Where to go in 2015? Arabella Bowen, editor-in-chief of Fodor’s Travel, provided her editors’ list of emerging destinations, affordable escapes, buzzy hot spots and travel-worthy events for 2015 at the New York Times Travel Show.
United States: Small Town Destinations Surge
“Last year, we saw huge surge in interest in small town destinations. With that in mind, here are some picks for 2015:”
Hudson Valley & the Catskills NY – So close. Beautiful year round, summer, fall foliage, skiing in winter. Quaint towns to explore, amazing antiquing, art scene, Storm King, farm to table restaurants. The Walk Over the Hudson – a rail bridge converted to pedestrian/biking use, is now world’s longest pedestrian bridge, affording amazing views.
A gal getaway hiking New York’s Hudson River School Art Trail and slideshow
Getaway on the Hudson River School Art Trail: Thomas Cole National Historic Site and slideshow
Getaway on The Hudson River School Art Trail: Frederick Edwin Church’s Olana and slideshow
Louisville & Bourbon Country, KY is emerging as a hot destination and not just because of Bourbon culture, but also an amazing foodie scene – high end restaurants, hipster joints (garage bar). The Bourbon Trail continues into the city –you can sample some of the brands you missed on the distillery tours.(See: Louisville, Ky: Attractions Put You at Crossroads, Cross-Currents of History)
Favorite hotel: The Louisville 21c Museum Hotel, located downtown, within walking distance of the Louisville Slugger Museum, which features an art museum, restaurant and spa.
When to go: The lead up to the Kentucky Derby. Everything starts getting going, it’s a super exciting time,a beautiful time to be in that part of the country.
Cleveland, OH – surprised many to be on the list –It’s the Rock n’ Roll capital, new restaurants (Michael Simon, Sawyer), topnotch orchestra (Cleveland is top 5), new wing at Museum of Art. Tip: avoid winter, go in summer, but definitely see the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railway, a historic site (www.nps.gov/cuva/planyourvisit/train.htm). Tip: you can bike the Towpath Trail in one direction, then hop on the train to return. The train can be flagged down at boarding stations by waving both arms. Bike Aboard! service runs May-October (Peninsula, OH 44264, 800-468-4070, 330-439-5708 www.CVSR.com).
Jackson Hole, WY – now a year-round favorite, it’s seen double digit growth in visitors. Because of all the travelers in winter, airlines added direct flights from 13 cities. You can get to this amazing ski resort and ski with direct flight –the scenery of the Tetons is one of the most amazing landings in the country. Note the elk horn arches in the main square.
Florida Panhandle rose to the top of the list for Florida. The Panhandle offers some of the most beautiful beaches in US– on par with quality of Caribbean islands – and southern hospitality. Fresh seafood, low key family friendly, beautiful scenery, good road trip. We also like Destin. Winter is the time to go, but you will save if you go in early September, when the weather is lovely, the water warm.
Mexico, Canada & Caribbean: Top 3 International Destinations for American Travelers
Guadalupe Valley, Mexico – has a wine region – if you are into wine and want to go to a new and original region – it got rated one of 10 best wine destinations by Wine Enthusiast. It’s an easy weekend from LA and SF.
Best is harvest festival in August, 21-day long celebration – lots of other activities– cultural blessing, feasts. Make your hotel reservations in advance.
Newfoundland, Canada – we usually talk of Vancouver, Montreal when we talk of Canada. This was Fodor’s 100 pick – if travel for hotels, this is one to travel for – access to province – hiking, kayaking- not as touristed as other places in Canada – This is one of the few places to see icebergs in late spring and early summer – 10,000 year old, you get up close in zodiac. Spring and fall are great – bird watchers come from mid-May and September. Newfoundland also has great music culture.
Barbados is great for its all inclusive resorts – two are coming back – Sandals is coming back after refurbishment: on the southern coast, it will have 7 new gourmet restaurants, deluxe spa, swim up suites form the longest river pool in the Caribbean.
Delta will fly twice weekly between JFK and Bridgetown, and Atlanta.
Winter is peak, so save by coming in late spring, when prices drop by up to 50%. Avoid fall (hurricane season).
Europe: Iceland, Norway catapult to top
Iceland – (the very name elicits “ahhs” through the audience). There is so much interest in this destination over the last few years, it catapults to the top – Iceland Air offers one of quickest flights to Europe – instead of skipping on, get off the plane and stay a few days. Experience Iceland’s amazing natural scenery. The Blue Lagoon is one of the most memorable places. Iceland is one of best places to view northern lights (conditions will be excellent through winter 2016). There is a new luxury hotel outside Rek. Adventures and topnotch cuisine, very doable by car – so much to see and beautiful landscapes.
Great to go in winter – dark but the payoff is worth it, and in summer, constant daylight. There’s no bad time to go; fares are affordable.
Enchantment of Blue Lagoon is within reach of Reykjavik stopover on Icelandair and slideshow
Classic bus tour is best way to discover Iceland’s unique landscape, heritage and slideshow
With Iceland at global crossroads, Harpa gives Reykjavik place on world stage and slideshow
Trip down National Highway reveals why Iceland is literally land of fire and ice and slideshow
Norway –catapulted to the list because Disney’s “Frozen.” It’s worth visiting for Oslo and scenery – snow covered mountains and fjords, but we also love the fantastic modern Nordic cuisine in Oslo –Check out the Ski jump – the only steel ski jump in the world.
