10 wild and tasty North American food trails
Eating locally is a delicious way to enjoy your travels. But some corners of the United States and Canada offer more direct routes to falling for regional fare: food trails. Sure, there are food trails that are familiar for their states. (We’re looking at you, Wisconsin Cheese Tour and New York’s Buffalo Wing Trail!) This list, on the other hand, will direct you to 10 food-loving paths where eccentric and scrumptious tastes converge.
1. Cajun Boudin Trail, Louisiana
Southern Louisiana serves up several culinary-trail choices, which take travelers along the I-10 and LA-90 corridors for specialties like gumbo, jambalaya, alligator, and crawfish. But even more homegrown is the Cajun Boudin Trail, centered around Lafayette. Pronounced “boo-dan,” boudin is a sausage filled with meat, rice, and herbs that’s served across bayou country. The boudin trail will lead you to markets and restaurants to taste the best locally made links – plus other savories like fried boudin balls, cracklin (fried pork skin), smoked meats, and more. Bonus: Visit in October and fill up at Lafayette’s annual Boudin Cookoff.
2. Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail, New Mexico
You may wonder what’s so special about a burger topped with cheese and chiles that it’s earned its own food trail. One bite of this juicy New Mexican specialty, however, should answer your question. When it comes to the magical flavor formula of salt, fat, acid, and heat, the Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail has it all (including plenty of other chile-licious dishes). Navigate with the state-wide interactive map to tickle your taste buds with green-chile burgers from Taos down to Las Cruces.
3. Country Ham Trail, Kentucky
You wouldn’t be wrong to think of Kentucky for its Bourbon Trail or even its Fried-Chicken Trail. But the simply delicious Country Ham Trail is the state’s showcase for producers who have been curing ham for more than a century (sometimes inside bourbon rickhouses, for even more local flavor). Better still, visit the trail in September as it leads to Marion County’s annual Country Ham Days food and music festival.
4. Nova Scotia Chowder Trail, Canada
Atlantic Canada is easily one of the continent’s best seafood regions. And while the Lobster Trail is sure to impress travelers, Nova Scotia’s Chowder Trail leads to nearly 60 unforgettable chowder houses across the province. Let the interactive map guide you to the best bowls from Halifax to Cape Breton and beyond, and don’t forget your “chowder passport” to earn stamps along the way.
5. Tehama Trail, California
Northern California is famous for wine. But drive north towards Redding and Shasta Cascade to discover the riches of the Northern Sacramento Valley along the Tehama Trail – where olives and olive oil are beautifully cultivated. Starting from the town of Corning, the trail leads to some of America’s best olive farms, many of them with tasting rooms to sample artisanal oils, vinegars, and all manner of olives. Don’t miss the region’s honeys, pies, fresh produce, and, of course, spectacular wines.
6. Lowcountry Oyster Trail, South Carolina
Come for the scenery, stay for the sea-to-fork riches. The famous bivalves of South Carolina’s coastal Lowcountry region anchor this oyster trail, where travelers can sample every type of preparation – from fried to Oysters Rockefeller to raw on the half-shell. Find a handy map with suggested itineraries on the Lowcountry Oyster Trail site, covering oyster farms, shucking facilities, and oh-so-many great seafood restaurants, some serving oyster-loving craft-beer and wine pairings.
7. Richmond Dumpling Trail, British Columbia, Canada
Neighboring Vancouver is the city of Richmond, where Asian cuisine is abundant, and so delicious it may be the best on this side of the Pacific. Dumplings stand out in particular, making the official Richmond Dumpling Trail one of British Columbia’s gastronomic highlights. With the help of the trail website, you’ll learn about types of dumplings, best times of day to enjoy dim sum, and which restaurant-crawl itinerary is going to lead to the most satisfying dumplings for your eager chopsticks.
8. Fruit Loop, Oregon
For 35 miles, travelers to Hood River County can get loopy tasting the natural bounty of 17 farm stands, 10 wineries, three cideries, six berry farms, and two lavender farms. They’re all on the Fruit Loop, which marks its 27th anniversary in 2020. Download a map for easy touring by car or bike, then plan to take in the seasonal produce and year-round bites and beverages found only in central Oregon. Pick up a brochure at any site, get stamped at 14 farm stands, and get a Fruit Loop bag to help tote your edible souvenirs.
