Best beach resorts in the U.S. for family vacations
Wondering where to plan your family vacation this summer? We love these family-friendly beach resorts in the U.S.
Summer is here (hooray!), so it's time to start planning a beach vacation with the whole crew. Think digging your toes into the sand, searching for seashells, and diving headlong into frothy ocean surf. Not much can top days spent wearing flip-flops, snuggling with salty-haired kiddos, and simply enjoying laid-back seashore bliss. Here are our top beach resorts in the U.S. for family vacations.
Hotel Del Coronado
Hotel Del Coronado – California
The grand dame of Coronado Island, the stunning, red-roofed Hotel Del Coronado serves up an elegant cocktail of Victorian seashore charm infused with bygone glamor. Set on a private stretch of Coronado Beach, the Del offers families countless seaside activities from biking along the Pacific coast to surf lessons, mermaid fitness classes (tail included!), beach bonfires and waterskiing. Days can be spent in laid-back coastal California style, lounging on the beach (games and gear are available to rent), enjoying the resort's gorgeous pools, or exploring the mecca of unique, onsite shops. Kidtopia, the resort's children's center, features a slew of ocean-themed DelVentures for kids ages 4 through 12, and spots like Spreckles Sweets and Treats and MooTime Creamery are favorites among the underage crowd.
Hawks Cay Resort \Courtesy Hawks Cay Resort
Hawks Cay Resort – Florida Keys
Located at mile-marker 61, Hawks Cay Resort on Duck Key offers a perfect balance of fun and solitude amidst 60-acres of lush gardens, vibrant coral reef and the calm waters of the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. With its unique offerings, children will love the Coral Cay kids club, featuring crafts, scavenger hunts, snorkeling, and kids' nights out. Accommodations — which range from spacious family guestrooms to breezy, multi-bedroom villas with private lanais — are scattered throughout four distinct villages, each with its own inviting island ambience. The resort's onsite marina and Sundance Watersports entice guests with plenty of options to explore the sea including sunset cruises, fishing for local mahi, or kayaking to remote mangrove islets. Lounging with an umbrella-garnished cocktail by one of the resorts five pools, including the elaborate pirate-themed children's area and a private, ocean-fed, saltwater lagoon, is vacation at its best.
Kiawah Island Resort \Courtesy Kiawah Island Resort
Kiawah Island Resort – South Carolina
Families will find themselves immersed in low-country splendor the moment they drive down the oak-shaded lane that leads to the sublime Sanctuary Hotel on Kiawah Island. Perhaps best known for its five award winning golf courses, Kiawah Island Resort offers a wealth of indulgences beyond the links. The resort is truly breathtaking — a sweeping lawn bedecked by Adirondack chairs overlooks the ocean while verdant palms and plush loungers surround a sparkling saltwater pool. Just beyond the pool deck, a boardwalk leads to a 10-mile expanse of beach, perfect for bike riding or just whiling away the hours. Guests can find Night Heron Park, the resort's activity hub, a short drive from Sanctuary, which is home to the excellent Camp Kiawah kids' program, a fabulous children's pool complete with slides and splash areas, and the Heron Park Nature Center, which serves as the jumping off point for the resort's superior naturalist-led programs — favorites include boating excursions to secluded Sandy Point and wildlife paddling tours through the surrounding saltmarsh. Luxurious accommodations range from spacious guestrooms and suites in the Sanctuary to an enormous selection of villas and private homes spread throughout the resort's 10,000-acre island haven.
Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort \Courtesy Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort
Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort – Florida
A world unto itself, the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort is the kind of place that, once you arrive, you'll never have to leave. Spread throughout 1,350-lush acres, visitors will find three golf courses, 23 Har-Tru tennis courts, a luxury spa, and the Shops of Amelia Island Plantation (home to a variety of charming eateries), Amelia's Wheels bike rentals, Heron's Cove Adventure Golf, and the Amelia Island Nature Center. The resort's centerpiece is the soaring 404-room oceanfront hotel, framed by lush palm trees, 3½ miles of private beach, and a spectacular pool area with restaurants, kids' activities, and even a tequila bar. Camp Amelia offers children ages 4 through 14 the chance to explore the resort through themed activities that encourage nature and science discovery, imaginative play, and camaraderie. Families will love the bright, ocean-inspired guestrooms and suites, most with balconies overlooking the beach and pools.
Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa \Courtesy Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa
Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa – Hawaii
Families will find the aloha spirit at the Grand Hyatt Kauai, with its lush, tropical grounds overlooking the gorgeous Pacific surf of Poipu Beach. The resort's pools, featuring slides, a lazy river, waterfalls, and hidden coves, and a 1½ acre saltwater lagoon are the stars of the show. Putting a native spin on the traditional kids' club, Camp Hyatt engages kids in Hawaiian culture with activities like palm-frond weaving, ukulele lessons, and time spent interacting with the resort's colorful parrots. In the resort's open-air atrium, complimentary fun includes lei making and hula lessons throughout the day. Don't miss the twice-weekly luau, which features a lavish Polynesian-style revue.
Inn by the Sea \Courtesy Inn by the Sea
Inn by the Sea – Maine
Overlooking the gentle surf and soft sand of Crescent Beach, Inn by the Sea combines eco-luxury with the rugged beauty and nautical charm of coastal Maine. Families take up residence in the Inn's sunny and spacious seaside suites and cottages, most with ocean views, kitchens or kitchenettes, and large furnished decks or balconies. Days are filled with old-fashioned seashore fun — grab beach cruisers and pedal out to one of the local lighthouses, enjoy a naturalist led beach walk, fly kites on the beach, or take a dip in the solar heated swimming pool. Kids will love juggling lessons or learning about Maine's marine ecosystems from an insect's perspective in the Bug's Life Garden tour. A great home base for exploring the maritime wonders of the historic Casco Bay area, the Inn's staff can arrange everything from lobster boat excursions to kayaking, visits to Casco Bay's islands, or tickets to a Portland Sea Dogs game.
Marriott Resort and Spa at Grand Dunes \Courtesy Marriott Resort and Spa at Grand Dunes
Marriott Resort and Spa at Grand Dunes – South Carolina
Sometimes a beach destination with all the bells and whistles — think flashy boardwalk, super go-karts, and mini-golf on steroids — is just what the family needs. Enter Myrtle Beach, which encompasses all of the above and more. Set along a semi-private stretch of South Carolina's famed Grand Strand and its 60 pristine miles of Atlantic coastline, the best place for families to call home is the Marriott Resort and Spa at Grand Dunes. Though the hullaballoo of the “strip" remains close by, the luxe Marriott Grand Dunes offers blissful respite six miles north of the famed 14th Street Pier. Perks include freshly renovated guestrooms (opt for an ocean view with balcony), the Hibiscus Spa with a fun kids' menu, and a spectacular pool. Organized kids' activities are offered seasonally for a small fee and guests have privileges at several nearby golf courses.
Surfsand Canon Beach \Courtesy Surfsand Canon Beach
Surfsand Canon Beach – Oregon
Old-school seaside charm awaits at Surfsand Resort, perched just a few steps from the edge of Canon Beach. Warm and welcoming, Surfsand is like summer camp for families, offering perks like an extensive DVD library for family movie nights, board games, bicycles and helmets, Saturday ice-cream socials, and in-room lanterns for beach walks beneath the stars. Just offshore, Haystack Rock, a local landmark, soars above the Pacific, while tide pools offer perfect places for kids to explore the underwater world. Parents will love the resort's complimentary cabana service, which provides beach umbrellas, kites, and sand toys. Surfsand's 95 guestrooms offer comfortably chic accommodations, with plush amenities like bathrobes for kids and adults, gas fireplaces and spacious balconies.
Sea Island \Courtesy Sea Island
Sea Island – Georgia
Take a step back in time to a bygone era of old-fashioned, southern charm on Sea Island, an alluring gem among Georgia's Golden Isles. Bordered by the Black Banks River to the west and 5 miles of dune-fringed Atlantic seashore to the east, the island is steeped in abundant history and pristine natural beauty. At the heart of the resort, the Mediterranean-inspired Cloister and adjacent Beach Club offer a variety of elegant guestrooms and suites — staying on the Beach Club side, with its easy access to the resort's beach and beautiful, meandering pool, is ideal for families. Pedal beneath moss-draped, antebellum oaks and learn about the island's ecology and history, paddleboard through tidal grasslands, grab a cone at Wonderland Sweet Shop, or join the resort's famous Bingo game. Camp Cloister, Sea Island's children's program, offers an array of engaging experiences with talented onsite naturalists and educators for younger guests.
