USA & Canada
Top places to go in USA & Canada in 2020
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It’s no secret that Athens has been a destination for music fans since the B-52’s burst onto the scene nearly 40 years ago, followed closely by R.E.M. and, in the mid-90s, by seminal acts like Neutral Milk Hotel and Of Montreal. Music continues to be the town’s heartbeat, with live shows on tap nightly at dozens of venues (all within walking distance of each other), from famous stages like the 40 Watt Club and the Georgia Theatre to smaller spaces like the Caledonia Lounge, Flicker Theatre & Bar, Hendershot’s Coffee Bar, The World Famous, and Go Bar. The creative scene isn’t confined to music, of course. The University of Georgia is home to the highly regarded Lamar Dodd School of Art as well as the Georgia Museum of Art, which anchor a diverse and exciting visual arts community. Downtown, ATHICA showcases local visual and performing arts. Creativity also finds an outlet in local shops like Community, which stocks chic upcycled clothing and accessories designed and made by local artisans. Athens is also home to several nationally regarded restaurants, including Five & Ten (helmed by James Beard Award winner Hugh Acheson) and The National. The classic vegetarian comfort food at The Grit will make you forget all about meat (even in this BBQ-driven state), and nothing beats a cup of coffee and a breakfast biscuit on the patio at Big City Bread on a sunny spring morning.
Nearly all of the best that Athens has to offer is concentrated within a few minutes’ walk of each other (or, for campus sights, a free bus ride), so it makes sense to stay downtown. The Hotel Indigo is a budget- (and pet-) friendly option, with stylish rooms starting at about $110 per night on weekends. Also downtown is The Graduate Athens, which occupies beautifully renovated historic row houses and features a full-service spa.
Spring is beautiful, with mild temperatures and gardens in full bloom. Summers are sweltering, but the absence of students brings out a quieter local side of the town; fall brings perfect weather for outdoor activities; winters are cold and dreary.
If you want to enjoy all your live music in one fell swoop, visit during June’s AthFest, when more than 100 bands grace three outdoor stages and numerous indoor venues around town. For fall visits, avoid home football game weekends, when hotel prices skyrocket, parking is impossible, and the streets teem with rowdy fans.
Believe it or not, Charm City isn’t just about its gritty, blue-collar past. Nor is it just about iconic Inner Harbor, historic Fort McHenry, and crab-cake shacks—all worthy virtues, don’t get us wrong. But more and more, this city on the Chesapeake is all about its booming neighborhoods, each one distinct in history and persona. And the thing to do is to tuck down into one of these happening ’hoods and experience the city’s awakening. There’s Mount Vernon, where 19th-century gentry built majestic townhouses around the Washington Monument. Here you’ll find the spectacular Walters Art Museum, built by tycoon Henry Walters as a private gallery to share with friends; and George Peabody Library, whose glowing atrium has starred in Sleepless in Seattle, Washington Square, and other films. Fans of John Waters may recognize the groovy Hampden neighborhood, quickly revitalizing with hipster cafés, boho shops, and stylish restaurants along The Avenue—though not too quickly. Ole Bawlmer still survives at places like Café Hon, home of the famous HONFest, a celebration of cat’s-eye glasses and sky-high beehives. Once salty Fell’s Point has made a comeback with local shops, night clubs, and buzzy restaurants along its harborside cobbled lanes. And Station North’s grassroots art scene shines on at venues like Ottobar music club and the Crown performance space, all anchored by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Parkway, a beautifully renovated 1915 movie house. The quarter’s street murals by global artists also are worth a peek. And if all this isn’t enough to entice you, 2020 is gearing up with more happenings, including a year-long celebration of female-identifying artists at the Baltimore Museum of Art; the reopening of the Mencken House, the home of Baltimore Sun journalist and author H.L. Mencken; and the transformation of Harbor Point, bringing more hip shopping, eating, and drinking to downtown’s waterfront. And that’s just a teaser. Clearly, Baltimore’s moment is now.
