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Ringing in the year to come in unexpected places
When looking for the best places to visit in the USA this year, we wanted to mix it up a little. While classic travel destinations do make the list, get ready for some eyebrow raisers along the way, too. We hope 2019 is a year of pleasant surprises, filled with exciting exploration, new discoveries, and seeing America through the prism of all its diverse angles.
We chose the following cities and towns because they are celebrating fresh starts and past accomplishments this year, and because they embody the assorted cultures and landscapes that define the best of this country. We hope you make it to at least one of these cities in 2019, but if you need even more inspiration, see our 2017 and 2018 lists. Happy travels!
1. Peachtree City, Georgia
The appeal: Lakes, trails, great dining, and a sophisticated yet down-home feel, this Metro Atlanta city is the place for urbanites to slow down without sacrificing creature comforts. This year, the town is commemorating the 75th anniversary of D-Day at its WWII Heritage Days celebration. The city’s festival calendar is hopping—from Wine & Warbirds in March to Dragon Boat Races & International Festival in September.
Stay: With its close proximity to the Hartsfield Jackson International Airport, the Crowne Plaza Atlanta Peachtree City is as convenient as it is tranquil and luxurious. The 40 acres of surrounding woods, on-site spa, and indoor pool make this accommodation simply peachy.
Do: Live music aficionados, head to The Fred. The open-air amphitheater offers more than a live music outing; the whole place is an experience in itself. See all the sights with a professional guide. Film buffs will love the Southern Hollywood film tour.
Eat: For a casual, hearty meal try Willie Jewell’s Old School Bar-B-Q. For a more romantic atmosphere serving up wine, live music, and dishes like lobster thermidor, Georgia Shrimp Co. and Murph’s Bar will lead you right. Really get to know local flavors at Line Creek Brewing Co., the city’s first craft brewery.
2. New York City, New York
The appeal: How does New York City charm visitors year after year? Let us count the ways…. The architecture is stunning, the food is out-of-this-world delicious, it’s boundlessly filled with excitement, and you’ll never run out of things to do. It looks like the city really plans to bring it in 2019 with museum openings and renovations, new hotels, restaurants and cultural centers, and the rainbows-and-glitter event of the year, World Pride.
Stay: When heading to one of the best cities to visit in the USA, you know you’re going to find some amazing hotel options. 2019 brings lots of new options, including the first Six Senses in North America and new-comer hotel brand, Equinox.
Do: Harken back to America’s immigrant past at the three new gallery spaces at the Statue of Liberty Museum, marvel at the huge expansion project as you catch a performance at Lehman Center for the Performing Arts in the Bronx, and mark your calendar for June, when World Pride comes to the U.S. for the first time.
Eat: When it comes to food, NYC outshines most cities. Many New York restaurants made the 2019 Michelin Guide, and newly starred Oxomoco is a shining place to start. Also, head to brand-new Hudson Yards— world-class food masters like David Chang (Momofuku) and Anya Fernald (Belcampo) have brought their eateries to this grand new complex.
3. Williamsburg, Virginia
The appeal: Stepping back in time can bring lessons from history to life in ways the imagination can’t quite cover. This year, experience the 400th anniversary of Jamestown and the immersive reenactments in Colonial Williamsburg to see what life was like in pre-revolutionary America.
Stay: The Williamsburg Lodge gives a charming and updated sense of the area’s colonial aesthetic, and Williamsburg Woodlands Hotel & Suites is centrally located and close to the perfect starting point, the Visitors Center.
Do: On display throughout 2019, the exhibit, TENACITY: Women in Jamestown and Early Virginia, helps piece together the fractured and oft-ignored histories of the women who helped shape the country—from Powhatan Indian, English, and west central African cultures.
Eat: Treat yourself to the finest fresh fish at Waypoint Seafood and Grill, take in a casual lunch at Paul’s Deli, and satisfy a sweet tooth at Duck Donuts.
4. Laramie, Wyoming
The appeal: If wide-open spaces call to you, put Wyoming on your list this year. It’s not all wilderness, however. Laramie boasts some pretty awesome historical bragging rights, too. Home of the first woman in the world to cast a vote in a general election, this town celebrates the 150th anniversary of the first women’s suffrage law in the U.S. in 2019.
Stay: The Hilton Garden Inn is conveniently close to the center of things and is good for families, with its indoor pool and family packages. For the full Wyoming experience, stay at a working ranch.
Do: Come in July to take part in the Jubilee Days celebrations, which mark Wyoming finally becoming a state in 1890. It was hard-earned, too. When originally asked to join the Union, they declined rather than give up their women’s suffrage laws. Cheers to that: July is also the month for Laramie Brewfest.
