Typically, when you plan a vacation, you can choose precisely where you want to go while there, no matter what time of year you visit. Some places, however, may require more planning, as they’re only open for a few months — or in some cases, a few days — of the year. Here are a handful of attractions you might not know are only open for a short time each year.
1. BUCKINGHAM PALACE
When planning your first trip to London, you might have your heart set on seeing classics like the Tate Modern, Big Ben, London Eye and, of course, Buckingham Palace. However, the palace’s 19 staterooms are only open to the public from mid-July to Oct. 1. You’ll want to get your tickets in advance, as the lines can get quite long. Plus, allow yourself a good two hours for the tour itself. To get a bit of the royal treatment, stay at the nearby Goring hotel, where Kate Middleton stayed the night before her wedding. And if you’re visiting London outside of those months, but you still want to get a glimpse at the royal life, consider taking the 30-minute trip to Windsor Castle, which is open year-round.
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2. GRAMERCY PARK
Central Park and Bryant Park are must-visits on any trip to New York City, but there’s another park you should add to your itinerary: Gramercy Park. Located in the eponymous neighborhood, it is one of only two private parks in the city — the other being Sunnyside Gardens Park in Queens — and is only accessible if you live in one of the surrounding buildings and are granted a key. Otherwise, you’ll need to wait until Christmas Eve — the one day in the year that the park opens to the public. If you find yourself in New York during Christmas, you’ll want to take the time to do something most lifelong New Yorkers won’t even get to experience.
3. YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK
National parks are a great way to experience the beauty of America, and Yellowstone is about as impressive as they come. Spread out across Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, this national park is home to some of the most magnificent views in the nation. However, seeing it all might require some advanced planning, depending on when you’re visiting. While the park is “open” year-round, access is limited in the fall, winter and spring. Yellowstone National Park changes seasonally — warm summer days are perfect for hiking and fishing, while the snowy winter months provide the ideal backdrop for snowmobiling and snow coach rides. With these seasonal differences come changes in the park’s scheduled times. The National Park Service website offers a great list of seasonal highlights, plus outlines the visitation restrictions in place for every month of the year. If you aren’t planning on camping, there are plenty of great hotels nearby, especially near the west entrance of the park.
4. CONEY ISLAND
One of New York City’s most well-known neighborhoods, Coney Island is home to the famous Cyclone roller coaster, the Wonder Wheel and the boardwalk, but you’ll only get to enjoy them for a couple of months each year. Luna Park, home of the Cyclone, is the only amusement park in New York City, and it’s open full-time from June to August. Looking to swim after hitting the rides? The beaches here are open, with lifeguards on duty, from Memorial Day to Labor Day, along with all of the boardwalk’s restaurants. If you’re visiting New York outside of the summer, fear not, as you’ll still be able to get a hot dog from Nathan’s, which is open almost every day of the year.
Each year, the cleverly named Icehotel, in the village of Jukkasjarvi in northern Sweden, is built using only ice and snow. Everything, including the chairs, beds, walls and even the glasses at the bar, is constructed from snow and ice blocks pulled from the nearby Torne River. The idea began in 1990, when French artist Jannot Derid held an exhibition inside a cylinder-shaped igloo. After nearby hotels ran out of rooms, a few visitors inquired about staying in the igloo. That night, they slept inside the frozen space, in sleeping bags on top of reindeer skins. Since then, the hotel has been rebuilt each year, with different artists working on the design. It’s only open from December to April. When completed, the hotel features a bar, church, main hall, reception area and about 100 guest rooms. Given that each room is carved by hand, no two accommodations are alike. And while staying in a hotel made of ice might seem fun for one night, you may not want to spend your entire vacation there. Luckily, there are plenty of great (warmer) options around the country. They’ll still serve ice at the bars — it’ll just be inside the glass.