Lonely Planet’s Best of the U.S.

America the beautiful… so many sights to see, places to explore and winding roads to follow. With all that choice it’s hard to decide where to spend your treasured vacation days but fear not, after reading this article you’ll likely have some new inspiration. As the year wraps up, the people at the ever popular travel guide publisher Lonely Plant have started making predictions and recommendations for your next year of travel.

This list showcases some amazing American locales with a variety ranging from old favorites to new up and coming destinations on the cusp of major tourist booms. With offerings highlighting the best of natural beauty, city life, culture and the rugged west, there’s a destination to suit every kind of traveler. Oh, you’re already asking what about the foodies? Well, all you culinary travelers, no need to worry because the whole country has been going through a sort of local food resurgence, so no matter where you go you can expect something delicious to be waiting around every corner.

10. Mount Shasta Region, California

Tucked away in California’s lesser known northern end lies the majestic Mount Shasta. It’s landscape reminiscent of scenes from such far flung places like Mount Fuji in Japan or Mount Ararat in Turkey. This potentially active volcano lies among Native American tribal lands and has long been regarded as a deeply spiritual place and a center of creation.

Of course climbing the 14,179 ft ascent to the summit is a popular activity during the summer time for both experienced trekkers heading for the top or those just exploring the more leisurely trails, but those not up for that kind of challenge can explore Mount Shasta city which lies at the base of the volcano. This quaint city offers B&B’s, adorable inn’s, cafes and locally owned shops that blend old time charm with new age appeal. Come visit this region for excellent nearby trout fishing, many hiking opportunities, a city teaming with charm and the chance to enjoy one of California’s lesser known natural wonders.

Mount Shasta, California

9. Duluth, Minnesota

Another great American outdoor destination, Duluth lies between the crashing waves of Lake Superior on one side and snow-capped mountains on the other.  Being surrounded by all this natural beauty it’s no wonder that 150 Olympic athletes call Duluth their hometown.

One major highlight of the area is the 290 mile Superior Hiking Trail which runs around the lake enroute to the Canadian border. The trail passes some spectacular sights such as waterfalls, red-rock outcrops and if you’re lucky maybe some wildlife. The trail isn’t the end of the outdoor adventures to be had either, in the winter there’s nearby skiing, zip-ling in the summer and the lake offers the opportunity for watersports like kayaking, paddle boarding, fishing and boating. Another familiar Duluth native is legendary musician Bob Dylan, who’s album ‘Highway 61’ turns 50 in 2015. Visit this Minnesota gem and check out his birthplace or take a road trip on the actual Highway 61 and see where you end up.

Duluth, Minnesota

8. Oakland, California

The city of Oakland hasn’t always been considered a great American tourist destination but thanks to sky-high real estate and cost of living in neighbouring San Francisco, people are moving east of the bay to the more affordable city of Oakland, bring with them the trendy hipster vibe of the bay area.

As the city flourishes, it’s come to host innovative restaurants like the Michelin-rated Commis where you can enjoy an 8-course dinner for $95 or experience a modern twist on soul food at Brown Sugar Kitchen. Aside from eating the city also has a booming arts culture which can be explored during Oakland’s Art Murmur, which is a doors open art gallery event on the first Friday of each month. Or for an amazing live music or performance experience visit one of the city’s historic theaters like the Fox, Paramount, or Grand Lake theatres. No matter how you choose to spend your time in Oakland, we know you’ll see how this city’s come a long way and will surely enjoy some much due tourist attention in 2015.

cdrin / Shutterstock.com
cdrin / Shutterstock.com

7. Greenville, South Carolina

This next entry makes us believe the people at Lonely Planet are really pushing outdoor exploration and activity for 2015! But that’s ok with us, especially when it comes in the form of a place as beautiful as Greenville South Carolina.

Six rugged state parks are within easy driving range of this city that favors those who appreciate natural beauty. Right in the city itself you’ll find one of the best natural attractions around; the Reedy River. With trails and gardens winding along its banks, rent a bicycle from Greenville B-Cycle and take a ride along this picturesque waterfront. Explore the city’s revitalized Main Street area for local shops, cafes, craft-beer restaurants and review-worthy restaurants. Make sure you keep your eyes out for the “Mice on Main”! For the best blend of attractive natural scenery and a city that offers so much for explorers and families alike, make sure you check out Greenville this coming year.

Falls Park, Greenville, South Carolina

6. Indianapolis, Indiana

Reading the next city on this list you might think Lonely Planet is off the mark but believe us when we say Indy has a surprising amount of interesting things to see and do! Race fans can check out the famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway where you can actually take a spin around the track. The Indy Zoo also has a great new International Orangutan Center where you can get up close and personal with these fascinating animals. The Indianapolis restaurant scene doesn’t disappoint diners with a range from local farm to table establishments, world class steakhouses and trendy brewhouses.

