Where to Go in 2016
From a city built by our forefathers to the final frontier, our picks for where to go in 2016 may surprise you.
PhiladelphiaPhiladelphia was already on the national radar as a foodie and cultural destination, but the Pope’s visit in Sept. 2015 launched the city into the global spotlight. Just 2 months later, it received the prestigious UNESCO World Heritage City designation—making it the first US city to nab the distinction. (The fact that Independence Hall was already deemed a World Heritage Site in 1979 was part of the clincher.) Expect Philly to remain in the spotlight since it will host the Democratic National Convention in July 2016. 960 1280
IcelandIceland has experienced a steady increase in tourists for the past 5 years, and 2016 should be no different. Chalk it up to a combination of new low-fare flights on WOW Air and Norwegian Air, more airlines offering direct routes (Delta), and Game of Thrones fans eager to visit film locations. Besides the must-see Blue Lagoon, don’t miss the recently opened Into the Glacier tour, which provides unprecedented access inside a glacier via a man-made ice cave. 960 1280
Rio de JaneiroStart planning now for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, which will be held from Aug. 5-21. Tickets are still available on Rio’s official site, and hotel package deals with tickets are also available through authorized reseller CoSport. This will be the city’s first time hosting the Olympics, and massive improvements to Rio’s infrastructure are underway. Can’t get into every Olympic event on your wish list? Visit our guide of other top things to do while in Rio. 960 1280
DubaiDubai has built a reputation on offering the latest and greatest. It already boasts the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest skyscraper, and Dubai Ski, the first indoor ski resort in the Middle East. Now it can add a Hunger Games theme park to the list. Set to open in Oct. 2016, Motiongate Dubai will feature a fictional District 12 and a simulated hovercraft ride. (Unlike the movie portrayal, this version of Hunger Games will be family friendly.) Operated by Dubai Parks and Resorts, Motiongate Dubai will be joined by Legoland and a Bollywood theme park in 2016. Among the new hotel openings, The Langham, Palm Jumeirah, is the latest luxury property that will take up residence on Dubai’s man-made, palm-tree shaped archipelago. 960 1280
CubaAlthough 2015 opened the door for US citizens to legally travel to Cuba, the tourism industry, both here and in Cuba, is still catching up. Part of that is due to the fact that while restrictions have been lifted, visiting for the sake of tourism alone is still banned. Luckily there are 12 exemptions for Americans, and traveling for educational purposes through a tour operator is a popular workaround. Expect more options for 2016 as an increasing number of travel companies enter the market. So far the biggest buzz surrounds Carnival Corp., which plans on adding weeklong cruises out of Miami starting in May. 960 1280
Ashford Castle2016 is shaping up to be a big year for castles; for starters, it’s the last year that Downton Abbey fans will be able to enjoy new episodes. In travel news, Ashford Castle in Ireland -- a 13th-century castle cum 5-star hotel that could put the fictional Downton Abbey to shame -- has just completed a 2-year-long, $75 million renovation following new ownership. The entire interior received a complete refresh of everything from the carpets to the décor, and new additions include a 32-seat movie theater. However, perhaps the most impressive addition is the brand-new spa, an ornate, airy sanctuary with 5 treatment rooms, a hammam and indoor pool. 960 1280
Wrocław, PolandEvery year the European Union appoints 2 different European cities with the prestigious European Capital of Culture title. The chosen cities already have a strong cultural scene, but for those under the radar, the distinction helps provide a huge tourism boost. Wrocław (pronounced Vrots-swaf) is Poland’s fourth-largest city, a picturesque place with a town square that dates back to the middle ages. Visitors can expect a jam-packed lineup for 2016, since the city promises more than 1,000 events. A sampling includes the Theatre Olympiad, an international theater festival, the European Film Awards and famed pianist Lang Lang performing with the Washington National Symphony Orchestra. 960 1280
