There are seven destinations in the United States that come highly recommended in 2016.
The US of A has a set of attractions waiting for you to explore. These must-see places cater to everything from food to wildlife... and everything in between.
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, DC tourism leaders estimate that more than 200 restaurants have opened in the last three years – pretty good for a city just 16 sq km. Alongside the Potomac River, the long-closed Watergate Hotel reopened in March after a US$125mil (RM490mil) renovation job. Among its features: a rooftop bar (Top of the Gate); staff uniforms designed by Mad Men costumer Janie Bryant; and rates north of US$500 (RM1,961) 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 US$200mil (RM785mil) renovation of the Old Post Office building.
Info: www.washington.org; www.s.si.edu/1uQwVU5
Here’s a destination for the traveller who’s been everywhere and done everything. In Williamstown, a devoted creationist group is building an ark, a 155.4m-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, Kentucky.
The Cincinnati Enquirer estimated the project’s cost at US$92mil (RM361mil), paid for with private money, loans and advance ticket sales. Tickets are US$40 (RM157) per adult, plus US$10 (RM39) for parking.
Info: www.arkencounter.com; www.answersingenesis.org
Bozeman makes a great gateway to Yellowstone National Park, 128km south, in part because of Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport. Day by day, this college town (population: 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 neighbourhood’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 11am services, leaving the 9am session to members.
Info: www.Harlemheritage.com; www.bigapplejazz.com
This small Mississippi city, about 273km 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 714km 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 provide 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.
Info: www.visitnatchez.org; www.nps.gov/natr; www.natchezms300.com
Orange County, California
This territory is about as pleasant as California gets. And as these four examples show, improvements continue. In Dana Point, the completion of a US$30mil (RM118mil) 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 this year; the rest, as well as a lobby and restaurant, are due to open early next year. The property aims to be a four-star “ranch chic” resort (with nine-hole golf course and spa). Rates start at about US$249 (RM977) a night, but once all work is complete, they’ll shoot up. At Newport Beach’s Island Hotel – the former Four Seasons property next to Fashion Island – a major upgrade was completed this year, delivering a new Oak Grill and bolder colours in the hotel’s 292 rooms.
Info: www.stregismb.com; www.montagehotels.com/lagunabeach; www.islandhotel.com; www.theranchlb.com
The Seattle light-rail system will add stops in Capitol Hill (perhaps the city’s best restaurant neighbourhood) and the University of Washington this month. Later in the year, a new streetcar line will connect Capitol Hill to Pioneer Square. Meanwhile, Pike Place Market will sprout a new western entrance, terrace and plaza area called Marketfront, making room for 47 new market stalls. A Thompson hotel is due to open in 2016 at First Avenue and Stewart Street.
– Los Angeles Times/Tribune News Service