Families especially have the upper hand here as the kids can enjoy the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, the world’s largest museum just for the kiddies. In 2015 the museum turns 90 years old so you can bet there will be appropriate celebrations. Come for the vintage carousel or come for the enormous dinosaur collection but either way come to Indy.

Indianapolis Indiana

5. North Conway, New Hampshire

Alright, so there’s not a lot going on in the small New Hampshire Village known as North Conway, but that’s exactly the reason it’s made this list. A far cry from busy city life, this destination is quintessentially New England with quaint B&B’s, covered bridges worthy of landscape paintings and scenery that just won’t quit.

The best time to visit this area is in the fall when the trees are seemingly ablaze with vivid colors of red, orange and yellow. You can take a hike to see the colors upclose on one of the many area trails, or drive the famed Kancamagus Highway. Alternatively, take a relaxing ride on the Conway Scenic Railway which makes its way through the New England country side and gives guests the opportunity to site back, relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery in comfort and luxury. The village of North Conway celebrates its 250th birthday in 2015 so there’s no better time to visit this quaint countryside.

North Conway, New Hampshire

4. Colorado River region

This choice by lonely planet speaks not to a specific city but to the beauty and natural wonder of the famous Colorado River and the areas it flows through.  Starting in Colorado’s legendary Rocky Mountain National Park, the 1,450 mile waterway then flows through Utah’s Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park before flowing through Arizona and the spectacular Grand Canyon.

While the river itself is more than worthy of your tourism time, the many interesting spots along its route could easily make an amazing road trip. Check out the city of Moab Utah, famous for dessert adventures and once in a lifetime hiking trips in the nearby parks. In Arizona, the 290 mile stretch of the Colorado that flows through the Grand Canyon to Lake Mead features nearly 100 rapids, with amazing sights and some remote beaches along the way. In a world of environmental uncertainty, take advantage of this natural wonder while it’s still here to enjoy.

Colorado River

3. New Orleans, Louisiana

Flash back 10 years ago and New Orleans was under water. The tragedy of hurricane Katrina may be gone but not forgotten and 2015 marks the 10th anniversary so what better time to come to New Orleans and experience the blend of old and new. Yes, the Big Easy isn’t just back, it’s thriving, and it shows in everything from the music, to the food to the cultural celebrations that make this city so special.

The people of New Orleans pride themselves on tradition but they’re not afraid to mix it up once in a while either. Experience this new life fused with old traditions at Pêche Seafood Grill where James Beard Award winning chef Ryan Prewitt prepares modern coastal seafood dishes in an open hearth over hardwood coals. Oh, did we mention the restaurant also won the 2014 James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant? Most come to New Orleans looking for nightlife and the city’s live music scene is alive and well so be prepared to experience the best jazz, bounce, rock and brass bands the city has to offer.

Chuck Wagner / Shutterstock.com
Chuck Wagner / Shutterstock.com

2. Western South Dakota

Few places in the country are as ruggedly beautiful as the wild expanse of Western South Dakota. So vastly different to the big cities that one might forget exactly what country they’re in…but just when you might start to forget you’re reminded by the giant rock carvings of 4 noble men.

In 2015 there are a number of events of note happening in this region. First at Custer State Park, they’ll be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Buffalo Roundup. This event sees skilled cowboys and cowgirls move 1400 buffalo to their winter grazing home. Witnessing this wild event is definitely a sight to behold. Another parade of sorts is the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, which is the largest motorcycle gathering in the world and happens each August. This year the more than 500,000 participants will be celebrating the events 75th anniversary so you can bet the 2015 Rally will be bigger and louder than ever!

Custer State Park South Dakota

1. Queens, New York

It’s a secret that mostly just New Yorkers are clued in to; Queens the city’s largest of the 5 boroughs has been on the rise for a while and is quickly becoming one of the trendiest. It’s a secret that Lonely Planet wants travelers to know about for 2015 as they deemed this New York locale their #1 for Best of the US 2015.

With more and more people relocating to Queens for the (slightly) more affordable living and less congested lifestyle it’s no wonder so many great new things are spring up here, from chic new hotels to craft breweries and innovative local eateries. It’s also home to the city’s largest Chinatown and a flourishing arts scene thanks to places like Queens Museum, the Museum of the Moving Image, and many arts festivals. So forget Manhattan (ok don’t forget it but expand your travel horizons) and come explore Queens this year.

Long Island City, Queens New York

More On MapQuest

The Most Beautiful Underrated Cities in Spain
The World’s 12 Most Beautiful Rainforests
Tips for joining the Mile High Club, if you dare
12 Things to See and Do in Pennsylvania
10 Vacation-Worthy Towns on Croatia’s Stunning Coastline
10 Mistakes Most Tourists Make in Chicago
Top 10 Places in Bali
10 Things to See and Do in Cincinnati