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
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:
United Kingdom and Ireland
Once you’ve done all the above or are in the neighborhood, head to:
And if you’ve done all those, pack your bags or extend your trip to:
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:
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!