Winnetu Oceanside Resort \Courtesy Winnetu Oceanside Resort
Winnetu Oceanside Resort – Massachusetts
Family-owned by people who know what it's like to be parents, the folks at Winnetu Oceanside Resort truly know how to make a family vacation fun and relaxing. Perched along a gorgeous stretch of South Beach in Edgartown, the resort has handcrafted an imaginative menu of activities that keep kids of all ages running around outside, exploring the tides, visiting a nearby farm and building sandcastles. Teens ages 13 through 16 can join up with the local Martha's Vineyard Adventure Camp for kayaking, orienteering, and mountain biking. Beyond organized fun, families can bike, play classic lawn games, take a ride on an antique fire truck, and kick back at the resort's popular Wednesday evening clambake. For even more adventures, Winnetu's pre-arrival concierge will help plan outings to nearby Nantucket, island nature tours, or an in-room massage. Bright and breezy, the resort's suites and cottages are perfect for families of every size offering space for even large, multigenerational groups to spread out in comfort.
Following the devastating wildfires in Australia and powerful earthquakes that shook Puerto Rico last week, we're taking action to make a global impact through our international partnerships as well as nonprofit organizations Afya Foundation and ADRA (Adventist Development and Relief Agency).
Helping Puerto Rico recover from earthquakes
Last week, Puerto Rico was hit with a 5.2 magnitude earthquake, following a 6.4 magnitude earthquake it experienced just days before. The island has been experiencing hundreds of smaller quakes during the past few weeks.
These earthquakes destroyed crucial infrastructure and left 4,000 people sleeping outside or in shelters after losing their homes. We've donated $50,000 to our partner charity organization Airlink and through them, we've helped transport disaster relief experts and medical supplies for residents, as well as tents and blankets for those who have lost their homes. Funding will go towards organizations within Airlink's partner network, which includes Habitat for Humanity, Mercy Corps and Americares, to help with relief efforts and long-term recovery.
Australian wildfire relief efforts
Our efforts to help Australia have inspired others to make their own positive impact. In addition to teaming up with Ellen DeGeneres to donate $250,000 and launching a fundraising campaign with GlobalGiving to benefit those impacted by the devastating wildfires in the country known for its open spaces and wildlife, our cargo team is helping to send more than 600 pounds of medical supplies to treat injured animals in the region.
Helping us send these supplies is the Afya Foundation, a New York-based nonprofit that seeks to improve global health by collecting surplus medical supplies and delivering them to parts of the world where they are most needed. Through Airlink, the Afya Foundation will send more than $18,000 worth of materials that will be used to treat animals injured in the Australian fires.
These medical supplies will fly to MEL (Melbourne) and delivered to The Rescue Collective. This Australian organization is currently focused on treating the massive population of wildlife, such as koalas, kangaroos, and birds, that have had their habitats destroyed by the recent wildfires. The supplies being sent include wound dressings, gloves, catheters, syringes and other items that are unused but would otherwise be disposed of.
By working together, we can continue to make a global impact and help those affected by natural disasters to rebuild and restore their lives
Australia needs our help as wildfires continue to devastate the continent that's beloved by locals and travelers alike. In times like these, the world gets a little smaller and we all have a responsibility to do what we can.
On Monday, The Ellen DeGeneres Show announced a campaign to raise $5 million to aid in relief efforts. When we heard about Ellen's effort, we immediately reached out to see how we could help.
Today, we're committing $250,000 toward Ellen's campaign so we can offer support now and help with rebuilding. For more on The Ellen DeGeneres Show efforts and to donate yourself, you can visit www.gofundme.com/f/ellenaustraliafund
We're also matching donations made to the Australian Wildfire Relief Fund, created by GlobalGiving's Disaster Recovery Network. This fund will support immediate relief efforts for people impacted by the fires in the form of emergency supplies like food, water and medicine. Funds will also go toward long-term recovery assistance, helping residents recover and rebuild. United will match up to $50,000 USD in donations, and MileagePlus® members who donate $50 or more will receive up to 1,000 award miles from United. Donate to GlobalGiving.
Please note: Donations made toward GlobalGiving's fund are only eligible for the MileagePlus miles match.
In addition to helping with fundraising, we're staying in touch with our employees and customers in Australia. Together, we'll help keep Australia a beautiful place to live and visit in the years to come.
