Over the past year, you’ve let us know some of the destinations you’re most excited about returning to or visiting for the first time. Here are some of your (and our) favorites—plus, what to look forward to in the months ahead.
Visitors to Hawaii’s second-largest island are treated to its stunning natural beauty, relaxing beaches, a variety of water sports and restaurants serving freshly caught ahi tuna or mahi-mahi. From December to early May, migrating kahola (humpback whales) can be seen—from shore, sea or even underwater. Early risers can enjoy a magnificent sunrise from Haleakala National Park (808-572-4400; admission, $12; sunrise, $1.50 a car), such a crowd-pleaser that reservations are required to view what Samuel Clemens (also known by his pen name, Mark Twain) called “the sublimest spectacle I ever witnessed.” Or visit at dusk for the sunset and stay for one of the world’s more impressive views of the night sky (but come prepared for colder temperatures). You can cap off your adventures at Maui Brewing Co. (605 Lipoa Pkwy.; 808-213-3002; tours, $15), which concocts an assortment of suds and has a rotating roster of local food trucks on hand to help you refuel. A restaurant in the Kihei brewery is slated to open in early 2018. (Discover more Maui vacation ideas.)
Missouri’s perennially popular family-friendly vacation pick—with attractions ranging from underground tours to riverboat entertainment to a search for Bigfoot—keeps upping the ante. This past summer, Branson Jet Boats (7A N. Boardwalk; 417-334-7683; tours, $29; children 3–11, $24) began spinning and splashing thrill seekers while showing off the beauty of Lake Taneycomo. And this coming spring will see the debut of the Time Traveler roller coaster at the theme park Silver Dollar City (399 Silver Dollar City Pkwy.; 800-475-9370; adults, $62; children 4–11, $51). With rotating seats, a 10-story vertical drop and speeds of up to 50 mph, it will be one of the world’s fastest, steepest and tallest coasters. Hungry after all that play? Dig in to some barbecue at the recently opened Gettin’ Basted (3115 Hwy. 76; 417-231-4445; dinner for two, $32*), at the Starlite Theatre. Its succulent cuts of meat have been earning raves and a large following. (Thinking of going to Branson for the holidays?)
A little more than 100 miles from L.A. and a gateway to Joshua Tree National Park (74485 National Park Dr., Twentynine Palms; 760-367-5500; seven-day passes, $25 a vehicle), the Palm Springs area has carved a niche for itself as a restful desert getaway replete with scenic hikes, high-end shopping and architectural wonders. There’s seemingly no end to its restaurant options as well, thanks to great spots like brunch joint Wilma & Frieda (73575 El Paseo, Suite 2310, Palm Desert; 760-773-2807; brunch for two, $50), which will soon celebrate a new downtown location. In spring, travelers can see sculptures, pottery and glassblowing at the Indian Wells Arts Festival (Indian Wells Tennis Garden, Washington St. at Via Sevilla, Indian Wells; 760-346-0042; adults, $13; children 12 and under, free), from March 30 to April 1, while the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens (47900 Portola Ave., Palm Desert; 760-820-2710; adults, $20; children 3–12, $10; children under 3, free) invites you to visit its herd of eight giraffes and learn more about efforts to conserve this majestic endangered species during its Year of the Giraffe. (Learn how to tackle Palm Springs in just 72 hours.)
You name it, and there’s a good chance Orlando has it. Theme parks? Of course. And action-movie fans can look forward to the Supercharged ride, based on the Fast and the Furious films, opening at Universal Orlando (6000 Universal Blvd.; 407-363-8000; admission, $72 a day for a four-day two-park ticket) in the spring. Outdoor adventures? Just outside the city you can go horseback riding at conservation center Forever Florida (4755 N. Kenansville Rd., St. Cloud; 407-957-9794; horseback rides, $70 for 90-minutes), or canoe the Wekiva River with Wekiva Springs State Park Nature Adventures (1800 Wekiwa Circle, Apopka; 407-884-4311; canoe rentals, $19 for the first two hours, $5 for every additional hour). Culture? The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art (445 N. Park Ave.; 407-645-5311; adults, $6; children 11 and under, free), in nearby Winter Park, has the largest collection of Tiffany glass in the world. There are also peaceful spas, golf courses to suit any enthusiast and restaurants for a romantic night out. (And then there are the city’s hidden charms.)
This duo of cities—Cabo San Lucas and San José del Cabo—on the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja California peninsula is known for its dramatic scenery, inventive cuisine (especially the seafood) and colonial architecture. High on many visitors’ lists is the wide range of aquatic activities, including scuba diving, surfing and whale-watching, which lasts from December through early April and is one of the area’s most noteworthy attractions. To experience the arts scene, venture out on the San José del Cabo Art Walk, which takes place on Thursday evenings from November to June in that city’s colorful arts district. And for a crash course in regional cuisine, visit El Merkado (Transpeninsular Hwy. km 24.5, Cerro Colorado, San José del Cabo; 011-52-624-137-9834; meal prices vary), a bustling year-old food hall with 13 restaurants and 8 other venues under one roof and a vibe as lively as Cabo itself. (How to eat your way through Cabo’s booming culinary scene.)
- *Estimated meal prices do not include drinks, tax, or tip.
- NOTE: Information may have changed since publication. Please confirm key details before planning your trip.
- Published: December 2017