Travel

The 20 Best Places for a Big Trip in 2020

Kick the decade off with a bang.

Note: We know COVID-19 is impacting travel plans right now. For a little inspiration, we’ll continue to share stories from our favorite places around the world so you can keep daydreaming about your next adventure.

Now more than ever, where you choose to travel, and why, makes an impact. Your PTO may be finite, but your vacation options are about as long as the menu at The Cheesecake Factory. Flights, particularly international ones, have never been cheaper. Doors between cultures have been flung open. The world, as they say, is your oyster.

Lest you become paralyzed by too many choices, or fail to come up with a more compelling reason to visit a place beyond just Instagramming something, we went ahead and did all the work for you. First, we looked for places where 2020 would be a banner year: a total solar eclipse in the most magical landscape on Earth, a monumental anniversary, a once-in-a-lifetime global event in the name of sustainability and innovation. This train only stops once, folks, so you better be on it.

We wanted something for everyone, in (almost) every part of the world -- from the ideal, shoes-off Mexican beach town to Europe’s new Cool Kid capital to the ultimate Patagonian road trip. We looked for world-class food, history, and architecture, aka the good stuff. More than anything, we looked for places on the brink of change, whether it be more visitors, more development, or a new generation taking the reins. Most imperative is the progress being made in the conservation department, and how you, responsible traveler, can support and engage with communities taking real steps toward a more sustainable planet.

And finally, we looked for writers who really know their shit. For trip-planning purposes, we’ve included an inspirational itinerary for every destination, packed with stories and advice from someone who’s actually been there. The only thing we didn’t do is buy your flight.

Lake Atitlán, Guatemala

As captivating as Italy’s Lake Como, but without the sticker shock, crowds, or Clooney
You could easily mistake Lake Atitlán for one of Northern Italy’s celebrity-laden, postcard-famous lakes. Without overselling, it’s flat-out gorgeous -- ringed with mountains, wildflowers, cheerful villages, and three volcanoes on the misty horizon. The major difference will be your credit card bill at the end.
 
This is more than just a weekend trip to tack onto your Antigua itinerary. There’s more than a dozen lakeside towns to check out, and cheap boats to ferry you around -- from well-developed cities ideal for shopping (Panajachel) to tranquil hippie retreats (San Marcos), cheap backpacker havens with great bars (San Pedro) and tiny indigenous villages (Santa Cruz). Go hiking. Go kayaking. Just chill.
 
Unlike other Central American countries, Guatemala’s ancient Mayan culture remains intact; you’ll see women and children in colorful, hand-made, traditional dress. In San Juan, visit a women's weaving collective. In Panajachel, try a ceramics workshop or a Mayan cooking class. Because Guatemala borders Mexico and shares Mayan heritage, you'll recognize and devour traditional eats: hand-formed tortillas, tamales, guacamole, black beans, plantains, horchata, and hearty stews. 
 
It’s shocking that just a few years ago, this crater lake was an ecological disaster, choked with trash and smelly algae. In 2016, the mayor of San Pedro issued Guatemala's first-ever ban on single-use plastics. Following a massive cleanup, the lake has gloriously rebounded and set an example for the country: Guatemala will phase out single-use plastics in the next two years. -- Maridel Reyes

Meet the writer & start planning your trip to Lake Atitlán.

Lakefront Brewery Beer Hall
Milwaukee's Lakefront Brewery | Lakefront Brewery Beer Hall
Milwaukee's Lakefront Brewery | Lakefront Brewery Beer Hall

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Firm in its Midwest roots, this city is growing, innovating, and ready to show off in 2020
If you think Milwaukee is an odd choice to host this year's high-stakes Democratic National Convention, you don't know Milwaukee. This Midwestern metropolis has all the big city attractions you'd want -- trendy food halls, distinctive neighborhoods, a Calatrava-designed art museum -- in a smaller, friendlier, cheaper package than nearby Chicago. And while you'll want to avoid actually visiting during the DNC in mid-July, you can take advantage of a city hellbent on putting its best foot forward with new hotels and a revitalized Downtown.

A long heritage of working class, immigrant culture is important to Milwaukeeans, which is why quirky local flair like a Friday fish fry, bowling alleys in taverns, and frozen custard stands are points of pride. You can get amazing beer, cheese, and bratwursts pretty much everywhere, but the food and drinking scene is also growing up and out of old stereotypes. In 2019, Milwaukee had five James Beard Award-nominated chefs, restaurants, and bars. Many, like the swanky but welcoming Bryant's Cocktail Lounge, combine history and whimsy into a nostalgic experience that's quintessentially local. 

