[Edit 11.30.2018: Our 2019 Emerging Destinations Awards have been announced! Check out the winners for the best destinations in North America for 2019 here]
What will be the best destinations in North America for 2018? Read on to find out the best places to visit in North America for trendy travelers and vacationers.
You already know about the classic destinations in North America like the Grand Canyon, New York, and Cancun, right?
Of course you do.
So instead of going over a boring and tired list of over-touristed North American travel destinations, we’re going to go over the hot, new, trendy places to visit in North America in 2018. You know, the vacation destinations everyone else will be visiting in North America in a few years — but which are still largely undiscovered gems.
I asked some of the world’s top travel bloggers — people from all over the globe who make it their job to travel the planet — to tell me where they think will be the next hot, emerging destinations around the world.
The list of the top places to visit in North America for 2018 that they came up with will shock and surprise you! From islands in Canada, to the southern United States, these are some incredible North American destinations that you should put on your travel list for 2018.
So, without further ado, read on to learn about 2018’s hottest places to visit in North America.
Oh, and trust me, you definitely don’t want to miss out on #10!
This is the second in a series on the Best Places to Travel in 2018 for each continent around the globe. Be sure to check out the full list of the hottest places in travel for 2018!
10 Hot Destinations in North America for 2018
#1 Guanajuato, Mexico
This state in central Mexico beckons visitors with its pleasant climate, colorful towns, artsy undertones, and relaxed vibe. Its capital, Guanajuato City (pictured above), has been a growing vacation destination since it was granted UNESCO World Heritage status in 1987.
Visitors flock from the US and Europe to Guanajuato City for its colonial architecture and charming narrow streets.
But don’t miss the rest of the state, which is worth a visit — and a spot on any list of the best destinations in North America — in its own right. The arid but varied terrain offers adventurers great opportunities for hiking and biking.
Guanajuato’s many small towns spill over with a fascinating history, while art lovers will find themselves at home in San Miguel de Allende, a growing hub for American expats (also called “immigrants” in the rest of the world…).
Oh, and if you’re looking for a souvenir, some of the best leather goods in the world can be found on the streets of the gritty city Leon, which also offers direct flights into the region from several US airports.
#2 Wisconsin, USA
Located in the north-central US, and bordering Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, and the Mississippi River, Wisconsin ranks #1 in fun, family atmosphere, uniqueness, affordability, and outdoor recreation in the Midwest.
Wisconsin’s geography is beautiful and diverse including rugged hills, bluffs, rivers, gorges, valleys, forests, lakes, and miles of both rocky and sandy beaches. Rent canoes, cabins, skis, or snowmobiles. Hike or ATV miles of trails.
The Wisconsin Dells, known for its unique sandstone formations is now a water park mecca including five large indoor water parks, making it one of the best family-friendly destinations in North America (or you can even stay in a space-themed hotel the kids will love!). Noah’s Ark Waterpark is the largest in the U.S.
Wisconsin has some of the best state and national parks in the USA – 66 covering more than 60,570 acres, many recognized on a national level including Devil’s Lake, known for its 500-foot-high quartzite bluffs along a 360-acre crystal clear lake. The music & art scene of Madison and Milwaukee can’t be beaten. Oh – and don’t forget to enjoy the craft beers when you visit!
-Kristi from Road Trippers R Us
#3 Trinidad, Cuba
The beautiful colonial town of Trinidad in central Cuba has all it takes to be one of the top vacation destinations in North America.
Travelers to tropical Cuba, the Pearl of Caribbean, sometimes don’t make it as deep into the country to reach Trinidad.
Due to limited time, visitors tend to focus on Havana and the surrounding towns and beaches. And with good reason, as these locations are priceless. But invest in a 3.5 hour trip east from Havana to Trinidad and you will be rewarded.
The city has a vibrant music scene, a wealth of colonial architecture and some of the best food in Cuba.
The Ancon beach is just 20 minutes away by bus. Ancon’s crystalline waters are perfect for snorkeling, sailing, and starfish gazing.
Little by little you see Trinidad’s charms appearing in various travel publications. This North American destination won’t be kept secret for long!
-Talek from Travels with Talek
#4 Huntsville, Alabama (USA)
A hidden gem in North Alabama, home to the United States Space & Rocket Center as well as the nation’s largest privately owned arts facility. Huntsville or “Rocket City,” as it’s known to most, has something for all ages – music, science, hiking, art and beer.
You can visit Botanical Gardens, learn about NASA or even bike to local breweries on the Craft Beer Trail. Go for space camp, but stay for the food, culture and people. And check out this post on what to do in Huntsville to give you some ideas for where to eat and drink during your time in Alabama.
-Kaleigh from KK Travels & Eats
#5 Haida Gawii, Canada
Off the west coast of British Columbia sits a sleeper candidate for the best destination in North America: the enchanting islands of Haida Gwaii. Steeped in cultural history dating back to the last ice age, and with 150 islands of untouched rainforest and rugged coastline to explore, this is a must-see destination for nature lovers, hiking and kayaking enthusiasts, and art fanatics of all ages.
Haida Gwaii offers a true wilderness experience with the potential for close encounters with predators of the sky and land, as well as friendly hospitality, home-from-home comforts and the opportunity to discover a truly unique culture; what more could a traveler ask for?