9. Tenderloin Trail, Indiana
Save your calories for this Hamilton County food trail, showcasing a mighty indulgent staple of the Hoosier State. Behold the tenderloin sandwich, composed of an oversized slice of pork that’s been pounded, breaded, and deep fried, and usually served on a comically small bun with burger fixings. (You can try grilled too, but why would you?) With the help of the trail’s online map, you can try more than 50 restaurants serving up this Indianan classic, and print your own Tenderloin Trail passport for July’s annual Tenderloin Tuesday specials.
10. A to Z Foodie Trail, Iowa
Pella, Iowa, may be a small town, but its bursting with tasty delights. So many that the region offers an A-to-Z Foodie Trail to showcase 26 different dishes and drinks unique to Marion and Mahaska Counties (southeast of Des Moines). The trail is a top tourist activity, guiding hungry travelers to sample a bevy of local foods, from apple pie at Pella Nursery and gouda cheese curds at Frisian Farms; to pigs in the blanket at Vander Pleog Bakery and Yoga Poser Pale Ale at Nocoast Beer Co.
7 affordable alternatives to popular destinations around the world
Second-city travel refers to cities in a country that don’t come to mind when first planning a vacation. For example, when going to Thailand, tourists typically book a trip in Bangkok, instead of Chiang Mai, a city in northern Thailand. This trend has Americans dodging major cities for their smaller, alluring counterparts that offer lower price tags, fewer crowds (so long, traffic!) and a truly authentic experience. Second cities are not necessarily the second most-populated city in a country – when speaking about the trend in the travel sense, it means any city that might not be the first choice for tourists. So what could be better than a more authentic experience at a more affordable price? Here are seven second-city destinations to consider. 1. Lille instead of Paris, France Paris is a romantic city that foreigners swoon over and for good reason; however, France has countless cities that are more affordable and just as lovely. So skip the hustle and bustle of Paris and travel an hour north to the town of Lille, a cultural hub that sits on the crossroads of Paris, London and Brussels. Don’t worry, the croissants are just as good! Lille has been named a World Design Capital for the year 2020 and is a mecca for not only design, but also a robust food scene, museums and art fairs galore and beautiful modern architecture. With more affordable prices, your hotel stay can get an upgrade to chic Parisian style at MAMA Shelter Lille – a new boutique hotel with a welcoming vibe and a quirky design made for comfort. Plus, just a few steps from the hotel are two major train stations, making it a convenient option for exploring too! 2. Lafayette instead of New Orleans, Louisiana Less than three hours from New Orleans, Lafayette has been dubbed the “Austin” of Louisiana and the true heart of Cajun culture. Food is the heart of Louisiana and music is the soul – and there's an abundance of both in this charming Cajun town. With fresh seafood, jambalaya, crawfish and gumbos, no wonder this town has been dubbed the "Happiest City in America." Anthony Bourdain even visited once, enough said. If you’re coming to party Cajun style, Lafayette has that too. Home to Grammy-winning Cajun musicians, an epic Mardi Gras celebration and famed music halls – you really can’t go wrong with this second city. Plus, lodging is inexpensive with hotels under $100. Now you’ll have more cash for all the mouth-watering restaurants. Bring on the po’boys! 3. Catskills instead of New York City, New York New York City is one metropolis that everyone must visit at least once in a lifetime to experience the glorious city that never sleeps. But what about the rest of The Empire State? The Catskills are a three-hour drive from the Big Apple and offer a peek into the great countryside of New York. Tucked away upstate lays the town of Windham, now a popular ski destination and all-year escape. This area offers a small-town vibe with inviting locals, every outdoor sport you can imagine, local cuisine and quaint hotels worthy of your next Instagram post. Check out the Eastwind Hotel – this cozy, chic hideaway has Lushna cabins (A-frame wooden structures) as well as a wood-barrel sauna and fire pit for après-ski delights. 