20. Spot Giant Pandas in China
In 2016, giant pandas were removed from the endangered species list, and China would like to keep it that way. This year, the country plans to consolidate the creatures' known habitats into one unified national park system spanning nearly 10,500 square miles across Sichuan, Gansu, and Shaanxi provinces—about the size, in total, of Massachusetts. —Nicholas DeRenzo
19. Follow in James Bond's Footsteps in Jamaica
When No Time to Die hits theaters on April 8, it marks a number of returns for the James Bond franchise. The 25th chapter in the Bond saga is the first to come out since 2015's Spectre; it's Daniel Craig's fifth go-round as 007, after rumors the actor was set to move on; and it's the first time the series has filmed in Jamaica since 1973's Live and Let Die. The Caribbean island has always had a special place in Bond lore: It was the location of one of creator Ian Fleming's homes, GoldenEye (which is now a resort), and the setting for the first 007 movie, 1962's Dr. No. Looking to live like a super-spy? You don't need a license to kill—just a ride to Port Antonio, where you can check out filming locations such as San San Beach and colonial West Street. Remember to keep your tux pressed and your Aston Martin on the left side of the road. —Justin Goldman
18. See the Future of Architecture in Venice
Every other year, Venice hosts the art world's best and brightest during its celebrated Biennale. But the party doesn't stop during off years, when the Architecture Biennale takes place. This year, curator Hashim Sarkis, the dean of MIT's School of Architecture and Planning, has tasked participants with finding design solutions for political divides and economic inequality; the result, on display from May to November, is the intriguing show How Will We Live Together? —Nicholas DeRenzo
17. Celebrate Beethoven's 250th Birthday in Bonn
Catch a Beethoven concerto in Bonn, Germany, to celebrate the hometown hero's big 2-5-0.
16. Eat Your Way Through Slovenia
When Ana Roš of Hiša Franko was named the World's Best Female Chef in 2017, food lovers began to wonder: Do we need to pay attention to Slovenia? The answer, it turns out, is definitely yes. This March, the tiny Balkan nation about two hours east of Venice gets its own Michelin Guide. —Nicholas DeRenzo
15. Star- (and Sun-) Gaze in Patagonia
Come December 13 and 14, there will be no better spot for sky-watchers than northern Patagonia, which welcomes both the peak of the Geminid meteor shower and a total solar eclipse within 24 hours. —Nicholas DeRenzo
14. Explore Miami's Game-Changing New Park
About 70,000 commuters use Miami's Metrorail each day, and city planners aim to turn the unused space beneath its tracks into an exciting new public space, a 10-mile linear park aptly named The Underline. Luckily, the Magic City is in good hands: The project is being helmed by James Corner Field Operations, the geniuses behind New York's High Line. “Both projects share similarities in their overarching goals," says principal designer Isabel Castilla, “to convert a leftover infrastructural space into a public space that connects neighborhoods, generates community, and encourages urban regeneration." When finished, Miami's park will be about seven times as long as its Big Apple counterpart. The first half-mile leg, set to open this June, is the Brickell Backyard, which includes an outdoor gym, a butterfly garden, a dog park, and gaming tables that call to mind the dominoes matches you'll find nearby in Little Havana. “We envision the Underline dramatically changing the way people in Miami engage with public space," Castilla says. —Nicholas DeRenzo
13. Kick Off the NFL in Las Vegas
Former Raiders owner Al Davis was famous for saying, “Just win, baby." His son, Mark Davis, the team's current owner, is more likely to be shouting “Vegas, baby!" Swingers-style, as his team becomes Sin City's first NFL franchise, the Las Vegas Raiders. After years of threats and lawsuits, the Raiders have finally left Oakland, and this summer they're landing just across the highway from the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in a 65,000-seat, $1.8 billion domed stadium that will also host the UNLV football team, the next two Pac-12 championship games, and the Las Vegas Bowl. Construction is slated to be finished July 31, just in time for the NFL preseason—and just in time to lure football fans from the sportsbooks to the grandstand. —Justin Goldman
