Aspen Times Weekly Voyages edition: Offseason excursion ideas |

Aspen Times Weekly Voyages edition: Offseason excursion ideas

Compiled from reports by AP and Afton Groepper
Cover by Afton Groepper

If our detailed stories about Paris and Honolulu were not enough, here are a few more great places to think about visiting this offseason:

When Hurricane Katrina scattered New Orleans’ residents and its musicians across the country, many wondered if the best days of New Orleans music had drowned with the city. But if its music festivals are any indication, New Orleans is proving its music scene is waterproof. New Orleans festivals are as strong as they’ve ever been, and at least one is bigger than before Katrina hit in 2005. The French Quarter Festival, which took place in mid-April, started almost 30 years ago as a small festival for locals. But in recent years, it has blossomed into a roughly $300 million moneymaker for the city. It brings in some 500,000 music fans each year, as does the upcoming New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Fest.

Jazz Fest spans two weekends, April 27 through 29 and May 3 through 6, at the Fair Grounds racing track, followed by the New Orleans Cajun-Zydeco Festival in June, the Essence Music Festival in July, Satchmo Summerfest in August and the Voodoo Music Experience in October. There are countless other festivals throughout south Louisiana packed between April and October, among them Bayou Country Superfest in Baton Rouge, La., and Festival International de Louisiane in Lafayette, La.

Don’t let the poor weather fool you – the drizzle adds to the atmosphere at the Karlstejn Castle, right outside Prague in the Czech Republic. Visitors who come to see the castle will find food vendors, sausage, crafts and other local flavor, including the area residents who dress in costume and re-enact ancient life from the castle, which was founded 1348. When we were there, we happened across the Wine Harvest Festival right off the train – the best way to get there from Prague. Once at the castle, we found a large group of people holding plastic cups and filling their empty water bottles with wine. It all must have added to the comfort of the region, as even with the drizzle and rain, we found nobody who had an umbrella. The castle is open year round, and visitors can take a peek inside. Before you travel, check the events schedule, or do like us – wing it, and be surprised.

Bulb fields along the Dutch west coast have erupted into a kaleidoscope of color as tulips and other flowers burst into bloom.

The most easily accessible fields are found mainly in the coastal strip between the cities of Leiden and Haarlem and are easily accessible by car or train from Amsterdam. Sitting on the top floor of a double-decker train is actually one of the best vantage points to view the broad bars of different colored flowers stretching over pancake-flat fields.

The fields started blooming around the start of April and will likely remain colorful for a few more weeks.

Tourists can drive along roads that wind through the fields and regularly park on sidewalks to get out and take pictures. Just remember that most of the fields are part of farms and not intended to be tramped through.

If you want to get an even closer look, pay a visit to the world-famous Keukenhof park and its flower displays in Lisse, about 25 miles south of Amsterdam. The Keukenhof is open through May 20.

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