1. Asheville, North Carolina
Three mountain chains – the Great Smoky Mountains, the Blue Ridge Mountains, and the Black Mountains – dominate the surrounding countryside, which make Asheville a great base for hiking, whitewater rafting, and horseback riding. The city is also home to the Biltmore Estate, the 250-room mansion built by George Vanderbilt. Asheville is also an artist hub – 200 artists showcase their wares in the River Arts District – and up-and-coming chefs and craft breweries create a lively food and drink scene.
2. Western Washington
Western Washington state’s misty forests and mountains, as well as the San Juan Islands’ scenery and whale watching, have long drawn tourists. Seattle’s burgeoning micro-breweries, marijuana shops, and farm-to-table restaurants interest a new group of tourists.
3. Lincoln, Nebraska
Lincoln offers much more than prairies and cornfields, so even urban dwellers can enjoy themselves. Thanks to the University of Nebraska’s students, Lincoln keeps things lively with music clubs, biking trails, and good, cheap eats. Among the food finds are Vietnamese, Sudanese, and other ethnic restaurants, a bonus of Lincoln’s welcoming attitude to refugees. In 2017, Lincoln celebrates the 150th anniversary of Nebraska with parades and parties.
4. California’s Low Desert: Coachella Valley
Sand dunes and distant mountains shimmering in the haze define California’s deserts as do the people who flock there. Palm Springs, the former Rat Pack playground, keeps its mid-century modern vibe as it adds new hotels, vintage stores, and music festivals, like Coachella. Take in a panoramic view of the region from the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway or get into the landscape by hiking the paths of Joshua Tree National Park.
5. Montana’s Flathead Valley
Whitefish, the heart of the Flathead Valley, welcomes hikers, Harley Davidson bikers, and well-to-do second home owners. In Big Sky country, outdoor enthusiasts can raft the Flathead River, pedal mountain paths, boat on blue lakes, and saddle up at dude ranches.
- Best Travel Awards, Part 1: Top-Ranked US Resorts
- Best Travel Awards, Part 2: Top Cities in the World
- Best Travel Awards, Part 3: Top Cruise Lines
- Best Travel Awards, Part 4: Best US and International Islands