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Boulder, Colorado
The university town of Boulder is one of the most liveable cities in US. Locals live for the outdoors, and adventure can be found at every turn. Main roads are filled with cyclists, except for the bustling pedestrian-only Pearl Street Mall, which is lined with great eateries and brewpubs. There is also a bike path along Boulder Creek, which gets filled with tubers in summer. The Royal Arch Trail is a two-hour hike though a challenging red-rock canyon. And in winter, do not overlook Nederland’s goofy Frozen Dead Guy festival, 17 miles west of Boulder.

Hawaii, the Big Island
For too long. Hawaii has meant Honolulu, but a rise in direct flights from the US mainland to Kona on the Big Island means that getting to this magical place has never been easier. Plan to stay as long as you can as there is a wide variety of attractions on offer: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, snorkelling in Kealakekua Bay, hiking along the lava field at Hilina Pai or just relaxing on the island’s best beach at Hapuna.

The Windy City is going to be busy in 2012, with the G8 and NATO summits based here, but the city’s main attraction lies outside politics. Chicago has incredible art offerings at the Art Institute and Millennium Park, some of the country’s best restaurants, and world-class festivals like Lollapalooza and Taste of Chicago. And Hyde Park, the Obamas’ old neighbourhood, is seeing more visitors for its lakeside walks and a look at Frank Lloyd Wright’s “prairie style” Robie House, up this year for World Heritage site status.

Yellowstone National Park
The world’s first national park -- turning 140 this  year -- attracts nearly four million visitors each year, but just a trickle of these visit in winter. Rates are lower (the Old Faithful Snow Lodge has rooms for a fraction of summer rates), and the scenery has its own wintery majesty, when waterfalls turn to curtains of ice, geysers shoot higher and boiling rivers billow with steam. You can get around by ski shuttles, snowshoe (rangers lead free tours) or cross-country skis, as hiking trails of all levels transform into some of the country’s best trails. Why wait for summer?

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© 2011 Lonely Planet. All rights reserved. The article ‘The top 10 US travel destinations for 2012’ was published in partnership with Lonely Planet.

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