4. Eilat instead of Tel Aviv, Israel If the crowds in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem are not appealing to you, consider the less-traveled city of Eilat as an exciting Israeli adventurer’s paradise. Located on the southern tip of the country, Eilat offers a sunny oasis on the Red Sea with stunning beaches and jaw-dropping coral reefs. Whether you want to hike the desert mountains, relax beachside or snorkel in its remarkable Coral Reef Nature Reserve, this resort town has it all. Hikers can trek the Eilat Mountains Nature Reserve, which offers some of the most breathtaking views and spectacular desert routes in all of Israel. And now it’s easy to get to, in January 2019, Israel opened the Ramon International Airport, which is a 20-minute drive from the city. 5. Milwaukee instead of Chicago, Illinois Situated two hours north of Chicago and located on the western shore of Lake Michigan, Milwaukee, is a lively urban Midwest city filled with approachable and affordable arts, culture and culinary experiences. And if you’re into beer, this city is for you. Wisconsin is the third-largest producer of beer in the US and Milwaukee is home to Miller Brewing, now MillerCoors, which offers a number of brewery tours and tasting experiences for travelers. Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward is a must-visit neighborhood that is considered the arts and fashion district – comparable to New York’s Brooklyn neighborhood, but without the crowds. Here you can find the Milwaukee Public Market, which features Wisconsin-made and must-try products like homemade chocolates and artisan cheeses. The Third Ward is also home to some of the best shopping and unique boutiques. 6. Ponce instead of San Juan, Puerto Rico San Juan is most commonly known as the hub for Puerto Rico’s vibrant culture, but, guess what? This extends beyond the metro area and throughout the entire island. Puerto Rico’s second-largest city is Ponce, known as “La Perla del Sur” (Pearl of the South) due to its location in the southern region of the island. With towns that maintain remnants of colonial life under Spanish rule, beautiful historic buildings and cultural attractions, Ponce is overflowing with rich history and culture. Immerse yourself in Ponce’s art scene at the Ponce Museum of Art – boasting over 4,500 European works of art. Or if you’re an explorer, take a ferry boat ride to Isla Caja de Muertos off the coast of Ponce, where you go hiking or simply relax in the turquoise water. 7. Spokane instead of Seattle, Washington Skip Seattle and head straight to Spokane. Located in eastern Washington, Spokane has everything Seattle has (except the Space Needle, of course), but on a smaller scale. Unlike its counterpart, Spokane is affordable and sunny. Plus, the city has a symphony, shopping, great theater, an exciting culinary scene – with 21 wineries and 40 craft breweries – that can rival Seattle and all the urban entertainment you could ask for. In addition to city culture and urban delights, Spokane is an outdoor recreation dream with five ski resorts and two state parks located right in Spokane. With 17 direct flights and over a hundred daily flights, it’s actually easy to get to Spokane. So what are you waiting for?
New York City’s 7 best old-school steakhouses
Before most US cities could even build a steakhouse, the island of Manhattan was serving up some of the country’s most prime cuts. Their steaks were so good and service so sublime, several of those classic eateries remain in full swing today, serving up dry-aged perfection to discerning diners. Then with the 20th century came a wave of steakhouses that mastered their own strips and styles, too. And while new beefy restaurants are always cropping up, there’s still a special, refined handful that have thrived over the decades, serving steaks that are simply a cut above the rest. 1. Delmonico’s Deep in the Financial District is one of America’s great all-time restaurants. Delmonico’s opened its corner-lot doors in 1837, when Andrew Jackson was president and California was 14 years away from statehood. But for polished New Yorkers, the restaurant was an instant staple, becoming the first to use white tablecloths and printed menus. Today, diners can find themselves in the same timeless dining room where chandeliers and original artworks hang, and career servers cater to every wish. Likewise, Delmonico’s menu remains classic, showcasing its divine Delmonico signature boneless rib-eye steak, prime New York strips, and on-the-bone beef dry aged up to 60 days. The menu reads like a culinary time capsule with dishes like brandied mushrooms and creamy Delmonico potatoes, with tempting modern specialties too. The restaurant also invented a few famous dishes – including baked Alaska, so be sure to leave room for dessert. 2. Smith & Wollensky In terms of vintage restaurants, it may be one of the newer steakhouses. But Smith & Wollensky established its elite reputation as soon as it served the first prime rib back in 1977. Its iconic green-and-white building is parked on the corner of Third Avenue and East 49th Street in Midtown, where inside its wood-lined walls, diners choose from a succinct classic menu and seasonal specials. The seafood is outstanding, but it’s the beef that built this cosmopolitan house. The classic, 26-ounce prime rib is the juicy go-to; though it’s rivaled by the Colorado rib steak and boneless or bone-in filet mignon, both seared to perfection. Sirloin, veal, lamb, and other steaks do indeed dazzle, just be sure to round out your meal with indulgent steakhouse sides like hash browns and creamed spinach. 