Arts and culture are thriving, too, with public murals popping up all over, America's Black Holocaust Museum recently reopening, and the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra soon moving to a renovated new home. Stay tuned for this year’s Summerfest lineup; the 11-day, 10-stage lakefront music fest is one of the largest in the world. They don’t call Milwaukee the City of Festivals for nothing. -- Lacey Muszynski

Meet the writer & start planning your trip to Milwaukee.

Singapore Changi Airport
Singapore Changi Airport | Vuitton Lim/Unsplash
Singapore Changi Airport | Vuitton Lim/Unsplash

Singapore

This multicultural food heaven is setting an example for a sustainable future
In a few years, you won’t be able to talk about sustainable cities without first mentioning Singapore. Modern, diverse, and efficient, this urbanized island imports 90% of its produce and much of its water. Meaning, conservation is not an abstract -- it’s existential. 

Everywhere you look, Singapore is sprinting toward sustainability, be it small-scale (rooftop farming, hotels with zero carbon footprint, food waste inventively repurposed in cocktail bars) or massive, eye-popping statements. Giant, solar-powered “SuperTrees” provide energy for a futuristic urban greenspace, and the world’s largest indoor waterfall runs on recycled rainwater.

Even Singapore’s famed street-food culture is grappling with change, as an older generation of hawkers wonders how their traditions will survive in the economy of the future -- reason to survey Singapore’s unmatched culinary variety now, while current form still holds. Most Singaporeans eat out daily, and it’s less than $5 for bowls of curry-scented laksa, or broth-poached chicken and garlicky rice. Find that back-alley oyster omelette that is not only perfectly crispy, but also tells the story of the Southeast Asian diaspora in one bite. Or ‘gram a caviar-spiked short-rib while sipping a painstakingly made martini. The city offers it all -- plus a morning obsession with espresso pulls and the city’s signature kopi coffee.

English-speaking, easily navigable, and smack in the middle of Southeast Asia, Singapore also boasts one of the world's coolest airports, making it an ideal jumping off point for anywhere from Thailand to southern India to Taiwan. -- Hillary Eaton

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Stanglwirt
Stanglwirt, both an organic farm and luxury resort in Austria | © Stanglwirt
Stanglwirt, both an organic farm and luxury resort in Austria | © Stanglwirt

Austria

It’s Beethoven’s birthday, so come have a big ol’ sausage and cheese party
It’s impossible to tell if cheesemaker Sepp Hechenberger is angelic or angry when entering his timber cabin and dairy farm, about a mile up the Wilder Kaiser mountain in the Austrian alps. He’s throwing 50-pound wheels of his award-winning “Bergkäse” (mountain cheese, which runs nearly 600 euros a pop back in town) across his cellar while demanding -- or maybe yelling? -- that you drink more schnapps, eat up, and like it, damnit.

Not a hardcore Sound of Music fan? Come to Austria anyway; there’s arguably no better blend of meat, cheese, and outdoor adventure being served in Europe. Where else can you hike through the Alps on a literal “cheese road”? Where else can you devour countless Wiener würstchens and Wiener schnitzels? Wieners of all kinds, really -- except people born in Vienna, who are also called Wieners. Confusing, I know. 
 
Skiers can schuss down the world-class slopes in Streif or Innsbruck; gearheads can drive the 36-curve road up Austria’s highest peak; weirdos can learn how to yodel and paraglide in Schmittenhöhe. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the world-famous Salzburg Festival, a Very Big Deal for culture hounds. Over in Vienna, they’re rockin’ out Bill and Ted-style for the 250th birthday of Beethoven, with nightly concerts all year long. Or why not kick off the decade in Stanglwirt, at the annual raucous event known as the Weißwurstfest, where you’ll eat obscene amounts of sausage and party with Arnold Schwarzenegger and skiers named Günther and Klaus. -- Tom Burson

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Central Provisions
Central Provisions in Portland | Kari Herer
Central Provisions in Portland | Kari Herer

Portland, Maine

Get to THIS Portland before it becomes THAT Portland
Portland's been one of those "hidden treasure" dream towns since before "hidden treasure" was a cliché, drawing people in with its maritime vibes, red brick facades, cobblestone alleys, cable-knit sweaters, funky accents, and incredibly warm locals. And while those things are all present, a closer look at Maine's biggest city (67,000 strong!) reveals a city in transition. 

