Lifestyle

5 great places to visit in March

(CNN) - March brings more moderate temperatures around the world, as the Northern Hemisphere enters spring and the Southern Hemisphere enters fall. That means that not only are many festivals and celebrations in full swing this month, but there are also plenty of pleasant destinations to visit sans the spring break crowds.

Here are five great places to visit in March:

1. Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires is entering fall in March, and you can expect warm days and cool nights with an average high of 79 F (26 C) and a low of 64 F (18 C). Not exactly beach getaway weather, but quite pleasant for strolling or biking around this vibrant, multicultural city. And by avoiding the spring break hordes in Florida and the Caribbean, you might just be saving yourself some money (and sanity).

A true melting pot, Buenos Aires has welcomed many immigrant populations over the past 150 years and is one of the most diverse cities in Latin America. This not only means you're likely to hear a variety of languages spoken, but you'll also see the influence these different ethnic groups have had on the local cuisine.

Case in point: Pizza and ice cream. Any self-respecting porteño (a person from Buenos Aires) will tell you the city has the best pizza and ice cream in South America. Head to Pizzeria Kentucky on Avenida Santa Fe or El Cuartito in Recoleta. Stop in at Rapa Nui (multiple locations) afterward for some artisanal ice cream.

While you shouldn't overlook Buenos Aires' more obvious attractions such as Casa Rosada, San Telmo Market or the colorful La Boca neighborhood, consider soaking up the city more like a porteño might.

Paseo de la Costa and Costanera Sur Ecological Reserve are great parks to explore and people watch.

If you are in Buenos Aires on the first Sunday of the month, Masa Crítica (Critical Mass, a monthly mass bicycle ride held in cities all over the world) is an alternative way to see the city and perhaps meet some new friends. La Bicicleta Naranja rents affordable bikes, security locks and helmets at its San Telmo and Palermo locations.

2. Chicago

Come March, highs of 45 F (7 C) are welcomed with open (though probably not bare) arms after a long Chicago winter. Spring is in the air, and there are tons of festivals and events on the calendar, including several film festivals, a mac and cheese smackdown and a Holi festival. Here are our top picks:

-- Chicago's CHIditarod is part shopping cart race, part food drive, part talent show. It takes place March 3 and benefits the Greater Chicago Food Depository.

-- Geneva Film Festival features independent films from around the world March 8-10, about 30 miles west of downtown Chicago.

--On March 23-24, The Good Food Festival, the Midwest's premier local and sustainable food conference, will feature more than 150 food, beer and wine exhibitors conducting workshops and lectures, as well as cooking demos from chefs such as Rick Bayless.

St. Patrick's Day is essentially a two-week, event-filled celebration in Chicago where everyone seems to be Irish this time of the year. The South Side Irish Parade is held the week before, on March 11, on Western Avenue, from 103 Street to 105 Street.

March 17's main events begin at 9 a.m. with the dyeing of the Chicago River green at Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive. The Chicago St. Patrick's Day Parade makes its way through Grant Park on Columbus Avenue at noon.

Not interested in partaking in St. Patrick's Day debauchery or big festival crowds? The Windy City still has plenty to offer.

Let's start with a few food musts. For Italian beef sandwiches, Mr. Beef's is arguably the best. Head to Pequod's for a memorable, waistline-destroying, deep-dish pie. Portillo's is a local fast food chain and is an excellent, precursor (or remedy) to a boozy night.

Now that you've met your calorie quota for the week, it's time to burn some. Thankfully, Chicago has a good bit of green spaces to explore. North Avenue Beach, Millennium Park and Grant Park are good places to stretch your legs and catch some rays.

If you'd prefer to be indoors, check out The Art Institute of Chicago, The Field Museum or Shedd Aquarium.

3. Philippines

Things are starting to really heat up in the Philippines in March. Temperatures are reaching the 90s F (30s C) in Manila, and it is a very popular time for travel throughout the archipelago, especially during Holy Week, before Easter.

It is wise to avoid travel here during Holy Week if possible, as prices tend to skyrocket and accommodation is limited in the predominantly Catholic country.

The Philippines is made up of more than 7,000 islands, making it an excellent destination for beach hopping earlier in the month, however.

