Your Travel Bucket List: the Top Places to Go in 2016

Photo by Blaine Harrington III/Corbis. Design by Lauren DeLuca for Yahoo Travel

As the new year kicks off, it’s time to start planning your 2016 bucket list. We’ve spun the globe and come up with this highly curated list of the places you need to see in 2016. Start packing your bags now — these are the 16 places you’ll want to visit next.


From Botswana to Barbados, here are the places to go in 2016. (Photo by Blaine Harrington III/Corbis. Design by Lauren DeLuca for Yahoo Travel.)

Yosemite/National Parks

This year is the 100th anniversary of America’s National Parks system, so make time to visit one. Our pick: Yosemite. Here’s an insider tip that only the locals know: you can stay in the Hotel Charlotte in Groveland, Calif., where Yosemite’s rangers head for trivia nights. 


Yosemite might just be the king of America’s National Parks. (Photo: iStock)

If you want to see multiple national parks, national forests, and national wildlife refuges, there’s an $80 America the Beautiful Annual Pass that gives you free entrance to locations across the country; kids under 15 are free. And a bonus: if your child is in the 4th grade, you’re really in luck. With the initiative Every Kid in a Park, fourth graders and their families can gain free entry to all national parks throughout the 2015-16 school year.

Hawaii


Volcanoes, beaches, waterfalls – Hawaii has it all. (Photo: iStock)

This is the year to go to Hawaii. In December, we’ll see the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. Plus, it’s the 100th anniversary of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which was established on the Big Island of Hawaii in 1916. The place to stay? Volcano House, built in 1941 on the rim of the Kilauea Caldera. This hotel also has an affordable “glamping” option: simple cabins that can be had for as little as $50 a night. But book soon: they sell out fast.

Disneyland

Disneyland got a lot of buzz in 2015 when it kicked off its 60th birthday celebration, which continues through summer 2016 with special events like awesome after-dark entertainment. And the Star Wars buzz is building in anticipation of the forthcoming 14-acre park. 


Be sure to head to Disneyland in 2016 to check out the new 14-acre Seasons of the Force. (Photo: Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland Resort)

What can you do in the meantime? Check out the “Season of the Force” attraction in Tomorrowland, as well as Hyperspace Mountain, where you can join an X-wing battle in the redesigned Space Mountain and meet your favorite Star Wars characters. Look for more as the year goes on.

Tennessee


Get your honky tonk on down in Nashville, one of the top cities to visit in 2016. (Photo: Jon Hicks/Corbis)

There’s so much to do in this state. Lonely Planet named Nashville one of the top 10 cities to visit in 2016, thanks to its thriving music and food scenes. According to TripAdvisor, the number one destination on the rise in the U.S. is Gatlinburg, Tennessee, which one reviewer described as “beautiful, clean, and very peaceful.” Gatlinburg offers access to the Great Smoky Mountains and — like Nashville — lots of good places to eat. And in 2016, nearby Dollywood will open the world’s fastest wooden roller coaster.

Related: Hotel Insider: Down Home at Dolly Parton’s Dollywood Resort

Sandusky, Ohio


The “roller coaster capital of the world” adds another steel giant to its collection in 2016. (Photo: Cedar Point/Splash News/Corbis)

If you like speed, then you’ll want to add Cedar Point to your bucket list: Valravn, the world’s tallest, fastest, and longest roller coaster will open in 2016. The coaster, named after mythical Danish ravens that had supernatural powers, will stretch over 3,400 feet and include a plunge of more than 200 feet. Book a room at the 110-year-old Hotel Breakers, which recently reopened on the shores of Lake Erie.

Miami


Miami’s got everything going for it  – from hotels and shopping to nightlife and restaurants. (Photo: Getty Images)

According to the editors of Conde Nast Traveler, Miami “is having a moment,” and we couldn’t agree more. There’s the $1 billion Rem Koolhaas-designed arts development that has just started rolling out, a science museum on the way, plus 12 new hotels. Plus, there’s so much to do: great restaurants, shopping, nightlife plus exploring in the Deco District. Our pick for where to stay: Red South Beach hotel, right by the beach and Ocean Drive. It always has great specials: book 45 days out and you get 40 percent off. 

Related: Miami Like a Local: You’ve Been Seeing This City All Wrong

New Mexico


New Mexico is an outdoor lover’s dream. (Photo: Michael DeYoung/Corbis)

Lonely Planet named New Mexico the top value destination in the U.S. for 2016. The state has lots of free outdoor experiences — hiking, hot springs — and it is also becoming known for an affordable food and drink scene. Winter sports are cheap, too. You can expect to spend about a third as much on a lift ticket here as you would at Colorado’s ski slopes. And calling all snow bunnies: there’s record powder this winter.