Portland is trendy. Weed is legal, the food scene is nationally beloved, and it's single-handedly diversifying an older-skewing state known for a relative lack of diversity. Millennials and Gen Xers make up the largest share of the population, which has seen the number of foreign-born residents doubled to 11% since 2000. Today, you'll hear dozens of languages commingling with lobstermens' gruff drawl, while some of the world’s best seafood restaurants coexist alongside international cuisine representing Thai, Chinese, Somalian, Sudanese, and even El Salvadorian influences.

Old Portland and new are currently on an even keel. At some point, the scales could tip. A brand-new real estate project, 58 Fore, is set for construction along the waterfront. The Quincy Market-esque setup will include shops, hotels, an outdoor plaza, and office buildings. Historic buildings will be preserved and repurposed, but locals and visitors can expect that word on Portland won't stay mum for long. Get there now to experience it in transition. -- Meagan Drillinger

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Taormina, Italy
Taormina's Isola Bella, Sicily | Michal Baran/Moment Open/Getty
Taormina's Isola Bella, Sicily | Michal Baran/Moment Open/Getty

Sicily, Italy

A timeless island is being re-energized by a new generation
If you’ve ever wistfully thought of living the expat Italian lifestyle -- where you maintain a year-round glow, take daily aperitivo along the sea, and watch the world go by behind oversized sunglasses from a café in a baroque piazza -- you’ve dreamed of Sicily. 
 
At the tip of the boot, this island exudes the Old World bliss of the dolce far niente. Sicily is Italy on steroids, a land of contrasts and hyperbole where some things never change (gentlemen in coppola hats; two-hour lunches; the raw sensuality of every Antonio and Giovanna), even in a landscape that changes dramatically within any 30-mile drive, from rocky cliffs to wide sandy beaches to green rolling hills. 
 
Time moves more slowly here, yet a whole new generation of industrious siciliani have managed to harness some forward momentum. They’re opening world-class cocktail bars, taking the reins of family wineries, accumulating Michelin stars, and creating art-forward boutique hotels that prove Milan doesn’t have the lock on style. 
 
To entice newcomers, hillside villages in the island’s interior are hawking homes for 1 euro (yes, those deals are for real) on an island where eating and drinking well are practically considered a basic human right -- and you’ll easily find soul-stirring meals for under $20. Plus, United is opening a new direct route from Newark to Palermo (the only nonstop to the island from the US) starting in May of 2020, making it even easier to get here. Getting back, however, may require self-discipline. -- Jennifer V. Cole
 
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Baku, Azerbaijan
The Flame Towers in Baku | Ayhan Altun/Moment/Getty Images
The Flame Towers in Baku | Ayhan Altun/Moment/Getty Images

Baku, Azerbaijan

This quirky mash-up of old and new, East and West, is now open to the world
To step through the gates into Baku’s ancient walled city is to go hundreds of years back in time, among grand old palaces and winding alleyways so crammed and narrow the balconies kiss above your head. A mysterious 12th-century tower gazes out over the Caspian Sea -- no one knows who built it or why, but it comes with a fun little legend about a fire-haired maiden.

Standing in extreme contrast to all this Old Town old-timeyness are the Flame Towers -- a futuristic trio of LED-covered skyscrapers that dominate this low-lying port city. Over the millenia, Baku has been home to Persians, Ottomans, Armenians, Russians, Christians, Zoroastrians, Muslims, and Jews. Today, this cultural hodgepodge comes to life in Baku’s tolerant outlook and its impressive, varied, occasionally bizarre mix of architecture. See an ancient Zoroastrian fire temple one day, and a museum that looks like a giant rolled-up carpet the next. But the star of the show is the Heydar Aliyev Cultural Center, a sumptuous landmark from legendary architect Zaha Hadid that demands to be photographed from every angle. 

These modern works are helping usher in a new era for a country that until recently was closed from the world. Looking to diversify an oil-driven economy, Azerbaijan has eased its visa regulations and welcomed more than double the foreign visitors it did even a decade ago. Airlines continue to add more flights to Baku, so you can expect to see this quirky city peppering your Instagram feed soon. -- Ulrike Lemmin-Woolfrey

Meet the writer & start planning your trip to Baku.