3. Old Homestead Steakhouse Since 1868, Chelsea has been able to enjoy flavors of cattle country at the Old Homestead, where a cow sculpture hangs over the entrance as if marking an Old West eatery. The family-run restaurant has been turning out USDA prime for more than a century and a half, claiming to be “the King of Beef” in a city populated by steak lovers. Within its clubby dining room, you’ll find a robust menu of seafood, burgers, and tempting sides – and more importantly, a selection of expertly prepared chops and dry-aged steaks that span Japanese Wagyu, filet mignon, porterhouse, New York sirloin, and the mouth-watering, 24-ounce Gotham rib steak on the bone. 4. Sparks Steak House A stone’s throw from Grand Central Terminal is this legendary house of steak, where the old-school menu of chops, strips, and filets has endured since 1966. Spacious Sparks still draws a steady crowd, who pack in for memorable dining and suave service, plus a dose of NYC-mafia mystique. (A Gambino family mobster was shot outside the restaurant in 1985.) Above all, though, Sparks prepares an unrivaled, signature prime sirloin that’s considered one of the city’s best cuts. 5. Keens Steakhouse For a mashup of timeless décor, service, and food, reserve your spot at Keens Steakhouse. Open since 1885, the Herald-Square restaurant is a throwback to the days of checking your pipe at the door – in this case, hand-carved, long-stemmed pipes that now line the ceiling. Though the mutton chop is the signature here, you’ll find a mighty assortment of seafood, serious prime steaks, plus the rarely seen, super-tender Chateaubriand-style steak for two. 6. Gallaghers Steakhouse It began as a speakeasy, but today, Gallaghers is one of Manhattan’s top steakhouses, with its always-stocked meat fridge visible from the sidewalk on West 52nd Street. The restaurant has sated Times Square’s theatergoers since 1927, and these days has a modern look and 21st-century menu, thanks to a mid-2010s renovation. Still, the legend lives on with Gallaghers’s unique hickory coal–grilled steaks, including a 12-hour slow-roasted prime rib, which you can call in advance to order. 7. Frankie & Johnnie’s Steakhouse Don’t be fooled by the understated entrance of Frankie & Johnnie’s. Just up a flight of stairs is an elegant dining room that’s one of the Theater District’s oldest and best. When the joint opened back in 1926, it was a speakeasy that hosted luminaries and mafioso outlaws, from Frank Sinatra to Bugsy Siegal. These days, it’s a go-to wonderland of seafood, pasta, old-school dishes like chicken livers and scampi – and flawless steaks. Bring a friend to share the tomahawk rib eye for two, or porterhouse for two or for three. If you’re catching a show, the three-course theatre menu is a daily bargain (except Sundays).
America's 10 best winter beach retreats
1. SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO With more than 100 hotels welcoming guests, 4,000+ restaurants cooking away, and 107 tourist attractions open to visitors, San Juan’s post-Maria comeback is something to behold. Add to that the stunning beaches and the 16th-century colonial history, and you have the makings for a trip that mixes relaxing tropical vacation with cultural getaway. Hit the beaches in the blissfully uncrowded mornings (Ocean Park Beach and Isla Verde Beach are local favorites) and spend your afternoons strolling the cobblestone streets and admiring the candy-colored buildings of Old Town. History buffs won’t want to miss Fuerte San Felipe del Morro (“El Morro” to locals), a 16th-century fort perched at the edge of a triangle of land. READ MORE: The Best Day to Buy Airline Tickets EAT: Alcapurrias, bacalaitos, empanadillas – do yourself a favor and familiarize yourself with the names of popular Puerto Rican street foods pre-trip so you’ll be ready to hit the food trucks the minute you land. Choose from the many vendors in Old San Juan, or if you’re up for exploring, drive about 30 minutes to Piñones, famous for its authentic street food. For an eclectic array of options, head to Lote 23, a collection of food trucks serving everything from poke bowls to croquettes to made-to-order donuts. STAY: Like San Juan itself, The Gallery Inn is a masterful mix of old-world charm and gorgeous tropical getaway. Originally built in the 17th century, the inn is a labyrinth of lush gardens (19 of them, inf fact), art studios, fountains, a music room (check the front desk for concert times), a pool with waterfalls, and 27 guest rooms. Don’t miss the wine deck, with its panoramic views of Old San Juan (rooms from $117). EASY ESCAPE FROM: Miami (three-and-a-half-hour flight), Orlando (four-hour flight), New York City (five-hour flight). 