Eat: For a morning pick-me-up, step into Coal Creek Coffee Co. Come meal time, Altitude Chophouse & Brewery is the place to get great beer and spot-on dishes like beef brisket and charred lime salmon. They also feature vegetarian and vegan menus.
5. Anaheim, California
The appeal: As home to Disneyland®, a world-class convention center, and two professional sports teams, Anaheim always has something magical going on. It’s a big year for Disney, too. D23: The Official Disney Fan Club will celebrate its 10th anniversary in 2019, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens, and it’s a year of celebrations for a certain famous mouse’s 90th birthday.
Stay: Hotel Indigo Anaheim is modern and stylish, and is walking distance to the park and lots of restaurants, though it has an on-site restaurant and bar, too.
Do: Beyond the park, there’s WonderCon 2019 in March, the Orange County Ultimate Women’s Expo in May, and D23 Expo in August. Meanwhile, any time of year is great to taste what’s brewing in town with Craft Brew Tours.
Eat: Feel your way to the Blind Rabbit, a speakeasy and eatery that’s decadent and delicious. If you happen to be in the ARTIC train station (if not, make a special trip), head into The Oyster Bar SKC for fresh seafood with Louisiana flair.
6. Tusayan, Arizona
The appeal: If you, like many, have vowed to see the Grand Canyon in your lifetime, make 2019 the year and Tusayan your home base. What makes this the year? Well, the whole area is celebrating 100 years of the Grand Canyon as a national park.
Stay: Rejuvenate after long days exploring the park at the warm and welcoming Grand Canyon Plaza Hotel. They even offer tours by plane, horse, boat, or foot.
Do: Seek out 100 Years of Grand, a partnership project through Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University, and Grand Canyon National Park that showcases archival materials pertaining to the early years of the Grand Canyon.
Eat: For hearty Western grub, book a table at Big E Steakhouse and Saloon. Or make it an Italian night at We Cook Pizza and Pasta.
7. San Diego, California
The appeal: The weather, the beaches, the beer … these are just a few of the reasons San Diego is one of the best places to travel in the United States. And it’s about to have one heck of a year. 2019 is its 250th birthday, it’s hosting the inaugural World Beach Games, and LEGOLAND® California Resort is celebrating 20 years.
Stay: One of the best neighborhoods to explore is North Park, and the Lafayette Hotel is its premier place to stay that often hosts events and pool parties. For an upscale stay in the heart of downtown, Pendry is a prime pick.
Do: Old Town is a good introduction to area history, with period-costumed hosts and educational tours. It’s also the center of 250th anniversary festivities throughout the year, as well as the Founders’ Day Festival in September.
Eat: San Diego has consistently upped its food game, and 2019 is looking to continue the trend. Brewpubs are all the rage, and Kairoa Brewing Co. will be the new kid in town in 2019. If your group can never reach a dining consensus, you’ll find something to please everyone at Liberty Public Market.
8. Bethel, New York
The appeal: These days, who couldn’t use at least three days of peace and music? This year is the 50th anniversary of the original Woodstock festival, and plans to recreate the magic in 2019 are already afoot. If you don’t make it to the show, the area is a peaceful place to explore, with the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River at hand.
Stay: Stay in nearby Kenoza Lake View Manor, a homey hotel that’s less than 6 miles from Bethel attractions. For something a little more grand, journey 10 miles northwest to Callicoon for the Villa Roma Resort and Conference Center.
Do: Don your flower crown and head to the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, where you can catch live performances and educational programming, which bring the lessons of the tumultuous 1960s to a new generation, all from a beautiful natural campus.
Eat: The Upper Delaware may surprise you with its options. From barbecue to Greek to Thai, there’s something to fill any craving. Standouts include Henning’s Local in Cochecton Center and Floyd & Bobos in Liberty.
9. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The appeal: Philadelphia usually has a lot going on, but 2019 really looks to be its year. For instance, it’s one of only 13 U.S. stops on the Rolling Stones’ No Filter Tour and the African American History & Culture Showcase is exploring 400 years of African-American history.
Stay: New hotels are popping up around the city, answering the influx of tourism. Reach new heights of sophistication at the Four Seasons Hotel, located in the newly minted Comcast Technology Center.
Do: Come spring, bust out your representation flags, as Philly Black Pride kicks off in April. In summer, help celebrate the diverse world regions that make up the city’s cultural tapestry at the PECO Multicultural Series.