Layou River
Steps leading to Layou River | David Madison / Getty Images
Steps leading to Layou River | David Madison / Getty Images

Dominica

This untamed jungle island is building with an eye for sustainable luxury
Step out of the airport and you’re instantly smacked with fragrant tropical rainforest and thick, green mountains. Braided with over 300 rivers and some obscene number of waterfalls, this is, as yet, the Caribbean’s most undeveloped island. Think gurgling hot springs, black sand beaches, absurdly cool hikes, and pristine reefs delivering arguably the best scuba diving in the Caribbean. And while Hurricane Maria devastated the island in 2017, tropical foliage has already reclaimed the mountainsides as densely as ever, and tourism has staged its own comeback, too. 

With big luxury hotels vying for a piece of Dominica’s spectacular beauty, this is a secret that’s bound to get out. A new Marriott property is on the horizon in 2020 (Anichi Resort & Spa) and a Hilton is in the works as well. Last year, the Cabrits Resort & Spa Kempinski Dominica debuted as the island’s first true five star hotel, with solar panels and a grey water system. Fancy hotels are nice, but more importantly, Dominica is rebuilding (and building anew) with climate resiliency in mind, banning single-use plastics by 2030 and turning to renewable energy to protect its most valuable asset: its raw, restorative, unspoiled nature. -- Terry Ward

Meet the writer & start planning your trip to Dominica.

Esther’s Kitchen in Arts District
Esther’s Kitchen in Arts District | Cole Saladino/Thrillist
Esther’s Kitchen in Arts District | Cole Saladino/Thrillist

Las Vegas, Nevada

The classic standby has now also become the hip cultural underdog
Sin City will always have the Strip, with its infinite dining and gambling and entertainment hypnosis, but what makes Vegas so damn interesting right now is everything happening away from the giant faux Statue of Liberty. 

In the past decade, as big-name chefs have opened restaurants on the Strip, many of their young, talented lieutenants have put down roots, opened their own places off the Strip, and made Vegas one of the most interesting restaurant hotbeds in America. The Arts District and Chinatown neighborhoods especially have become fantastic and expansive, with Chinatown alone boasting 150 restaurants of all stripes and price points.

Professional sports -- which used to be limited to minor leagues, boxing, and MMA -- have taken off with the introduction of the NHL’s Golden Knights, the WNBA’s Aces, and, starting next year, the NFL’s Raiders (even the 2020 NFL Draft is being held in Vegas in April). Meanwhile the Life is Beautiful Music & Art Festival, which started in 2013 and helped to shape the revitalization of Downtown, has turned into a must-hit national event that in 2019 brought in Chance the Rapper, The Black Keys, and Post Malone -- plus the festival featured a cocktail school, an omakase cantina, and an incredible array of art. 

Vegas is a community fully coming into its own, somehow positioned as both a hip underdog and a classic standby -- but that sort of a simultaneous fever dream won't last, so get thee to Vegas immediately, and tell them Kevin sent you. No one will know what you're talking about, but it'll make me feel better. -- Kevin Alexander

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 Playa Carrizalillo
Playa Carrizalillo in Puerto Escondido | by Marc Guitard/Moment/Getty Images
Playa Carrizalillo in Puerto Escondido | by Marc Guitard/Moment/Getty Images

Puerto Escondido, Mexico

Crowds are swelling but the vibe is still chill, so feel free to lose your shoes upon arrival
A few years ago, you’d fly into Puerto Escondido’s barely existent airport strapped into a dubious prop plane filled with Mexican tourists from up north. Today you’ll arrive in a full-sized jet with mostly young, mostly English-speaking travelers still hungover from Mexico City. But it’s all good; you will not go to a Señor Frog’s, for no such place exists on this still-remote, still-idyllic stretch of palm-lined coast. 

Instead you’ll eat ceviche made by an abuelita who’s been cooking on the shore since the ‘70s. You’ll dance at impromptu all-night beach parties, fueled by mezcal punch for 10 pesos a cup. Immerse yourself in a chaotic swarm of locals over mole at the Benito Juarez Market, then join a flock of surfboard-wielding Australians to swap travel tales in the sand.

