On our agenda for 2017: exploring the world, meeting new people and moving beyond our comfort zones. Be it stargazing from the soaring peaks of an under-the-radar Middle Eastern adventure hub, celebrating a centennial of nationhood in Scandinavia, or taking a fresh look at the culinary and cultural energy revitalizing our nation’s capital; the options are endless, and the time is now. Contributor Emily Saladino picks the top 9 destinations to visit in 2017.
Cape Town, South Africa
This year, all eyes are on Cape Town's thriving arts scene when the sprawling Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA) opens in September. The world’s largest collection of contemporary African art will occupy a 100,000-square-foot historic grain silo on the V&A waterfront, and opening exhibitions will include works by South African artist Mohau Modisakeng and photographer Zanele Muholi. The 1924 structure will also house The Silo, a boutique hotel with 28 rooms decorated by South African designer Liz Biden, located on the six floors above the museum. Less than three miles away lies The Test Kitchen, Chef Luke Dale-Roberts’ Woodstock restaurant that was recently ranked number 22 on the influential World’s Best Awards last June, rubbing shoulders with global luminaries like Copenhagen’s Noma and Eleven Madison Park in New York City.
The Nordic nation celebrates its centennial of independence throughout the coming year, with events ranging from free performances by the national opera and ballet company in Helsinki (December 31, 2016), to a sustainability-themed Lumo Light Festival at Oalu (November 17-26, 2017), to the World Figure Skating and Nordic World Ski Championships in Lahti (February 22 - March 5, 2017). Head to Hossa to explore Finland’s newly inaugurated 40th national park, an 11,000-hectare swatch of pine forests and verdant river valleys. Or point wagons (way) north to the Arctic Light Hotel in Rovaniemi, a remote Lapland village that, according to local legend, happens to be Santa Claus’ hometown. The 57-key hotel has a Nordic chic aesthetic (mind the 11-foot-tall wooden polar bear at the front door) plus dogsled rides, a stellar restaurant with locally sourced fare, and views of the Northern Lights year round.
Far from Cancun’s crowds and Tulum’s relentlessly 'gramming trend-seekers (#vacationhair) is Merida, the capital of the Yucatan Peninsula and 2017’s American Capital of Culture and one of the top destinations to visit in 2017. Rich with French and Spanish colonial architecture and a buzzing food scene, the city will celebrate with exhibitions, dance performances, and live music all year long. Toast local creatives at Fundacion de Artistes, a two-year-old nonprofit space in the historic city center, and contemplate Mayan ingenuity at El Gran Museo del Mundo Maya, an elegant structure designed to resemble a ceiba tree. The Diplomat, a four-suite hotel opened by two enterprising expats, provides one of the city’s chicest sleeps, and the similarly boutique Casa Lecenda features seven guestrooms with outdoor rain showers, locally made furniture and original clay mosaic floors in an elegant 19th century mansion.
Seoul, South Korea
A stylish crop of post-industrial urban parks simultaneously expands and embellishes Seoul’s reputation as a Blade Runner-style futurescape. The Seoul Skygarden, scheduled to debut in late 2017, will transform a half-mile, 55-foot-tall elevated stretch near Seoul Station into a lush green dotted with local flowers and trees. A few years ago, the city replaced a midcentury highway with the Cheonggyecheon, a recessed waterway that traverses nearly seven miles in downtown Seoul, paying homage to an ancient stream that burbled here during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). Lined with pedestrian paths and benches of Instagramming tweens, the banks of the Cheonggyecheon are a short walk from the chic new Four Seasons, which features a speakeasy bar, an impressive collection of contemporary Korean art, and a three-story, 57,500-square-foot spa.
A remarkably dramatic election year hasn't stopped our nation’s capital from advancing its cultural agenda. In September, Smithsonian unveiled its enormously anticipated National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), a collection of more than 36,000 artifacts, photographs and interactive installations occupying some 400,000 square feet in a jaw-dropping, David Adjaye-designed building on the National Mall. Renowned restaurants such as Bad Saint, Zaytinya, Komi and Rose’s Luxury up the culinary ante, and a fleet of new hotels provide stylish alternatives to big-box and corporate lodging. Among the highlights: Kimpton’s buzzy Mason & Rook near Logan Circle; the sleek Glover Park Hotel; the recently reopened Watergate, with its glam whiskey bar; the District’s first Pod Hotel, which will open in Chinatown shortly; and the $1.4 billion MGM National Harbor resort and casino set to land on the eastern shore of the Potomac later this month.
A bastion of stability and stunningly beautiful terrain flanked by Yemen, Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E., Oman is an under-the-radar Middle Eastern country poised to take center stage in 2017. Hawaiian-style tropical beaches, deserts dotted with mirage-like swimming wadis, and the soaring, 10,000-foot peaks of Al-Jabal Al-Akhdar mountain range provide an adventurous antidote to the region’s luxury shopping concourses (hello, Doha; here’s looking at you, Dubai). Anantara debuted two Omani resorts in 2016, joining the plush Zinghy Bay Six Senses, Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah in Muscat, and Alila Jabal Akhdar, a 78-key mountaintop resort influenced by both European ski lodges and Omani village homes. Those traveling en famille should check out Majarat Oman, a $120 million theme park set to debut in the Barka province in 2017.
It’s boom times in Music City, with some 100 people reportedly moving in each day, and scores of new hotels and restaurants maintaining “It City” status. There's the buzzy Le Sel, a French brasserie in Midtown by the Catbird team, and TKO in Inglewood, which draws crowds for its Southern-inflected Chinese fare. Local legend Prince’s Hot Chicken and cult favorite Martin’s Bar-B-Que both opened new Nashville outposts earlier this year. On the hotel front, the trendy Thompson debuted, with custom in-room fittings by local denim label Imogen + Willie, rooftop DJ sets from Jack White’s Third Man Records on Monday nights, and three F&B options from Nola chef John Besh. We're also looking forward to spring when the 21c Museum Hotel Nashville opens with 124 rooms, 10,500 square feet of contemporary art exhibition and space, and a restaurant helmed by Levon Wallace.
Europe’s wine mecca is increasingly accessible in 2017, thanks to a new LGV Sud-Ouest train line that will link Bordeaux to a high-speed rail network cutting travel time to Paris to two hours and eliminating any need for a designated driver. The gleaming La Cite du Vin wine center offers seminars, workshops and tastings for thirsty travelers of all skill and expertise levels, plus a chic wine bar and cellar stocked with 14,000 bottles from more than 70 countries worldwide. Two recently opened hotels are booking up fast: the mod YNDO hotel, which offers 12 contemporary rooms in a 19th century chateau, and La Grande Maison, an over-the-top luxe manse, complete with a Christofle- and Baccarat-studded dining room and cellar filled with Grands Crus Classes.
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As our neighbors to the north prepare to commemorate 150 years of independence next year, Canada’s oft-overlooked capital is ready for the spotlight. The city will host a series of large-scale events, including the Red Bull Crashed Ice downhill skating world championships on Rideau Canal (March 3-4, 2017); Ottawa live music festival (summer 2017, dates TBA); Ignite 150, a series of stunts such as pop-up yoga on a barge accompanied by a chamber orchestra (no seriously); and La Machine, an urban theatrical performance involving giant mechanical dinosaurs prowling downtown thoroughfares (July 26 - 30, 2017). In addition, the National Gallery is planning to refresh its Canadian and indigenous collections, and the Canadian Museum of History will unveil a new hall. Andaz and Montreal’s Alt Hotels both opened Ottawa outposts earlier this year, providing stylish digs for those whose tastes run more Vidal Icewine than LaBatt Blue.