Nowadays there are lots of travel guides in the world, but few have a more credible and distinguished history than Lonely Planet. Transforming local knowhow from a global canvas into digestible, attainable and original destination guides is no easy thing, so when they offer their top ten places to visit in the US for 2018, as a travel lover I’m always keen to hear what they have to say.
1. California’s Redwood Coast
The Lonely Planet travel team has picked California’s towering Redwood Coast as its number one for 2018. They cite its ability to steal your time (and cell signal) as intoxicating, its real life wonders – the last 100ft of redwood growth marks the 50 years since Redwood National Park was established – that can never be reproduced on screen, even in blockbusters like Jurassic Park, E.T. and Star Wars. This year, to mark their 100th anniversary, Save The Redwoods League are offering free entry to more than 40 state parks every second Saturday of the month.
2. Boise, Idaho
Perhaps not an obvious number two spot, but Lonely Planet describes artsy Boise as, “what cool looks like before the rest of the world has figured it out”. In particular, the explosion of wineries and craft breweries and growth of festivals like the Treefort Music Festival (the hip new SXSW apparently). Its proximity to a wealth of natural wonders and outdoor activities from skiing to river rafting also help it score high.
3. Chattanooga, Tennessee
“Meet the New South!” exclaims the Lonely Planet intro to Chattanooga – aka the ‘Noog. Hailing its revitalization thanks to the signature train station’s $20million facelift into a multi-purpose nightlife and entertainment centre complete with a ‘world-class’ guitar museum. New Southern cuisine, breweries and tech hubs are also drawing in newcomers. As with Boise, LP points to Chattanooga’s natural attractions, including some of the best rock climbing in the country.
4. Florida’s Space Coast
With Elon Musk and SpaceX grabbing the headlines weekly and inspiring a new focus on the stars, Florida’s Space Coast is a timely selection in this list. It’s home to the Kennedy Space Center where Apollo 8, the first manned spaceship to orbit the moon, blasted off 50 years ago this year and where aspiring astronauts can go on a simulated mission to Mars in the new Astronaut Training Experience. Then there’s Cape Canaveral and Titusville where you can watch satellite launches, or transport yourself into another world with a night kayak over the bioluminescent waters of Merritt Island.
5. Cincinnati, Ohio
Cincinnati makes it onto the list it seems almost purely based on its beer-making (and drinking) credentials. A new Brewing Heritage Trail takes visitors through the city’s beer history from its leading producer status in the late 1800s to its current status as a serious consumer – its citizens swigging two and a half times the national average. Elsewhere, stumble into new breweries like Rhinegeist that have been taking over abandoned breweries and restoring the city’s hophead culture. Other developments like the Music Hall renovations and new performance space for the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company help secure its place in the top ten.
6. Midcoast, Maine
Another tree-led entry, LP explains how around 90% of Maine is forested (the highest percentage of any state) making it a fantastic playground for outdoor adventure and escapism. 2018 also marks the 70th Maine Lobster Festival – a famous fixture on the Maine calendar – and the region’s coming of age as a cultural centre of world-class museums, galleries, farm-to-table eating and vineyards. As LP says, “It’s not the quiet backwoods it once was.”
7. Richmond, Virginia
It seems River City has managed that tricky balancing act of becoming hip without losing its ‘hey y’all’ hospitality. LP draws particular attention to Scott’s Addition, a former manufacturing district that’s been reborn with the buzz of microbreweries, cideries and great restaurants. Then there’s the American Civil War Museum, which is a recent consolidation of three separate Civil War sites to give an all-sides look at Richmond’s role as the Confederate capital.
8. Kentucky Bourbon Country
A tipple that’s particularly close to my heart, Kentucky is bourbon country and proudly celebrates its long, deep rooted history of distilling the good stuff. LP’s advice is to head straight for the ‘golden triangle’ between Louisville, Lexington and Elizabethtown packed with famous distilleries and great restaurants offering bourbon-inspired menus. From this year, the Frazier Museum will be named the official starting point on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.
9. Minneapolis, Minnesota
Basking in the afterglow of hosting one of the great Super Bowls, Lonely Planet thinks Minneapolis’s time has come to shine. After all, Minnesota is ranked as the USA’s happiest city and regularly tops ‘most livable’ and ‘most affordable’ lists. And after its recent renovations to the downtown Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and Target Center (home to the city’s NBA and WNBA teams), new independent restaurants and boutique hotels are popping up all over.
10. Southeastern Utah
Taking the tenth spot is spectacular Southeastern Utah, home to the famed multi-colored sandstone Arches National Park, 6,000-foot-high Island in the Sky with its jaw-dropping Colorado-carved views and the cloud-tickling towers of Monument Valley. But LP attributes its inclusion here to lesser-known sites like Bears Ears National Monument coming into focus against the backdrop of political tussles in Washington DC over cultural and environmental protection. Describing it as ‘quintessential Americana road-trip country’, LP urges visitors to check out the adventure town of Moab, the Ancestral Puebloan ruins of Hovenweep and the sandstone Natural Bridges.