San Sebastian, SpainSan Sebastian is the other European Capital of Culture for 2016, and while it’s better known than Wrocław, it’s no less of a 2016 hotspot. This resort town in the northern Basque region is heralded for its food scene -- although that’s really an understatement, considering it has not one, but 16 Michelin-starred restaurants. Besides the culinary options, visitors can look forward to a cultural schedule with a twist: the city chose “Waves of Energy” as the theme, so anticipate that all of the capital of culture events will possess this conceptual bent. Other major events include the annual Jazz Festival in July and the annual International Film Festival in Sept. 960 1280
Sri LankaSri Lanka often gets overlooked in favor of its more popular neighbors, India and the Maldives, but this small island nation offers 8 UNESCO World Heritage sites, lush landscapes and no shortage of beaches or elephants. Tourism has rebounded since the decades-long civil war ended in 2009, and luxury hotels are opening at a breakneck pace. Cape Weligama, Ani Villas and Anantara Tangalle Resort & Spa are among the 2015 standouts for unrivaled quality. Anticipated 2016 openings include Shangri-La Hambantota Resort & Spa, a 300-room oasis on the southern coast offering a golf course, spa and Eco Centre, which will educate guests about the local environment. Anantara Kalutara Resort & Spa, a smaller property on the southwest coast, is set to open in January. Rooms will sport authentic Sri Lankan décor, and resort amenities include a yoga pavilion and two outdoor swimming pools. Or you can splurge on a pool villa and get your own private plunge pool. 960 1280
The Final Frontier: SpaceThere’s only one spot left on the most intrepid traveler’s bucket list: space. Virgin Galactic’s space flights are still light years away (or at least not happening in 2016). But thanks to the latest Nieman Marcus Christmas Book, those who have been nice have the chance to experience a modified version via a pressurized capsule attached to a giant high-altitude balloon that will carry passengers 100,000 feet above the Earth. The flight seats 6 passengers at a time and will take up to 6 hours, but luckily there’s a bar and bathroom on board. The trip isn’t scheduled until 2017, but the $90,000 gift starts in 2016 with a 3-night stay at Miraval Resort in Tucson, AZ, a tour of Biosphere 2, a scientific research facility with seven contained ecosystems ranging from the desert to the rainforest, and a behind-the-scenes peek at a World View test flight. Better hurry, only 10 packages are up for sale. 960 1280
For Adventure Seekers: Telluride, COExperienced skiers can take it to the next level by spending the day heli-skiing, which, like it sounds, is downhill skiing on a course accessible only by helicopter. For $1,235, Telluride Helitrax, in operation since 1982, offers daylong excursions that include 6 ski runs, a guide, equipment and food. Helicopters take groups of 4 to an elevation of at least 10,000 feet, where skiers are surrounded by majestic backcountry terrain while on empty slopes. If that’s not enough, customized tours are also available. 960 1280
For Culture Vultures: NYCStart the clock by catching a matinee of Hamilton, Broadway’s hottest hip-hop musical about founding father Alexander Hamilton. Plan ahead, since tickets tend to sell out months in advance. Cap off the day with an adults-only sleepover at the American Museum of Natural History, where guests can enjoy live music, presentations and the chance to explore the museum all night long. The $350 price includes a buffet dinner, cots and more. 960 1280
For Girlfriend Getaways: MiamiSunshine, spa treatments and drinks are all that are needed for a quick getaway, and one can find all that and more at The Standard in Miami Beach. It’s removed from the madding crowd, and guests can luxuriate in a Turkish Hamam and take a yoga classes by the water. Leave time to head to nearby Miami Beach for dinner at celeb hotspot Matador Room, Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s latest Miami venture offering Latin-fusion fare. Sit on the terrace for ocean views and lush, foliage surroundings. Follow up with poolside drinks at the sophisticated Delano South Beach, where you can camp out in a lantern-lit private cabana before it’s time to head home. 960 1280