The stately Sagamore Pendry Baltimore, which ignited the resurgence of Fell’s Point, occupies the historic Recreation Pier building. Hotel Revival Baltimore is a mod-Americana retreat in the Mount Vernon neighborhood, built on the site of a railroad tycoon’s mansion; north-facing rooms look out over the Washington Monument. The Ivy Hotel is Maryland’s only Relais & Châteaux.
The shoulder season—April/May and September/October—is a good time to visit, when the weather should be good (always expect rain) and crowds are few. Summer is steamy, hot, and crowded, though this also is festival season and lots of fun.
Baltimore’s foodie and cocktail scenes are exploding as well, focusing on local ingredients (especially seafood) and global flavors. Woodberry Kitchen, Cosima, and Thames Street Oyster House are good places to start. Check out Visit Baltimore’s website for more—or just strike out into the neighborhoods and discover on your own.
A parade of icebergs on Newfoundland’s northern coast are like 12,000-year-old postcards sent from the Arctic Circle: the towering chunks of ice drift south during the summer months. (Polar bears even hitch an iceberg ride to Newfoundland from time to time, before getting collared by the authorities and shipped back north in a helicopter.) The prime destination for iceberg viewing is the fishing village of Twillingate, where hopping an iceberg cruise also gives you a front-row seat for spotting humpback whales as they breach just offshore. A warming climate means diminishing sea ice and fewer icebergs, so start planning now, before the frigid spectacle slows for good. Melting ice isn’t the only reason to put Newfoundland on your 2020 itinerary. This year is also the 20th biannual Sound Symposium, a collaborative festival in St. Johns that draws artists, scientists, and musicians for a series of genre-hopping performances in early July.
Sleek design and a rugged setting at the all-inclusive Fogo Island Inn (one of our Fodor’s Finest Hotels two years running) combine for one of the most visually stunning hotels in the world. Despite lofty rates, the inn is deeply integrated into traditional culture, with guided outings to forage food and jig for cod. Get the same coastal drama at a fraction of the price at the tiny house–like pods that debuted at Bonavista’s Russelltown Inn in 2019.
The ice arrives in April, but May and June are prime time for building-sized ’bergs. Hiking UNESCO-listed Gros Morne National Park? Opt for sunnier July and August.
With an extra day in St. John’s, hike a section of the spectacular East Coast Trail that follows the easternmost shore of North America for 300 kilometers. One portion departs right from St. John’s Quidi Vidi neighborhood, while regular guided hikes explore more remote trailheads.
A trip to Palm Springs gives travelers the experience of visiting the past and the future, mixed with the spiritual replenishing of otherworldly solace infused with the opportunity for free-for-all party time. Palm Springs is a contradiction in all the best ways: it’s Jetsons-esque aesthetic and Googie architecture make it timelessly kitschy but with modern, stylish accommodations and entertainment establishments to satisfy every traveler’s contemporary creature comfort. Most importantly, Palm Springs caters to The Self, whether that be via finding respite in the majesty of expansive desert vistas (take a hike for full immersion or a ride on the Aerial Tramway for the views without the effort) of extraterrestrial landscapes and stunning sunsets, or in adrenaline-pumping fun and entertainment in the form of boisterous pool-parties, lively parades, day-drinking, and cultural entertainment that ranges from top-notch art museums to the RoboLights house.
The accommodations are as unique and varied as the city’s offerings. Looking for a luxury experience? Don’t miss the Parker Palm Springs, one of Fodor’s Finest Hotels of 2020, where Johnathan Adler’s flashy design meets old Hollywood glamor. Mid-level hotel stays like the Ace, the Saguaro, and the Kimpton Rowan offer easy access to the scene as well as LGBTQ pride and family-friendly amenities. And of course, there’s always Airbnb or VRBO–with an abundance of vacation units up for grabs, you’re bound to find exactly the facilities you’re looking for: patio grill, pool and hot tub access, and pet-friendly privileges.
