Top places to go in USA & Canada in 2023
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A trip to the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area feels like visiting another country. Between the region’s fourteen parishes is a complex ecosystem of bayous, lakes, marshes, sugarcane fields, oak trees draped in Spanish moss, and a 140-mile-long river swamp.
Stretching over one million acres from Simmersport, Louisana, and southward to the Gulf of Mexico, the Atchafalaya Basin is one of the U.S.’s most wondrous wetlands. It’s the nation’s largest river swamp and is home to thousands of species, from cottonmouth snakes to crawfish, and the largest nesting concentration of bald eagles in the south-central U.S. With so much access to the water, the options for swamp tours, paddling, camping, and fishing are plentiful.
Beyond the water, there are land-bound delights too. Poverty Point State Historical Site, a recently named UNESCO World Heritage Site, is home to several large prehistoric mounds created by Indigenous peoples. Atchafalaya has many trails to explore by foot or bike, and with mostly flat terrain and a mild climate, visitors can enjoy them year-round.
If you want to bask in the heart of it all, Airbnb or VRBO are great options in Atchafalaya. There’s an abundance of vacation rentals to choose from with the top features and amenities you’re looking for, including wrap-around porches, hammocks, jacuzzi tubs, and waterfront properties.
For a hotel stay in the heart of downtown Baton Rouge, about 40 minutes away from Atchafalaya Basin, choose Hotel Indigo. It has a historic, boutique feel, is steps away from the Mississippi River, and has plenty of local Creole and Cajun restaurants nearby.
If you want to spend most of your time on the water, plan your trip during springtime for fresh blooms, comfortable temperatures, and peeks at most of the wildlife. For camping and hiking lovers, a fall visit means beautiful foliage, pleasantly warm weather, and an abundance of animals.
Get close to nature and spend the night sleeping on a houseboat on the bayou. Cypress Cove Landing offers various boats that sleep six people and come with fully equipped kitchens, and for recreation, kayaks, canoes, or paddleboats are available alongside houseboat rentals.
The largest city in all of Atlantic Canada, Halifax’s world-class museums and Victorian architecture offer firsthand insight into the abundant beauty of Nova Scotia. Of the three distinct regions that divide the city, the South End is certainly the most accessible for first-time visitors, as it’s equipped with a wealth of world-class museums and fascinating historic relics. Prominent attractions include the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History—a longstanding institution with more than 60,000 specimens—and the verdant Halifax Public Gardens, while the crown jewel of the city is found just a few steps away. Known as the Halifax Citadel National Historic Site, this imposing fortress was first established in 1749, with the current structure standing tall atop Citadel Hill.
Halifax’s sprawling coastline runs alongside one of the earth’s largest ice-free natural harbors, with no shortage of attractions dotting the shoreline. The 4.4-kilometer Halifax Waterfront is a particularly popular warm-weather destination, offering scenic harbor cruises, fresh seafood, and the Canadian Museum of Immigration, an intriguing institution that highlights Halifax’s status as a prominent immigrant entry point for eastern Canada throughout the 1900s. Though smaller in population than many of Canada’s continental cities, Halifax’s rich history and gorgeous waterfront are certain to leave visitors with a lasting impression.
When it comes to luxury accommodations, Muir is one of Halifax’s finest options, offering an on-property art gallery, a high-end spa equipped with a eucalyptus steam room and halotherapy salt room, and Drift, a polished harborside restaurant that puts a contemporary spin on traditional Atlantic Canadian dishes including hodgepodge and rappie pie.
For budget-conscious travelers, the aptly-named Hotel Halifax provides comfortable accommodations just steps away from the waterfront. On a rainy day, guests can take advantage of the heated indoor pool and sauna, or swing by the on-site restaurant Harbour City Bar & Grill to sample local craft beer and hearty pub fare.
Halifax is quite cold during the winter, with temps averaging 26 degrees Fahrenheit in January, so it’s best to plan your visit between late spring and early autumn. While the summer brings balmy weather and clear skies, it also serves as the city’s peak season, so if you want to avoid crowds, and get, plan your visit for the end of October, when crimson foliage dominates the landscape.
If you’re up for a short charter boat ride, nearby McNabs Island, equipped with hiking trails, native Canadian fauna, and the 1880s-era Fort McNab National Historic Site, is a paradise for eco-tourists and history buffs alike.
by Fodor’s Travel PublicationsBuy the Guidebook
Intellectual stimulation abounds in this quaint college town of 75,000 people, lending cred to the UNESCO City of Literature award it received in 2008. The newest cultural institution, Stanley Museum of Art, unveiled its new building in August: within its 18,000-piece collection is Iowa’s own Grant Wood’s “Plaid Sweater” painting. Then there’s the country’s reputable creative-writing program (Iowa Writers’ Workshop, at the University of Iowa) and author readings nearly every day of the week.