Detroit


New hotels, parks, breweries, and boutiques are all proof that Detroit is on the up and up. (Photo: iStock)

There’s no wonder Detroit calls itself “America’s Great Comeback City.” The city is being massively revitalized, and Travel + Leisure magazine called it one of the hot places for 2016. An Aloft hotel recently opened, and later this year, the old fire department headquarters will be transformed into a boutique property, the Foundation Hotel. There’s also a recently opened riverfront park and tons of new breweries and distilleries. Talk about a comeback.

Sicily


Caltabellotta is just one of many beautiful and underrated destinations in Sicily. (Photo: Getty Images)

Another Travel + Leisure pick for 2016: Sicily. Instead of going to Rome and Tuscany for a great Italian vacation, try this island — which is half the price. For instance, the website BudgetYourTrip.com says a trip to Sicily will average $77 a day versus Rome, which is $137. Add to that, ancient Greek temples, historic cities, stunning beaches, and an emerging wine scene, and you’ve got a real winner. 

Cuba


Now is definitely the time to go to Cuba. (Photo: Getty Images)

It goes without saying that Cuba is the must-visit destination of 2016: you can still catch a glimpse of the island’s authentic roots. There are plenty of hotels about to open across the country — including Accor’s Pullman Cayo Coco — but to get a taste of the local culture, try an Airbnb or stay at one of Havana’s beautiful historic properties

Related: Havana Off the Beaten Path: How to See the Real Cuba

For more on the island, check out Yahoo’s special series, which marked one year since the opening of relations between the United States and Cuba. 

Barbados


With a 50th anniversary and new flight routes, 2016 is sure to be a great year for Barbados. (Photo: Getty Images)

Barbados, the Caribbean’s easternmost island, celebrates its 50th anniversary of independence on November 30, though you don’t have to wait until then to start the party. Beginning this month, Bajans will start prepping for the jubilee with concerts, art festivals, and more. Plus,JetBlue will be launching new flights from Boston as well as its premium Mint service from Boston and New York. 

The Galapagos


Lounge with iguanas and swim with sea lions in the Galapagos. (Photo: iStock)

These pristine islands may soon be opened up to thousands more tourists, so the time to see them while they are still unspoiled is right now: you can beat the crowds and have this wildlife paradise practically to yourself.

Related: A Bucket-List Guide to Seeing the Galapagos

We love small boat tours because you can cover more ground and spend more time on land with the animals. Our favorite: the Ecoventura line, which combines adventure, family fun, and sustainability.

Panama


Go to Panama now, before everyone else catches on to how incredible it is. (Photo: iStock)

If you wanted to go to Costa Rica 10 years ago then you will want to go to Panama right now. The country is seeing a boom in tourism but it hasn’t reached its tipping point. There’s so much to see, from the Panama Canal (of course), to the red-hot Casco Viejo, gorgeous Caribbean islands, and isolated beaches. Panama really has it all.

Brazil


Go to Brazil and be a part of the excitement surrounding the olympics, even if you don’t make it to the actual games. (Photo: Atlantide Phototravel/Corbis)

Millions of visitors will descend on Brazil in 2016 for the Summer Olympics — though You probably want to avoid the madness of the games. Plus, the dollar really goes far right now: it costs about a third as much as it did last year. And it’ll be easy and affordable to get around, thanks to Azul, a new airline from the founder of JetBlue.

Botswana


The wildlife and environmental preservation of Botswana are among its greatest assets. (Photo: Ross Huggett/Flickr)

This is on our editor-in-chief Laura Begley Bloom’s personal bucket list. Botswana celebrates 50 years of independence in 2016, and companies are already seeing more bookings as a result. Plus, this southern African country is very committed to wildlife and environmental preservation. Check out the lodges from Wilderness Safaris, which highlight conservation in a glamorous setting.

India


India will be the go-to spot for those looking to live out their ‘Jungle Book’ fantasies. (Photo: iStock)

Hollywood has a long history of helping lure travelers to new destinations. This year, the buzz will be all about India, thanks to the forthcoming movie based on Rudyard Kipling’s the Jungle Book, starring Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson. Of particular interest will be India’s tiger and safari parks. The must-see spot is Kanha, Madhya Pradesh’s largest national park. Jonny Bealby, CEO of Wild Frontiers, told CNN (which also named India to its top 2016 list) that Kanha was the inspiration for the original Jungle Book.

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