also appreciate the Cabo Girão sky walk, You’ll find a little bit of everything in this beguiling archipelago.
- Why Visit in May: Madeira Flower Festival, Great weather for hiking and Levada Walks
- Hotels: Three House Hotel (9.7) or Savoy Palace – The Leading Hotels of the World (9.3)
- Best Tours: Dolphin and Whale Watching by Luxury Catamaran or Madeira East Island Tour and Levada Walk
7. Cannes, France
Cannes is a city that needs no introduction. Known as one of the most beautiful cities in France with its sparkling coastline, glamorous film festival and extravagant yachts, Cannes is the ultimate destination for endless luxury. However, there is more to this city than meets the eye.
First on your list should be a stroll down the iconic La Croisette. This boardwalk, lined with palm trees and high-end shops, is the perfect place to people watch and soak up the Mediterranean atmosphere.
The beaches along the French Riviera are see and be seen, but those looking for a more active outing on the Côte d’Azur, can take a half-day boat trip to the Calanques of the Esterel or a ferry to explore the beautiful Île Sainte-Marguerite.
The Cannes International Film Festival, one of the most prestigious events in the film industry is the reason Cannes is one of the best places to visit in May. Even if you’re not an industry insider, the city is abuzz with events and celebrities.
Don’t leave this dazzling city without indulging in some French cuisine. From Michelin-starred restaurants to casual bistros, this city has it all. So whether you’re looking for luxury or adventure, Cannes has something for everyone.
- Why Visit in May: Film festival 5/17-28
- Hotels: Hotel Le Suquet Cannes (10) or Hôtel Barrière Le Majestic Cannes (8.5)
- Best Tours: French Riviera in One Day or Boat Tour Calanques of the Esterel
8. Camargue, France
If you’re looking for endless beauty and adventure, look no further than the gorgeous region of Camargue in France. This unique corner of Provence is known for its iconic wild white horses, flocks of stunning flamingos, black bulls and vast salt pans that produce Camargue Fleur de Sel.
The UNESCO biosphere reserve, can be toured on horseback or a 4×4 safari. Skilled photographers come from all over the world to capture the beauty in this lesser known region of Provence and some offer photo tours. You can also tour a bull farm.
The beaches in the area are another sight to see. Plage de Piémanson has tons of kitesurfers on a windy day. Plage de l’Espiguette is a more desolate, white sand gem that is definitely worth visiting.
The capital of Camargue is a small village called Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. Wander through the quaint town filled with shops and restaurants. The historic city of Arles, best known for its association with the post-Impressionist painter Vincent Van Gogh, is a must-see. Another picturesque town to explore nearby is Aigues-Mortes.
Whether you are seeing wildlife, spending a day relaxing on the beach or exploring historic landmarks, Camargue has something for everyone.
- Why Visit in May: the best time before the throngs of summer tourists, Gypsy’s Pilgrimage at the end of May
- Hotels: Hôtel L’ Estelle en Camargue (8.9), Hôtel Restaurant Les Arnelles (8.3), or L’Hôtel Particulier (8.9)
- Best Tours: Half-Day 4×4 Camargue Safari or Les Arnelles Riding Stables Horseback Tour
9. Florence, Italy
If you love wisteria, you have to see the captivating city of Florence in May. The fragrant blooms can be found around the city and the real showstopper is the wisteria tunnel at Bardini Gardens. Flower lovers will also enjoy a stroll through the Boboli Gardens, one of the most popular tourist attractions in Florence.
The city filled with some of the world’s best art has mind-blowing queues to match. Don’t get stuck. Plan ahead with timed entry tickets for the Florence favorites – the Uffizi Gallery, the Statue of David and the Florence Cathedral.
Spending time in Florence will make you eager to explore the rest of Tuscany. You can visit some of the region’s most famous vineyards and enjoy a wine tasting or two. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, you can climb the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
For a more traditional Tuscan experience, visit the medieval city of Siena, home to one of the most iconic squares in Italy, as well as San Gimignano, the quintessential Tuscan village full of stunning architecture and sweeping views. A trip to Tuscany in May deserves a top spot on your European Bucket List.
- Why Visit in May: Wisteria in bloom, Great Weather, May Day Celebration
- Hotels: 25hours Hotel Piazza San Paolino (9.3) or Villa San Michele, a Belmond Hotel (9.5)
- Best Tours: Tuscany Day Trip Chianti Wine Tasting and Pisa, Siena & San Gimignano Day Trip
10. Lake Como, Italy
Lake Como, is a lovely place to visit in May. This picturesque region offers endless opportunities for exploration and discovery, from walking along the shoreline and picnicking by the water to taking scenic boat tours and hiking through rolling hillsides.
One of the top things to see in Lake Como is the charming village of Bellagio. Located on a small peninsula jutting out into the lake, Bellagio is home to quaint streets lined with colorful buildings and buzzing cafes that offer some of the best views in town. You can take a tour to visit Bellagio and the beautiful town of Lugano, Switzerland in one day.
Another must-visit spot is Villa del Balbianello, a breathtaking 16th-century estate with lovely formal gardens overlooking the glistening lake. It’s been the backdrop to many extravagant weddings and seen in films like Casino Royale.
The weather in May is ideal for hiking and outdoor fun. The Wayfarer’s Path is a great hike, winding its way along steep cliff faces and offering stunning views of the surrounding landscapes. Another idyllic outing is the cycling route around Lake Como past serene lakeside villages.
There are so many great things to do at Lake Como year round, but spring is particularly lovely.
- Why Visit in May: Perfect weather for active pursuits, Gardens are in bloom, less crowds
- Hotels: Il Sereno Lago di Como (9.4), Hotel du Lac Varenna (9.2) or Hotel Belvedere (9.2)
- Best Tours: Lugano, Bellagio and Cruise Experience
One of Our Favorite May Destinations
11. Peru is an Amazing Place to Visit in May So We Had to Add it to the List
May is the beginning of the dry season, the ideal time to visit the legendary ruins of Machu Picchu before the high tourist season from June to August. It’s also a great time for trekking the Inca Trail, an added travel challenge adventure.
Start your Peruvian trip in the vibrant city of Cusco. Full of rich culture and mesmerizing traditions, explore local markets and wander through the cobblestone streets. It’s the perfect jumping off point for exciting day trips in the area, each one offering its own unique blend of natural beauty, ancient history, and cultural intrigue.
One of the most popular trips is a visit to Rainbow Mountain, where visitors can marvel at the colorful rugged landscape. Ollantaytambo, with its majestic ruins and quaint town center gives you a taste of Incan history, Thrill seekers can stay overnight, suspended above town in a glass capsule at the Skylodge Adventure Suites.
Maras salt pools is a picturesque spot where salt has been mined for generations. Humantay Lake is crystal clear blue waters and peaceful isolation. Of course, no visit to Peru would be complete without sampling some of its exquisite cuisine. From Lomo Saltado, to spicy ceviche to sumptuous desserts, there are endless delicacies waiting for you to dig in and savor.
- Why Visit in May: Best time to do Inca Trail and visit Machu Picchu beginning of dry season before heavy tourist season
- Hotels: Skylodge Adventure Suites (9.9) Inkaterra Hacienda Urubamba (9.5) or Tambo del Inka (9.5)
- Best Tours: Full Day Tour to Rainbow Mountain or Moray Salt Mines Quad Bike Tour or Humantay Lake Full-Day Trek