The purple and blue mist enveloping the hills, the carpet of moss that creeps up the trees, the tales of mythical creatures and the life of the forest; magical Haida Gwaii is where the fairies of your childhood stories live. Go find them!
-Joss from Little Green Globetrotter
#6 Shawnee National Forrest, Illinois (USA)
Deep in Southern Illinois, in the crook between the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, lies the state’s only National Forest: the Shawnee. The area became a focal point in 2017, lying in the totality zone of the eclipse, and is the only sight in the U.S. to again be in the zone in the coming 2024 eclipse.
It is a land of valleys and hills, filled with fascinating rock formations with intriguing names. Opportunities for outdoor adventures abound, from the adrenaline rush of zip lining, rappelling, and rock climbing, to the more traditional hiking, horseback riding, and canoeing. It is even possible to canoe the Cache River Wetlands, designated a Wetland of International Importance, like Okefenokee Swamp.
This is a place for quiet escapes if you want a tranquil vacation destination in North America. Backwoods cabins featuring patio hot tubs are a favorite lodging, quaint shops and pick-your-own orchards are common. The Shawnee Wine Route winds through the forest, featuring 11 unique wineries, many with live entertainment on weekends. Those craving more excitement can drive to the rivers, for casino gambling at Cape Gerardeau or Metropolis.
-Roxanna from Gypsy With a Day Job
Nicaragua’s southern neighbor Costa Rica has been a mainstay among popular holiday destinations in North America for a long time.
But did you know you can have the same gorgeous beaches and wild surf of Tamarindo just a few kilometers north in Nicaragua’s beach town of San Juan del Sur?
Or that instead of shelling out for an expensive vacation in Arenal, you can explore the magical volcanic island of Ometepe (which is surrounded by bull shark-infested Lake Nicaragua)?
Though its reputation is still reeling from the violent conflicts that characterized the country in the 1980s, today’s Nicaragua welcomes tourists with old colonial towns like Granada, history-rich cities like Leon, and amazing islands in the Carribean. The country’s attractions are largely clustered along its relatively compact western coast, meaning that Nicaragua makes a great destination for those with limited time looking to get a taste of Central America. And with prices often half of what you’re likely to pay in Costa Rica, Nicaragua is an affordable vacation destination in North America for the budget traveler looking to explore North America off the beaten path.
#8 Providence, Rhode Island (USA)
Photo credit: Visit Rhode Island
This state capital is packed with history, a great culinary scene and plenty of beautiful areas to explore. It also became a new destination in North America for the ever-growing Norwegian airlines and you can now fly in and out of Ireland from Providence’s T.F. Green Airport. This has already led to a jump in the number of visitors to Providence.
Visit the Rhode Island State Capitol to admire its beautiful architecture and soak in a nice view of the surrounding area. Providence is also home to Brown University (an Ivy league school) which is a beautiful campus to explore — and which some say is prettier than Harvard.
Providence is also home to the Rhode Island School of Design, which is regarded as one of the best design schools in the world. The RISD museum on campus contains an extensive collection of art and design pieces from all over the world! You can explore it for free every Sunday or on the third Thursday evening every month. One of Providence’s most popular events is WaterFire, a fire-sculpture installation presented on the three rivers that run through downtown Providence. Attending the evening lighting is definitely worth seeing and it occurs multiple times throughout the warmer months.
-Nate from Nate Meets World
#9 Bear Lake, Utah (USA)
Pristine turquoise water nestled in the heart of breathtaking mountain vistas make Bear Lake, Utah a natural utopia not to be missed. Add in the area’s famous raspberry milkshakes and you have a recipe for perfection.
The twenty-two-mile long freshwater lake is frequently referred to as the Caribbean of the Rockies. This nature-lovers’ paradise maintains a small town charm while offering a variety of activities for its hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. From beaching it up on the miles of sandy shores along its bank, to a myriad of sports within its aquamarine water, to cave exploring, hiking, skiing and snowmobiling in its surrounding countryside, this small town has something for every season. This semi-secret up and coming oasis has been making quite the splash as visitors to its sandy shores have become increasingly more vast and divers over the last few years.
-Mykee from Traveling with Monkeys
#10 Tulum, Mexico
White sandy beaches, clear turquoise Caribbean water, and lush green jungles all fight for precious real estate in this incredible beach destination.
Located on Mexico’s Riviera Maya, Tulum is a dusty old beach town that has exploded in popularity over the past few years.
And while the secret is out about this stunning North American vacation destination, there is still time to enjoy a holiday here before Tulum becomes too overcrowded. Whether you fancy chilling on the beach, kite surfing over glacially perfect water, swimming in underground “cenotes” (pro tip: check out the ones near Valladolid) or simply enjoying the booming restaurant scene, Tulum is sure to be one of the hottest holiday destinations in North America for 2018.
2018 Hottest Destinations in North America: What do you think?
What do you think will be the hot destinations in North America for 2018? Juneau, Alaska? Denver, Colorado? Somewhere else? Drop me in a note in the comments – I’d love to hear your take on places to go in North America for the trendiest vacation.
Read the full series: Best Places to Travel in 2018
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