Eat: Or, drink, rather. You shouldn’t leave America’s Best Beer-Drinking City without trying the best of the local nectar. You’ll have plenty of chances during Philadelphia Beer Week or the Philly Craft Beer Festival, where you can sample original Philly fare from the many food trucks.
10. Coloma, California
The appeal: The lottery hit record highs in 2018, and maybe 2019 will push even loftier boundaries. With this newly energized interest in striking it rich, the coming year may be the perfect time to explore this country’s prospecting past. Where better to celebrate 170 years since the famed forty-niner height of the Gold Rush than California gold country?
Stay: You can always camp in canvas like a rugged miner, but the best way to stay in the area is in a cabin. You’ll still get the rustic vibes, but with the perk of indoor plumbing.
Do: For authentic 1850s experiences, join an event at Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park. From their Living History Activities to the >Coloma Gold Rush Live, you’ll be immersed in the world of mining.
Eat: For dishes made from local and heirloom ingredients, the Argonaut Farm to Fork Cafe is a charming place to tuck in.
11. Bisbee, Arizona
The appeal: Lately, we’ve got it bad for Bisbee. This lovely mountain town also landed on our 2018 under-the-radar list, but we have a feeling it won’t be little-known for long. We recommend jumping in before the crowds catch wind.
Stay: There’s lots of ways to stay in Bisbee. Pick from boutique hotels to RV parks. We are particularly charmed by Object Limited, where if you love the décor, you’re in luck—all the vintage goods are for sale.
Do: Did we mention Bisbee marches to its own beat? That of course means there are many fun and quirky ways to get to know the place, including communing with past residents and learning its haunted history at the Bisbee Séance Room. The town has a packed events schedule, too, and it’s a great place to celebrate without overwhelming crowds.
Eat: Old Bisbee boasts so many fun places to eat, you can barely go wrong. Take your pick from vegan joints like Poco, with its outdoor seating and live music, or fine dining at the 1902 The Spirit Room.
12. Greenville, South Carolina
The appeal: Speaking of getting in on the ground floor, it may already be too late to call yourself an early adopter of Greenville. As it’s making a lot of lists these days—and for good reason—you’ll want to get in before the secret’s fully out.
Stay: Animal fans will find plenty to love at Aloft Greenville Downtown, which features a dog adoption program in the lobby. Guests can even take the dogs out along the on-property dog walk.
Do: Arts and culture make up a large part of the social calendar, so be sure to schedule time for favorite events like Artisphere, culinary-centric euphoria, and the Greenville Scottish Games.
Eat: Well, Greenville, where do we start? With your plethora of delightful restaurants, the onus of choice is upon us, so here are some standouts: Jianna for modern Italian in a beautiful atmosphere and Willy Taco Feed & Seed for hand-held flavor bombs with a margarita chaser.
13. Prescott, Arizona
The appeal: Making the list for the second year in a row, Prescott appeals to the get-away-from-it-all traveler in us. If you’ve noticed that some of your favorite outdoor destinations have been a bit crowded of late, this area has extra appeal.
Stay: The centrally located Grand Highland Hotel is a stylish, convenient, and comfortable home base for all the exploring you’ll want to get up to.
Do: Choose from over 450 miles of trails, or go kayaking, mountain climbing, or biking—take your pick of outdoor adventures. In the Downtown Historic Area, get acquainted with the past in old-style bars, including the Palace, Arizona’s oldest saloon.
Eat: Who can resist the draw of a good gastropub? Not us. The Barley Hound is Prescott’s excellent offering to the genre, and may we recommend the citrus osso bucco?
14. Lexington, Kentucky
The appeal: Between the bourbon, bluegrass, historic homes, and horses, Lexington‘s ties to classic American bounty is plentiful. It’s also the headquarters of nostalgic favorite, A&W, which celebrates 100 years in 2019. Pretty city parks and tasty area restaurants add to its welcoming charm.
Stay: Kill two birds with one stone by staying at 21c Museum Hotel Lexington, which plays double duty as art museum and chic hotel.
Do: Yes, you must sample the bourbon if that’s up your alley, but don’t discount the other local libation: beer. Beer tasting is a travel trend unlikely to slow down in 2019, and The Brewgrass Trail lets you follow your palate to the best Kentucky brewers.
Eat: In honor of its birthday, grab a burger and a float at one of three Lexington A&W locations. Another franchise favorite and Southern staple is Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken.
15. St. Louis, Missouri
The appeal: The city has been sprucing up, especially around the arch, which was officially designated a national park in 2018. There’s a brand new SUPERGIRL ride opening at Six Flags, hot new restaurants are opening across the city, and abandoned buildings are getting fresh starts.
