Experiencing White Nights in St. Petersburg: Two weeks of festivities in late June celebrate the longest day of the year, when the northern sun never dips below the horizon. The White Nights are more than just a party; they're a buoyant, carefree celebration of summer -- liberation after the city's long hibernation. Watch at midnight as residents picnic with their kids or play soccer in the courtyards. Then take a nighttime boat ride through the canals as the sunset melts into a languorous sunrise, and you'll never want to go south again.
Steaming Your Stress Away at the Banya: Thaw your eyelashes in January or escape snow flurries in May in the traditional Russian bathhouse, something between a sauna and a Turkish hammam.
Watching the Drawbridges Open Along the Neva River (St. Petersburg): An unforgettable outing during White Nights, or anytime, involves perching yourself on the quay at 2am to watch the city's bridges unfold in careful rhythm to allow shipping traffic through the busy Neva. Just be careful not to get caught on the wrong side of the river from your hotel.
Taking the Trans-Siberian Railroad: This winding link between Europe and Asia offers a sense of Russia's scale. Seven days from Moscow to Beijing, or from Moscow to Vladivostok on the Pacific Coast, the journey provides plenty of time for reflection and making acquaintances. Lake Baikal and the Altai Mountains are stunning interruptions in the masses of pine and birch forests.
Taking Tea at a Luxury Hotel: A cup of steaming tea from an antique samovar is a treat for anyone, and even those on tight budgets should find something affordable at top-end hotels. To accompany the tea, try jam-filled bliny (thin Russian pancakes), fruit- or meat-filled pirozhki (pies), or caviar on toast.
Sampling Wild Mushrooms: Mushroom-picking in the countryside is a national pastime, and homemade mushroom dishes are heavenly, though not without risks. Restaurant-approved mushrooms are nearly as good and are sure to be safe: succulent cepes in soup; chanterelles sprinkled on pork chops; or zhulien, any wild mushroom baked with cheese and sour cream.
Enjoying a Night Out at the Mariinsky Theater (formerly known as the Kirov; St. Petersburg): Locals bemoan falling standards and rising prices at Russia's premier ballet and opera houses, but the performers remain top class. Even seats on the fourth-level balcony offer views of the opulent 18th-century interior. The Bolshoi Theater in Moscow is closed for renovations, though its company is performing on a still-impressive stage nearby.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.