Summertime temperatures can be scorching, but it’s also the best time of year to lounge poolside day after day. For hiking and nature aficionados, the desert blooms in early spring and cooler temperatures make outdoor physical exercise a bearable experience. Late fall offers the unparalleled experience of Palm Springs Pride, an extravagantly joyful celebration of love and LGBTQ activism.
Buying a day pass for hotel pool access is standard if you are looking for a party atmosphere and a great way to save money and gain entry to over-the-top festivities.
Portland has been experiencing a food renaissance in recent years, one that was wholeheartedly affirmed when Bon Appétit named this tiny city its 2018 Restaurant City of the Year. Since then, the culinary scene has exploded, and so too has the city’s popularity. One of the best ways to sample the food, especially if you’re only here for a few days, is the Land, Sea to Fork tour with Maine Food for Thought, which stops at six noteworthy eateries and helps participants understand how passionate this city is about farm- and sea-to-table dining. There’s also the Maine Brew Bus, which highlights the city’s bursting brewery scene with a variety of tours. If foodie culture is not your thing, there are numerous guided tours including the 50-minute tour with The Portland Fire Engine Co., while the self-guided Family Walking Guide is available from Greater Portland Landmarks. Portland Museum of Art is a must to see amazing seascapes and landscapes by great American painters like Winslow Homer, Andrew Wyeth, and Edward Hopper. And the Portland Observatory, built in 1807, provides a unique view of the city, bay, and surrounding islands. Then there’s the numerous art galleries and boutique shops to browse like Abacus and Angela Adams. If you’ve got kids in tow, the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine and the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum are great options. As Portland is still very much a working waterfront, don’t miss the opportunity to take a sunset schooner sail, or a whale-, dolphin-, or seal-watching cruise, or better yet, a lobster boat tour. But before you leave, make sure you stop by the Harbor Fish Market, in business since 1968, to buy some lobster to send home, and just around the corner, pop into Sea Bags to buy the perfect souvenir—bags made from recycled sailcloth.
With a handful of new hotels opening in 2020, including a West Elm brand hotel, there are plenty of options to rest your head. Built in 1823, Federal-style The Danforth is one of Portland’s grandest inns with gorgeous rooms and modern amenities. The Press Hotel, located in the former home of the Portland Press Herald, gives clever nods to its past life with a printing theme that runs throughout. Its central location can’t be beat, and neither can a table at the excellent Union.
Portland is a year-round destination, but July and August are the busiest months. If you don’t have to travel during the summer, don’t. Late-May, early June, September, and October are ideal times to visit as the weather’s still warm, most places are open, and there are fewer tourists and less traffic to contend with.
Be sure to leave an afternoon to experience Casco Bay Lines’s Mailboat Run, which takes mail and freight (and passengers) along the coast with stops at Little Diamond, Great Diamond, Long, Cliff, and Chebeague Islands. Trips are offered twice a day throughout the year and take about two-and-a-half to three-and-a-half hours depending on the amount of cargo and the number of stops.
New York City, New York
Standing in the shadow of the Manhattan skyline to the west, Queens is an international mosaic of the world in miniature. As the biggest borough in New York City and the most ethnically diverse district in the world, it hosts a revolving door of immigrants who color its vast tapestry, from the South Asian and Himalayan communities of Jackson Heights and New York’s superior Chinatown (in our opinion) in Flushing, to a taste of the Mediterranean in Astoria. Queens is increasingly becoming famous as its own food capital, recently premiering the Queens Night Market on Saturdays, as well as upgrading the beautiful Queens Botanical Garden, and drawing in art aficionados to MOMA’s PS1. It doesn’t hurt that both of the city’s airports are located here, so if you’re looking for a budget trip around the world, why not just come to Queens instead?
