We’ve all been there: the disappointing weekend getaway, the subpar “hot” restaurant, the overpriced speakeasy. All represent the classic hype over substance dilemma (and the requisite frustration). For your 2016 travel plans, we’ve curated a list of 8 up-and-coming spots with enough soul and substance to please even the most demanding jetsetter.
Asheville, North Carolina
Redefining the mountain town
Nestled in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville is not wanting for natural beauty. When the scenic location is added to the food scene, charming architecture, and burgeoning beer community, an ideal weekend escape emerges. When in the South, eat southern and start your day atBiscuit Head (massive biscuits and 7 types of gravy) and end it at Rhubarb(chef-driven riffs on traditional southern). Along the way drop intoWedge Brewing Companyfor a craft flight and get your steps in with a hike onCraggy Gardens Trail.
San Antonio, Texas
More than the Alamo
Consistently overshadowed by Austin, Texas’s third largest city has plenty to offer on its own. Center your stay at theHotel Havana, a laid-back, retro Cuban hotel in the middle of the downtown buzz. Beef up your historical knowledge on theTexas Mission Trail(4 historic missions located on a hike/bike trail). Experience a neighborhood dive spot and cool off with a Michelada or two atTito’s Mexican Restaurant. A walk through the historicKing William Districtis also worth your time: historic 19th century homes adjacent to San Antonio’s edgiest neighborhood,Southtown. Head a few miles north to the Pearl Brewery District for dinner, and enjoy the charcuterie plate and pork cheek poutine atCured.
The other Portland
Synonymous with lobster and lighthouses, Portland is the perfect localvore retreat. Regional cuisine, craft beer, and a unique regional culture make Portland an enticing destination. Start by getting your lobster fix with a roll and beer atEventide Oyster Co .Don’t forget the camera to capture picturesquelighthousesalong the southern Maine coast. Stop in for dinner at Central Provisions(seasonal small plates and craft cocktails). Make sure you’re appropriately appointed with a trip toPortland Trading Co., before catching an indie concert, exhibition or both atSpace Gallery.
Taos, New Mexico
Pueblos and Green Chile
Pueblos, New Mexican cuisine and skiing are just a few highlights in this artsy New Mexican community. Base your stay atEl Pueblo Lodge; a charming boutique hotel with spacious casitas and welcoming staff. Be sure to eat at both El Meze(chef-driven New Mexican) and theLove Apple(new American/French in a former chapel). Familiarize yourself with New Mexican Culture and pop into the(local and national artists) and walk through theTaos Pueblo(a UNESCO World Heritage Site). If visiting during the winter, be sure to spend at least one day atTaos Ski Valley, one of the best mountains in New Mexico.
Preserving traditional Japan
Juxtaposed against the modernity of Tokyo, Kyoto is city of tradition. Geisha houses, Japanese gardens, and kaiseki meals dominate the culture of the city and make it a unique destination. Base your stay at aRyokan(a traditional Japanese boutique hotel before boutique hotels were a thing), and meander throughNishiki Marketfor a broad sampling of Japanese cuisine. To change your opinion of fried food forever, stop atKushi Tanaka(set course menu items range from pumpkin to quail egg). Redefine the notion of food as art and stop atKinmata Ryokanfor a traditional kaiseki meal (reservations required). Walk through the picturesqueGion Districtand experience a story book Japanese landscape.
Known as the Athens of the North, Edinburgh offers incredible Gothic architecture, palaces, and of course the requisite pubs. Base your stay at theRutland Hotel, a perfect location for touring old and new Edinburgh. Walk the royal mile, beginning with a tour of Edinburgh Castle and ending atHolyroodhouse(both historical residences of the UK Royal Family). Hike up toArthur’s Seat, for unparalleled views of the city, before heading to theScran and Scalliefor a pint (and the bone marrow toast). Scotland weather can be a bit blustery, andDick’sis the perfectly appointed shop to stock up on cold weather gear to get you through your visit.
Auckland, New Zealand
The other down-under
The largest city in New Zealand tends to be overlooked. Most traveling far enough to reach this distant location in the South Pacific are going for outdoor adventure, and that, unfortunately, is an oversight. Auckland provides the perfect urban foil for the rest of your New Zealand vacation. Famous for its coffee culture, start your day with a flat white atMiller’s Coffee. Gain a deeper understanding of Kiwi history with a walk throughAuckland War Memorial Museumbefore dining at theDepot Eatery(rustic vibe with small plates and fresh seafood). For the adventurous set, Auckland also offers multiplebungee jumpinglocations.
Don’t call it a comeback
One of the most severely affected European capitals of the financial crash, recently, Lisbon has been roaring back to life. The city boasts some natural advantages: perfect weather, scenic hills, and a beautiful coastal location. In addition to the setting, the redevelopment of the historicRossio Square, has helped drive restoration across the city. Put on your foodie hat and walk through theMercado de Ribeira. You’ll find a number of top chefs and happening bars to try in this refurbished industrial market. If still thirsty, head over to a seemingly non-descript parking garage, and head to the roof. On top you’ll find the charmingPark—a local bar scene with unrivaled views of the city. Walk off your vices with a visit to theCasa Musea Dr. Anastacio Gonclavesa superb house turned museum curated by an eccentric globetrotting doctor (concerts are also held in the museum).