Yet there’s also amazing outdoor recreation—due to four sharply distinct seasons. Glide along groomed trails on cross-country skis at F.W. Kent Park or rent kayaks, canoes, or stand-up paddleboards at Terry Trueblood Recreation Area. Most community buzz is on or near the pedestrian-only mall (dubbed Ped Mall), including Prairie Lights Books & Café, selling books since 1978, and the Iowa City Farmers Market (Saturdays between May and October). Eclectic dining and drinking rules, too: bubble tea, pho, Korean barbecue, sushi, Mexican, and Thai are all here. This is also a city supporting long-time, family-owned establishments, with no better example than The Hamburg Inn No. 2 (all-day breakfast, steak dinners, and sundaes since 1935 and a favorite presidential stop).
But despite these time-honored traditions, trends do well in Iowa City. The latest is The Green House, a plant bar pouring coffee, Iowa beers, and kombucha, and mixing plant-themed cocktails amid a jungle-like vibe—instead of happy hour, it’s “planty hour” where plant parents swap tips.
At the five-year-old Graduate Iowa City on the Ped Mall, immerse yourself in preppy-but-chic plaid and wake up to Poindexter Coffee lattes or dine around at the hotel’s very own food mall. Hotel Chauncey, which Hilton’s Tapestry Collection opened in 2021, is a bit of a quieter option located two blocks off the Ped Mall with spacious guest rooms—suites include a full kitchen. With Airbnb and VRBO listings, expect to find thoughtfully renovated historic homes plus apartments/condos with pools, fitness centers, and patios.
In October Iowa City bursts with colorful foliage—just know that Hawkeye football home games bring crowds. Summer means you won’t be elbowing students (bad if you crave that collegiate energy) and winter’s, well, frigid. Go as late as possible in spring after the rainy season clears but avoid graduation weekend (mid-May) when hotels may be booked. Two book festivals—One Book Two Book (late February) and Iowa City Book Festival (late September-mid-October) attract like-minded literati.
The ancient ones who live in Mariposa Grove are so stunning that American landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted said no photograph or painting could ever prepare a visitor for the magic of seeing them. These sequoias are no stranger to fire, which has long been an Indigenous tool for stewarding the land. But as wildfire consequences have grown more severe, seeing this majestic grove is at once more precious and urgent.
The 2,000-year-old giants that comprise Mariposa Grove represent the largest grove of giant sequoias in Yosemite, and simply being in the presence of these seasoned trees is transcendent. Adventure can be had if you enjoy the thrill of rock climbing, though a quiet hike among the trees is an opportunity for introspection. Visit the Telescope Tree: From its hollowed-out interior (the result of fire), you can see the night sky’s stars; nearby, witness the poetry of the Faithful Couple—intermingled trees reliant on one another for water and nutrients, making any future separation fatal.
Want the Insta aesthetic and comfort of a retro camper van? Check out companies like Indie Campers for van rentals like the Solis, a dreamy model that fits four and has a shower. If you enjoy romance and fine linens with your adventure, check out the bed-and-breakfast feel of Mariposa Hotel Inn. Whether you go big and enjoy the tiled swimming pool and volleyball court at The Trabucco House, get a cozy cottage at the Yosemite Getaway Horse Ranch, or snuggle up in a historical room at Fifth Street Inn in town, you’ll be well-positioned for whatever your pace of adventure might be.
Visiting in the winter might teach you the meaning of winter wonderland. Even when the roads are closed to cars, the brave can venture out on snowshoes or cross-country skies for a slow-burning workout. It’s worth noting, however, that amenities such as the free shuttle and the grand tour are most widely available in the summertime. Though the risk of wildfire remains, the early summer is also a dramatic time when the wildflowers bloom and the waterfalls come to life.
Photographing the size of these impressive trees is notoriously tough. If you have a phone camera that can zoom out, try zooming all the way out, focusing on your subject by tapping it, and then slowly zooming back in. It’ll keep your human subject the same size, but magnify the tree behind them.
by Fodor’s Travel PublicationsBuy the Guidebook
Chock full of raw beauty, this Canadian destination in the prairie region of Canada is characterized by rolling farmland, golden wheat fields, and sand dunes that are reminiscent of the desert.
Start in the capital city of Regina, and visit the Royal Saskatchewan Museum, a natural history museum that illustrates the province’s beginnings in the Life Sciences and First Nations galleries. Then tour the RCMP Heritage Centre, where every Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officer in the country is trained. As Canada’s national police force, the Red Serge tunic and Stetson hat that make up a Mountie’s uniform have become Canadian icons. Join them as they celebrate 150 years of service in 2023 at the RCMP Heritage Centre.
