Early every year, the travel guide gurus over at Lonely Planet release their Best in Travel destinations for the year ahead. And, early every year, we anxiously wait for their Best in the U.S. list to drop. It’s a killer assembly of old classics rethought mixed with unexpected gems, and every location’s description is painstakingly well thought out. 2018 is no exception; their destinations are equal parts intriguing and bucket list-worthy. Here’s their list, along with our take on the swoon-worthy spots.
1. California’s Redwood Coast
Lonely Planet has good reason to make the redwood forests of Northern Cali their top U.S. destination for 2018. For starters, its the 100th anniversary of the Save the Redwoods League. In celebration, on one Saturday a month for the rest of 2018, visitors can apply for free passes to dozens of redwood parks and forests. Plus, the legalization of recreational weed in the state is another big draw for the area. Redwood National Park is the obvious destination, but we personally love the Avenue of the Giants through Humboldt Redwoods State Park. You get to pass by all kinds of roadside kitsch, including drive-thru trees and an immortal redwood.
2. Boise, Idaho
Boise ain’t no small potatoes, and the fact that the city snagged the #2 spot on Lonely Planet’s list is proof. LP loves Boise for its lively arts scene and events like Treefort Music Festival and Punk in Drublic, which they described as “a beautiful marriage of punk rock and craft beer.” We also dig the scores of museums that call the city home and the ski resorts that surround it. Check out the Old Idaho Penitentiary, experience the twisting basalt Black Cliffs of Treasure Valley on your way to the Lucky Peak Reservoir… and if you *really* want some spud-themed fun, the iconic Idaho Potato Museum is only about 3 hours away.
3. Chattanooga, Tennessee
They’ve dubbed The ‘Noog the capital of the “New South”. Chattanooga’s food scene, brewing scene, and nightlife scene have blossomed in the past few years, but its main draw remains the myriads of outdoor fun to be had around. The mountain hiking and biking, whitewater rafting, rock climbing, and hang gliding in the area are all world-class! We also love the classic roadside gem that is Rock City Gardens (the view from Lovers Leap is unreal) and, of course, Ruby Falls is a can’t miss, either. It’s a magical cascade hidden within the heart of Lookout Mountain.
4. Florida’s Space Coast
Did anyone else here watch the Falcon Heavy Launch from Kennedy Space Center? I did, and it reminded me of being a kid again. The Kennedy Space Center is the crown jewel of the Space Coast, and it seriously takes days to experience all that it has to offer. It’s also not the only space-y thing to see along this stretch of shore. Whether you want to geek out at the Astronaut Memorial Planetarium & Observatory or you want to party like an old-school astronaut at Cocoa Beach, there are surprisingly many different ways to experience the history and uniqueness of the Space Coast.
5. Cincinnati, Ohio
Lonely Planet saved the best for… fifth. Okay, okay, we’re super biased, since Cincinnati is home to Roadtrippers HQ. LP calls out the Queen City’s massive brewing scene as a main feature, and while it is phenomenal (seriously, nothing in the world can beat drinking a Bubbles at the Rhinegeist rooftop), there are loads to see and do here. Whether you’re admiring the views of Music Hall from Washington Park as you explore Over-the-Rhine, or you’re checking out one of the more offbeat attractions in town (the American Sign Museum and Contemporary Arts Center are favorites, and we predict that lots of people will be visiting the Cincinnati Zoo to meet Fiona), you’ll find out why the city is so proud of its rich past and bright future.
6. Midcoast Maine
We love all of Maine equally, from Acadia National Park to historic cities like Portland to the approximately nineteen squillion acres of forest (where you’re likely to stumble upon a sugarhouse boiling up some maple-y goodness). But Midcoast Maine combines all of these great things. Visit for the 70th annual lobster festival, or maybe plan your trip during blueberry season. Either way, there’s a booming farm-to-table food scene here to supplement the many seafood shacks. Check out one of the lighthouses that dot the coast for primo views. Plus, Bangor, home of Stephen King, is just a short drive inland. Add in lots of art galleries and charming local museums, and you’ve got the perfect relaxing vacation.
7. Richmond, Virginia
Richmond is so full of history, you can sense it oozing from every cobblestone and brick, and dripping from every tree. But beyond the Edgar Allan Poe Museum and the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden and the Civil War Museum (any or all of the three museum sites, which includes the White House of the Confederacy, must for any history buff looking to explore this one-time Confederate capital), the city is also booming with new attractions, too. Restaurants, breweries and wineries, not to mention the new Twisted Timbers ride at Kings Dominion, make Richmond an exciting destination.
8. Kentucky Bourbon Country
This is a great side-trip for your visit to Cincinnati. Or maybe vice-versa. Either way, Bourbon Country is amazing. Whether you’re a whiskey connoisseur or you’re just starting to dabble in the dark arts of bourbon-sampling, you’ll leave with a whole new appreciation for the booze. The sweet spot for maximum sample-age is near Bardstown, between Louisville and Lexington. Forge your own path along the Bourbon Trail and hit up the Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey, Daniel Boone’s Grave, the Louisville Slugger Museum, or Red State BBQ in between distillery tours.
9. Minneapolis, Minnesota
Minneapolis just had its time in the limelight after hosting the Super Bowl (go Eagles), but it’s still a great visit, even though the football season is officially over. Obviously, they spiffed up their downtown for the Big Game, but the biggest update is to the iconic Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Plus, with natural gems like Minnehaha Park and attractions like the Mall of America right nearby, it’s got a little bit of everything for everyone.
10. Southeastern Utah
Moab is the obvious spot here, smack dab in between Canyonlands NP and Arches NP, but if you journey outside the limits of Moab, there’s even more to discover. Dead Horse Point State Park is criminally underrated, ghost towns like Cisco are hidden all across the area, plus Capitol Reef and Grand Staircase-Escalante are all right nearby. We’ve always wanted to spend the night at Moab Under Canvas, too.
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