Days are best spent swimming in empty beach coves or venturing out to sea with local fishermen to spot wildlife. Evenings are for watching phantasmagoric sunsets burst over the Pacific from a second-story balcony, because the view has not yet been ruined by 10-story resorts. Crowds and costs are creeping up, but for now, you can still catch Puerto Escondido in that lively-but-low-key sweet spot. -- Nick Hilden

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tokyo
Ueno Park, Tokyo, Japan | Juan Broullon/Unsplash
Ueno Park, Tokyo, Japan | Juan Broullon/Unsplash

Tokyo, Japan

It’s never been easier to access Japan's ancient-meets-neon metropolis
With nearly 40 million residents, 100 train lines, and 150,000-plus restaurants, Tokyo has long been considered cumbersome or impenetrable to outsiders. However, its incredible food, traditional culture, and modern innovations all come with a surprisingly affordable price tag and relative ease of navigation. And now, as the Tokyo Olympics loom, travelers are finally recognizing it as the essential and accessible destination it is. 

With its digital flare serving in extreme contrast to its ancient roots -- from the impossibly crowded, neon-shrouded Shibuya Crossing to Tokyo’s oldest temple, Sensoji -- Tokyo’s extremes are only part of the story. Cycling through the winding, tree-lined neighborhood of Yanaka or sharing beers with salarymen in a smoky backstreet izakaya provide a taste for everyday life. Food lovers can feast on sushi in subway stalls or ornate eateries; slurp ramen from vending machines or for $10 at Michelin-starred restaurants; and fuel walking tours around the countryside with less-familiar fare like okonomiyaki. The otaku and kawaii obsessions are strong in the gaming hub of Akihabara, Harajuku’s crowded fashion stores, and high-tech coffee shops and robot restaurants that showcase the city’s fascination with tech.

The autumn months bring a re-energized feel, with sumo tournaments, festivals, and markets galore. This year, they arrive in the afterglow of Tokyo's time in the spotlight, when the city will still be buzzing anew. Which is to say, skip the summer's Olympic push and explore Tokyo when newly finished transport hubs, just-opened hotels, and renovated temples are wrapped in golden seasonal hues... but not crowds of people. -- Lily Crossley-Baxter

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Tantalus Vineyards
Tantalus Vineyards in Okanagan Valley | Tantalus Vineyards
Tantalus Vineyards in Okanagan Valley | Tantalus Vineyards

Okanagan Valley, BC, Canada

Sips, scenery, and sustainability in BC's overlooked wine country
The fertile Okanagan Valley -- which stretches from Shuswap Lake to the Northwestern US-Canadian border -- is home to apple, cherry, and peach orchards, a thriving farm-to-table food scene, and dozens of wineries. The valley’s vineyards soak up some of the sunniest weather in Canada. The views aren’t bad, either: Dominated by the 85-mile-long Okanagan Lake, above which forests of spruce and fir cover mountains, the region provides the ideal setting for a long weekend that goes way beyond wine.

Home to 198 distinct First Nations, British Columbia is one of the best places to experience the diversity of Canada’s Indigenous cultures. A trip into the Okanagan Valley can immerse you in the distinct, lesser-known stories of the Interior Salish peoples. Stay in an Indigenous-run hotel, paddle traditional waterways on a wildlife tour, learn about individual Nations at cultural centers, and dine at restaurants inspired by Indigenous culinary traditions. End each day with a glass of wine from Nk'Mip or Indigenous World Winery, the only two Indigenous-owned wineries in Canada.

Indigenous-led tourism is actually Canada’s fastest-growing tourism sector; with a planet in crisis, now’s the time to travel and experience a different, more sustainable way of living -- one that Indigenous peoples have been practicing for centuries. And once you're done, you can do what everybody else does and head to Vancouver. -- Karen Gardiner

Meet the writer & start planning your trip to the Okanagan Valley.

bariloche
San Carlos De Bariloche, Argentina | Fabian Schmiedlechner/EyeEm/Getty
San Carlos De Bariloche, Argentina | Fabian Schmiedlechner/EyeEm/Getty

Lakes Region, Patagonia, Argentina

In 2020, a total solar eclipse comes to the most magically beautiful place on Earth
With its snow-capped Andes Mountains, epic hikes with pinch-yourself views of crystalline lakes, and a wild and free gaucho lifestyle, there’s no wrong time to visit Patagonia. But in the height of summer on December 14, 2020, this fairy-tale land will be even more magical: It’s the best place on Earth to view the total solar eclipse.  

Tickets go on sale this January for a trippy, back-to-nature festival called Global Eclipse, which is set to gather thousands of free spirits from all over the world to party in the path of maximum totality. During the weeklong celebration, festival-goers will dance to the beats of world-class DJs and participate in immersive workshops that explore regenerative living, permaculture design, yoga and dance, natural construction, and herbalism. Think of it as a “connect with nature” Burning Man before Burning Man got blown up -- and with greener surroundings. 

