Travel Ideas to Help You Re-Emerge Into Society This Month

Just like billions of cicadas, vaccinated Americans are surfacing.

Radomir Rezny/Shutterstock
Radomir Rezny/Shutterstock
Radomir Rezny/Shutterstock

NOTE: We know COVID-19 is continuing to impact your travel plans. As of April 2021, official guidance from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention states that fully vaccinated people can travel at low risk, though safety precautions are still required. Should you need to travel, be sure to familiarize yourself with the CDC’s latest guidance as well as local requirements/protocols/restrictions for both your destination and home city upon your return. Be safe out there.

May has always been a month of transitions, when the pleasant chill of spring gives way to long, lazy summer nights, school lets out, and Memorial Day kickstarts the season of raucous boat parties and beach town boardwalks. Nature is also fully up and at ‘em, including our very chatty cicada friends who have returned this year after 17 years underground.  

Vaccinated Americans are also re-emerging this month as we figure out how to exist around other humans again. If you’re ready to cautiously dip your toes back into the realm of restaurants, concerts, theaters, and travel, we’ve got some ideas for places to visit this month. But we’re not fully out of the woods yet, so if you’d rather stay inside and stream a concert then hey, we’ve got you there, too. And if you’re already mid-flight to newly-opened Iceland or Croatia, just remember to be extra safe, and please send us a postcard.

Celebrate our architectural icons 

The Empire State Building turns 90 this month, and our Art Deco gal is celebrating in style. Visitors can sign up for a VIP “90 in 90” tour: 90 years of history in 90 minutes, with plenty of behind-the-scenes access. 

And if New York is a little far, why not celebrate the architectural icons in your neck of the woods? Be DJ Tanner at the Painted Ladies in San Francisco, or daydream about old Hollywood in Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House in Los Angeles. Maybe get a little whimsical with the Doullut Steamboat Houses in New Orleans or the historic “witch house” in Beverly Hills. Check out Albert Kahn’s Art Deco Fisher Building in Detroit, or take a tour through the unexpected mid-century modern hub of Columbus, Indiana. And if you’re in Connecticut, see a transformation in process with a floating Marcel Breuer building which will reopen as an ultra-sustainable hotel this fall. You can say you knew it when.

Get the summer vibes started at a drive-in theater

It’s the much anticipated Summer of the Drive-In Part 2, and you can keep this nostalgia gravy train going at one of the drive-in theaters around New YorkLas Vegas, Atlanta, DC, San Diego, and PhillyYou’ve also got your giant peach projector in Monetta, with the season opening mid-May, or the classic cars of 99W in Newburg, Oregon, in operation since 1954. And you’ve got five-count ‘em, five!-screens at the Ford Drive-In in Dearborn, Michigan, the largest in the country, whose movies currently include Godzilla vs. Kong and Mortal Kombat.  Stick your head through your sunroof and go to town on some popcorn why dontcha.

Take a star shower 

Call it Meteor May because this month marks the return of excellent stargazing weather and some very cool celestial sights. We’re plowing through debris left over by Halley’s Comet, which creates the Eta Aquarid meteor shower. The peak is May 5th, with as many as 40 meteors per hour under dark skies in the early hours of May 6. But if you *checks watch* missed the main event, don’t fret because the shower can be seen all month, and you’ll also have a shot at seeing Venus and ever-elusive Mercury. (Intrigued but also confused? Check out our guide to stargazing for beginners.)

Dance with wolves

Wolves only have one litter per year and you guessed it -it happens in spring. Which means there are currently wolf pups roaming around our great land, practicing their howls and causing an adorable ruckus. You’ll find two at the Richmond Zoo, their first litter ever, or in Colorado, you can treat your wildlife-enthusiast mom to a wolf tour at the Wolf and Wildlife center’s Mother’s Day event.

Alternatively, go looking for some wolves in our National Parks. Your best bets are in Wyoming, where you can take a wildlife-viewing safari with Eco Tour Adventures in Grand Teton; or visit Yellowstone, where eight wolf packs currently roam after being reintroduced to the population in 1995. To see them and their pups, stay north, or just look for any orange traffic cones.

