Frommer's Best Places to Go in the United States in 2022
With Covid-19 still a major concern, the Frommer's staff struggled with whether to publish our annual Best Places article for 2022. Last year, we temporarily shelved our longstanding tradition in favor of a list of destinations that promote a deeper understanding of the United States. We're still quite proud of that feature, Great Authors on Our America, a collection of mini essays by such big names as David Sedaris, Gloria Steinem, Jodi Picoult, Cheryl Strayed, Fannie Flagg, and Timothy Egan.
This year, we decided to stick with a domestic focus. As many people discovered during the pandemic, the United States is a multifaceted travel destination, with vistas that dazzle the eye, attractions that expand the mind and imagination, food that tickles the tongue, and people who will welcome you like long-lost cousins.
We still love foreign travel and intend to return to it in full force, but for now, American vacationers who stay within their own borders risk fewer disruptions from unexpected pandemic rule changes. Just as important, we don't believe you miss out by traveling close to home. Still, health and security stand out as primary concerns this year, so for the first time we also compiled a second, stand-alone list: The World's Safest Places to Go in 2022. We see it as a companion to what you're about to read.
As always, our Best Places to Go are the top vacation choices for the year. Each was chosen for distinct reasons, whether the places are enjoying a resurgence, honoring a milestone or anniversary, or simply ripe for wider appreciation. These are the 10 places—in no particular order—that will be especially rewarding to visit in 2022.
Pictured above: Swanson River Wilderness, Kenai Wildlife Refuge, Kenai Peninsula, Alaska
The Kenai is a mountain-studded, preserve-rich, bald eagle–patrolled peninsula that stretches 150 miles south from Anchorage. It truly is one of the most spectacularly beautiful places in the United States.
We want to shine a spotlight on the region to let more people know it's an option. Not everyone enjoys taking cruise vacations, and many people (wrongly) think taking a ship is the only practical way to experience coastal Alaska. Nope. A road trip along the Sterling Highway with a day cruise in Prince William Sound enables visitors to see everything that Alaskan cruisers do—but at their own pace and with more personal space.
These world-class sights include calving glaciers, breaching whales, and other marine life; museums and sites devoted to Native Alaskan culture and history; dog sledding and gold panning operations; superb nature facilities (like the Alaska SeaLife Center); groovy art galleries in Homer; old Russian settlements; and more. The Kenai is also laced by rivers, making it a top spot for rafting, canoeing, kayaking, and fishing (it has one of the most prolific salmon runs in the world).
Pictured above: Porcupine Bay, Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska
It’s no exaggeration to say, as local artist Jonathan Green told CNN in 2020, that "Charleston is the Ellis Island for Black people." Before the Civil War, an estimated 40% of enslaved Africans brought to the United States disembarked at Gadsden’s Wharf in the coastal city made prosperous on the backs of those arrivals. Efforts to reckon with that reality and its long legacy reach a major milestone with the opening in late 2022 of the International African American Museum, a facility dedicated to honoring “the diverse journeys and achievements of [enslaved Africans] and their descendants in South Carolina, the United States, and throughout the African Diaspora” on the very site of disembarkation.
The museum supplies a necessary corrective to what had been, with some notable exceptions (such as the long-established, Black-owned Gullah Tours), a prevailing tendency among many tourism organizations to romanticize the city as a pastel-hued paradise of Spanish moss and plantation gentility. Visit Charleston earlier in the year for the hugely popular Charleston Wine + Food festival (March 2–6), which returns after taking 2021 off, to fill up on the region’s fabled Lowcountry cuisine—also highly influenced by African American traditions—at a new, larger location at Riverfront Park.
On March 1, 2022, it will be 150 years to the day since the American Congress made something the world had never seen before: It created the first "national park" by declaring the area around Yellowstone "hereby reserved and withdrawn from settlement, occupancy, or sale."
The northwest corner of Wyoming, tucked in the apron of the Rockies, was the perfect choice to sanctify as a public pleasure park—even today, Yellowstone National Park has the highest concentration of mammals in the Lower 48 states and its 3,472 square miles preserve the planet's largest collection of hydrothermal features like geysers, mudpots, and fumaroles. The park's sesquicentennial is shaping into a celebration that will strengthen its position for the next 150 years, with a slate of educational talks, art shows of local work, and expanded outreach to the Native American people who have lived on the land for more than 11,000 years. People come and go, but this land is eternally beautiful.
2022 marks 50 years since NASA's Apollo lunar missions ceased and President Richard M. Nixon authorized the Space Shuttle program. The Shuttle stopped flying in 2011, yet the launch pads of Kennedy Space Center, on 219 square miles of Florida's Atlantic coast east of Orlando, are bustling again. Today, nearly 100 private-sector partners, including Elon Musk's SpaceX, use the facility to research, prepare, and launch their endeavors. Cape Kennedy simultaneously functions as a popular museum of past triumphs and a lively spaceport of tomorrow.
This year, the superlative Kennedy Space Center attraction adds Gateway, a 50,000-square-foot permanent exhibition about modern deep space exploration, even as SpaceX, which is leading those explorations, builds a custom launch pad for its fully reusable combined vehicle, Starship. For the first time in a generation, American space launches have regained their status as unifying national events, and the public viewing grounds just west of KSC are once again drawing crowds (here's the upcoming schedule). In addition to multiple astronaut launches to the International Space Station, 2022 will also see the spaceport break new barriers by sending the Artemis I test spacecraft around the moon in preparation for sending manned missions into the unknown on long-term missions. The Cape is launching the future once again.
