There’s comfort in sitting on the same bar stool, driving the same route to work, and visiting the same spot every Labor Day getaway, but comfort doesn’t create the kind of stories you can tell your grandkids. For that, you need to vacation outside the lines, setting aside conventional destinations in favor of a few places that have slipped under the radar for far too long.
Shake things up and book a ticket ASAP to these eight surprising spots worth a visit in 2020.
Antelope Canyon, Arizona
The Grand Canyon gets all the attention, but outdoor enthusiasts who want a less commercial, more intimate experience without sacrificing any of the jaw-dropping scenery head to Antelope Canyon. The sandstone attraction has two sides, the upper and lower; both are the stuff Instagram dreams are made off. It’s about a 4.5-hour drive from Las Vegas to Antelope Canyon, so you can get your blackjack on and then check out not just the canyon but all sorts of attractions including the Navajo Village Heritage Center in nearby Page, Glen Canyon National Recreational Area, and Big Lake Trading Post.
Cape Winelands, South Africa
For your next wine-tasting trip, skip Napa and Bordeaux and head instead to South Africa, where the vineyards of Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and beyond are churning out award-winning juice courtesy of verdant soil and the largely Mediterranean climate. Try the native Pinotage at Kanonkop then enjoy the vanilla, berry, and hay notes of the claret reserve at Delaire Graff Estate — if the wines don’t make your toes curl, the hospitality at the Graff lodges and their sweeping views of the sandstone mountains, lush green foothills, and elegantly wild vines will.
Madhya Pradesh, India
Madhya Pradesh is home to some 75 million people, but it’s not its size that earned it the nickname “Heart of India”, it’s the collection of cultural and historic treasures that dot the massive state. A visit to one of the tiger reserves is a must — the one in Satpura National Park will also get you close to everything from sloth bears to giant squirrels — and in Pachmarhi there’s one of the highest waterfalls in India. The temples are stunning with their carved reliefs and towering spires, the people are warm and welcoming, and the festivals are such colorful, mind-blowing experiences you may actually feel your outlook on life shift.
When you’re craving a little Europe in your life but you’ve been to the usual suspects (Paris, London, Rome) or don’t want to spend the dough to stay in tourist central, head to Budapest. There’s history galore, including a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Buda Castle, incredible architecture, thermal baths to soak your weary bones, wine, delicious food far beyond the well-known goulash, and it’s easy to get to if you want to include your visit as part of a large trek.
Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Those of age in the early ‘90s remember the ravages of the Bosnian War well. Luckily, Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia entered into the Dayton Accord on November 21, 1995, bringing peace and putting an end to a conflict that cost over a quarter of a million lives. Today, it’s a lively, fascinating place, with bullet-riddled facades and new construction sitting side by side as a reminder of what was and what’s to come. In 2020, the region celebrates the 25-year anniversary of the Dayton Accord. Help them commemorate by visiting the Stari Most in Mostar, the rebuilt 16th-century bridge that connects the predominately Christian and Muslim sides of the city, and soak in all spirit and stories the city has to offer.
When heading to Ireland, those in the know skip the congestion that is Dublin and its busy airport and instead land in Shannon before traveling up and down the country’s rambling and breathtakingly beautiful west coast. One must-see stop is Galway, a city of less than 80,000 known for its traditional music, vividly hued shops and homes, and street performers that keep locals and tourists thoroughly entertained. It’s also steeped in history, just another thing locals are eager to showcase when Galway celebrate its status as a 2020 European Capital of Culture with the special events the title entails.
Los Angeles is ridiculously crowded, San Diego is expensive, and San Francisco is a bit of both with a homelessness problem that’s casting a long shadow over tourism. Enter Oakland, a once-rough city that’s undergone a spiffy makeover, turning sketchy neighborhoods into arts districts and empty storefronts into hip eateries. Take a moment in 2020 to stop by and see the recently renovated Oakland Museum of California (the interactive exhibits share the backstories of everything from computers to bird eggs), attend a wine tasting, meander through the redwoods, and scarf down the soul food at Lois the Pie Queen and Brown Sugar Kitchen.
Like it or not, 2020 is an election year with all the drama, intrigue, and inevitable change that comes with it. It’s a good time to become reacquainted with the home of American democracy, especially since the year is pulling triple duty as the 100th anniversary of the 19thamendment, which gave women the right to vote, and the 50th anniversary of the Earth Day and the inception of the Environmental Protection Agency. Expect lots of events commemorating suffrage and encouraging sustainability but there will also be the customary slate of DC awesomeness like the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Smithsonian National Zoo, the International Spy Museum, historic Georgetown, the annual cherry blossom festivities and so much more.