Post-eclipse, keep the adventure going and explore the entire Lakes Region, which centers around the tourist town of Bariloche and the gloriously photogenic, sprawling Nahuel Huapi Lake. There are surreal glaciers to trek upon, wild mountains to explore on horseback, and trout to lure in sparkling streams. Anywhere you go in this region is going to be mind-blowingly gorgeous. It’s also worth mentioning the growing craft beer culture, the fabulous Argentine red wine for $5-$7 a bottle, or the famous Argentine beef you’ll consume, hopefully cooked over an open fire at an afternoon asado. -- Cathy Brown

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Tänavatoidufestival
Tallinn Street Food Festival | Linda Liis Eek
Tallinn Street Food Festival | Linda Liis Eek

Tallinn, Estonia

This industrial, post-Soviet, seaside town is quietly becoming Europe’s new capital of cool
Long overshadowed in the creative/cool department by its Scandinavian neighbors, Estonia’s capital is in the midst of a significant glow-up. In 2019, Tallinn’s shabby harbor areas saw serious investment in seriously cool cultural institutions: the PROTO Invention Factory in an old shipyard; the contemporary Kai Art Center in a former submarine plant; and the Fotografiska museum with a zero-waste restaurant on its rooftop. At Telliskivi Creative City, warehouses have been revamped into chic showrooms for Estonian designers and antiques dealers, vintage boutiques, and third-wave coffee shops.

Come for the industrial vibes, but stay for the beer. Estonia’s craft beer scene is surging with 80-some microbreweries (that’s a lot for a tiny country that’s basically 50% forest, with only 1.3 million people). Estonians have been brewing beer at home for centuries, a tradition that’s taking on new meaning as locals celebrate their culture in ways they couldn’t during the Soviet era. No trip is complete without a flight or two at Põhjala Brewery, known for its dark beers and “Forest Series” brewed with local ingredients like pine needles, birch bark, and lingonberries. Bring an extra-big suitcase; instead of souvenirs, you’re hoarding funky creations from different breweries like Purtse’s tomato gose and the Tanker sauna session. To the strawberry ale I left behind: I will come back for you. -- Barbara Woolsey

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Santa Maria beach in Sal Cape Verde
Santa Maria beach in Sal Cape Verde | Samuel Borges Photography/Shutterstock
Santa Maria beach in Sal Cape Verde | Samuel Borges Photography/Shutterstock

Cape Verde

Multiracial culture and soulful music are a backdrop to a beach getaway like nowhere else
Cape Verde has all the usual trappings of a tropical beach getaway: sparkling beaches with sand of every shade, historic colonial towns, green mountaintop vistas, shipwrecks to explore, and whales to spot. But this gorgeous island nation, 350 miles off the coast of Senegal, goes deeper. Influenced by the rich & nutty stews of Senegal, colonial heritage of the Portuguese, party-loving spirit of Brazil, democratic ethos of Ghana, and wine expertise of the French, Cape Verde is one of the world's most unique cultural mixes. 
 
Arid and uninhabited when the Portugese landed here in the 15th century, Cape Verde has weathered deep struggles to forge a truly modern culture across 10 stunning islands, each with its own character. Music is everywhere -- listen closely to the mournful, beautiful tones of morna, Cape Verde’s national musical style, and you’ll hear joy, sorrow, struggle, and celebration all bubbling at once. Born of the windy natural soundscape combined with the lonely songs of enslaved people at port through the island's colonial history, morna is the specialty of world-renowned Cape Verdean singer Cesária Évora, who sang:
 
The sky has cleared
Consciousness has brightened
The time has come to face reality
A suffering people
Have soothed their pain
To live in peace and progress

Tourism is fast on the rise among Europeans, especially Brits, who have quietly visited for decades. But despite being closer to the East Coast than Hawaii, Cape Verde flies under the radar for Americans. Plan it right and airfare can be found for under $600. -- Becki Iverson
 
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ma'am sir
Ma'am Sir in Los Angeles | Fried Chicken Sandwich Studios
Ma'am Sir in Los Angeles | Fried Chicken Sandwich Studios

Los Angeles, California

Embrace the City of Angels' true identity as a world-class food destination
It's a big year for LA. The streets will run rainbow for LA Pride's 50th anniversary in June. The long-hyped SoFi Stadium and Academy Museum of Motion Pictures take their places alongside landmarks like the La Brea Tar Pits, Santa Monica Pier, and Walk of Fame. But it's not landmarks that define LA. It's the convergence of cultures that makes LA, well, LA. And there's no better way to experience it than through food, especially right now.