See some live music (finally)… 

Speaking of Wyoming, the Terry Bison Ranch has teamed up with concert promoters AEG for live shows on their grounds all summer long. The concert series kicks off May 7th with genres spanning from bluegrass and rock to electronica. They’re also hosting drive-in movies and drive-in concerts, which we guess is similar to listening to music in your car, but like, louder. 

Outside of Denver, the iconic Red Rocks amphitheater has reopened just in time to celebrate its 80-year anniversary. One of the most unforgettable places to see a show, this month you can catch sets by Diplo, Southern rockers Lucero, and the music of John Williams by the Colorado Symphony. The Jurassic Park soundtrack bouncing off the ancient rocks where dinosaurs actually roamed? Sign us up. (And if you happen to be in the area and in the mood for hops, a new spa just opened up where you can literally soak in beer.)

But if you’d rather stick to your living room, that’s cool too

There’s plenty of streaming shows happening in May, should you enjoy your rock from the comfort of your couch. On Saturday, May 8th, catch Jennifer Lopez, Foo Fighters, Eddie Vedder, H.E.R. and more for VAX LIVE: The Concert to Reunite the World (apparently Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are also making appearances).

If you forgot to get mom something for Mother’s Day, perhaps she’d like some tickets to Dionne Warwick, who streams two shows on Sunday. And mark your calendars for May 22nd, when there’s an acoustic set by Band of Horses, a celebration of Bob Dylan’s 80th birthday by Patti Smith and bandmate Tony Shanahan, and the streaming Glastonbury Festival, “Live at Worthy Farm,” with performances by Damon Albarn, Haim, Coldplay, Idles, Michael Kiwanuka, Wolf Alice, and more.

Joe Hendrickson/Shutterstock
Joe Hendrickson/Shutterstock
Joe Hendrickson/Shutterstock

Amuse yourself at a lesser-known amusement park 

Sure, sure, Disney World is open and so is Disneyland for California residents. But why not take this opportunity to skip the crowds and discover a few sleeper hits? Like, have you ever seen Colorado’s Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park? It sits on a mountaintop so when you’re on a coaster or the Giant Canyon Swing (!)  you’re actually dangling 7,160 feet above sea level with ridiculous views. The park also has caves which you can tour and, more importantly, an underground ride called the Haunted Mine Drop.  

With 18 coasters right on the shores of Lake Erie, Cedar Point in Ohio bills itself as the Roller Coaster Capital of the World (they also have pedicab boardwalk wine tours for those of us who enjoy our thrills in liquid form). The 125-acre Valley Fair in Minnesota opens May 22nd. And if you got the Moderna vaccine, pay homage to Dolly Parton at Dollywood, now officially open for all the country music lovers out there.

Dip a toe into overseas travel 

There are plenty of good reasons to stay close to home right now. But if you’re fully vaccinated (+ two weeks!) and rearing to go, a handful of countries have opened their doors. Perhaps you want to dive the Great Blue Hole in Belize, languish contentedly in the spectacular national parks in Croatia, or plunge into the lagoons of Iceland

Or, strike several bucket-list items off with a double-hit to Ecuador and its Galapagos islands. Hang with giant ancient turtles, swim with equatorial penguins, and climb Chimborazo, the highest summit in Ecuador and the closest point to the sun on earth. And when you’re done, hit up some natural hot springs in the town of Baños.

Or stick around and check out an underrated domestic island 

If you’re sticking stateside you can still find your Island in the Sun. Perhaps even one that tourists haven’t yet swarmed. Like the blissful beaches of Tybee Island off the coast of Georgia, just 20 minutes away from Savannah. Or the Channel Islands off of California, which have been called the “Galapagos of the North” for their natural beauty and diverse wildlife. Harness the Wild West in Utah’s Antelope Island State Park, which has no permanent human residents, but is home to bison, bighorn sheep, coyotes, bobcats, and pronghorn antelope. Or take a ferry across the harrowing strait known as “Death’s Door” for a cozy cottage getaway on Wisconsin’s Washington island. Meanwhile Block Island in Rhode Island is all New England charm, with the recently-renovated Champlin’s Marina & Resort boasting a double-decker over-the-water bar. A bar. What’s that like?

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Vanita Salisbury is Thrillist’s Senior Travel Writer. She’s never met an island she didn’t love.


Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

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