The newest and most unique lodging options in Queens are popping up all over Long Island City, just across the East River from Manhattan. Places like The Paper Factory Hotel, which is housed in a 100-year-old—you guessed it—paper factory in previously industrial LIC, offers an upscale art gallery experience. On the other end, rooms for the budget traveler at My Refuge Paisa are conveniently located near Laguardia Airport. 2020 will also see the opening of Hotel Indigo in Flushing.
Cultural parades take place along its main boulevards on weekends throughout the summer, while Flushing’s sprawling Spa Castle, a Korean complex with European influences, comforts during the colder months.
For a quick day trip from Manhattan, catch the Q32 bus from Madison Square Garden and grab a window seat for a tour of Queens highlights along bustling Roosevelt Avenue.
Picture a quaint, upscale community where emerald water laps powdery white sand, and you’ll start to understand the appeal of South Walton. The county on Florida’s Gulf Coast is home to not one but 16 of these communities, all with their own architectural style—and no high rises in sight. There are stark white beach homes, cute boutiques, rare coastal dune lakes perfect for paddleboarding, and biking trails galore. Even better, 40% of the land is nature preserves, which keeps it feeling small and remote compared to other parts of Florida. The area has drawn regional travelers for years, who dubbed it 30A after the scenic highway the towns line, but now the secret is out. New direct flights to two airports, Beaches International Airport (ECP) or the Destin–Fort Walton Beach Airport (VPS) from Atlanta and New York now make it easily accessible to more of the country. We say, let the crowds head to the well-inked beaches on either side—Destin and Panama City Beach—before South Walton catches on.
There are two ways to vacation in South Walton. One: grab a few friends and rent a stunning vacation home, such as those geometrical wonders in Alys Beach, where you can have your own picture-perfect pool, kitchen, and three bedrooms. Or, set up in one of the amazing hotels in this area like the Watercolor Inn in Santa Rosa Beach or The Pearl in Rosemary Beach.
South Walton is pleasant for most of the year, but summer can be blazing hot and winter is a lot cooler here than the rest of Florida. Go in shoulder months like May, before the heat sets in (and before school gets out) or in October, when things cool down.
Not sure which of the 16 beach neighborhoods are for you? They’ve all got their own vibe, so base yourself in Alys Beach if you want an upscale town with striking white buildings. Seaside, with its All-American houses, is perfect for families to bike around with ice cream cones in hand. And Grayton Beach is the funkiest of the beaches, with tons of live music, art galleries, and lively bars. You really can’t go wrong.
There are two kinds of people in the world: those who can’t find Sun Valley on a map, and those who are completely obsessed with this place. This tiny ski town in Idaho is a winter wonderland with over 2,000 acres of skiable terrain and runs that go for miles. For the 2020 ski season, Sun Valley is joining the Epic Pass, making this remote ski paradise more accessible than ever. While the ski resort might be Sun Valley’s claim to fame, the town is also a year-round destination, with hiking and biking trails luring visitors during wildflower season, and the Trailing of the Sheep Festival headlining fall, when thousands of sheep are paraded down Main Street by traditional Basque shepherds. Summer might be the best season of all in Sun Valley, when nearly every weekend is filled with events, festivals, and concerts like the world-class Sun Valley Summer Symphony and the Sun Valley Writers’ Conference. Alpine lakes and rivers beyond town offer day trips or multi-night camping adventures, adding to the allure of long, sunny days in the mountains. There are plenty of beautiful ski resorts in the U.S. with myriad outdoor activities available at your fingers. But what sets Sun Valley apart from the rest is the history and culture of this small town that first became popular in the 1930s, when Hollywood stars flocked to America’s first ski resort. Nearly 100 years later, the resort is still popular with celebrities of all kinds (ahem: Oprah, the Obamas, Reese Witherspoon) who are drawn to this low-key Eden where even billionaires dress in fleece and everyone owns at least three dogs. With around 5,000 year-round residents, Sun Valley is surprisingly cosmopolitan, with restaurants good enough to rival those in big cities, galleries exhibiting works by up-and-coming and big-name artists, and a community of residents dedicated to making sure it’s the best little mountain town on earth.
