Elsewhere called. It misses you. In fact, it wants you to hit the road soon. Here are six destinations (alphabetically arranged) that look especially pleasing this year.
Bozeman makes a great gateway to Yellowstone National Park 80 miles south, in part because of Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport. Day by day, this college town (population: about 42,000) seems to sprout more reasons for a visitor to linger, especially if it’s summer. The Lark Hotel, opened early this year, has transformed an old motor lodge into a snappy, stylish stop. In its parking lot is the gleaming silver trailer of Victory Taco, a casual food stand that’s also a popular summertime ice cream stop for families strolling Main Street.
For more grown-up pleasures, there’s Montana Ale Works, which serves hearty meals and about 40 draft microbrews in a big, old railroad freight building. Locals line up for breakfast at the Nova Cafe and Main Street Overeasy. But do remember to get to the national park. It was America’s first, after all.
Harlem, New York
For too long, Manhattan above 110th Street was terra incognita among tourists. But that’s been changing as the area gains prosperity. Harlem Heritage Tours offers half a dozen itineraries, as does Big Apple Jazz Tours. On lively 125th Street, there’s the Apollo Theater, opened in 1934 and busy with music and comedy acts as well as Wednesday-night amateur acts. Nearby stands the Studio Museum in Harlem. Sylvia’s may be the neighborhood’s best-known restaurant (especially its Sunday gospel breakfast). But there’s plenty more well-loved soul food at Amy Ruth’s Restaurant and Miss Mamie’s Spoonbread Too. The Abyssinian Baptist Church gets so many Sunday morning tourists that it urges visitors to attend 11 a.m. services, leaving the 9 a.m. service to members.
This small Mississippi city, about 170 miles upriver from New Orleans, celebrates its 300th anniversary in 2016. Natchez is on a bluff above the Mississippi and full of tragic, surprising history (it seems to be the oldest settlement on the river) and elegant architecture. It’s also the southwestern end of the Natchez Trace Parkway, a 444-mile scenic highway through Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee that was once a Native American trail. No billboards, no businesses, no commercial vehicles but plenty of cars and bicycles.
Natchez has home and plantation tours; horse-drawn carriages; art galleries; a Museum of African-American History and Culture; more than 40 bed-and-breakfasts and Natchez National Historical Park. That park preserves Melrose, the antebellum Greek Revival mansion of plantation owner John McMurran, and the downtown brick home of African-American barber and diarist William Johnson. Johnson’s brick home and McMurran’s white-columned mansion give different windows onto life in Mississippi before the Civil War. The city’s birthday celebration at Fort Rosalie, Aug. 3, will feature a 300-gun salute.
Orange County coast, Calif.
This territory is about as pleasant as California gets. And as these four examples show, improvements continue. In Dana Point, the completion of a $30 million overhaul at the St. Regis Monarch Beach is expected in the spring. (It has two goats on site to supply fresh goat cheese for the restaurants.) Another five-star property, the Montage Laguna Beach, upgraded its spa offerings and further gilded its Catalina, Sunset and Aliso suites. The former Aliso Creek Inn has been reborn as the Ranch at Laguna Beach. Many rooms opened late last year; the rest, as well as a lobby and restaurant, are due to open early this year. The property aims to be a four-star “ranch chic” resort (with nine-hole golf course and spa). Rates start at about $249 a night, but once all work is complete, they'll jump up. At Newport Beach’s Island Hotel – the former Four Seasons property next to Fashion Island – a major upgrade was completed last year, delivering a new Oak Grill and bolder colors in the hotel’s 292 rooms.
When its doors open in the fall, the National Museum of African American History and Culture will become the 19th museum in the Smithsonian family, a project more than a decade in the making. Meanwhile, D.C. tourism leaders estimate that more than 200 restaurants have opened in the past three years – pretty good for a city just 10 miles square. Alongside the Potomac River, the long-closed Watergate Hotel is due to reopen in March after a $125 million renovation. Among its features: a rooftop bar (Top of the Gate); staff uniforms designed by “Mad Men” costumer Janie Bryant; and rates north of $500 a night. Also, no matter the results of the Nov. 8 election, there will be a new Trump in town – a Trump hotel, due to open in the fall after a $200 million renovation of the Old Post Office building.
Here’s a destination for the traveler who’s been everywhere and done everything. In Williamstown, a devoted creationist group is building an ark, a 510-foot-long wooden sailing vessel that matches the one described in Genesis. If all goes as planned, the Ark Encounter (and petting zoo) will open July 7, a date chosen based on another passage in Genesis. The builder is AiG (Answers in Genesis), which also runs a Creation Museum nearby in Petersburg, Ky.
The Cincinnati Enquirer estimated the project’s cost at $92 million, paid for with private money, loans and advance ticket sales. Tickets are $40 per adult, plus $10 parking.