For more urban exploration, head to the province’s largest city Saskatoon, a vibrant destination that invites walks through its leafy parks and along its quaint riverside. The city hosts dozens of annual festivities, including the Saskatchewan Jazz Festival and Taste of Saskatchewan, both of which give visitors a chance to mingle with locals. Aside from gorging on comfort food at Ayden Kitchen and Bar, run by season one winner of Top Chef Canada, Dale MacKay, sip on whisky at the Black Fox Farm & Distillery, a craft distillery with a focus on terroir.
Eager to get outside? Saskatchewan’s home to over 100,000 lakes, two crowd-free national parks, and some 80 regional ones. Explore the vast prairies and boreal forest of Prince Albert National Park via its network of backcountry hiking trails. Paddle the series of seven Gem Lakes in central Saskatchewan for glittering hues of emerald and aqua. Plus, learn the history of the Northern Plains Indigenous Peoples at Wanuskewin Heritage Park by participating in bison walks, admiring the works of Indigenous artists at the onsite gallery space, and touring tipis. Whatever your outdoor pursuits, the province’s natural landscape provides year-round recreation opportunities.
Accommodation options run the gamut from boutique hotels in the cities to lodges at Meadow Lake Provincial Park and tipis at Wanuskewin Heritage Park, with memorable offerings no matter where you decide to go. If you’re looking to stay in the heart of Regina, don’t miss Hotel Saskatchewan, which overlooks downtown and Victoria Park. While in Saskatoon, sleep at the Delta Bessborough, an idyllic chateau-style hotel overlooking the South Saskatchewan River.
Temperatures in July and August reach highs of 95 degrees Fahrenheit, with long hours of sunshine. Winters generally begin in November and reach below-freezing temperatures, even during the daytime. January and February are some of the province’s coldest months, with temperatures dropping below -22. This makes shoulder seasons, May through June and September through October, some of the more comfortable times to visit Saskatchewan. The mild climates make it pleasant to be outside, whether it’s a stroll through the city or a backcountry adventure.
With over 100,000 lakes, there’s one in the entire province where it’s nearly impossible to sink—Little Manitou Lake. Budget enough time to visit this saltwater lake 75 miles southeast of Saskatoon. Its high salinity content is what allows swimmers to float effortlessly.
Combine the Southern charm of Charleston with the stunning beaches of the Outer Banks, and you’ve got yourself a stay in Wilmington, North Carolina. Dripping with Spanish moss and blessed with ocean breezes, Wilmington is a surprisingly funky little town waiting to get its due. One of the best small foodie cities in the nation, Wilmington is home to deliciously diverse dock-to-dinner restaurants, quirky fair-trade coffee shops, eclectic art galleries, treasure-filled thrift and vintage stores, and more local breweries than you can shake a stick at.
Additionally, Wilmington is a delightfully unique destination. Venus flytraps only naturally grow in one spot in the whole world: a 75-mile radius around Wilmington, N.C. You can spot these wonderful carnivorous plants along with a variety of Pitcher Plants and Sundews in their habitat at Stanley Rehder Carnivorous Garden on the 39-acre tract of land that is Piney Ridge Nature Preserve (it’s even home to a plant heist à la Susan Orlean’s The Orchard Thief). Feeling lucky? Wilmington features Pachinko World, the only pachinko parlor in the U.S. housing Japan’s most famous gambling game (plus arcades and pinball). There’s an azalea festival, beautiful historic home tours, ghost walks, an international film scene and annual film festival, Cape Fear River and low-country boat tours, and a vintage boardwalk with amusement rides and arcades. Something for everyone!
It doesn’t get any more darling than the Front Street Inn, which is perfectly located for wandering around historic downtown. French doors, gallery walls, wrought-iron balconies, arched windows–each room offers a slightly different jumping-off point for your meandering strolls along riverside restaurants and bars. Don’t miss out on the famous Southern hospitality by staying in a historic home, and in Wilmington, you’ve got choices. The gorgeous Dreamers by DW is a design-forward bed and breakfast in a restored and renovated Victorian mansion in Historic Old Wilmington, while Graystone Manor celebrates the city’s roaring ‘20s Jazz Age influences. Prefer to roll out of bed and onto the beach? Check out the colorful, retro SeaWitch Inn, oceanfront on Carolina Beach (directly on the boardwalk for easy access as well as endless amusement), or coastal-grandma-chic The Lighthouse at Kure Beach for a relaxing getaway.
Summer is popular for families and vacationers, but it’s also the most hectic time of year at the beach. Shoulder seasons can’t be beaten for gorgeous weather, and while fall sometimes sees hurricanes, it’s also the most pleasant time for sunny skies and fair temperatures. The blooms of 67-acre Airlie Gardens are bursting in spring, but its Spanish-moss-laden live oak trees are among the most beautiful in the South year-round.
Britt’s Donuts, which has been in operation since 1939, consistently makes national top 10 doughnut shop lists. It makes just one type of doughnut: glazed. The shop is cash-only and seasonal (usually March-September), and is a beloved beach institution that sees repeat customers year after year.