Like Iceland, Norway attracts visitors year-round – in summer, outdoor adventures, in winter, see northern lights. Go now.
Pilsen, Czech Republic – One of twin European capitals of culture this year – big on beer – where you can do a tour of the largest beer maker in the country. Also, the Patton Memorial War Museum – marks liberation after WWII. Pilsen will host over 600 events in 2015 because it’s the European Capital of Culture this year – but you must also visit Prague. Summer, spring, fall are best – enjoy quaint streets and parks in best weather.
Romania is a destination on the rise in Europe: astounding fortresses in Transylvanian countryside, many associated with the notorious Vlad the Impaler. One of the most affordable destinations in Europe, so it is a great pick for budget. The monastery, Sistine chapel of the east,is a medieval masterpiece –
You would want to rent a car so you can drive to Transylvania’s fascinating fortified churches from the 13th century built to defend against invaders – many are UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Summer is most popular, but it can get crowded – cool nights and warm days makes spring /fall ideal for hiking, biking. There is value in visiting in spring and fall.
Piedmont, Italy was recently named a UNESCO World Heritage site. It also offers amazing wine – bold red wine, lives up to the moniker, King of Wines – so tannic, it takes 10 years to age properly. Turin is the main city, home to Fiat and an automobile museum. Alba is a must for foodies – has the highly prized white truffles, and is best known for sparkling wine (Asti). Medieval castles, rolling hills with postcard shots.
Sept and October are festival months. The Truffles Festival, mid-October-November, so book in advance;
Asti’s wine festival in early September
Paris, France – remains the #1 destination in Europe, #1 on fodors.com for the second year running. If you think you have seen Paris before, it’s a great time to go back – there’s been a sea change in architecture and arts – unprecedented change, a fresh modern outlook. We are excited by the opening of Louis Vuitton Foundation, an art museum and cultural center in a stunning building. designed by the architect Frank Gehry, and is adjacent to the Jardin d’Acclimation in the Bois de Boulogne. The Philharmonic just got a new building. Jérôme Seydoux Pathé Foundation designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop, dedicated to the preservation of Pathé’s heritage, and to the promotion of cinematography (can tour on Saturdays if email in advance, rpbw.com). Also, the Picasso Museum which reopened after a renovation. “Tickets are so hot, you need to reserve weeks in advance.”
“There’s a reboot of luxury hotel scene: despite how grand Paris is, the luxury hotels haven’t been on par with US – Ritz and Hotel Crillon are reopening this year after major renovations.
“Fodors loves Paris in June, when the sun doesn’t set until 10 pm – and in September, when everyone has come back from their summer vacation and all the cultural calendar is back – and you save on air fare and hotel.”
Central and South America: Two growing regions for fodors.com
Top is Guatemala – historic, colonial feel – Antigua, the 16th century colonial capital. UNESCO World heritage site, a must for foodies. Climb a volcano, look into pool of lava (great Instagram moment). Shimmering Lake Atitlan. Mayan cities: fly north to Tikal.
When to go: Guatemala is a land of eternal spring, but winter months are best to visit, November-April is dry season – clear blue skies – dazzling religious festivals take place.
Punta del Este, Uruguay: Looking for a new beach destination beyond the Caribbean and Mexico? Punta del Este is a flashy but affordable hot spot with South America’s best features – weather, thriving art scene, affordable luxury. Ample opportunity to surf, swim, be seen – vibrant nightlife until sunrise. New luxury hotel: the Grand Hotel.
Beaches are the main attraction, but make time for nearby attractions – Isla del Lobos, a short boatride, has a massive colony of Atlantic sea lions.
Go in January, February for a full experience. A more mellow time is November-December (spring) or March (early fall).
Patagonia, Chile is beautiful, a great destination for adventure travelers. Great outdoors. Lots of new luxury lodges are opening here, catering to a full travel experience. You can take a 5-day hike (can do one-day) in Torres del Paine National Park, encompassing mountains, glaciers, lakes, and rivers. “It’s all about the outdoor life and living – and quiet nights.”
Their summer is the best time, but crowds are greatest in January-February. “I went in November and it was fantastic and a little cheaper.”
Asia and Australia
Singapore – major events, historic events, celebrating its Golden Jubilee in 2015. See gardens by the bay, super trees. There’s a budding fashion scene. Upcoming opening of the national art gallery. Singapore is also a sports hub, hosting the 28th Southeast Asian games. It is renowned for its Hakka food scene. Local beer infuses regional flavors like guava.
The weather is hot and wet year round, but that translates into a lush beautiful landscapes – so go any time.
Silk Road, China –The 3100 mile stretch of road was recently named a UNESCO World Heritage site. The terracotta warriors are the marvel here: each one is unique, life-sized, and dates from 250 BC; they are back home in Xian after touring. Start in Xian – a quick flight from major cities (and far from bustle of Beijing). Visit the Mogao Caves and grottoes, filled with ancient Buddhist art.
