When it comes to travel, our biggest fear is putting down piles of money on a trip that ends up being a little lackluster.
To prevent that kind of mishap, Travel + Leisure releases their World’s Best Awards every year, highlighting the cities, islands, hotels and cruises that have earned the stamp of approval from their jetsetting readers.
From the best destination spas to the top 10 safari outfitters, the list of awards is extensive. The magazine’s editor-in-chief Jacqui Gifford stopped by the 3rd Hour of TODAY to share some of the best of the best places to visit this year.
Best U.S. Cities
Why you should visit: Rated the No.1 city in the United States by Travel + Leisure, Charleston has something to offer for everyone. It is a bustling city with a rich history that will provide the backdrop to a trip the whole family will remember. One spot to note is Croghan’s Jewel Box, an iconic jewelry store near the historic Charleston City Market. This family-owned jeweler dates back to 1919, selling unique pieces that reflect the city’s unique charm.
Where you should stay: The Vendue is located within Charleston’s historic district and is much larger than meets the eye because the property includes two boutique hotels that are located across the street from each other. The first, 19 Vendue, is housed within five warehouses that date all the way back to 1780! The second, 26 Vendue, is a combination of two warehouses that date back to the 1800s. The Vendue boasts nearly three rotating art exhibits per year so you can experience the magic of the city before you step out of the hotel doors. Rooms start at around $244 a night.
Why you should visit: The nation’s oldest capital city is home to many museums, historic sites and of course, Route 66. You can cross a national park off of your bucket list and visit the Pecos National Historical Park or enjoy the beauty of the Santa Fe Botanical Garden. The city is also home to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, which houses over 3,000 pieces of the late artist’s work — the largest collection in the world. Summer is the season of opera in Santa Fe, so you’ll also want to check out the Santa Fe Opera House.
Where you should stay: The El Rey Court is where the modern, artsy vibe meets the rich history of Santa Fe. It’s a boutique hotel comprised of 86 rooms right along Route 66. The former motel-turned-hotel features classic textile works from the nearby village of Chimayo, so you are constantly surrounded by the culture of the city. Rooms start at around $189 a night. If you’re looking to grab a bite to eat travel up the road to The Pantry, a retro diner (and Santa Fe landmark) that offers a taste of local cuisine that will have you going back for more.
Why you should visit: Although Mardi Gras is officially celebrated in February, the French Quarter of New Orleans is a bustling spot every day of the year. Known for its mysterious and jazzy vibe, you can enjoy plenty of restaurants, shops and museums all in one spot. There are plenty of festivals and attractions to visit around the city but you won’t want to miss the French Market, which is the oldest public market in the country. Before you head back home you have to try the French beignets at Café du Monde and the mouthwatering po’boys at Mother’s Restaurant.
Where you should stay: Hotel Peter and Paul is a hybrid of several historical buildings that have been converted into a 71-room hotel just blocks from the Mississippi River. The history of the city is within its walls — stained glass windows, marble fireplaces and intricate details in design that were preserved throughout the hotel’s restoration. Doubles at Hotel Peter and Paul start at $129 a night.
Best U.S. Islands
Why you should visit: Palm trees, sunshine and miles of beach — need we say more? From the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra to the secret spots awaiting discovery, the abundance of outdoor activities on this islandmakes it a great place to spend the summer. It has been dubbed a “golfer’s paradise” as it is also home to numerous golf courses so you can test your skills out on the links. If you’re traveling with kids or simply want to immerse yourself in the intricacies of the local wildlife, make sure to stop by the Coastal Discovery Museum, where you can take a tour, shop the farmer’s market or even plan a wedding!
Where you should stay: If you’re looking for a beachfront stay, the Hilton Head Mariott Resort & Spa is a favorite among many visitors to the island. Not only are the gorgeous ocean view rooms enough to convince us to book a stay, but guests have direct access to the beach from the hotel. If golfing is on your agenda, you can access three PGA golf courses through the resort. Doubles are available for around $173 a night.
Why you should visit: This island off of the coast of Maine is perfect for those looking to truly enjoy all that nature has to offer. The highlight of this destination is Acadia National Park, where visitors come to kayak, hike the 158 miles of trail and sail along the coast.
Where you should stay: The Harbour Cottage Inn is an endearing bed-and-breakfast that boasts 11 rooms on the Southwest side of the island. Although it was originally built in the 1800s, the Inn was restored in 2001 to preserve its beautiful exterior and enhance the interior, which one guest described as “impeccably and colorfully decorated.” Guests also rave over the morning breakfast, which features whole-grain wild blueberry pancakes that are locally sourced. Rooms at the Inn start at $199 a night.
Why you should visit: Comprised of four different islands (Jekyll Island, Simons Island, Sea Island and St. Simons Island), Golden Isles offer something for every member of the family. From nature trails to beautiful beaches to savory seafood, you’re bound to satisfy the nature lover, foodie and the one that is simply on vacation to relax. Sea Island is a family favorite for unique outdoor activities such as falconry and horseback riding, but you can also get out on the water for fishing, kayaking and more!
Where you should stay: Contrary to its name, the Inn at Sea Island is actually located on St. Simons Island, not too far from the historic sites and main beaches. Natural light fills every corner of this Inn that offers guests a complimentary spin in a BMW during their stay. The high ceilings and comfortable beds will have you wishing that you could cancel that flight home! The average rate of a room at the Inn is $199 a night.
Best International City
Why you should visit: From the 2018 rankings, this city jumped from the No. 8 spot to the No. 1 spot! Hoi An is known for its rich history, mouthwatering and flavorful cuisine that features favorites such as cao lau noodles, artisanal goods and best yet, its affordability. Visitors note visiting Cantonese Assembly Hall and boating down the Thu Bon River as some activities you can’t leave the city without experiencing.
Where you should stay: The Vinh Hung Heritage Hotel is a great stay for tourists and first-time visitors, as it is located near a lot of the popular attractions that Hoi An has to offer. It is a restored 200-year-old townhouse that still boasts antiquated features in its interior. The stay is relatively affordable for most visitors, as doubles start at just $80 a night.
Best International Island
Why you should visit: This beautiful island is situated just 20 miles off of the coast of India and is home to six World Heritage sites, such as the ruins of the city of Polonnaruwa. Visitors note that there is something to do at all times of the day, but find it best to engage with its wildlife parks and its many cities. If you’re looking to engage with nature, beautiful elephants roam at Minneriya National Park and leopards can be spotted at Wilpattu National Park.
Where you should stay: Located in the Cultural Triangle, Ulagalla by Uga Escapes is the spot to book a reservation. The main building is a 150-year-old mansion, but this luxury boutique hotel is comprised of 20 eco-friendly villas; it boats a LEED green certificate and sources half its energy from a solar green farm. Ulagalla is just 3.5 hours from the island’s major airport and autumn rates start at $172 a night.
For more travel recommendations, check out:
- 40 great places to take your kids before they’re grown
- Where to find some of the best travel deals of 2019
- The 11 best cruises for kids
Travel + Leisure releases World’s Best Awards – TODAY