Here are a few of our favorite beaches in the Philippines:

Bantayan Island, Cebu

Less than 100 square miles, this relatively untouched island on the northern tip of Cebu in central Philippines is known for its white sands, turquoise waters and relaxed atmosphere. Don't come here looking for five-star resorts. There aren't any.

Boracay, Aklan

If you're seeking a more luxurious spot, then perhaps Boracay is a better tropical paradise fit for you.

Located on the northeastern end of the island, Shangri-La's Boracay Resort and Spa is a lush five-star oasis. The property has four restaurants, two bars, a spa, a pool and tons of other amenities and recreational activities to keep you occupied.

El Nido, Palawan

The more adventurous traveler needn't look any further than El Nido. Palawan is often referred to as "the last frontier" of the Philippines, and El Nido is the gateway to the Bacuit Archipelago -- an island network filled with limestone formations jutting out of crystal blue water, karst cliffs, caves and secluded lagoons.

If you happen to fly in or out of Manila, spend some time eating your way around this food-centric city. Stop by a "dampa" (wet market) where you can choose your catch of the day and vendors will prepare it however you like.

And sure, there's the infamous "balut" (boiled, fertilized duck egg), but there are plenty of other delicious, less-daunting Manila staple dishes to feast upon.

4. Savannah, Georgia

If you are seeking a warmer city to celebrate St. Patrick's Day this year, Savannah, Georgia, can get up into the 70s F (20s C) in March. Savannah's parade is the second-largest in the United States and third-largest in the world. Celebrations aren't limited to March 17, with celebrations starting at the beginning of the month.

The parade is alcohol-free, but you won't have any trouble finding a pub filled with jubilant, green-clad patrons. The Original Pinkie Masters has been a Savannah institution since 1953. A quirky, cash-only dive bar whose clientele has included local politicians and former President Jimmy Carter, its walls are covered in memorabilia acquired throughout the years.

For a more elevated experience, head to Elizabeth on 37th for dinner. Housed in a 1900s mansion, the Southern fine-dining restaurant features a seasonal menu filled with fresh-caught seafood and local produce. Reservations are recommended.

Nearby Tybee Island is a quieter alternative to Savannah.

Beachview Bed & Breakfast encompasses the Tybee Island's easygoing nature but is dressed up with Egyptian percale sheets and unique, elegant rooms. It is a short walk from the beach and the 110-year-old building has large, inviting wraparound porches for guests to properly enjoy a Southern farm-table breakfast in the morning, or a glass of wine in the evening.

5. Iceland

Iceland has become a much more affordable destination in recent years.

March falls within off-peak season, making travel even more of a bargain. With low-cost carriers such as the Reykjavik-based WOW air, offering up incredible airfare deals, it seems like there's never been a better time to visit the Nordic island.

While pretty magical year-round, the land of fire and ice is even more so during prime aurora borealis-viewing season. This typically extends from October through March. Your best chances of spotting the northern lights are on cold, clear, dark nights from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m., about five days before a new moon.

March marks the beginning of spring in most of the Northern Hemisphere. And though Iceland starts to enjoy longer days and rising temperatures, highs are normally around 38 F (3 C), so moisture-resistant, warm winter attire is still imperative.

Reykjavik, Iceland's capital and most populous city, might not seem like the best place to see the aurora borealis, but if you are in the city and without a vehicle, there are still some spots to escape light pollution and (hopefully) catch a glimpse of the light show. The Grotta Lighthouse, Hljomskalagardur Park and the Perlan building might just be dark enough.

Reykjavik Excursions provides a variety of northern lights, national park and nature tour options with buses departing often from downtown Reykjavik.

If you'd like to explore more independently, rent a car and do the Golden Circle tour. The 186-mile (300 kilometer) road includes waterfalls, geysers, lagoons and historic sites. This is a well-traveled loop and it can get quite busy, but crowds thankfully thin out a bit this time of year.

Ready to relax? The Blue Lagoon geothermal spa is in a lava field in southwestern Iceland. The warm, mineral-rich waters are not only restorative/healing/calming, but can help people with skin diseases such as psoriasis. Even though it's low season, the spa is one of Iceland's most popular attractions (and for good reason), so it's smart to book early.

West Iceland's Mount Kirkjufell is one of the most iconic mountains in the world and the most photographed in Iceland. "Game of Thrones" fans might recognize the arrowhead-shaped mountain from several episodes shot near the fictional Wall.


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