Stay: Talk about fresh, Hotel St. Louis’ new look is the epitome of modernity housed in an 1893 landmark building.
Do: For those who love a good celebration, St. Louis is one of the best places to travel in the U.S. Revelrous visitors will find plenty of opportunity. Learn some fun facts at the National Blues Museum (for instance 2019 marks 80 years since the first musical recording featuring electric guitar, and 70 years since the term “rhythm and blues” was coined). Then it’s time to let loose at Big Muddy Blues Fest.
Eat: Food, food, everywhere, and oh so much to eat. You can, and should dive into old school St. Louis-like Broadway Oyster Bar, but also give some love to new places. Savage Restaurant is a unique small-plate tasting experience, and Pie Guy Pizza is a late-night joy.
16. Burlington, Vermont
The appeal: This quintessential northeast city packs in a lot of old-fashioned charm, but it’s also packing some very modern vibes lately. Vermont legalized marijuana use in July 2018, and 2019 is looking to be the year retail sales are approved by the state Senate.
Stay: Modern is the MO at Hotel Vermont in downtown Burlington. That doesn’t mean you sacrifice comfort though; the aesthetic is also rustically cozy.
Do: Explore the shops and cafes along the open-air Church Street Marketplace. While you can’t buy weed quite yet, you can pick up stylish home goods at Slate and grab cozy gear at Vermont Flannel Company.
Eat: Stop for a pie and a pint at American Flatbread Burlington Hearth, and practice your French at Leunig’s Bistro.
17. Chicago, Illinois
The appeal: Take your pick of compelling reasons to visit America’s Second City, from food to art to events that cover everything under the sun. Chicago embraces the future while celebrating its staying power with 2019 milestones like the 140th anniversary of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Stay: Hotel EMC2 is the embodiment of past meeting future. It’s sleek and modern, yet comfortable and familiar. And with amenities like room service robots and ceiling-high bookshelves in the restaurant, guests can go high-tech or stay unplugged.
Do: Catapult your imagination to a galaxy far, far away at Star Wars Celebration in April, where vendors, artists, live entertainment, and cosplay provide the ultimate immersive event. Speaking of future worlds, see how people are working to protect ours at Plant Chicago.
Eat: Newly awarded a Michelin star, Temporis is an intimate space offering multi-course tasting menus. Bayan Ko is the cultural food pairing you never knew you needed, melding Filipino and Cuban foods in creative and delicious dishes.
18. Santa Barbara, California
The appeal: Sunny, relaxed, and carefree, Santa Barbara‘s vibe bears little resemblance to the dramatics of King’s Landing, but the red tile roofs do remind us of the Lannister-occupied capital (aka Dubrovnik, Croatia). And what better place to salute the final “Game of Thrones” season when it airs in 2019? In fact, we said as much in our article about U.S. destinations that could be in “Game of Throne”s back in 2016.
Stay: Overlook the kingdom from high on the hill at Belmond El Canto. The views rival any you’d find from the towers of the Red Keep.
Do: If you love wine as much as Cersei does, explore Santa Barbara wine country. Its coastal climate not only makes Santa Barbara one of the best vacation spots in the U.S., it also helps produce some mouth-watering vino.
Eat: Dine like a king at The Lark. It’s one of the best restaurants in the city, and only the best will do for royalty, are we right?
19. Anchorage, Alaska
The appeal: Anchorage is such a joy to visit, it made our list of most tourist-friendly place in 2018. This city is ripe for an influx of visitors in the new year, and we maintain that everyone needs to see the northern lights at least once. Why not make 2019 the year?
Stay: Views, views, and more views from the shores of sparkling Lake Spenard may be the first reason to stay at The Lakefront Anchorage, but the sights inside aren’t too shabby, either. Or opt for the Hotel Captain Cook, where former President Barack Obama stayed while in town.
Do: Learn about native people of the region at the Alaska Native Heritage Center, where events like World Music Celebration and Multicultural Drumming and Dance occur throughout the year.
Eat: Local favorite, Glacier Brewhouse, serves up classics like steak, crab legs, and fish and chips, as well as house-brewed beer.
Where are you looking forward to visiting in 2019?
Header image via Rocky Grimes/Shutterstock.com
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Lily is a Southern California-based writer, editor, and traveler. She aspires to never be too far away from her next adventure, whether it be exploring the deserts of SoCal or the mossy forests of her native Pacific Northwest. She also loves international travel and always looks forward to crossing another destination off her bucket list.