Because so much of the American experience can be traced back to British roots, it’s no surprise that Americans enjoy visiting England. Travelers head across the pond to the home of Shakespeare, Queen Elizabeth and the Beatles, looking to enjoy the best of England’s cities and quiet countryside. This country’s mix of history, pomp and circumstance make it a leading European destination.
Top Stops: In many ways, London is the essence of England. Several of the country’s top attractions reside in the city, among them Big Ben, the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace. The city also has a first-rate theater district and a cosmopolitan citizenry. Groups can make trips from London to various scenic spots in the English countryside.
Small Treasures: Travel to Avebury to visit Stonehenge, one of the most recognizable sites in Britain, and draw your own conclusions about this world-famous rock formation. In Cornwall, the Eden Project is a combination of nature, science, music and art, giving guests a look at botanical life from around the world.
Great Tastes: Americans traveling to England can expect plenty of typical dishes, including tea and crumpets in the afternoon, and fried feasts of fish and chips. But with a surging international population, England also offers great Indian curries, plus flavors imported from Bangladesh, China and Turkey.
When to Go: Travel to England surges between Easter and September, bringing high hotel room rates and airfares in tow. If you’re looking to avoid crowds and inflated prices while still enjoying pleasant weather, October and November are your best bet.
Visions of stone fences, thatched-roof homes and acres of rolling green hills captivate American travelers who think of visiting Ireland. This popular destination far outstripped all the other countries in our survey, and it’s no secret why: Ireland combines its one-of-a-kind culture with a very well developed tourism infrastructure, giving visitors a tour that is packed full of beautiful sights and memorable moments.
Top Stops: Many tours of Ireland start in Dublin, a thriving city that is at the heart of Irish culture, commerce and government. But the country’s real charm lies in the small towns that dot the countryside, as well as the spectacular coastal scenery. The Lakes of Killarney and the Ring of Kerry offer natural Ireland at its best, and the Cliffs of Moher are considered one of the most breathtaking spots in Europe.
Small Treasures: Built near Cork more than 600 years ago, Blarney Castle makes a great afternoon stop for tour groups. Visitors can tour this historic fortress from the bottom up. At the top, many take the opportunity to kiss the Blarney Stone, a rock in the upper facade of the castle that is said to bestow the gift of eloquence on those who pucker up to it.
Great Tastes: Many travelers know Ireland for its whiskey, which is served in shot glasses or poured more moderately into ubiquitous Irish coffee. Beyond that, you can enjoy typical Irish dishes such as corned beef and cabbage in restaurants throughout the country.
When to Go: Ireland is cooler than most of the United States, so early spring, winter and late fall may be a bit uncomfortable. Try to visit in late spring or early fall in order to dodge the summer crowds.
Many Americans have dreamed since childhood of going to France, and today’s adults with the means to travel continue to visit France in large numbers. The lure of art, architecture and the quintessential sidewalk cafe takes many of those visitors to Paris, and an increasing number of travelers are exploring more of the French countryside aboard river cruise ships, which ply several of the country’s waterways.
Top Stops: Touring Paris will occupy a lot of time during a group visit to France. Your travelers will want to see the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe and other well-known Parisian landmarks, and you can easily spend a day or more exploring the Louvre. Wine-lovers will also enjoy visits to famous regions such as Burgundy, Bordeaux and Champagne.
Small Treasures: Few experiences will stir a traveler’s gratitude and patriotism like a visit to the beaches of Normandy, where thousands of Allied troops took part in the D-Day invasion of World War II. The landing sites at Omaha Beach, Juno Beach and Utah Beach are commemorated with monuments, museums and war graves.
Great Tastes: Perhaps no place in the world is as renowned for its cuisine as France, and you’re not likely to have a bad meal the entire time you’re there. But in addition to great restaurant meals, make time to sample traditional pastries and breads in the cafes you find along the way. And don’t forget to sample some crepes, the country’s favorite dessert.
When to Go: France is known to have mild weather throughout the year, so climate is of less concern than visitor traffic. Tourists pack into Paris in June, July and August, so spring and fall are the best seasons for leisurely group visits.