It's through food that you can sustain a drive from Griffith Park to Muscle Beach. It's food that helped reinvent long-suffering Downtown. And it's food that's changing the narrative of a city that devours attention -- no small feat for a place that already draws some 50 million annual visitors with stars (tours) in their eyes.  

The culinary scene is at its apex after a two-decade transformation into a vast playground for food and drink. It's a place where big-name chefs like David Chang (Majordōmo) are breathing life into neighborhoods while family-run places like the knockout Mini Kabob and countless East Asian gems of the San Gabriel Valley get similar reverence. Where unmarked strip malls and trucks cook some of the country's best bites, and where longtime neighborhood institutions like The Apple Pan are icons as important as the Hollywood sign. Yes, you can still see the landmarks new and old. It's just so much better to do so while walking off several of the best meals you've ever had and getting to know what really makes LA special. -- Wilder Shaw

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istanbul
The Galata Tower and the Suleymaniye MosqueIstanbul in Istanbul | Salvator Barki/Moment/Getty Images
The Galata Tower and the Suleymaniye MosqueIstanbul in Istanbul | Salvator Barki/Moment/Getty Images

Istanbul, Turkey

A new airport has made exploring two continents and millennia of history easier than ever
Turkish tourism took a beating after a few years of bad press that cast Istanbul as unsafe, but if there’s one thing this scrappy megacity is good at, it’s reinventing itself. Turks have been welcoming international travelers since before Istanbul was Constantinople, and now is the perfect time to visit. This city actually never sleeps, so venues are open, streets are well-lit, and taxis are available into the wee hours. And once you land at Istanbul’s shiny new airport, the exchange rate is in your favor, with transportation, accommodation, and food offering real value for your money. 

Straddling Asia and Europe, Istanbul always serves up an unparalleled mix of Old World with a side of contemporary culture, and 2020 is no exception. New museums like Arter and the revamped Istanbul Modern -- stops on the annual Istanbul Biennial that takes place every fall -- join an extensive lineup of historic heritage sites like Aya Sofya and Chora Church. Historically ethnic enclaves like Arnavutköy, Fener-Balat, and Kurtuluş continue to emerge as “it” neighborhoods with design firms, galleries, concept stores, and hipster cafés seemingly opening daily. Die-hard shoppers will find options that run the gamut from traditional neighborhood markets to Zorlu Center, the luxury mall and performing arts center bringing Fiddler on the Roof and Gipsy Kings to Istanbul this year. 

With the opening of the new, improved Istanbul Airport -- which offers nearly 300 direct flights to 116 countries -- it's literally never been easier to explore this confluence of two continents and two millenia.  -- Ruth Terry

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Chiawa Safaris
Old Mondoro Camp in Zambia | Chiawa Safaris
Old Mondoro Camp in Zambia | Chiawa Safaris

Lower Zambezi National Park, Zambia

Sustainable safari operations for those who dream of big game
With Africa’s (and the world’s) eco-systems more fragile than ever, it’s imperative for anyone who dreams of big game safaris to make sustainability the top priority -- including the choice of destination, tour operator, and where you make camp. In Lower Zambezi National Park in southeast Zambia, on the border of Zimbabwe and Mozambique, you’ll silently canoe the Zambezi River alongside hippos and crocodiles, embark on sunrise bushwalks to spy on leopards and lions after nights spent listening to hyenas cackling, and beat the heat in open air bath tubs that might just be visited by thirsty elephants or swinging baboons. Most importantly, you’ll be able to do so ethically, in the hands of trustworthy, eco-conscious guides and camps.

In Lower Zambezi, the world’s first carbon-neutral national park, Zambian tour companies like Chiawa Safaris provide a conscientious safari experience -- from hiring local guides to promoting and investing in communities and conservation efforts around the country. This starts with the bush camps themselves -- some, like Old Mondoro Camp, are completely disassembled for the rainy season to minimize impact, only to be rebuilt each year by villagers using locally sourced materials. 

