By Randee Dawn
The year has barely turned over, but you’re already thinking of your next vacation, aren’t you? We don’t blame you, especially if you’re being barraged by major outlets announcing what the “must-see” destinations are for 2016.
But we understand that most people can only take one grand and perhaps one mini-vacation per year, and deciding what your own “must-see” destinations is a function of cost, time and inclination. All of these extensive lists can be overwhelming!
So let’s knock off the obvious ones from the start: Paris, New York City, London, Hong Kong and Las Vegas … and let’s see if we can do a little culling for you. This may not be the ultimate “must-see” list, but it’s a good running start. See if you find your next vacation destination below:
Best Choices: Trip of a Lifetime
Taking on an entire country is tough, and you probably won’t want to skip New Zealand while you’re “down under,” either. But Australia itself rides high on Lonely Planet’s list thanks to a shrinking currency and lower gas prices. Travel + Leisure suggests no fewer than three destinations in the country, from wine-soaked “gourmet enclave” Margaret River (three hours from Perth); Adelaide; and Tasmania, the island south of Melbourne. US News and World Report says go to Sydney, but c’mon, if you were in the country already were you really going to skip that city?
It’s not just for gulags any more! T+L lists chilly Siberia as the “next great frontier for the adventurous,” and while having a working knowledge of Russian isn’t a bad idea, you can always hire tour to check out Siberian tigers, the historic city of Irkutsk, and extended cruises and train rides alike.
As with Australia, China is a massive undertaking and likely not done in one trip. If you prefer to save your lungs from rampant air pollution, skipping major metropolises like Beijing might be wise. T+L suggests Hangzhou is one place that might grab you, to experience beautiful art and architecture alike. Plus, there’s world-class cuisine and hot tubs everywhere.
Best Choices for a Grand Getaway
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
It’ll take an intrepid traveler indeed to visit Rio this year, as it is the home of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. But T+L notes the city’s “significant building spree” has now expanded into areas that are usually not on the tourist’s radar. US News also cites Rio as a go-to destination, but suggests lodging in the “hip” Santa Teresa neighborhood, not in the coastline hotels.
At long last, the island of Cuba is opening up and Americans are once again heading south. Since there are still some restrictions on how U.S. citizens can travel to the country (we’ll have more on that in February), you’ll need to do some research. But T+L notes the capital of Havana is not to be missed, since “preparations for a major tourist boom have already begun.” Meanwhile, the New York Times says the “real Cuba” can be found just three hours west of the capital, in Viñales, where you can visit a tobacco farm and “every other pastel house is a bed-and-breakfast.”
With its colorful roofs and buildings, offbeat museums (try the Museum of Torture or the Museum of Broken Relationships ) and up-and-coming culinary scene, the capital of Croatia is an oft-overlooked destination. It comes recommended by T+L, which says staying at the “grand dame” Esplanade Zagreb Hotel is a grand idea, as it is celebrating its 90th birthday this year.
Best Choices for a Smaller Domestic Destination
Deciding to drive, or take the train, up the west coast of America is a more affordable type of vacation many can enjoy and savor as unique. Along the way, Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington are absolutely worth considering as destinations. Seattle made T+L’s list for its food (including Capitol Hill Hot Cake’s)”molten chocolate cakery”) and an art deco hotel housed in a former junior high school.
Pittsburgh? Yes, indeed! The bustling Steel City is full of museums (like one dedicated to hometown boy Andy Warhol and an extensive bike path that runs along its three rivers. (The more adventurous can continue on it all the way down to Washington, D.C. if they prepare ahead of time.) Plus, as T+L notes, the zoo is full of some incredible wildlife, including Philippine crocodiles and endangered warty pigs.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota
In 2016 the National Park Service turns 100, and what better way to enjoy it than at one of the nation’s expansive, breathtaking parks? The New York Times suggests Roosevelt National Park is full of “grasslands dotted with bison” and visitors can check out Elkhorn Ranch, where Roosevelt first started his life trying to raise cattle. US News, meanwhile, suggests Yellowstone National Park, which stretches across Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, where you are all but required to check out the Old Faithful geyser. But really, whatever national park you visit, you can’t go wrong: They’re a national treasure.