Which, currently, are the ten-or-so most-promising destinations for your own next vacation? Though any such list is unusually subjective (to put it mildly), I'm willing to give the selection a try. Here they are, in no particular order:
(1) Colonial Williamsburg, in Williamsburg, Virginia: This re-created state capital of the 1700s is like an historical Disney World, placing you plunk in the midst of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry. Children as well as adults have a fine time in imagining themselves in that period, but also gain an important educational lesson in the founding of our country. Go to www.colonialwilliamsburg.com for more details.
(2) Yellowstone, Yosemite and the Grand Canyon: The three great national parks of the United States are on the must-see list of every American, and are best viewed in the course of a self-drive auto-trip to Montana (for Yellowstone), California (for Yosemite), and Arizona (for the Grand Canyon). No one has fully experienced our national wonders who has not stayed within the scenic beauty of Yosemite, the awesome science and nature (geysers, buffalo, wolves) of Yellowstone, and the breathtaking sight of the Grand Canyon.
(3) Concordia Eco Resort, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands: I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the rapidly-developing new tented-bungalows of Concordia will prove an attractive substitute for the just-closed and justifiably-famous Maho Bay Camps, which lost its lease after 30 years of operation. Possessing excellent views, and access to a glorious beach, Concordia is now the world's most ecologically-sensitive tropical resort, making little use of fossil fuels for its electric energy, but relying instead, in the main, on solar and wind power. It is operated by Stanley Selengut, whose Maho Bay Camps established new standards for the operation of beach resorts. See www.concordiaeco-resort.com for details.
(4) Sicily: Driving by car along the seaside highway that encircles all of Sicily, starting in Palermo and proceeding to Agrigento (5th century B.C. Greek temples), Siracusa (more important than Athens in ancient times) Taormina (a splashy resort city of Italian excess), and back to Palermo, is one of the great European experiences--friendly, safe, and generally inexpensive.
(5) Paris: I can never get enough of this remarkable city, which--to me--leads the world of tourism in art, architecture, cuisine, history, and political discourse. Go there on a walking tour, staying in the most basic of one-star and two-star hotels, and patronizing the "delis", bakeries and groceries for your picnic-style meals.
(6) The Island of Bali, in Indonesia: A Hindu outpost in a Muslim nation, it is populated by some of the most gracious people on earth, who invite you to witness their religious processions, wedding ceremonies, and joyful funerals. Making a base in the village of Ubud in the central highlands (which I greatly prefer to the beach areas of Bali, heavily visited by Australian surfers), I enjoy one of the cheapest vacations on earth (and cheaper still in recent months because of the declining value of the Indonesian currency), and yet one that is a profound cultural experience, supplemented by shopping expeditions to the arts and crafts shops of skilled artisans in the other central villages that surround Ubud.
(7) Bonaire, one of the "ABC" islands of the southern Caribbean: A scuba-diving capital. After taking a short "resort course", you will find yourself hanging weightless some 60 feet below the surface of the sea, viewing an enchanting sight of sea life and vegetation. And all this is enjoyed on a small, laid-back and lightly-populated island, without the pressures and commerce of the better-known tropics.
(8) Yachats, the Oregon coast: A tiny, seaside town and yet with several gourmet restaurants (featuring Dungeness Crab at some), a number of small, motel-like lodgings, and a good beach--in sum, an ideal stop in the course of a motoring trip along the breathtaking (and largely undeveloped) Oregon coast.
(9) New York City's Greenwich Village (and the Off-Broadway theaters): Many of the most important new trends and causes in America--the Civil Rights struggle, feminism, equal rights for gays, environmentalism, economic equality--all got their first hearing in these small theaters, which continue to perform a similar function today, exposing all of us to novel political and social views. Here's a remarkable chance to expand your consciousness.
(10) Kenya: On an overland safari expedition from Nairobi into the Masai Mara and the Serengeti (without roads or power lines), you will know the world as it looked before human beings inhabited it. In Kenya, you are guaranteed of seeing tens of thousands of animals--wildebeest, giraffes, lions, elephants, rhinoceros, and more--in a single day, an exceptional experience.
Photo: Slagbaai National Park, Bonaire, Dan Hershman/Flickr