For Foodies: Culinary Institute of America: California, New York, TexasBoasting such notable alum as Anthony Bourdain and Cat Cora, many a foodie has daydreamed about enrolling at one of the nation’s best culinary schools. While that’s not realistic for most, what is possible is taking a half-day cooking class. Each location offers a bevy of year-round options, from global street food to holiday favorites. Classes include lunch, CIA apron and chef’s hat. For the ultimate experience, 2- to 5-day boot camps are a must for when time isn’t of the essence. Of course, the upside to taking an afternoon class, particularly at the CIA in California, is the opportunity to have dinner just a quick 20-minute ride away at French Laundry, considered one of the top 10 restaurants in the US. The prix fixe chef’s tasting menu costs $295 -- be sure to book 2 months ahead. 960 1280
For Family-Friendly Fun: Mohonk Mountain HouseThis sprawling, fairy tale-esque castle in the scenic Hudson Valley literally has something for everyone. Rock climbing, horseback riding and golf are among the warmer-weather options at Mohonk Mountain House, while ice skating, snow tubing and cross-country skiing are among the winter activities. There’s also an award-winning spa, watersports and a host of fitness classes. (And that’s still not everything.) Trying to cram as many activities as possible into 24 hours is a worthwhile challenge. 960 1280
For Romantics: New OrleansNew Orleans has no shortage of romantic neighborhoods and experiences, and the food-and-music scene has some of the best ways to experience them. Start with a late breakfast at Café Amelie and sit outside in the greenery-filled courtyard for a secret garden feel. Stroll through the historic French Quarter to work up an appetite for the Creole jazz brunch at Muriel’s Jackson Square, or simply get a drink at Muriel’s bordello-themed Séance Lounge (ask about the ghost). Don’t miss dinner at top-rated French restaurant August before collapsing into a plush seat at the intimate Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse. 960 1280
For Shopaholics: Los AngelesBypass the ubiquitous luxury chains on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills and head to unique boutiques selling hard-to-find favorites. Fred Segal, Maxfield, Kitson and Madison are among the old-guard standouts, selling on-trend, high-end designer wares and more. Visit newer trendsetters include Opening Ceremony and TENOVERSIX for well-curated selections of the hottest designers and up-and-comers. Shoe addicts will find nirvana among the wall of shoes at Kathryn Amberleigh. Fans of the offbeat shouldn’t miss Just One Eye, a conceptual space that’s part art gallery, part fashion boutique, or The Well, a combination boutique/hair salon that’s perfect for multitaskers. Before heading out, pop into Poketo for one-of-a-kind gifts for everyone back home. 960 1280
For the Unconventional: Quebec CityEven though Quebec City is impossibly charming in the warmer months, it’s downright magical in the winter. Warm up with high tea at the iconic Château Frontenac Hotel in Old Quebec. While it’s tempting to stay there, the highlight is spending a night at Hotel de Glace, a seasonal ice hotel just outside downtown Quebec, and the only one in North America. Book the Adventure Package and squeeze in dogsledding for extra bragging rights. 960 1280
For Animal Lovers: Grand CanyonIt’s one thing to experience the Grand Canyon from a prime viewing spot, and another from the saddle of a mule. While 3-hour trips are available, opt for the once-in-a-lifetime overnight ride to Phantom Ranch, a rustic lodge located at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. The trail ride each way takes about 5 hours and includes rest stops and lunch. 960 1280
For Sports Fanatics: Super BowlYes, Super Bowl tickets are notoriously hard to score, even when it’s not the 50th anniversary of the game. Luckily, it’s not impossible with QuintEvents, the official provider of Super Bowl packages. To really go over the top for this year’s game in Santa Clara, CA, on Feb. 7, choose the “On the Fifty” package, which nets you seats on the 50-yard line, the chance to meet players and cheerleaders and get autographs, and access to a private club serving gourmet food and drink before, during and after the game. Best of all, this package can be purchased for just the day of the game -- for a mere $13,000. 960 1280
Sexy Style: New York Fashion WeekWhat’s not sexy about models donned in threads from the biggest designers’ fashion-forward spring collections? Get the hottest ticket in fashion, and check out New York Fashion Week, where we’re sure you’ll spot a few celebrities. 960 1280
Bar: Le Bain at The StandardEnjoy a Nutella crepe and adult beverage with some of the most breathtaking views of downtown Manhattan on The Standard hotel's rooftop bar. Le Bain, the penthouse discotheque and rooftop bar, is one of the trendiest spots in NYC’s Meatpacking District, with its crêperie, plunge pool and whimsy decor: a faux grass floor, giant pink waterbeds and waitstaff dressed in tennis outfits. 960 1280