2. SANIBEL ISLAND, FLORIDA The sea is hands-down the main attraction in Sanibel, and while there are some top contenders when it comes to beaches – Lighthouse Beach, Bowman’s Beach, and Blind Pass Beach are all stellar options – whichever spot you choose you can rest assured you’ll be treated to fine white sand and calm turquoise waters. To get out on said waters, sign up for a kayak tour with Tarpon Bay Explorers, where a naturalist will explain every wading bird and mysterious underwater shadow you encounter as you paddle through the mangrove forest (tours from $35; includes use of the kayak for the rest of the day). Cool off with a trip to Pinocchio’s Original Italian Ice Cream, a local institution famous for its island-inspired flavors (Key-Lime Hurricane, Dirty Sand Dollar) and signature animal cracker perched atop each scoop (scoops from $4). EAT: “Restaurant” doesn’t seem like quite the right word for The Island Cow. It’s more of an event, complete with an outdoor corn-hole set-up, photo opps, live music, and yes, food. The bustling spot serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, with a four-page menu that has everything from pancakes to conch fritters (breakfast from $8; dinner entrées from $10). For something a little more serene, Gramma Dot’s sits dockside at the Sanibel Marina and serves all manner of local seafood, from grouper and tilapia to soft-shell crab and shrimp (entrées from $26). STAY: In a state where beachside hotels are plentiful, Seahorse Cottages is a welcome departure. Tucked into a quiet residential neighborhood, the collection of cottages – ranging in size from studio to two-bedroom – feels welcoming and quaint, almost as though a relative has given you the keys to a guesthouse for the weekend. Hospitality prevails, with free cruiser bicycles for guests to explore nearby Old Town Sanibel, as well as beach chairs, umbrellas, and wagons to cart your beach gear back and forth (adults only, from $135). EASY ESCAPE FROM: Miami (2 hr 45 minute drive), Orlando (1-hour flight), New York City (three-hour flight). 3. KAILUA, OAHU, HAWAII Winter months mean towering waves at many of Oahu’s most popular beaches – which is great if you want to sit on the sand and admire the world-class surfers, but far too dangerous for mere mortals to go swimming. Kailua Beach, however, is nearly always calm and safe. The small, gentle waves make it an ideal beach for everything from swimming to kayaking to kiteboarding. On days when the water is extra calm, rent a kayak from Kailua Beach Adventures and paddle the mile or so out to the Mokulua Islands (rentals from $59). Conveniently, the town’s best shave ice is just a few storefronts down from the rental shop. Post-kayaking, drop off your boat and treat yourself to an icy, syrupy delight (shave ice from $3.50). EAT: Just across the road from the beach, Buzz’s Original Steakhouse has been serving up tropical drinks and steak and fish dinners for 55 years. The feel is part tiki-bar kitsch, part tropical elegance (no tank tops after 4:30 p.m.) (entrées from $23). STAY: Kailua and neighboring Lanikai are primarily residential, so hotels are few and far between. In-the-know visitors opt for house rentals instead – and fortunately, there are plenty to choose from. You’ll likely be spending most of your time here at the beach, so look for something that’s walking distance to the water. EASY ESCAPE FROM: Honolulu (20-minute drive), L.A. (six-hour flight), San Francisco (six-hour flight). 4. HANALEI, KAUA'I, HAWAII Kaua'i has managed to stay a little more under the radar than other Hawaiian islands, and that's what makes it so appealing. Hanalei, on the North Shore, is as close to magical as a town can get – lush green mountains, fields of taro, and rainbows on a daily basis. The horseshoe-shaped, secluded Hanalei Bay is the best beach for swimming and lounging on the golden sand, but if you want to get out on the water, sign up for one of the four-hour motor-powered raft trips with Na Pali Riders. You'll explore sea caves, go snorkeling, and almost definitely spot dolphins (tours from $149). Afterward, dry off with a hike along the Hanakapi'ai Trail, which follows the stunningly beautiful Na Pali Coast to Hanakapi'ai Beach and back, about four miles altogether. EAT: You can't go to Hawaii without trying a plate lunch: a local specialty that consists of two scoops of rice, macaroni salad, and your choice of protein (often teriyaki chicken or seared ahi). Locals rave about the version served up at the Hanalei Taro & Juice Co., a restaurant owned by a family that's been farming taro in the valley for generations (plate lunch from $10). For straight-from-the-ocean fish, have dinner at The Hanalei Dolphin Sushi Lounge (hanaleidolphin.com). STAY: The four studio apartments at casual Hanalei Inn, just a block from Hanalei Bay, have full kitchens and an outdoor lanai with a grill, so you can save money by cooking meals during your stay. Plus, the picnic table looking out at the mountains is the perfect place to have your morning coffee (from $159). EASY ESCAPE FROM: Honolulu (40-minute flight), L.A. (six-hour flight), San Francisco (six-hour flight). 