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Yellowstone National Park is on my list of essential U.S. destinations. Photo from

Yellowstone National Park is on my list of essential U.S. destinations. Photo from

Just about every travel publication, digital or print, now seems to start the New Year with a top ten list of “where to go this year,” counting down to the most irresistible spot on the planet.

One year, the hot ticket may be to Croatia, the next year to Colombia, the next year to Canada. (For my own facetious take on where Americans would be going in 2017 — with nearly half the country fleeing to Canada for extended vacations, the other near-half checking out the newly discovered charms of Russia, and the remaining in-betweeners headed to Cuba — check out my post from December 29, 2016. Seems so long ago…)

My own (rather cynical) theory about top ten lists of this nature is that they mostly reflect where editors of said publications want to go themselves, and are hoping to wangle a free trip out of some PR agency, destination marketing organization, or another.

But the New Year is the time to put such cynicism aside, and create my own (completely subjective)  list of top destinations that may not be “hot” in the sense that they are in the vanguard of anything, but are more what I call “essential” countries, states, cities, and attractions.

Some may in fact be old hat to many of you, but if you’ve missed any of these in your travels, or are just seriously getting going on traveling now that — like many baby boomers — you have more time to hit the road (skies, seas, etc.), you can regard these as a checklist or bucket list of places to go and things to see. I’ll start with some of the more basic ones and work down to some of the more exotic in my next post.

Essential Domestic (U.S.) Destinations

Ironically, perhaps, there are a number of Americans who have more familiarity with Hong Kong or Istanbul than with many U.S. states and sights.

You can start to remedy this by climbing in your car or RV, booking a domestic flight, riding the bus, or boarding an Amtrak train (if applicable) to the following places:

New York City

Washington, DC

San Francisco

Los Angeles

New Orleans is distinctive in architecture as well as food and music. Photo from

New Orleans is distinctive in architecture as well as food and music. Photo from




New Orleans

Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming, Montana, Idaho)

Yosemite National Park (California)

Mt. Rushmore National Memorial (South Dakota)

Grand Canyon National Park (Arizona)

Redwood National Park (California)

Sequoia National Park (California)

Zion and Bryce national parks (Utah)

Rocky Mountain National Park (Colorado)

And if and when you’ve done all those, or whenever you have the opportunity, head to the coast of Maine; Charleston (South Carolina); the Northern California coast; the Gulf Coast beaches (Florida, Alabama, Mississippi); the Great Smoky Mountains (Tennessee and North Carolina); Seattle and Mt. Rainier (Washington State); Portland (Oregon); Austin and San Antonio (Texas); Santa Fe and Taos, New Mexico; southeast Alaska; Hawaii.

Yes, I realize there are many fine places in the country that I’ve failed to mention, so if I’ve left out your favorite spots (I’m looking at you, Orlando and Las Vegas), feel free to add a comment at the end. But these, to my mind, are the basics for achieving cultural literacy in U.S. travel.

Essential European Destinations

If you haven’t been to one or more of these, book the earliest possible flight to:

Bruges, Belgium, is a medieval delight. Photo by Dennis Cox/WorldViews

Bruges, Belgium, is a medieval delight. Photo by Dennis Cox/WorldViews





United Kingdom and Ireland

Once you’ve done all the above or are in the neighborhood, head to:





The Netherlands

And if you’ve done all those, pack your bags or extend your trip to:






Czech Republic



St. Petersburg, Russia: Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood. Photo by Dennis Cox/WorldViews

For veteran European travelers, strongly consider:

Russia (St. Petersburg)

Turkey (for Istanbul in the European area)









(I’ll be writing more about these in future posts.)

Essential Countries Around the World

Most of these are self-explanatory, but I’ve added a few comments to others:

Kerala: Boatmen on backwaters crossing a lagoon. Photo by Dennis Cox/WorldViews

Kerala: Boatmen on backwaters crossing a lagoon. Photo by Dennis Cox/WorldViews






Australia and New Zealand 

Ecuador (small country but offers three amazing experiences: the Amazon, the Andes, and the Galapagos)

Israel (sacred to three major religions)

Kenya and Tanzania (world’s best wildlife viewing)

Thailand (for the food, the beaches, the people, the culture)

And don’t overlook our neighbors to the north and south: Canada and Mexico.

If you’ve been to all these countries, congratulations! You’re now ready for my next posts, which will tackle the world’s top cities, the world’s greatest buildings and monuments, the world’s top natural wonders, and the world’s truly remote and exotic destinations.

And again, I welcome comments on my selections (or lack of same). If you disagree with me, let me know!



8 Responses to Where to Go in 2018 (and Beyond)

  • Great piece, Clark. We are looking at several of your recommendations, locally and beyond. But first, perhaps a trip to Anza Borrego in March?

  • I recently visited Ljubljana and Lake Bled. Slovenia is now at the top of my list of European countries. The Belle époque architecture and street life in Ljubljana are wonderful and Lake Bled in autumn is spectacular. Most of eastern Europe has bargain prices as well.

    • Eastern Europe is indeed a great bargain with lots of little-known destinations that are just as remarkable as the better-known sites of Western Europe. We enjoyed a visit to Slovenia in late 2016 and I highly recommend it as well.

  • Jeez, Clark. You forgot Ann Arbor and the entire state of Michigan, along with Ohio, India and Andorra. But your biggest mistake, I have to tell you, was forgetting Palermo.

  • Thanks for writing, Mafia Shortstop! I agree, I should have included Ann Arbor. India I did include (you may have intended to write Indiana). And maybe I’ll add a section on small European countries like Andorra, San Marino, Monaco, and Liechtenstein. But I didn’t exactly forget Palermo, which is part of Italy. But a special mention of Sicily is indeed warranted, especially if I don’t want to annoy the Cosa Nostra.

    • Hang on. You mean the letters “I-n-d-i-a aren’t part of “Indiana?”

      • Part of a long ago Final Jeopardy question — “what are two U.S. states that have foreign countries within their names?” One of my nearest and dearest, who grew up a Hoosier, named New Mexico but couldn’t think of Indiana, thus costing her victory. So yes, Mafia shortstop, aka Don Palermo, you are correct.

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According to government and private surveys:

  • Leading-edge baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1955) and seniors account for four out of every five dollars spent on luxury travel today.
  • Roughly half the consumer spending money in the U.S.--more than $2 trillion--is in the hands of leading-edge baby boomers and seniors.
  • Baby boomers (born 1946-1964) travel more than any other age group.
  • When asked what they would most like to spend their money on, baby boomers answered “travel” more than any other category, including improving their health or finances.

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