Portsmouth, New Hampshire– This historic coastal town on the Maine border offers a mix of traditional New England seafaring culture along with an artsy, coffee house blend with everything from breweries like Smuttynose and Redhook to accessible yoga studios.
- Gulf Shores– Like a surprisingly exotic Caribbean destination with a Southern accent. Visit for the National Shrimp Festival, ‘jubilees’ (crab and shrimp spontaneously arriving in huge quantities in Mobile Bay, ripe for gathering), white sand beaches, sea turtles from May to October, dolphin cruises and more.
- The Poconos– While for some, the Poconos are synonymous with ads featuring couples in heart shaped hot tubs, this area of Pennsylvania has definitely transformed from kitschy to cool. There are timeless fun activities like skiing in winter and canoeing in summer, with fun stops like the Barley Creek Brewing where you can play whiffle ball and bocce on the Pint-Sized Park. Travelers can also go hardcore with whitewater rafting, or visit an amazing spa like the Lodge at Woodloch for a super modern rejuvenation.
- Washington, DC– While administrations may be changing, Washington, DC is always a popular destination for those who want to see the history and be part of country’s seat of power. Tripsters are excited about DC as a travel destination, too, however, and not just for the exotic new wildlife. DC has some great trails, fabulous restaurants like Founding Farmers, free museums (unlike most large US cities) and some quirky offerings like the International Spy Museum.
Hollywood, Florida- An art deco downtown, kitschy beach boardwalk, and just a drive from Miami’s airport, Hollywood is another of the old-school U.S. vacation destinations cropping up on the list this year (perhaps due to a country-wide thirst for a more innocent time?). But Hollywood can also feel like a welcome change from decadent Miami or just so, so, so, family-friendly Disney. Plus, sea turtles and a great beachside boardwalk.
- Oakland- The artistic heart of the Bay Area, where all San Francisco’s creative people flock to amazing art houses and cool bars and galleries. Travelers may want to check out an Oakland A’s baseball game and then check out one of the city’s acclaimed soul food restaurants.
- Fort Collins- This Colorado college town is also loaded with great beer (and no, we’re not talking about the Anheuser Busch brewery – think Odell or Equinox). Make sure the buzz wears off before hitting up cool stores like the Cupboard for kitchens and Killer Rabbit for cool menswear.
- Virginia Beach– Like a few other USA Rising Stars, Virginia Beach is known for being a somewhat old school, sleepy beach town. But its time has come again. Tripsters appreciate a bit of kitsch (salt water taffy and custard on the boardwalk never grow old) and love it as a family destination.
- Great Smoky Mountains- Yes, you can really find both mountains and moonshine here. Devastating fires recently ripped through Gatlinburg, one of this region’s main cities. But we kept it on the Rising Star list because Tripsters did turn their attention to it this year – and there is plenty of mountain territory to enjoy that has not been destroyed. Road trip on Highway 441 (Newfound Gap Road), visit the Cherokee Reservation, hike the national park or visit Dollywood for a unique amusement park experience, see moonshine made, and…visit the Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum, a private collection open to the public for just $3.