5. LAGUNA BEACH, CALIFORNIA Done the right way, this SoCal beach town can be surprisingly down-to-earth. After all, some of its first citizens were not glamorous teenagers or housewives but early 20th-century struggling artists such as William Wendt and Lolita Perine. The arts still play a big role here, thanks to the Laguna Art Museum, galleries along the waterfront, and the Laguna Playhouse. Still, the seven miles of classic California coastline are the big draw. Beaches fill up during the summer, but in the winter months they're blissfully crowd-free – especially 1,000 Steps Beach, just off 9th Street (don't let the name scare you; there are actually only 230-something steps leading down to the beach). The waves are perfect for boogie boarding, and the views – golden cliffs and multimillion-dollar houses, some with elevators – are pure SoCal. Post-beach, drive a mile and a half along Laguna Canyon Road to Laguna Canyon Winery, where you can sample award-winning reds and whites in the cozy, low-lit barrel room (tastings from $2, waived with bottle purchase). EAT: As you watch the sun dip below the horizon from Sapphire Laguna’s patio, you’ll understand why they call their happy hour “Sunset Hour.” The menu – a pared-down version of their lunch and dinner offerings – includes a curated selection of wines, beers and specialty cocktails, plus a just-right sampling of snacks and entrées. Beware the house-made potato chips, made with rosemary, sage, and sea salt – they’re so deliciously addictive you could easily order them on a loop, staying long past the actual sunset. During the cooler months, stay warm at a table near the fire pit. (snacks from $4; entrées from $11). STAY: With its Spanish Colonial architecture, lush gardens, and towering palms, Casa Laguna Hotel & Spa is quintessential Southern California. Each of the 23 rooms is unique and lively, designed with Moroccan tiles and bright fabrics. Start the day with the complimentary breakfast, then choose between the heated pool, on-site spa, or the beach, just across the street (from $230). EASY ESCAPE FROM: L.A. (50 miles; about one hour by car), San Diego (73 miles; about 90 minutes by car), Chicago (four-and-a-half-hour flight). 6. GRAND ISLE, LOUISIANA In the winter, the population of this barrier island off Louisiana's Gulf Coast shrinks back down to its 1600 permanent residents from its summer high of 14,000. But temperatures remain warm enough to sunbathe, and you can do so without the crowds. Anglers adore this island thanks to the more than 280 species of fish in the surrounding waters, and many flock to Grand Isle State Park to fish in its calm waters. Those not obsessed with reeling in The Big One head to the beaches. Although the 2010 oil spill closed all beaches on the seven-mile-long island this summer, most stretches of golden sand reopened in August 2018, after an intensive cleanup effort. EAT: Most of the restaurants on Grand Isle specialize in – what else? – fresh fish, particularly catfish and trout. So make like a local and indulge in the fish sandwiches and po'boys at Starfish Restaurant (sandwiches from $5.25). STAY: The old-fashioned, no-frills Cajun Tide Beach Resort sits beachside and caters to anglers with a fish-cleaning room, a screened-in cooking room, and enough barbecue pits for guests to cook up feasts from the day's catch (from $50). EASY ESCAPE FROM: New Orleans (109 miles; about two hours by car), Baton Rouge (160 miles; about three hours by car), Chicago (three-hour flight to New Orleans), Detroit (four-and-a-half-hour flight to New Orleans). 7. SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA San Diego is a small town with big ambitions: the revitalized Gaslamp Quarter, with its shops and restaurants, feels urban, but the crashing waves of the Pacific nearby create a vibe that's classic American beach village. However, the best way to experience it all is to hit the boardwalk. At Pacific Beach, known for its wide stretches of sand and perfect surfing waves, rent a beach cruiser from Cheap Rentals and ride the three-and-a-half-mile stretch to South Mission Beach, passing all manner of local characters along the way: scantily clad in-line skaters, vacationing families, throwback '60s hippies, and even the random guy on a unicycle who always seems to make an appearance (rentals from $6 per hour). EAT: The massive breakfast burrito with eggs, sausage, and fresh avocado at beachside Kono's Surf Club is a San Diego rite of passage – as is the line that snakes out the door and around the corner (breakfast from $3.50). STAY: Beach shacks in the area sound charming...until you see the shag carpet, wood-paneled walls, and sagging mattresses. Tower23 is a welcome departure from the norm, with its modern, glass-box look, neutral-palette rooms filled with teak furniture, and a hip indoor/outdoor restaurant and bar with a view of the ocean (from $229). EASY ESCAPE FROM: LA (120 miles; about two hours by car), Phoenix (one-hour flight), Seattle (two-and-a-half-hour flight). 