7. Ashland/Rogue Valley, Oregon
Dry and sunny Pacific Northwest mountains to the sea
Just north of the California border, and in the rain-shadow of the coastal mountains, Southern Oregon’s Rogue Valley is sunny, beautiful place. Here the Rogue River — one of the first to be designated a US National Wild and Scenic River — flows dozens of miles through stands of old-growth trees before reaching the Pacific Ocean. Nearby Ashland is a colorful college town with a powerhouse outsized arts and theater scene. Particularly notable is the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which has performed every one of Shakespeare’s plays each year since 1935, and has had over 20 million visitors to its performances.
When to go: June for paddle trips, or from November to February for theater.
Get deeper: In June 2018, conservation stewards American Whitewater are organizing an exclusive trip on Rogue River.
8. Jerusalem, Israel and Bethlehem, Palestine
Desert trekking through Biblical trails
For all the political turmoil you hear about Israel and Palestine, they’re remarkably easy countries to travel and overall very safe for visitors. English is widely spoken, and there are great trails/treks across the region that traverse both wilderness areas such as the Negev and Judean deserts, and through some of the most important historical sites in all of Western civilization.
When to go: February is ideal for wilderness treks across the Judean desert, and before the craziness of Passover in Jerusalem.
Get deeper: Perhaps the coolest single hotel you’ll find anywhere on this list, Banksy’s Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem was named art hotel of the year 2017 and is still taking reservations through February 2018. This is an opportunity to stay in a cultural hub unlike any other.
9. Wyoming Winter trip
Yellowstone all to yourself
The western part of Wyoming (Jackson, the Tetons, and Yellowstone) is habitually on our must-see places lists, but if you can get there in winter or even spring, this takes it to the next level.
Let’s start with Yellowstone. 95% of all visits to Yellowstone National Park are between May and October. That means the other half of the year only sees 5% of all visitors. You can Nordic ski out through some of the most popular places in the park and have it all to yourself.
Beyond Yellowstone, there are powerful winter wildlife viewing experiences to be had at the National Elk Refuge, the Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge, and throughout Grand Teton National Park. Do we need to even mention skiing/riding Jackson?
Here’s a photo essay that will get you psyched for Winter in Wyoming.
When to go: November through April.
Get deeper: Throughout winter, rangers at the National Elk Refuge offers guided sleigh rides where you can see this incredible herd up close.
10. Punta del Diablo, Uruguay
South America’s unspoiled Atlantic coast
Half of the stressed Buenos Aires remiseros I talked to in 2017 mentioned giving up the madness or quilombo as they call it there, and moving to Uruguay. Just across the Rio de La Plata, Uruguay is a peaceful refuge compared to its neighbors to the north and south. Outside of its lone (and awesome) major city, Montevideo, the rest of the Uruguayan coast is largely remote, with miles of wilderness (and uncrowded surf) separating cool little balnearios, or beach towns. Punta del Este is the most famous, but an even quieter, perhaps more interesting alternative is Punta del Diablo, about two hours north. Uruguay has among the most tolerant policies in the world; in 2013 they were the first country to legalize marijuana, the same year they also legalized same-sex marriage.
When to go: February, the Austral summer, has the warmest water temps of the year (~72°F), and it’s also Carnival season.
Get deeper: Uruguay has an important cultural tradition of music and dance passed down from slaves called Candombe. Based around different drums, Candombe is performed in murgas, or drum and dance troops, that parade up and down the streets, particularly around Carnival.
11.Denver and the Front Range, Colorado
Napa Valley of weed
Denver and Front Range cities like Fort Collins and Boulder were already nice before legalized cannabis, but since 2014 they’ve blown up with so many next-level offerings it’s almost ridiculous. The neighborhood of Five Points, and the whole RINO and Larimer Street (once skid row) area of Denver is a great base for a few days, then head over to Fort Collins and upstream for camping, hiking, and paddling along the Cache la Poudre National Wild and Scenic River. It’s among the easiest access to the most options for all skill levels of boaters/hikers — and just good old camping — anywhere in the US.
When to go: June for optimal paddling, summer for camping, or winter for a ski trip.
Get deeper: Stay in Denver’s historic “Harlem of the West.” The Five Points neighborhood in Denver has had an amazing history, being a home in different eras to its Jewish population and African American population, as well as being a center for legendary nightclubs during for jazz heyday of the 50’s. Decades of crime and squalor followed, but over the last 15 years, this area has completely revitalized.
12. St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada
Hanging with puffins and the friendliest people in Canada
I capped off an 18,000-km cross-Canada road trip here, and it truly felt like saving the best for last landscape-wise, as this area is exceptional. On the west side is Gros Morne National Park, which has remarkable features like mountainous fjords, meadows hanging off tall cliffs that fall into the ocean, and an area of exposed earth mantle that feels like walking around on Mars. Nearby is Bay of Islands, punctuated by inlets and tiny villages with lots of hiking opportunities to panoramic viewpoints. Depending on when you’re in Newfoundland, you could see icebergs floating by, humpback whales migrating along the coast (Bonavista Peninsula), or puffins nesting offshore.
Best time to go: Spring and summer for Puffins.
Get deeper: Cape Spear, near the capital of St. John’s, is the easternmost point in all of North America, Greenland excluded.