It is difficult to know where the best places to travel will be from year to year, so for 2015 I have come up with a short list of destinations that should be on your travel radar. Some of these are from my own personal bucket list and experience, others are based on the recommendations of travel guides and magazines, and the rest are suggestions from friends and family. I tried to make the list well rounded, with something for everyone, so hopefully there is something on the list that will inspire you to travel in the new year.
Best Places to Travel in 2015
Park City, Utah
In the summer of 2014, Park City Mountain Resort was purchased by Vail Resorts, and I think the tide is about to turn for the city that has long played second fiddle to Colorado’s ski towns. There are three ski resorts located in Park City: Canyons Resort, Park City Mountain, and Deer Valley, all located within 45 minutes of the Salt Lake City Airport, which means quick access to the slopes.
If skiing is not your thing, there’s Olympic Park, home to several 2002 Winter Olympic events, which is now a U.S. Olympic Training site. Visitors can watch elite athletes in training, race on a bobsled (must be at least 16), or climb on some extreme winter obstacle courses.
If that is still out of your comfort zone, the Sundance Film Festival runs from January 22 to February 1, or for everyday fun, there’s always a stroll down historic Main Street with its variety of shops, restaurants, and galleries. In the summer, Park City’s natural beauty is awakened, and concerts, festivals, and golf courses only add to the city’s appeal.
Pilsen (Plzen), Czech Republic
Many moons ago, Prague became the darling of Europe, but now it is time for Pilsen, the gem of Western Bohemia, to steal the spotlight. Pilsen has been named one of the 2015 European Capitals of Culture (Mons, Belgium is the other), which means the city will host hundreds of events throughout the year, highlighting the city’s rich cultural traditions and current arts scene and putting them on display for the world to see.
Pilsen is known as the birthplace of Pilsner Beer and is home to the Pilsner Urquell Brewery, but there are many more charming sights in the city for visitors. Some of the main attractions include 14th century underground tunnels, Republic Square (which is one of the largest in the Czech Republic), the George Patton Memorial Museum (Pilsen was liberated by the Americans after World War II), a zoo and botanical garden, and the Great Synagogue, which is one of the largest in the world.
Only 90 minutes by train from Prague, Pilsen promises to offer visitors a new look at an old city during its year on the world stage.
These days, Norway is all the rage with its fjords, glaciers, and “Frozen” madness. We visited Norway last year, and while it was spectacular in the scenery department, I have to be truthful and say it was ridiculously overpriced.
Knowing what I know now, I wish we would have visited Alaska. There is so much to see and do in Alaska, from Denali National Park, to Mount McKinley, to Glacier Bay, there are millions of acres ripe for exploring. The one thing that was missing for us in Norway was an abundance of wildlife. We barely saw any. Our friends that went to Alaska this past summer saw whales, bear, moose, wolves, and eagles, all in their natural habitat!
Also, Anchorage is celebrating their centennial in 2015 and museums, gardens, and the local theater are all joining in the celebration. Whether you visit on a cruise, or on your own, Alaska won’t disappoint in 2015.
Let’s just say people don’t travel to Singapore for the weather because it’s either hot or very hot, and often it’s rainy, or very rainy. This year might be the year to visit as Singapore celebrates its Golden Jubilee, 50 years of independence from neighboring Malaysia, and has planned many special events to commemorate the occasion.
On New Year’s Eve the celebration begins with a massive fireworks show and countdown at Marina Bay. Other major events throughout the year will include the largest Chingay parade to celebrate to the first weekend of the Lunar New Year, the Southeast Asian Games, the National Day parade on August 9, and the opening of the National Gallery of Singapore.
If this isn’t enough to draw you in, go for the renowned food scene, spectacular shopping malls, beautiful gardens and walking trails, or up and coming fashion scene and designer boutiques. This year Singapore will put on quite a show, and it sounds like one that shouldn’t be missed.
When people hear the word Nashville, they usually think of country music or the television show by the same name. Nashville is so much more than music. Sure, it is the heart and soul of the city, but each time I visit, I am amazed at the city’s constant re-invention as it revitalizes not only its downtown, but its surrounding neighborhoods as well. Each neighborhood has its own vibe, with specialty restaurants, and unique shops and boutiques.
Like most major cities there are museums and zoos, but Nashville also has historical offerings to tour including the Hermitage (Andrew Jackson’s home), plantations, and Civil War sites. If you are going there looking for music, just head to Honky Tonk Highway downtown where there is live music all day or visit the city’s website VisitMusicCity.com to find music venues all over the city.
The city also plays hosts to major music events throughout the year, including the CMA Awards and Bonnaroo Music Festival. Nashville is a musical city, but it is also known as a friendly, vibrant city with something for everyone.
Thanks to the popularity of the “Outlander” series on Starz and the success of Diana Gabaldon’s books of the same name, Scotland has been thrust in the spotlight. The fantastic scenery on the television series would make anyone want to hop on a plane and jet off to Scotland in a heartbeat.
From Edinburgh to Inverness and all places in between, the scenery is breathtaking. Edinburgh is literally “Festival City” hosting various festivals throughout the year (from The Military Tattoo to the Festival Fringe there is something for everyone), but there are also wonderful historical landmarks to visit including Edinburgh Castle and Holyroodhouse (the Queen’s Palace in Scotland), galleries, shopping, golf courses, and restaurants.
Other larger cities include Aberdeen, Glasgow, Perth, Dundee, Dumfries, and Stirling, but you may want to travel north to Inverness. Inverness is the capital of the Highlands, located on the River Ness. It is small and charming, walkable, and the location provides easy access to Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle, dolphin watching in the Moray Firth, numerous golf courses, and the stunning beauty of the Scottish highlands. The entire country is a mix of stunning natural beauty and castle ruins, and no visitor will leave disappointed.
Sanibel Island and Captiva Island, Florida
I have friends that have been visiting these islands for years and I have promised myself that we will visit one day. Hopefully, this will be the year.
The islands are located off the coast of Ft. Meyers, and Sanibel’s unique east-west orientation allows it to “catch” the shells brought in by the ocean tide. This abundance of shells makes the beach a paradise for anyone who loves to collect shells (or my children, in this case).
The islands have beautiful beaches and an eye toward conservation and preservation which shows in their lack of high rise hotels and condo developments. There are no street lights and no traffic lights (the residents want it that way) and no “big box” or chain stores.
Each island is unique, Sanibel is the larger of the two, with more grocery stores, restaurants and shopping. Captiva is very small, at some parts of the island you can look to the left and right and see both sides of it. Riding bikes and walking are popular on both islands, as is visiting the Ding Darling Nature Center, renting kayaks, or simply heading to the beach. If relaxation is your thing, Sanibel and Captiva are the islands for you.
There are many reasons to visit Iceland, first and foremost, its natural wonders. Iceland is one of the best places to see the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) and the country will continue to have excellent conditions through the end of 2016.
Iceland is home to enormous waterfalls, glaciers, volcanoes, black beaches, geothermal pools, and geysers. If wildlife is more your speed, there is whale watching, riding semi-wild horses, and birdwatching too.
If you tire of nature’s beauty (bets are you won’t), Iceland’s capital Reykjavik is similar to many you will encounter anywhere in the world. Bustling cafés, art galleries, shops, and museums entwined with a lively night life will entertain every type of traveler.
Iceland in summer becomes the land of the Midnight Sun and there are 24 hours of daylight allowing for some extensive sightseeing. A relatively temperate climate (thanks to the North Atlantic Current) and a less than 6 hour flight from New York (also possible as a European stopover on Iceland Air), is putting Iceland on the radar for many travelers, and has me wondering how soon I can make this trip happen for us.
Several years ago, we spent a week in Toronto, and were amazed with how much the city has to offer. One of the largest cities in North America, Toronto never felt crowded. From the CN Tower to the Hockey Hall of Fame to the Royal Ontario Museum, we saw it all, and too many other sights to list here. We enjoyed the fabulous cuisine, friendly locals, and cleanliness of the city.
Toronto is known for its ethnic diversity and neighborhoods throughout the city represent many different cultures, including Little Italy, Chinatown, and Greek town, each one showcasing its food and culture. This summer the city will host the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games putting the city on the world stage. Make time to put this world class city on your destination list this year.
I feel I should be well versed in many things Bosnian since my family is connected to the country, but I barely know it. Thankfully I have people who can provide first hand accounts of the beauty and wonders of this once war torn country. Most travelers overlook Bosnia and head straight for Croatia, but in doing so they are missing a country that is not only extremely affordable, but welcoming and beautiful as well.
In Sarajevo, Baš Čaršija is the Ottoman old town, where people go to shop for trinkets, rugs, and hand-crafted metal works, eat traditional dishes (kifla cevapcici, and egipat ice cream are all good choices), or drink coffee with friends. Outside of Sarajevo, a quick taxi drive away, visitors will find the hot springs and Turkish baths of Ilidza, or the Jahorina and Bjelasniča mountains of former 1984 Winter Olympic fame, that are now making their comeback as top skiing destinations.
Mostar is the other major city in Bosnia and beautiful in its own right. Its famous bridge has been restored and the tourists are starting to come. The scenery in Bosnia rivals other countries in Europe, from the Jajce waterfall to Una National Park to Sutjescka National Park, the country is a nature lover’s paradise. Now is the time to travel to Bosnia. They are not on the Euro so it is inexpensive, the food is delicious, and the people are welcoming. Sounds like a perfect destination for 2015.
I am not going to lie, I’ve wanted to visit New Zealand since I saw the first “Lord of the Rings” movie twelve years ago. The country went straight to the top of my bucket list, and has stayed there ever since, mostly due to its distance from Chicago and my lack of desire to attempt the trip with three kids in tow.
However, when I went to the tourism website for New Zealand, I was shocked to see it is only a 12 hour flight from Los Angeles. Now that is actually something I can wrap my head around. The country has skydiving, bungee jumping, and zip lining for adventure seekers; beaches, hot pools and mud baths for those seeking relaxation; and sight seeing tailored to visitors seeking all things “Middle Earth”.
Of course there are also the major cities of Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch, and tours of wine country and cruising through glaciers off the coast of the south island. It seems there is so much to do in New Zealand, I wouldn’t know where to begin, but after perusing through their tourism site, I know I would not be bored.