8. ST. SIMONS ISLAND, GEORGIA One of four islands that make up Georgia's Golden Isles (a collection of barrier islands just off the southeastern coast), St. Simons is known for its centuries-old moss-draped oak trees, historical landmarks, white-sand beaches, and 99 holes of golf. Cars are allowed on the island, but the leisurely pace of life here will make you want to stay away from anything with a motor. Instead, rent a beach-cruiser bike from Ocean Motion Surf Co. and pedal your way past King and Prince Beach, plantations, the lighthouse, and Christ Church, originally built in 1820. The ride covers about 14 miles, and there are plenty of stops to admire the scenery, so allow at least a half day (rentals from $15). EAT: Owned by the same family for 30 years, Crabdaddy’s Seafood Grill prides itself on its passed-down-from-generations recipes and its welcoming we’re-all-friends-here ambiance. With the exception of a few obligatory chicken and steak dishes, virtually everything on the menu is seafood-based. Whatever you choose, be sure to start with an order of shrimp and grits, the house specialty (entrées from $18). STAY: The oak trees on St. Simons are so treasured that the Village Inn & Pub was built around them – not one tree had to be cut down during construction. This place is as charming as it gets: the reception area is a restored 1930s cottage, the English pub is outfitted with a huge stone fireplace, and each of the 28 guest rooms is named for a historical figure with some significance to the island, such as Sid Lanier, a poet, novelist, and composer (from $135). EASY ESCAPE FROM: Savannah (84 miles; about two hours by car), Atlanta (282 miles; about five hours by car), Charleston, S.C. (193 miles; about four hours by car). 9. ORANGE BEACH, ALABAMA Most people don't automatically associate the phrase "beach retreat" with Alabama – but don't tell a local that. Alabamians are adamant that their Gulf Coast beaches are among the most beautiful in the country. The sand is 95 percent quartz, meaning it's snow-white and sparkles in the sun, and the waters are as blue as any you'll find in Florida. Nine-mile Orange Beach has everything you need – warm water, lots of room to spread out your beach blanket, and restaurants just off the sand. Dolphins love the waters around here so much that Dolphin Cruises Aboard the Cold Mil Fleet guarantees sightings (90-minute tours from $20). EAT: Gulf Shores Steamer is a rarity in these parts: a beachside seafood joint that doesn't fry everything in sight. In fact, the folks here don't fry anything. Instead, the fresh fish, shrimp, crabs, and oysters are steamed or grilled—and always delicious (gulfshoressteamer.com, entrées from $15). STAY: The beachfront 346-room Perdido Beach Resort is like a community unto itself, with four restaurants, an indoor/outdoor pool, hot tubs, and tennis courts (from $94). EASY ESCAPE FROM: Mobile, Ala. (54 miles; about 90 minutes by car), Pensacola, Fla. (29 miles; about one hour by car), St. Louis (four-hour flight to Mobile). 10. GALVESTON, TEXAS In this South Texas hotspot, savvy travelers skip crowded East Beach (which gets overrun in March with spring breakers) and head to the more secluded West Beach or Galveston Island State Park. Both have wide expanses of sand that are perfect for trolling for shells or soaking up some sun. Once you're out of the water, the historic Strand district, along Strand Street between 25th and 11th, is worth a stop. Buildings from the 1800s have been restored recently and now house restaurants, antiques stores, and many galleries full of fine art and photography. The town's other big attraction is the Schlitterbahn Galveston Island Indoor Waterpark, which attracts families with its water chutes, speed slides, wave pool, and, for the adults, enormous 30,000-person hot tub with a swim-up bar (from $26). EAT: A few blocks inland from the waterfront is Postoffice Street, where you can get authentic gumbo and a cold brew at Little Daddy’s Gumbo Bar (gumbo from $12), known as the best place to get gumbo on the island, or try the Ceviche Corinto at Latin-influenced Rudy & Paco's (ceviche $17). STAY: Overlooking the wharf, the 42-room Harbor House has an old-school nautical vibe and is less than a 10-minute walk from downtown (from $102). EASY ESCAPE FROM: Houston (53 miles; about one hour by car), Austin (212 miles; about four hours by car), Denver (two-hour flight to Houston), Chicago (three-hour flight to Houston).