Food Porn: Drizzled CaramelSome say that everything is better with chocolate, but this time of year we think everything tastes better with caramel -- or, better yet, with both! Whether it's fresh-picked apples or frappuccinos, it just wouldn't be fall without the sweet and sticky sauce. 960 1280
Festival: OktoberfestCelebrate Oktoberfest in Munich, from Sept. 22 to Oct.7. After a couple rounds with friends or family members -- of age -- everything around you looks a little sexier with your “beer goggles” on, right? OK, we don’t condone excessive drinking, but we do approve of fun. And just in case you can’t make it to Munich, we’re sure there’s a local version of the festival celebrated in a bar or beer garden near you. 960 1280
Spa: Dolder Grand, SwitzerlandZurich's Dolder Grand Spa describes itself as “classic tradition with a techno beat.” European and Japanese influences have shaped this sexy Swiss spa, which offers Kotatsu footbaths, steampots, indoor and outdoor pools, mineral water, couches and a solarium. The hottest -- albeit cold -- offering? Snow Paradise, a room that offers large bowls of snow to massage onto your body and your partner's. 960 1280
Car: Aston Martin DB5Travel like 007. It may not be the hot new car, but the Aston Martin DB5 will increase its sexy quotient when the new James Bond flick, Skyfall, opens in theaters this November. We thought we’d give you a couple months lead time to save up enough money to purchase this sleek, silver hot rod -- or you can be content with just watching the car maneuver over and through obstacles during the intense car chase scenes. 960 1280
Sport: FootballThe American football season starts in September, issuing in a new year of tense, but competitive matchups between rival teams. Regardless of whether you’re rooting for an NFL, college or high school team, fans enjoy eating pregame tailgating food and watching cheerleaders as they pump the crowd up in between plays. 960 1280
Sexy Slipaway: The Solomon IslandsAn exotic escape fit for royalty? Sign us up! Will and Kate put Tavanipupu on our September radar when they planned a second honeymoon on the private island resort. The romantic night in a handcrafted, but decadent bungalow will be a little piece of paradise for the couple during their busy Diamond Jubilee tour of Southeast Asia. 960 1280
City: Cartagena, ColombiaAfter clamping down on violence and cleaning up crime in the past few years, Cartagena, Colombia, is now the safest city in the country, and is emerging as a trendy hotspot for travelers to Latin America. Cartagenga is a music lover's city, with merengue, salsa and Cuban music pouring from bars, restaurants and city squares. And don't miss the most dangerous thing in the city -- aguardiente, the national anise-flavored drink that packs quite a punch. 960 1280
Fall Foliage: Traverse City, MIEveryone looks better in the fall, with the sun’s soft, sexy rays. So grab your honey and a road map, and make it a fall road trip. Our suggestion: Michigan. During September, the Great Lake State’s 19 million acres begin their show of gold, red and orange hues. Make sure you explore areas like Old Mission Peninsula, on the outskirts of Traverse City. This picture says it all. 960 1280
Exhibit: Universe of DesireTame on the outside, hot on the inside: That’s the Museum of Sex, on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. Inside, you’ll learn just about everything you ever wanted (or cared?) to know about this universal topic of interest. On display this September may be the most scintillating angle of all: what everyday people secretly desire. Discover the answer in “Universe of Desire,” an exhibit that showcases erotic imagery based upon the top-100 internet search results related to sex. Maybe leave mom home for this one. 960 1280
TV Show: Ghost AdventuresWhat’s hot on Travel Channel in September? Ghost Adventures returns for a new season on Friday, Sept. 14, at 9|8c. Zak Bagans, Nick Groff and Aaron Goodwin kick off the new season with an eerie lockdown at Central Unit prison in Sugar Land, TX. Can you handle the lockdown? 960 1280
Restaurant: De Niro's Locanda VerdeFor a hot new restaurant, try actor Robert De Niro’s new restaurant, Locanda Verde, in NYC’s Tribeca neighborhood. The affordable Italian taverna serves a variety of dishes, including grilled octopus, beet and goat cheese raviolini, fire-roasted garlic chicken and blueberry honey upside-down cake. While you’re at it, pair your meal with a tasty cocktail, Italian wine or beer. 960 1280