One of the best things about Sun Valley–and what sets it apart from places like Jackson Hole or Aspen–is that there are no luxury chain hotels. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t great places to stay. If you have a big budget and young kids in tow, you’ll likely be happiest at the Sun Valley Lodge–but the high prices and family-friendly vibe might not be right for you. The three best places to stay in Sun Valley are all within walking distance to boutiques and restaurants, and steps from the free bus to the mountain: The Knob Hill Inn is best for more mature visitors or couples, with laid-back elegance and an excellent on-site restaurant; The Limelight is your chicest option, with cozy minimalist rooms and great views; and Hotel Ketchum, in a converted motel, which is where you should stay if you’re looking for fun–it’s sort of an upscale and stylish ski bum hangout with a funky bar and affordable, spacious rooms.
There’s really not a bad time to visit Sun Valley. The mountain is generally open between Thanksgiving and Easter, but for the best chance of fresh snow and empty slopes, visit in early January. Summer is spectacular, with concerts and events taking place under clear skies with hiking, biking, rafting, and fishing around every corner. But fall in Sun Valley is something special. Months before the mountain opens for the season, the aspen trees begin to turn and empty hiking trails take you through a fall kaleidoscope of color.
People like to say that Sun Valley is a drinking town with a skiing problem, and if you like to party, you’ve come to the right place. It’s not a visit to Sun Valley without a margarita at the Pioneer Saloon followed by a lost night in the “Barmuda Triangle”, a trio of bars that are essentially the only real bars in town. First up on the schedule is the Cellar Pub, a Irish-adjacent bar that’s not annoying about it, followed by Whiskey Jacques for live music and DJs, and finally, the Casino, which is without a doubt the world’s best dive bar, where it’s equally likely that you’ll encounter a celebrity or witness a brawl.
British Columbia, Canada
The towering ancient cedars and windswept shores of Vancouver Island have been immortalized by artists for centuries. Many of Emily Carr’s paintings depict the island’s dark, fog-wreathed forest, and writer Alice Munro also lived and worked here. It isn’t difficult to find inspiration in the rugged beauty of Canada’s westernmost reaches, and it’s long been a remote escape from city life. It still plays this role, but a thriving foodie scene has also taken root, where fresh shellfish, wild salmon, foraged mushrooms, and craft spirits abound. The streets of downtown Victoria, B.C.’s capital city, are dotted with restaurants like the award-winning Courtney Room and locavore favorite Olo. A quick jaunt outside the city brings visitors to the Saanich Peninsula, where the pastoral landscape is reminiscent of Provence and peppered with spots like Sea Cider and Victoria Distillers. Further north in Tofino, languish on the area’s sandy shores in between surf sessions or head out to Hot Springs Cove by boat, where you can steep in natural springs found at the end of a FernGully-esque forest walk (you’ll likely spot a whale or two on the ride there). At Tofino Brewing Co., linger over a pint of kelp ale, or head next door to Tofino Craft Distillery to sip on rose hibiscus gin. In the summer, guests can catch their own dinner on the open ocean and then have it cooked at Wolf in the Fog, and Tofino Resort + Marina runs a Tide to Table course where guests learn to free dive for dinner on a deep-sea forage.
In Victoria, the Magnolia Hotel has an intimate, Old World vibe. Tofino’s Wickaninnish Inn is an elegant, historic hotel perched at the ocean’s edge, while Pacific Sands Beach Resort is a more contemporary, kid-friendly option. For the ultimate luxury Canadian safari, travel 30 minutes from Tofino by boat or floatplane to Clayoquot Wilderness Resort.
Vancouver Island’s temperate, Pacific Northwest climate makes it a year-round destination. Go in the summer for sun-drenched beachcombing or relish the drama of storm watching in the winter months.
In Tofino, rent a kayak and paddle out to Meares Island, where you can hike along the Big Tree Trail and wrap your arms around some of B.C.’s largest old-growth cedars.