12. Celebrate the Suffragettes in Washington D.C.
All eyes are on the ballot box this year, but the electorate would look quite different if not for the 19th Amendment, which was ratified 100 years ago this August. Many D.C. institutions, such as the National Archives Museum and the Library of Congress, are honoring the decades-long struggle for women's suffrage with exhibits. In particular, the National Museum of American History unveils Sarah J. Eddy's portrait of Susan B. Anthony this March, before putting on a 'zine-inspired show on girlhood and youth social movements this June. —Nicholas DeRenzo
11. Go for a Ride Through Mexico City
If you want to get somewhere quickly in Mexico City, try going by bicycle. During peak traffic, bikes average faster speeds than cars or public transportation—which might explain why ridership has gone up almost 50 percent since 2007. And riding on two wheels is getting safer and easier. In 2019, the city announced plans to invest $10 million (more than it had spent in the last six years combined) into the construction of about 50 miles of new paths and lanes. Now, you can cycle on a two-mile separated path along the Paseo de la Reforma, from Colonia Juárez and Roma to Chapultepec Park and Polanco. Future plans include a route along the National Canal between Coyoacán (where Frida Kahlo once lived) and Xochimilco (with its floating flower farms). “The goal is to finish the six-year [presidential] term with 600 kilometers of bike infrastructure," says Roberto Mendoza of the city's Secretariat of Mobility. Time to start pedaling. —Naomi Tomky
10. Consider the Mayflower's Legacy in Massachusetts and Abroad
Before they came to America in 1620, the religious separatists now known as the Pilgrims lived in England and the Netherlands. This year, the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower landing will be commemorated not only by those nations but also by a fourth: The Wampanoag, the confederation of tribes that live in New England and whose role in this world-changing event has been at best left out and at worst distorted.
“We're challenging the myths and stereotypes," says Aquinnah Wampanoag author Linda Coombs, a board member of Plymouth 400, Inc., which is planning cultural events such
as an Ancestors Walk to honor the native villages pushed aside by settlers, as well as
an indigenous history conference and powwow (plus an $11 million restoration of the replica Mayflower II).
Kerri Helme, a member of the Mashpee Wampanoag nation and cultural programs manager at Plimoth Plantation, says that “people want to hear the whole story." She notes that it's a commonly held belief that the Pilgrims were welcomed by the natives, when in fact their first encounter was violent, since the English had been stealing the Wampanoags' food.
“The Wampanoag are key players in all of this," says Charles Hackett, CEO of Mayflower 400 in the U.K. “It's a whole other aspect of this history." In England, a Mayflower trail will connect Pilgrim sites in towns such as Southampton and Plymouth, and in Leiden, the Dutch town where the Pilgrims took refuge before embarking for the New World, the ethnology museum will run an exhibit about the natives.
“The most important thing for us, as the Wampanoag people," says Paula Peters, a former Wampanoag council member, “is to be acknowledged as a vital tribe comprised of people that, in spite of everything that's happened, are still here." —Jon Marcus
9. Discover Lille's Design Scene
Previous World Design Capitals have included major cultural hubs such as Helsinki and Seoul, so it came as a shock when Lille, France's 10th-largest city, beat Sydney for this year's title. Judges cited Lille's use of design to improve its citizens' lives; get a taste for yourself at spots like La Piscine Musée d'Art et d'Industrie, a gallery in a former Art Deco swim center. —Nicholas DeRenzo
8. See Stellar Space in Rio de Janeiro, the World Capital of Architecture
Rio de Janeiro is renowned for the beauty of its beaches and mountains, but the Cidade Maravilhosa's man-made structures are as eye-catching as its natural features. For that reason, UNESCO recently designated Rio its first World Capital of Architecture, honoring a city that boasts such landmarks as the stained glass–domed Royal Portuguese Cabinet of Reading, the fairy-tale Ilha Fiscal palace, and the uber-modern Niterói Contemporary Art Museum.