“Train and bus travel is arduous, so opt to fly to other destinations. This is a destination where having a good travel agent is a godsend.
The best time to visit is early May to late October, when the weather is warm and the skies are blue.
Vietnam – big on list. This year is the 40th anniversary of the end of Vietnam war, a perfect time to explore. There will be memorials happening. “You are struck by how energetic and captivating it is. Visiting there is what inspired me to become travel writer.”
You will want to do the full destination – you need at least two weeks to do highlights (better to take three) – boats overnight on the bay, Guayin, Danang emerging as a beach destination. Everywhere you go, you will find a mix of affordability and luxury, and true friendliness of people.
Peak time is November.-March, lower heat and rain, and the north will be cooler. April-June, September-October is less busy, but avoid busy Tet New Year in January-February, when a lot closes down.
Sri Lanka is an emerging destination. If you have been to India, this is the next stop. Sri Lanka combines a lot of what makes India so special – a microcosm, with cuisine and culture all its own.
Colombo has long attracted visitors but after years of civil war, other destinations are opening. See fragrant tea plantations, a wealth of UNESCO sites, and some of Asia’s finest wildlife spotting. There are luxury boutique hotels: the Shangri-la is set to open new property in 2015, and Sheraton also.
Climate is very tropical, like Vietnam – high season is December-March, with two monsoon seasons – rainfall patterns can vary widely (so it is hard to predict).
Melbourne, Australia is something completely different: stylish and funky, stunning Victorian architecture, regional wines, world-class dining scene – Australia’s most European city. Long term urban renewable projects have transformed the city with high rises, inner suburbs.
Melbourne Greeter Service pairs visitors with local volunteers with a shared interest – you can go on a free 2-4 hour tour.
Visit any time of year – there is always something going on.
These are big ticket items, trips of lifetime, that take a lot of planning and time.
The Arctic: see it before it’s gone.
Crystal Cruises and Abercrombie & Kent – Global warming not a good thing, but is giving us access to part of world that none of us have been able to do in over 200 years – only a few ships have made the full journey since 1906. Now, the Northwest Passage is ice free for a few summer months each year because of global warming.
If you have been to Antarctica, this is the next.
You have to plan – trips this year selling out, so they are already booking for 2016. So 2015 is the year to plan and 2016 to do it.
It’s not cheap: $20,000, and not short – it takes 24-32 days depending on the itinerary, but demand has been huge.
Given that there is a very short period, you are looking at August-September.
Namibia is a safe desert haven in southern Africa that pairs sustainable tourism with community outreach – stunning coastal desert named a UNESCO World Heritage site. The 75 million year old desert looks out onto the Atlantic, with some of the best views of the night sky in the world. It is recognized by the World Wildlife Fund Gift of Earth award – wildlife safari in the desert are run by Wilderness Safaris and Save the Rhino Trust (www.savetherhino.org/…/save_the_rhino_trust_namibia). Namibia will be more accessible soon: Air Namibia will fly from Johannesburg and Capetown in April, so you can combine with South Africa.
A dry climate makes it a suitable safari destination year round. September-October are best to spot game, when wildlife congregates near waterholes.
Oman is a stunning destination on the Arabian Peninsula – authentic culture, stunning natural beauty, hospitality. Whereas Dubai went on a big building boom, Oman has kept its boom local, characteristic of itself, so it is still a rich authentic destination to explore.It offers a great mix of city experiences, stunning beaches, isolated desert, rugged coast and opulent spa hotels. It’s a very good honeymoon destination, given the mix of experiences – spa hotels coming on include Six Senses and Shangri-la.
Jabal Akhdar, which means “The Green Mountain” in Arabic, is part of the Al Hajar mountain range, one of Oman’s most spectacular regions. Perched 2,000 meters above sea level, Alila Jabal Akhdar overlooks a dramatic gorge, surrounded by awe-inspiring views of the Al Hajar Mountains. (www.alilahotels.com/jabalakhdar).
Don’t visit during summer (extreme); winter is best.
As for some of the destinations the audience was curious about:
Myanmar: Fodors put Myanmar on go list for 2014 – big on it – one of those places where should go with a tour. I did A&K tour through Myanmar – it was well organized, gave us access to local people, local tour guides and onto a newly launched small cruise ship that took us to everything. If you are going on your first trip, go with a tour operator.
Turkey is one of our top destinations at Fodors’ – It was TripAdvisor’s #1 destination last year – peo0ple are going and will continue to go – such an amazing variety of destinations there in one trip that makes it attractive.
Croatia was #1 destination on the rise on fodors.com last year – huge gains, especially southern Dalmatian area, new guidebook coming out. You can do it on your own. If you have time, fly into Venice, rent a car and drive down the coast to Croatia-it is one of the most beautiful drives in the world. You can take a direct flight to Venice (Zagreb requires connection). All of it is doable on your own.
Russia: With a cruise, you don’t need a visa for Russia. You can take a ferry from Helsinki and visit St. Petersburg for 48 hours.
For more, visit Fodors.com
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