To make it onto a list of the best places to travel in 2019, it’s not enough for a destination to be fun, or beautiful, or a good value. It also has to be exciting to visit right now, whether that means it’s opening a new attraction, marking a special anniversary, or even just about to become the next big thing in tourism. Each of these vacation ideas has something special that makes seeing them feel urgent, so if you’ve got your eye on a trip to any of them, don’t wait. Pro tip: check beneath each entry to browse deals on hotels and trips—it’s an easy way to save on the best vacation spots of the year.
Famed chef David Chang was already calling Houston the most exciting food city in America in 2018—and things will only get more interesting in the next year. Adventurous dining is set to become more accessible than ever thanks to a flurry of new food halls, including the just-opened Finn Hall and the upcoming Lyric Market Hall, Bravery Chef Hall, and Understory. Hope H-Town is hungry.
In September 2018, Toronto’s Museum of Contemporary Art completed its move to a new 55,000-sq.-ft. home in Lower Junction. Now it’s gearing up to fill all that space with ambitious exhibits like the interactive, artificial-intelligence-powered LUCID. Couple all that with the city’s 90-day Biennial of Art waterfront exhibition and it’s a great time for an art lover to visit Toronto.
At 18 million square feet of space, the Hudson Yards project in Chelsea is set to become the largest private real estate development in the history of the United States when (part of) it opens in March 2019. Prepare for new high-profile restaurants, shopping, parks, and unique touches like the climbable landmark known as the Staircase. After visiting the development for a glimpse of the city’s future, celebrate its past at the Statue of Liberty Museum, scheduled to open in May.
Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels (and the HBO adaptation of first volume My Brilliant Friend) put a spotlight on a region that wasn’t exactly hurting for selling points before: the south of Italy. Split your time between the charming streets of Naples, the fascinating remains of Pompeii, and the idyllic beauty of the countryside in Sorrento.
Hurricane Irma hit the Florida Keys hard in 2017, but a little over a year later, they’re on their way to a rebound. More than 90% of the region’s hotel rooms are open again, and new resorts are starting to spring up as well. Visiting now is a win-win: not only do you support the Keys’ recovery efforts, you also sneak in before demand returns to normal levels.
As if the majestic rock formation Uluru (also known as Ayers Rock) weren’t breathtaking enough, artist Bruce Munro’s renowned project Field of Light—with its 50,000 illuminated stems covering almost 10 acres of desert floor—adds a touch of magic to the scene. Originally set to close in 2018, the installation will now remain through at least December 2020 thanks to all the demand for tours of the site.
All that tech money has to go somewhere, and for Seattle at least some of it is finding its way into public works projects. Case in point: the spiffy new look of the Space Needle, whose $100 million renovation includes larger windows on the observation deck and another level with a revolving glass floor. Elsewhere the long-planned SR 99 tunnel project will finally provide a faster route through downtown.
Europeans have been spending more and more of their tourist dollars in Morocco the past few years, but only recently have Americans been catching onto the appeal of the country’s lively markets (known as souks) and intricate architecture. Another big draw is the cuisine, which ranges from traditional tagine-cooked stews to skewers of spicy meats sold at the bustling bazaars.
The 50th anniversary of the most famous concert of the ‘60s was never going to pass without notice, but now it seems there will be at least two competing festivals to mark the occasion. One will take place at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts—the present-day site of the original Woodstock—while the other is being put on by original organizer Michael Lang. Details are thus far sparse, but regardless, either event provides a good pretext to take in the natural beauty of the Catskills.
The surprise smash film Crazy Rich Asians showed Singapore at its most glamorous, and now the country’s tourism industry is preparing to reap the benefits. Ok, so maybe it’s a coincidence that the country is undergoing such tourist-friendly renovations as a major remodel of the famous Raffles Hotel (supposed birthplace of the Singapore Sling), but the movie isn’t hurting. If you are not in fact crazy rich yourself, try to visit during the Great Singapore Sale, a month-long summer event that mixes steep discounts at retailers with arts and cultural programming.
After Disney bought Lucasfilm in 2012, it was inevitable that Star Wars would make some kind of appearance at the company’s parks. But the ambition of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, the new attraction opening at both Disneyland and Disney World, is still striking. This isn’t some standalone ride; it’s an immersive recreation of little-mentioned planet Batuu, a once-popular trading outpost now stalked by smugglers and bounty hunters. Here you can pilot the Millennium Falcon, battle the First Order, sip drinks at Oga’s Cantina, and browse the Black Spire Outpost for souvenirs, all while listening to original music composed by John Williams for the attraction.
Thirty years after the Berlin Wall fell on November 9, 1989, the German capital is preparing to commemorate the occasion with a year of art exhibits, concerts, talks, and even a 100-mile run along the former site of the wall. Coincidentally, it’s also the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Bauhaus design movement, which promises its own slate of festivals and performances. The confluence of these two anniversaries means that if you’re into art, history, or both, 2019 may be the best year to visit Berlin for a long, long time.
Believe it or not, the Grand Canyon wasn’t designated a national park until 1919, decades after Yellowstone, Yosemite, and others. But all that means is that you still have the chance to be there for the park’s centennial, which it will celebrate with special performances, talks, exhibits, and other activities. The actual anniversary is February 26, so hustle up if you want to take part in that date’s Founder’s Day bash.
Maybe you missed out on the solar eclipse that was the talk of the U.S. in 2017. Or maybe you caught it, and it left you wanting more. Your best bet to watch an eclipse this year is to head to South America, where a path of totality will cross the continent on July 2. And the best place to catch it is just outside Buenos Aires, a city whose Belle Epoque architecture and irrepressible nightlife make it worth a visit even when celestial bodies aren’t aligning.
With 11 million annual visitors, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is by far the most popular national park in the U.S. But all has not been right at the park for the last two years, following a major wildfire in 2016 that burned more than 10,000 acres and destroyed 2,000 area buildings. Two trails, the Bullhead Trail and Sugarland Mountain Trail, remained closed until November 2018, which means 2019 will be the first full year of the park’s complete recovery from the fire’s devastation. The main attraction is of course the natural beauty of the park’s old-growth forest and grand peaks, but booming nearby tourist towns such as Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge provide plenty of opportunities to sample wine, shop for souvenirs, take in music and theater, and even ride rollercoasters at the ever-popular Dollywood.