A new year brings new possibilities and that may include visiting someplace new. Whether you’re looking for an exciting new destination or simply want to avoid big crowds and high costs from the most popular tourist traps, there are many other lesser-known cities ascending in popularity and distinction. What’s more, any of the following destinations can be explored most anytime of the year. Here are just five of the best up-and-coming American destinations in 2015.
Bethany Beach, Delaware
Once named one of the “Best Secret Beaches on Earth” by Travel + Leisure, more recently, the secret has been getting out about Bethany Beach. The location for one of the top beaches in Delaware, Bethany Beach was also recognized as among the 10 Best Beaches for Families by online vacation review site Family Vacation Critics, making it a very popular destination for travelers not only from the East Coast but across the country. The top draw is the pristine beach and boardwalk located along the easternmost portion of Delaware, some 55 miles south of Dover. There aren’t many overnight accommodations in Bethany Beach, but all of the local properties receive consistently favorable reviews and there are many good choices for dining plus a chance to enjoy tax-free shopping in Delaware.
Marco Island, Florida
Marco Island isn’t really much of a household name outside of Florida. Yet it was named this year’s No. 1 Island in the U.S. and No. 4 in the World by Trip Advisor. Just 18 miles south of Naples, Marco Island is the largest barrier island of the Ten Thousand Islands found along Southwestern Florida. The entire west side of Marco Island is graced with white sandy beaches, along with elegant beachfront properties such as the Marriott Beach Resort, Hilton Beach Resort and Spa and Marco Island Beach Resort all overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. An abundance of water activities such as jet skiing and kayaking, upscale lodging and more than 100 restaurants including the award-winning Sandcastles, the Blue Heron, Arturo’s and Bistro Soleil are all part of what earned Marco Island worldwide recognition. A leisurely side to trip Naples should also be considered on an unforgettable journey to Florida’s Paradise Coast.
New Braunfels, Texas
With distinctions such as Fastest Growing City in America and No. 1 city to watch in 2014 by Forbes, Austin is easily one of the best destinations in the Lone Star State. But a smaller city just 48 miles south of the “Live Music Capital of the World” in the Texas Hill Country wine-producing region is also gaining considerable national attention. Attractions such as Landa Park, Schlitterbahn Water Park, Natural Bridge Wildlife Park and the Texas Ski Ranch all contributed to New Braunfels being named one of the Top 10 Destinations in Texas. Visitors will also enjoy the Historic District of Grune for shopping, food and wine and other activities, in addition to attractions such as Animal World and Snake Farm Zoo, McKenna’s Children’s Museum and Texas Tubes. Top wineries in the area include Vineyard at Gruene, Winery on the Gruene and Dry Comal Creek.
Paso Robles, California
The once quiet farming community of Paso Robles along California’s Central Coast has transformed itself into one of the country’s top wine-producing regions. Honored as last year’s Wine Region of the Year by Wine Enthusiast, Paso Robles now has more than 200 wineries and over 32,000 vineyard acres. Recommended wineries include Eberle Winery, Tablas Creek Vineyard, Adelaida Cellars and JUSTIN Winery, whose signature Bordeaux-style blend, ISOSCELES, was once named one of the world’s Top 10 wines by Wine Spectator. Travelers visiting in summer may also be able to attend the city’s top event of the year, the California Mid State Fair, with top music acts such as Journey, Demi Lovato, Zac Brown Band, Rascal Flatts and John Mayer all performing last summer.
Traverse City, Michigan
With a bevy of awards from travel-related media such as Lonely Planet, Travel + Leisure and Fodors, Traverse City is definitely a city on the rise. Recent honors for this small town in Northwestern Michigan include America’s Top 10 Foodie Towns, Top Seven Beer Destinations, Best Travel Finds for 2014 and Top 10 U.S. Travel Destinations for 2014, but two of the most impressive nods were Top Five Foodie Destinations from Bon Appetit and “Good Morning America,” which cited the nearby Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore as “The Most Beautiful Place in America.” With an obvious passion for food and fine wines, Traverse City has a sizable amount of restaurants and wineries and is home to many festivals throughout the year and among the best are The Taste of Traverse City and Traverse City Microbrew and Music Festival both held in late summer and the National Cherry Festival, a week-long celebration in America’s “Cherry Capital” beginning July 4, 2015.
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Randy Yagi is a freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. In 2012, he was awarded a Media Fellowship from Stanford University. His work can be found on Examiner.com Examiner.com.