Music: Monterey Jazz FestivalSpend a weekend in Monterey, CA, to experience the 55th Annual Monterey Jazz Festival, from September 21-23, 2012. The Festival – voted “World’s Best Jazz Festival” by reader of Jazz Times Magazine -- features films, exhibitions, an international shopping bazaar and 8 stages of live jazz entertainment spread throughout the 20-acre fairgrounds. 960 1280
Sexy September Travel 15 Photos
Middle-earth MeccaA 2-hour drive from Auckland will lead you to the famous rolling hills of Matamata’s countryside. Here you’ll find Hobbiton, the mecca of all Hobbit tourism. Fans can visit Hobbiton Movie Set Tours, where a Middle-earth expert will guide you through the famous Lord of the Rings trilogy film set. 960 1280
The Middle of Middle-earthA giant sculpture of Gollum, created by local special-effects studio WETA, welcomes the throngs of Hobbit fans at the Wellington Airport in New Zealand. The airport terminal has also been renamed, greeting arrivals with a sign saying, "The Middle of Middle-earth." The whole airport is dedicated to Hobbit-fever -- even luggage is collected from "Baggins Services." 960 1280
Tongariro ParkTongariro National Park was selected by filmmaker Peter Jackson to stand in as J.R.R Tolkien’s ominous Mordor. This 300-square-mile park on New Zealand’s North Island is full of natural wonders, including active volcanoes and emerald lakes. The park’s popular Alpine Crossing was ranked one of the world’s top 10 day hikes by National Geographic. 960 1280
Weta CaveVisit the Weta Cave Museum in Wellington to see J.R.R. Tolkien’s universe come to life. Hobbit fans can meet some of the characters from The Lord of the Rings trilogy, learn about the movie’s special effects and get a sneak peek at behind-the-scenes videos. This Middle-earth mecca is open 7 days a week, with free admission. 960 1280
Mt. Aspiring National ParkMount Aspiring National Park, located in the Southern Alps of New Zealand's South Island, was a location for the fortress Isengard in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The park is a popular sport for tramping (the New Zealand term for hiking and trekking). 960 1280
Hobbit HoleVisit the Hobbiton Movie Set Tours to see where the furry-footed creatures live. There are 44 Hobbit holes on the site, which were recreated in 2011 for more Hobbit filming. The tiny Hobbit holes were remade with permanent materials, so the set can continue on as a permanent tourism attraction. 960 1280
Westland Tai Poutini National ParkWestland Tai Poutini National Park, located on the West Coast of New Zealand's South Island, appears in the trilogy’s third and final installment, The Return of the King. The 290,000-acre park showcases a stunningly diverse landscape of glaciers, snow-capped mountains, forests and beaches. 960 1280
Lord of the Rings Horse TreksGlenorchy on New Zealand’s South Island is an area known for its horse riding and spectacular scenery. Trek on horseback 10 miles north of Glenorchy to an area known as Paradise. This rural treasure was the filming location for scenes in The Lords of The Ringstrilogy. 960 1280
Out: Meet at the Airport Bar
Forget sidling up to the airport bar alone, hoping to make that magical connection with someone during the doldrums of an hours-long layover. The new website MeetAtTheAirport.com gives tech-savvy travelers the chance to, er, hook up with a possibly special someone in advance of bellying up to the bar. Simply register on the site in a few simple steps, and you'll be able to discern other singles traveling through the same airport you're flying through. You'll be able to meet over a coffee or cocktail, or heck, why not really turn things up a notch, and grab a few slices from the food court Sbarro?
Out: Meet at the Airport Bar
Out: Cruise to the Caribbean
In: Cruise to Exotic Destinations
No longer are discerning travelers content to sip a mai tai on the starboard deck while watching tried-and-true ports of call like St. Thomas slip by. In fact, cruisers are looking toward destinations once rarely frequented by cruise lines, like the western coast of South America, Northern Europe, India, Africa and the Middle East -- and the cruise industry is responding in kind. In the midst of a definitive spike in the popularity of exotic cruise destinations, for 2013 companies such as Princess Cruises and Royal Caribbean have more exciting destinations on the docket than ever before.
