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Fall 2020

TRAVEL AND LIESURE: The 50 Best Places to Travel in 2021

BY TRAVEL + LEISURE 

DECEMBER 18, 2020
 

Even for the compulsive jetsetters among us, it’s a simple truth that most travel stories are aspirational in the best of times. There are too many incredible places to see, not enough vacation days, and sometimes we all have to content ourselves with scrawling another spot on the bucket list and hoping the stars align. 

But this year, as we all sat at home and watched the world come to a halt, “aspirational” took on new meaning. When restrictions relaxed this summer, the familiar wanderlust crept back in. With even the most straightforward international getaways ruled out, and many travelers still hesitant to hop on a plane, even simple trips — scenic drivescamping weekendsstaycations across town — suddenly felt novel and luxurious. 

With the first vaccines now rolling out, it seems the end of our long international nightmare is finally (finally!) in sight. In anticipation of that moment, we’ve once again compiled our annual list of the best places to travel in the coming year — with one twist. In honor of our revived appreciation for the discoveries to be made in our own backyards, this year’s list features 50 dynamic, of-the-moment destinations — all right here in the United States. 

Some spots on the list ahead are newly blossoming thanks to hotel or infrastructure developments or revamped cultural attractions. Others caught on this summer, as social distancing made empty expanses of wilderness more compelling than ever and we all looked for new wells of charm in our own home states. What they all have in common is that singularity that makes a destination memorable — the sense that this place has something to offer that you won’t find anywhere else in the world. 

One day soon, we’ll all get back to traveling the way we did before. We’ll gripe about security lines and airplane meals, delight at hearing an unfamiliar language or staying in a new hotel, develop passionate loyalties for a particular food truck or coffee kiosk. Until then, we hope this list will serve as something to hold onto — to stoke your wanderlust and keep the tiny flame of optimism burning. Sure, it’s a little bit aspirational. But that just means we’re still willing to dream.

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5. Birmingham, Alabama
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