- 2019 -
Announcing the next 9 hot and trendy spots in North American travel.
Selected by the world's top travel experts.
Warning: this list may cause the spontaneous booking of plane tickets.
We asked the world's top travel experts to pick 2019's hottest emerging travel destinations from dozens of nominations from tourism boards around the world. From a colonial town in Mexico to the northernmost state, the 9 destinations they selected in North America probably aren't places you had on your bucket list ... until now.
Special thanks to our all-star judges for this article: Extra Pack of Peanuts, Hey Nadine, Goats on the Road, Kara and Nate, Minority Nomad, and Getting Stamped. Click here to read more about these incredible bloggers, vloggers, and podcasters.
This is the second post in our annual series of the best emerging destinations by continent: you can see all the winning 2019 destinations here.
Can't get enough? Click here to browse last year's list of winners.
Which of these destinations won our annual Reader Award? You'll have to read here to find out!
Winner of Our 2019 Judges' Award
It's official: the secret is out about Manitoba. First, it was named by Lonely Planet as a top 10 travel destination for 2019. And now it's won the Travel Lemming Judges' Top Choice Award too! And, though you may not have thought about visiting Manitoba before, the case for why you should is pretty easy to make: it's a natural paradise where you can kayak alongside beluga whales in the arctic, lock eyes with a wild polar bear in Churchill, or spend your night in awe of the Northern Lights. And, lest you think Manitoba is some backwater, its capital Winnipeg is an undiscovered cultural center spilling over with a burgeoning culinary scene, modern museums, and boutique shops galore.
~ Judges' Take ~
"Manitoba is home to 'The Polar Bear Capital of the World,' and it's at the top of our 2019 bucket list!"
Not just for the cruise crowd
The first people in North America came through Alaska. 15,000 years later, the same majestic landscapes await travelers venturing to this northern natural wonderland. Best known as a summer destination for the cruise crowd, Alaska is starting to see an uptick in winter tourism as photos of its stunning aurora viewing spots (see above) inspire the masses. Alaska will celebrate its 60 anniversary of statehood in 2019, making it the perfect year to explore this northernmost state.
Southern charm meets cosmopolitan culture
Savannah's appeal is hardly a secret to Southerners, but if you're from anywhere else, prepare to have your expectations blown away by a city that is paradoxically both chic and modern, and yet retro and charming at the same time. Wander its historic streets lined with picturesque Victorian-era homes and just see if you can resist the urge to snap that perfect Instagram shot. Or grab a drink from a modern rooftop bar and watch the sun slowly slip over the Savannah river. Then splash out at any one of the city's many international eateries before dancing the night away. Whatever you do, you better leave your preconceptions at the door.
~ Judge's Take ~
"Savannah, Georgia is a true gem. Eclipsed by the more famous Atlanta, Savannah offers a look at the extensive and complicated history of Georgia. Not to mention it has some of the best food you can find in the South."
Among the Caribbean's few remaining secrets
You won't find the same crowds as elsewhere in the Caribbean, but you will find 40 pristine white sand beaches kissed by turquoise waters, breath-taking waterfalls, an untouched tropical rain forest, fantastic dive sites, three rum factories and the world’s first Underwater Sculpture Park. Oh, and you'll find plenty of chocolate to boot (the island is known as the "Caribbean Capital of Chocolate," with four companies producing exquisite organic goodness). With so many beautiful beaches just a short flight from the US, you may be left wondering one thing: "how is this place still so undiscovered?"
~ Judges' Take ~
Dariece & Nick
Goats on the Road
More than BBQ and Elvis
Travel + Leisure has called it "the next hot Southern city," and Memphis sports the stats to support that claim: the city has recently seen a boom in tourist visits (5% year-over-year). What's the draw? Well, a heavy dose of history for one. From the Civil Rights Movement to Rock n' Roll, Memphis has been at the epicenter of many of America's most culturally-defining moments. Oh, and of course there's that famous BBQ. But, perhaps more than anything, Memphis beckons with some of trendiest nightlife you'll find this side of Vegas. Which makes sense, given that it's the home of Blues, Soul, and Rock n' Roll. Who's ready to get down in 2019?
A capital ready for its turn in the limelight
Don't look now, but a cultural renaissance is underway in the state capital. Long overshadowed by its flashier California siblings, Sacramento is ready to muscle its way onto the largest tourism stage in North America. Since the opening of Golden 1 Center in 2016, the city has sprouted numerous microbreweries, trendy boutiques, and gastropubs. Sacramento has also embraced the farm-to-table trend, so you won't have to look far to find award-winning chefs serving up hyper-local ingredients. You will also find a burgeoning arts scene, with over 650 murals adorning a city home to the Open Walls Mural festival. Look out Silver Lake - California has a new hipster paradise!
An other-worldly beach on an island
eager to re-emerge
It may still be recovering from the worst natural disaster in its history, but the island of Puerto Rico is once again open for business and ready to re-take its rightful throne as the king of Caribbean travel. Visitors looking to explore the best the island has to offer should head straight to the coastal town of Manatí. There you'll find the breathtaking Mar Chiquita, a natural pool of water fed by a single narrow entry to the ocean, forming cascading hues of blue and green that lure swimmers into tropical bliss. Just 45 minutes away from San Juan, but still off most tourists' maps, Mar Chiquita is an Instagram-sensation in the making.
The Caribbean of yore awaits
White, gold, or black? Pick your color of sand in this French Caribbean Archipelago, consisting of five uniquely flavorful islands connected by a modern and efficient ferry system perfect for island hoppers. On Grande-Terre you'll find sugarcane plantations bordered by turquoise lagoons, tranquil surf spots, and French-colonial towns. Hop over to Basse-Terre for hiking through lush waterfall-dotted rain forests, or to Marie Galante for white sand beaches and rum distillery tours. And don't forget Les Saintes and La Desirade, smaller islands with picture-perfect beaches that somehow have escaped the eye of the masses.
The Yucatan's hidden gem
It might be only a 30 minute drive from one of the most famous attractions in Mexico (the ancient Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza), but the colonial town of Valladolid has somehow managed to stay off the established tourist trail. But those who build in the time to soak up this magical village will soon come to wonder why it wasn't at the top of their list to begin with. From stunning Spanish colonial architecture to bustling markets, visitors to Valladolid will be spoiled for choice of activities. For a special treat, put on a swimsuit and head to one of the many blissful "cenotes" or underground swimming holes, that adorn the area.
~ Judge's Take ~
"Valladolid is often missed by tourists but we think it should be on everyone's bucket list. If you looking to go to some of the best cenotes in Mexico and check out some Mayan Ruins, base yourself in Valladolid for a day or two."
Hannah & Adam
That's it for this year's list of the best emerging travel destinations in North America!
[Note: Voting for our North America Readers Award is now closed! The 6 winners from each continent will be announced at the end of this month, so bookmark this page and stay tuned.]
Oh, and if you're on Pinterest, be sure to pin this for later here (just click an image to do that):
Nate Hake has traveled to 65+ countries across six continents around the world and blogs about his travels at TravelLemming.com. He is from Denver, Colorado, recently concluded a six month stint living in Mexico, and is now currently traveling in Thailand.