The 6 wildest New Year’s Eve celebrations in the US
Finding the perfect place to celebrate New Year’s Eve is always a little stressful. Whether you’re looking to party hard, bring the kids or just chill out, there’s no doubt expectations run high. To help settle your holiday anxieties, we’ve picked the best places to ring in 2020 around the country. So, make those reservations, mark your calendar, kick back and relax. New Orleans, LA Music! Food! Cocktails! Culture! Party it up in this happening southern city, where the weather is mild enough to celebrate al fresco, but there’s plenty to do inside. Jackson Square is where the big action happens, with the Fleur De Lis drop at midnight, but you can make reservations at music venues like Tipitina’s and the House of Blues if you prefer to boogie down. The Big Easy is also known for its over-the-top cuisine and favorites like Galatoire’s and Café Degas do stunning special menus. Got kids? The Louisiana Children’s Museum does a New Year’s countdown at noon for those with early bedtimes and the Audobon Zoo does a family-centric celebration in the morning. Football fans get an extra-added bonus and you can nab a ticket to the New Year’s Day Allstate Sugar Bowl here. New York, NY If you can make it there, you really can make it anywhere, because New Year’s Eve in New York City is a wild ride. If you’re willing to brave the crowds, and the temperatures, you can join the festivities in Times Square, which starts at 6pm and culminates in the Waterford Crystal Ball dropping at midnight. This year, performers include Sting and Christina Aguilera. Want to stay close but warm? Get your cocktail on, tiki-style, at The Pod Hotels 42’s The Polynesian. Celebratory fireworks are also part of the NYC NYE and you can watch them explode in downtown Manhattan’s South Street Seaport or Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. For a high-end culinary tour de force, make reservations for the tasting menu at Eleven Madison Park or book a room at 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge and nab two tickets to spectacular views of the skyline at Brooklyn Heights Social Club’s Classic NYE Celebration. Las Vegas, NV In a town where every night feels like New Year’s Eve, it may be hard to choose how you want to celebrate. Thankfully, the city makes it special by closing the entire strip down for traffic, so there really is dancing in the streets. And, come midnight, you’ll be treated to a stupendous fireworks display coordinated by the casinos. If you’re looking for something with less than the approximately 300,000 guests on the strip, you can grab tickets for parties Like Nas New Year’s Eve at Tao or the family-friendly party at Hofbrauhaus, which starts at 3pm to celebrate alongside its original beer hall in Munich. If it’s music you’re after, there’s much to choose from, like Calvin Harris at Omnia, Drake at XS Nightclub, Lady Gaga at Park MGM and Maroon 5 at Mandalay Bay. Savannah, GA Dripping with as much southern charm as Spanish moss, pedestrian friendly Savannah is the perfect home base for NYE festivities. Spend the day exploring the 22 different squares, antebellum mansions and cobblestone streets in the Historic district, including Forrest Gump’s infamous bus stop in Chippewa Square. Then head to City Market, where you can grab some grub, walk the market and catch live music all night long. Next, wander down to the hopping River District for a countdown to the Up the Cup ball drop, which is a six-foot to-go cup ringing in 2020. If you’re looking for something more elegant, you can make reservations at the Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa for dinner followed by a rocking dance party or keep closer to the festivities with a meal from the four-course tasting menu at Vic’s on the River. Midnight fireworks will explode over River Street as well, but you can also catch them at the city’s Tybee Island beach. Honolulu, HA Most people don’t need a reason to visit paradise, but if you’re heading to Honolulu for the holidays, there’s plenty of things to do if you can scrape yourself off the close to perfect beaches. The Party of the Year is in its 10th iteration and though the location and headliner hasn’t yet been announced, you can buy your tickets now. Tiki’s Waikiki is also hosting a massive blowout Soiree Dinner & Party, with a four-course dinner, flowing cocktails, live bands, a DJ and of course, dancing. For a family-friendly option, check out Moana Surfrider’s around the world-themed celebration, with DJ Baby G, kid’s activities and an oceanfront seat for the massive fireworks show over Waikiki Beach. The Hilton Hawaiian Village will also have its own fireworks over the lagoon. Of course, it wouldn’t be Hawaii without a luau, and you can enjoy all the local food and fun you and the kids can handle at the Halekulani and Rock a Hula. Phoenix, AZ Want to stay dry and warm this New Year’s? Phoenix is a fine bet. And in addition to having a number of all-inclusive hotels, like the spacious and family-friendly Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch, located just east of the city limits, you can also grab a ticket for the Crescent New Year’s Eve 2020 Block party, which gives you access to four of the biggest parties in the downtown area. If you’d rather stay in one place, check out the arts-and music-heavy Flannel Ball NYE Party and Art Show or book the accompanying Cloth & Flame five-course dinner, all happening at the Roosevelt Row Arts District. Or bring the whole family to the Medieval Times celebration and enjoy a two-hour tournament and a four-course feast as well as music, dancing and of course, admission to the Museum of Torture.