The United States is a big place with a lot of ground to cover. So what is buzzing for travellers in the coming year? Here are our top 10 picks for US destinations that should be on your radar in 2012.
US Virgin Islands
In a year when
travellers are likely to still be watching their wallets, the US Virgin Islands
are our number one choice for an American tropical getaway. The US territory is
eternally warm, rimmed with white-sand
beaches on turquoise water, and each of the islands has their own identity. If
you want a break from the resorts, St John is nearly two-thirds lush national
park, with tent cabins amid trees and hikes to secluded beaches. This sadly may
be the last year for the Maho Bay Camps, a
long-standing eco-resort that is the place to stay if you are watching
your budget; or try the St John Inn
which offers great value rooms with kitchenettes. For more action, the
previously inaccessible Hassel Island, now part of Virgin
Islands National Park on St Thomas, can be explored by snorkel or kayak,
and the Captain Morgan Rum Distillery on St Croix will open its new visitor centre
in the spring.
Hudson River Valley, New York
Any visitor to New
York City should spend a day or two in the Hudson River Valley, a slice of
rural Americana just north of the city. Its leafy drives, wineries and farm-to-table
food options draw even spoiled-for-choice Manhattanites. A favourite spot to
stay is former B-52s singer Kate Pierson’s Lazy
Meadow, a renovated 1950s cabin complex near Woodstock.
This pretty city on
the Ohio River (and off the main cross-country interstates) often gets bypassed
by road trippers, but in the last decade, it has quietly transformed itself
into a worthy weekend getaway. The narrow, twisting, steep brick roads of the Mount
Adams district lead past the free Cincinnati
Art Museum and 19th-century Victorian townhouses, while the emerging
Over-the-Rhine neighbourhood, just north of downtown, is
home to the Findlay
Market and a sprawling collection of historic Italianate architecture. Best
though, is the National Underground
Railroad Freedom Center, open since 2004, on the banks of the river where
many slaves escaped to freedom in the 19th Century.
Four corners region, southwestern United States
underappreciated region where the borders of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and
Utah meet is a geological and archaeological wonderland. You can see the
sandstone towers of Arizona’s Monument
Valley, pop into one of Utah’s national parks and visit Colorado’s Mesa
Verde (abandoned cliff dwellings). Then top your visit off by straddling
all four states at once.
Culebra, Puerto Rico
If you are planning
a beach holiday, do not forget Puerto Rico, just a short hop from the US mainland.
The island is renowned for its great beaches, but the best spot -- still a
secret to most visitors -- is the world-class Playa Flamenco on the offbeat,
laid-back island of Culebra, 17 miles off Puerto Rico’s main island. Reached by
ferry or flight, Culebra is great for beach-hopping, snorkelling or hiking. You
can find affordable beachside apartments, such as Villa
Flamenco Beach, while the personable, cheaper Palmetto
Guesthouse offers free water-sports gear.
California Gold Country
Tahoe and Yosemite
gets all the mountain love in California, but an hour closer to San Francisco is
Gold Country (it is also cheaper and less crowded). Towns oozing century-old
ambience are strung out along Highway 49, a fun drive that passes Jamestown’s
historic train, the tiny gold town of Volcano, wineries
(some even consider the region a contender to Napa and Sonoma), caves,
gold-panning spots and a good overnight choice, the artsy town of Nevada City.
Winter is also a treat with snow parks for kids and Bear Valley for hard-core
winter sports -- plus there are sledding options galore.
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
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
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?
The article 'The top 10 US travel destinations for 2012' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet.