Christmas and New Year's Eve and Day have come and gone, and I bet you thought the holidays were over, didn't you? Well, guess again, because The New York Times just released its list of "52 Places to Go in 2018" and I'm partying like it's 1999 all over again.
Number one on this year's list? That would be the Big Easy — New Orleans (wasn't I telling you to go there just a few months ago? Oh that's right, I was: 9 Cheaper North American Destinations to Get Yourself to Right Now <-- I was ahead of the curve, you see?). New Orleans' 300th birthday this year certainly gave it a leg up on the competition, but like they say, "There is no city in the world like New Orleans."
I wish I could tell you how true that is, but I cannot speak from personal experience just yet. With the Big Easy being named number one, though, it might be prudent to make a trip there in 2018. Then I could say I hit up the Times' number one destination two years in a row, seeing as the entire country of Canada — go figure, I guess — was on the top of the list last year and I made a jaunt over to Toronto and Niagara Falls last summer.
Colombia, a South American country full of adventure-waiting-to-happen; Basilicata, or what they're calling "Italy's best-kept secret" ; the Caribbean (just, like, all of it); and Vierwaldstättersee, a lake nestled within the Swiss Alps, round out the 2018 top five. Sadly, the closest I've gotten to any of these places would be that layover I had in Zurich, Switzerland, a few years ago on the way to Beijing.
Ah well, what else do we have here? Oh look, there at No. 37: Buffalo, New York. Now, that's a place I've actually visited. A good friend from high school and I ventured there in October 2014 — though I'm now realizing I've never really written about that trip. Maybe I'll remedy that at some point.
Moving on, I noticed that a handful of this year's destinations are celebrating significant anniversaries in 2018. These would be:
- No. 1: New Orleans, Louisiana — Mentioned above, but worth mentioning again that the city will celebrate its tricentennial this year, with events scheduled throughout the year
- No. 16: Estonia — An eastern European country celebrating 100 years of independence this February
- No. 36: Lithuania — See above description (not kidding, even down to the month)
- No. 39: Prague, Czech Republic — 100 years of Czech independence (declared in October 1918) will be celebrated in the country's capital this year
- No. 46: Ypres, Belgium — The 100th anniversary of Armistice Day (Nov. 11) is going to be lit in this Flemish region of Belgium where many a WWI battle raged
What else can we glean from this list? Ah, I know, how about a few picks that wouldn't normally make your travel bucket list but that you'd be sorry you didn't visit? That sounds fun, right? Here they are:
- No. 9: Bhutan — This landlocked country has been on my radar for a little while now — recall that little writeup I did on the Tiger's Nest? — and who wouldn't want to visit the happiest country on Earth?
- No. 14: Liuwa Plain National Park — A 900,000-acre national park in the African nation of Zambia; zebras, hyenas, and wildebeest, oh my
- No. 17: Gansu, China — Now featuring the even-more-accessible rainbow mountains in Zhangye Danxia National Geological Park
- No. 33: Tasmania — An Australian island and home to one of our favorite Looney Tunes buddies
- No. 52: Luang Prabang, Laos — A UNESCO World Heritage Site featuring Buddhist monks, fancy temples, and waterfalls within hiking distance
The places I am likeliest to get to from this year's list are those found in the United States, of which there are many options. With choices like Cincinnati, Ohio (No. 8); Branson, Missouri (No. 21); and Chattanooga, Tennessee (No. 25), there are actually 10 options right here in America to choose from. But I'll omit the rest and let you dive into the 52 Places list yourself (I can't do everything for you, you know).
I will leave you with some final thoughts, however, the first of which is the fact that Michigan's two-year streak on the Times' list (Grand Rapids, 2016; Detroit, 2017) comes to an end — sad, I know.
Second, Iceland, which has struggled with over-tourism recently, comes in at No. 34 on this year's list, and its capital, Reykjavik, has long been on my personal bucket list. I'm mainly mentioning this just to give Iceland a shoutout, not that it needs it.
Third, South Korea's Gangwon Province, where the 2018 Winter Olympics are taking place (in Pyeongchang), made the list at No. 7, meaning a lot of people from around the world will be checking at least one of the 52 Places off their list this year. I guess that was nice of the Times to give so many people a freebie, though, wasn't it?
And finally, I am insanely jealous of the reporter that was picked to travel to all 52 Places this year, something the newspaper is doing for the first time. Nevertheless, I wish Jada Yuan, who was selected from a pool of more than 13,000 applicants, godspeed and safe travels.