"Rio is an old city by New World standards, having been founded in the mid–16th century," says architectural photographer Andrew Prokos, who took this shot. "So the city has many layers of architectural styles, from Colonial and Rococo to Art Nouveau, Modernist, Brutalist, and contemporary." In the case of this museum, which was designed by perhaps Brazil's greatest architect, Pritzker Prize winner Oscar Niemeyer, Prokos was intrigued by how the 24-year-old building interacts with its surroundings. "The upward slope of the museum complements the slope of the Pão de Açúcar across the bay," he says, "so the two are speaking to each other from across the water." – Tom Smyth
7. Join the Avengers at Disneyland
This summer, Disney California Adventure unveils its Marvel-themed Avengers Campus, with a new Spider-Man attraction, followed later by an Ant-Man restaurant and a ride through Wakanda. If the hype surrounding last year's debut of Disney+ is any indication, Comic-Con types are going to lose their fanboy (and -girl) minds. —Nicholas DeRenzo
6. Listen to Jazz in Cape Town
Cape Town's natural wonders draw visitors from all over the world, but there's a hidden gem beyond the mountains, beaches, and seas: music. Much as jazz was born from America's diverse peoples, Cape jazz combines the traditions and practices of the city's multiethnic population, creating genres such as goema (named after a type of hand drum) and marabi (a keyboard style that arose in the townships). Cape Town has hosted an International Jazz Festival for
20 years (the 21st edition is this March 27–28), and now UNESCO is giving the Mother City its musical due by naming it the Global Host City of International Jazz Day 2020. The theme of the event—which takes place on April 30, features an All Star Global Concert, and is the climax of Jazz Appreciation Month—is “Tracing the Roots and Routes of African Jazz." During the dark days of slavery and apartheid, music became an outlet through which repressed people could express their struggle for freedom. What better way to mark a quarter century of democracy here than with a celebration of that most free style of music? —Struan Douglas
5. Take a Walk Around England
Many hikers love walking around England—but how many can say that they've truly walked around England? When it's completed, the England Coast Path will be the longest managed seaside trail in the world, completely circumnavigating the coastline, from the fishing villages of Cornwall and the beaches of Nothumberland to the limestone arches of the Jurassic Coast and the sandy dunes of Norfolk. Much of the trail is already waymarked (the 630-mile South West Coast Path is particularly challenging and beautiful), with new legs set to open throughout the year. If you want to cross the whole thing off your bucket list, be warned that it's no walk in the park: At around 2,795 miles, the completed route is 605 miles longer than the Appalachian Trail and about the same as the distance between New York and Los Angeles. —Nicholas DeRenzo
4. Get Refreshed in the Israeli Desert
Six Senses resorts are known for restorative retreats in places like Fiji, Bali, and the Maldives. For its latest location, the wellness-minded brand is heading to a more unexpected locale: the Arava Valley, in the far south of Israel. Opening this spring, the Six Senses Shaharut will offer overnight camel camping, off-roading in the surrounding desert, and restaurants serving food grown in the resort's gardens or sourced from nearby kibbutzim. While the valley is said to be near King Solomon's copper mines, the Six Senses is sure to strike gold. —Nicholas DeRenzo
3. Say konnichiwa on July 24 at the opening ceremonies of the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, which plays host for the first time since 1964.
The Japanese capital plays host for the first time since 1964. This year, softball and baseball will return after being absent since 2008, and four new sports—karate, sport climbing, surfing, and skateboarding—will be added to the competition for the first time. Say konnichiwa at the opening ceremonies on July 24, which will be held at renowned architect Kengo Kuma's New National Stadium. – Nicholas DeRenzo
2. Score Tickets to Euro 2020
Still feeling World Cup withdrawal? Get your “football" fix at the UEFA European Championship. From June 12 to July 12, 24 qualifying national teams will play games in stadiums from Bilbao to Baku, culminating in the semi-finals and final at London's hallowed Wembley Stadium. Will World Cup champion France bring home another trophy? Will Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal repeat its 2016 Euro win? Will the tortured English national team finally get its first title? Or will an upstart—like Greece in 2004—shock the world? —Justin Goldman
1. Soak Up Some Culture in Galway
Galway has long been called “the cultural heart of Ireland," so it's no surprise that this bohemian city on the country's wild west coast was named a 2020 European Capital of Culture (along with Rijeka, Croatia). The title puts a spotlight on the city (population 80,000) and County Galway, where more than 1,900 events will take place throughout the year. Things kick off in February with a seven-night opening ceremony featuring a fiery (literally) choreographed celebration starring a cast of 2,020 singing-and-drumming locals in Eyre Square. “This is a once-in-a-generation chance for Galway," says Paul Fahy, a county native and the artistic director of the Galway International Arts Festival (July 13–26). “It's a huge pressure. There's a heightened sense of expectation from audiences, not just from here but from all over the world." Art lovers will no doubt enjoy Kari Kola's illuminating work Savage Beauty, which will wash the Connemara mountains in green light to coincide with St. Patrick's Day, or the Druid Theatre Company's countywide tour of some of the best 20th-century one-act Irish plays. Visitors would also be wise to explore the rugged beauty of Connemara on a day trip with the charismatic Mairtin Óg Lally of Lally Tours, and to eat their way across town with Galway Food Tours. But beware, says Fahy: “Galway has a reputation as a place people came to 20 years ago for a weekend and never left." —Ellen Carpenter