In Estremoz, a hill town near the Spanish frontier, we went to see The Nutty Professor at the historic Bernardim Ribeiro Theater, a movie palace created from an old theater. The Portuguese subtitles meant that the locals often read the joke before it was spoken, so their laughter would drown out the punchline for us. At the time, screenings had an intermission so the audience could smoke, so when most people filed out of the house, Thom and I stood at our seats to admire the place. The manager shyly approached and insisted, in Portuguese, that we let him give us a tour. He took us up to the balconies and boxes to show off the ornate woodwork, to the lobby to see framed newspaper clippings about performances, and then backstage, behind the screen, to admire all the theatrical trappings. We thanked him profusely (we knew how to say that much at least), and he led us around to the front of the screen to find rows of cross teenagers glowering, waiting for the Americans to finish their tour so the movie could begin again.
Aspen Between Thanksgiving and Christmas
Tim Chester, Senior Editor, Digital
Taking time off during the December maelstrom of holiday shopping, nonstop parties, and work-related loose ends is tough. Even if you manage to persuade the world you’re not needed for a few days, you’ll find yourself working double time before and after to compensate. But there’s a payoff. Very few others seem willing to do it. That’s what I discovered last year relearning to ski on the pristine slopes of Aspen.
Each morning as we lumbered with our gear to the lifts, we were greeted by as many helpful docents as other skiiers. We sipped coffee in empty cafés before gliding right onto the lifts, where quiet bunny slopes offered forgiving terrain for us (re)newbies. I can only imagine how hushed the miles of more challenging trails must have been for those lucky enough to spend this time of year on black runs instead of school runs.
Denmark in the Fall
Lyndsey Matthews, Destination News Editor
I spent a week spanning the end of September and the first few days of October in southwest Denmark last year. Even though I traded idyllic weather and summer sunlight that stretches long into the night for rain jackets and giant knitted sweaters, the blustery weather and shorter days meant I got to experience Danish hygge culture at its coziest. Evenings were spent at historic thatched-roof inns over long dinners with lots of wine and even more candles, while mornings often started slowly with quiet walks on beaches that I had all to myself.
The highlight of the trip was an afternoon spent wading through chest deep water in the Wadden Sea to forage invasive—yet tasty—Pacific oysters. The trek was tiring and one of my friend’s waders sprang a leak soaking an entire pant leg, but shucking oysters plucked directly from the sea while sipping champagne outdoors is a memory that’s lasted much longer than the chill.
North Carolina When Everyone Else Is Back at School
Michelle Baran, Travel News Editor
When you have small kids (babies and toddlers), take advantage of the fact that they’re not on a typical school schedule. I love using the week following Labor Day for off-season travel because most older kids are back in school, but the weather is still great in many places. The most recent trip my family took at this time was to North Carolina in 2016, specifically Raleigh and Winston-Salem. We had museums almost entirely to ourselves and had no trouble nabbing a covetable room at the latter’s Kimpton Cardinal Hotel.
Similarly, I love traveling over the Thanksgiving holiday, when many people are just going home to see family. We’ve driven to Big Sur and to Portland during Thanksgiving week the past few years and had no problem booking hotel stays, nabbing tables at A-list restaurants, and seeing the sights minus the crowds.
Greece in the Springtime
Sara Button, Assistant Editor
This year my husband and I went to Greece in early March, which is really more off-season than shoulder season. We took the ferry from Athens to Naxos, the largest island in the Cyclades, and there we found plenty of spring blooms, sunny weather, fantastically fresh seafood—and absolutely no crowds.
Sure, there were cons: it wasn’t quite warm enough yet to spend much time swimming (water temperatures were low and the meltemia winds that blow off the Aegean Sea added a chill factor), and a lot of lodging and dining options were still closed for the season. But we had the beaches completely to ourselves, literally, and we were there during a number of pre-Lenten festivities taking place in the mountain villages. What we lacked in seaside sunburns we made up for in hiking from the towns of Melanes and Apo Potamia along the Naxos Village Trail, watching the sunset over the island’s ancient ruins, and gorging on the amazing breakfast buffets at Hotel Grotta, the boutique hotel where we were treated like family.
Why You Should Book Your Next Trip in the Off Season – AFAR Media