Downstream from Lower Zambezi NP, the Zambezi River forms one of Africa’s most iconic landmarks, the majestic Victoria Falls, which this year has slowed to a trickle during dry season in the face of unprecedented temps and one of the worst droughts in history -- a stark reminder of the continent’s threatened natural world. Not inundated by mass-tourism, land-locked Zambia is a relative underdog among safari destinations, which is precisely the draw for the conservation-minded traveler.  -- Michelle Gross

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oregon coast
Ecola State Park, Oregon | Jordan Siemens/Getty Images
Ecola State Park, Oregon | Jordan Siemens/Getty Images

Oregon's North Coast

A dreamy, beery Pacific wonderland defies your expectations of West Coast living
With beaches covered in loose agate, pine-blanketed hillsides, and a general lack of Botox, Oregon's north coast is the antithesis of the "West Coast" stereotype. The state's entire shoreline is pure wow, but the 80-mile stretch bookended by Astoria -- the port city where the mighty Columbia reaches its end -- southward to Pacific City is the best of the Oregon coast in distillate. 

This is the year for a nostalgic tour of Astoria, home of Goonies Day, a three-day truffle shuffle to celebrate The Goonies, now hitting its 35th anniversary. The bash includes music, parties, screenings, and actual Goonies (chances of a now-handsome Chunk showing up? Pretty good!). 

But really, now’s the time to explore the coast in general. Craggy monoliths protrude from foggy shorelines reminiscent of Japan. Wind-swept dunes evoke western Michigan. Seafood shacks and fishermen’s dives straight out of the Northeast get tweaked with a little weirdo Twin Peaks vibe. It's glorious. 

Perhaps you’ve heard of Oregon’s storied food and drink scene? Breweries like Tillamook's vaunted de Garde are transforming the coast into Oregon's next great beer destination. Go on a sustainable oyster hunt in Netarts Bay, or binge on Dungeness crab and razor clams. Each tiny town, smoked-fish stand, or coastal hike offers a vivid memory. Regardless of what you’re looking for, you'll discover it down the next winding bend in the road.  -- Andy Kryza

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United Arab Emirates, Dubai
United Arab Emirates, Dubai | Richard Geoffrey/EyeEm/Getty
United Arab Emirates, Dubai | Richard Geoffrey/EyeEm/Getty

Dubai, UAE

In the world’s most global city, get a glimpse of what the future has in store
What better way to start the new decade than with a glimpse into the future? Beginning this October, Expo 2020 will bring together 192 countries to showcase their wildest visions for the future of sustainability, mobility, and innovation. Some highlights? The world’s biggest 360-degree surface projection, over 200 world-cuisine food stands, and gigantic high-design pavilions (Russia’s is shaped like a humongous ball of rainbow yarn, while Morocco’s looks a bit like Jenga blocks).
 
Who else could pull off such a spectacle but Dubai, the most extra city in the world, home of the world’s tallest building, the largest indoor theme park, and an entire archipelago shaped like a world map. In 2020, add to that a 6 million-square-foot megaresort with underwater rooms, and the first-ever 3D-printed building, fittingly named the Museum of the Future.

Meanwhile, the past is alive and well in Old Dubai, where you can jump on a rickety abra between historic neighborhoods for just a couple bucks, shop in traditional bazaars, and see Arabic art in old wooden houses. The contrast is pretty cool; you can actually eat, sleep, and shop here affordably, proving you don’t have to be a tech nerd or a billionaire to enjoy Dubai. In fact, people from all over live here (about 85% of Dubai’s population is foreign born), and its storefronts reflect a fascinating pastiche of cultures: Indian tea shops, Pakistani bakeries, Filipino supermarkets, Canadian clothing brands, and American chains like good ol’ Shake Shack. If there was such a thing as a world capital, this may be it. -- Barbara Woolsey

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EDITORIAL

Editors: Andy Kryza, Bison Messink, Keller Powell 
Production: Kristen Adaway, Pete Dombrosky, Liz Provencher, Jessica Sulima
Writers: Kevin Alexander, Cathy Brown, Tom Burson, Jennifer Cole, Lily Crossley-Baxter, Meagan Drillinger, Hilary Eaton, Karen Gardiner, Michelle Gross, Nick Hilden, Becki Iverson, Andy Kryza, Ulrike Lemmin-Woolfrey, Lacey Muszynski, Maridel Reyes, Wilder Shaw, Ruth Terry, Terry Ward, Barbara Woolsey
Special thanks: Liz Childers, Pete Dombrosky, Joseph Hernandez, Helen Hollyman, Bison Messink, Liz Provencher

CREATIVE

Photography Director: Drew Swantak
Social Creative Director: Sarah Halliday 
Motion Graphics Designer: Danna Windsor
Graphic Designers: John Samels, Alexis Zamlich