Out: Cruise to the Caribbean
Where once-upon-a-time backpackers to Southeast Asia once heralded Laos for its lush environs, Buddhist culture and fascinating temples, today the nation has become more of a frat party for ill-behaved backpackers getting wasted on a variety of substances and partying along riverbanks. Today, smart travelers are setting their sights elsewhere. In fact, you can barely discuss intrepid travel destinations without someone crying out "Myanmar!" these days. With the lifting of a travel ban imposed on rights activists to the once-fiercely ruled country, travelers have been pouring in.
Out: Western Europe
In: Eastern Europe
Oh, we know that Western Europe will never actually lose mass popularity among travelers, nor should it, but at times its prices can be staggering for Americans dealing with a weaker dollar. As 2013 approaches, more and more travelers are seeking out wonders beyond the Roman ruins and Parisian museums. Eastern Europe, once avoided during periods of extreme political upheaval and unrest, is now bubbling up as the go-to destination for many travelers. Take for example, mountainous Slovenia; it's being touted by travel and adventure publications as the new Alps.
Out: Western Europe
Scores of travelers take advantage of their vacation downtime to indulge in a spa treatment, typically a soothing Swedish or aromatherapy massage. And yet, that's so 2012. The next trend in restorative treatments is hammams, often referred to as Turkish baths. The traditional hammam experience typically involves stripping down, donning a small towel, loosening up in a steam room and getting the living daylights scrubbed and rubbed out of you by your treatment provider while lying on a marble slab. The whole ordeal is often capped off by a refreshing (albeit, startling) dunk in icy cold water.
Out: Non-Organic Foods
In: Foraged Cuisine
Ever since the Copenhagen restaurant Noma was named 2011's World's Best Restaurant by Restaurant Magazine, foodies have been turning a keen eye toward chef René Redzepi's unique twist on dining: forage cuisine. Wondering what on earth that means? Basically, the chef forages through the region to unearth, obtain and cook unexpected ingredients found in their natural habitats, like mosses, lichens and pine needles. Now, come 2013, it's not unusual to find restaurants such as Elizabeth in Chicago and Atera in New York City following suit. Best part: In this heightened embrace of nature, there's no space for pesticide-sprayed foods.
Out: Non-Organic Foods
Out: Thai Islands
In: Philippine Islands
Once upon a time, long, long ago, the young Leonardo DiCaprio starred in The Beach, filmed on Koh Phi Phi, and Thailand's beaches and islands would never be quite the same. As Thai islands have become overrun with backpackers, jacking up prices and leading to oft-crowded party zones on once-secluded beaches, travelers are seeking respite in as-yet-encroached places, such as the Philippine Islands. Head to the Palawan region but head there soon: As tour providers discover the area's growing popularity, more airlines are offering flights to the region, and we'll be again looking for the next epically isolated island experience.
Out: Thai Islands
Out: City Lights
In: Northern Lights
Catching a glimpse of the Northern Light's ethereal, dancing lights display, also known as aurora borealis, is the highlight of a lifetime, much less a vacation, for many travelers. The lights can be seen during periods of heightened solar activity, which happens to peak cyclically, every 11 years. Astronomy experts have predicted the lights will reach their next apex between now and April 2013. While a Northern Lights-spotting trip cannot guarantee a successful sighting -- there are certain Northern Hemisphere locations where sightings are more successful than others, such as Greenland, Iceland and parts of Canada.
Out: City Lights
Out: Pricey Hotels
In: DIY Vacation Rentals
Tired of paying out the wazoo for hotel stays that don't even include the cost of parking, Wi-Fi, breakfast or resort fees? We are too. Luckily, in 2013, there are alternatives for travelers with an open, DIY mindset. Rather than forking over the steep nightly rates of many hotels, travelers, and families in particular, are seeking accommodations through sites such as Airbnb and VRBO (Vacation Rentals by Owner). These sites allow vacationers to rent furnished condos, apartments or houses directly from their owners. While you might not get daily maid service, you will get steeply discounted rates, sometimes as low as $30 per night.
Out: Pricey Hotels
Out: Ignoring the Mall