Pictured above: KSC's colossal Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) is 525 feet tall, has the largest doors on the planet, and is painted with the world's largest American flag (209 feet tall).
West Virginia has come into its own as a tourism destination, thanks in large part to the December 2020 designation of the New River Gorge as the country’s newest—and the state's first—national park. Located on more than 70,000 acres in the Appalachian Mountains of the state’s southern region, the park’s titular waterway snakes through densely wooded hills and imposing sandstone cliffs.
If you’ve developed a taste for outdoor adventure during the pandemic, this is where to satisfy that urge—conditions are near ideal for whitewater rafting, rock climbing, and mountain biking. Hit the park’s hiking trails and you’ll encounter waterfalls, abandoned mining outposts, and staggering vistas of the river and the gorge from the Grandview overlook and the 3,000-foot-long, 900-foot-high New River Gorge Bridge (pictured above).
In Oklahoma, history and culture are coming to the fore in a trio of new museums. Oklahoma City's $175 million First Americans Museum opened in 2021, using priceless artifacts (44 of which are on loan from the Smithsonian), immersive exhibits, and live performances to tell the tales of the 39 Tribal Nations that live in the state.
A little over 100 miles northeast in Tulsa (take Route 66 there—Oklahoma has the longest stretch of it in the country), the new Greenwood Rising history center honors what was once known as Black Wall Street, a prosperous neighborhood that was wiped out in horrific 1921 racial attacks; HBO's award-winning The Watchmen hinged on that hideous event.
Also in Tulsa, the Bob Dylan Center (pictured above) will debut soon in the heart of the city's buzzy Arts District, close to the facility dedicated to his songwriting progenitor, Woody Guthrie. Opening in May 2022, the Dylan Center promises a deep dive into the seminal work of the Nobel Prize–winning singer-songwriter and poet, housing more than 100,000 artifacts (handwritten manuscripts, music, ephemera), as well as screening films, hosting lectures, mounting concerts, and playing his music.
Puerto Rico has faced more than its fair share of challenges in the past few years: hurricanes, earthquakes, monthslong power outages, and Washington’s indifference (lobbing paper towels at the populace doesn’t count), to name a few. But the island’s exciting capital city has endured all of that and bounced back to reclaim its rightful place as a major tourism draw, with freshly completed repairs to storm-damaged resorts and cutting-edge new attractions such as Distrito T-Mobile, a splashy dining-and-entertainment venue near the Convention Center.
Of course, endurance is nothing new in a town that celebrated its 500th birthday in 2021. Soak up some of that history as well as San Juan’s unique combo of European, African, and Indigenous influences everywhere from cobblestoned, pastel-tinted Old San Juan (pictured above) to the roadside food stands and traditional music and folk festivals of Loíza on the eastern end of the metropolitan area.
Best of all for American travelers: Puerto Rico offers a Caribbean getaway that's still on U.S. soil—no passport needed and no returning-to-the-U.S. Covid-19 test required. (Puerto Rico does have some of its own Covid-related requirements, though; see our Caribbean info page for details).
Pre-pandemic, New York City had some of the highest hotel rates in the hemisphere. But because of the near-elimination of business travel, nightly rates are in free fall, making this moment the best in ages to visit Gotham affordably. Broadway tickets have also gone down, thanks to a steady stream of deep discounts from sources like Broadway Box, TodayTix, and the TKTS booth in Times Square—we snagged seats for two Broadway shows for just $39 a pop, about a quarter what they would have cost in 2019. Not every show is that cheap, of course, but because there are fewer tourists in town, tickets to every show are now available, including the big hits.
The past year has also given the city several new world-class attractions. These include the innovative "floating" park known as Little Island (pictured above), a psychedelic observation deck called SUMMIT One Vanderbilt, and the highest outdoor building climb on the planet. That addition has daredevil visitors scaling a 1,271-foot-tall skyscraper in Hudson Yards.
Old favorites are also returning, better than ever. The American Museum of Natural History opened a downright spectacular renovation of its hall of gems and minerals, the Frick Museum is digging deep into its archive to display masterworks the public doesn't usually get to see (while it's temporarily in a different space), and the Metropolitan Museum is offering several potentially groundbreaking exhibitions such as "Before Yesterday We Could Fly: An Afrofuturist Period Room." And don't forget about the landmark Whitney Biennial, that institution's sweeping, semiannual survey of the best of contemporary American art.
The Great Lakes make up one of the largest and most wondrous ecosystems in the United States, if not the planet, accounting for roughly 21% of the world's fresh water. On the shores of the Great Lakes and nearby you'll find some of America's mightiest cities, its most appealing beaches and natural sights, and some of its most historic and welcoming small towns.
Individually, these elements have drawn vacationers for centuries, and indeed, some tall-masted ships and smaller expedition cruise operations, such as Pearl Seas Cruises and Haphag Lloyd, have been creating multi-day vacations on these waters for years. But in 2022, the Great Lakes will be newly knit together by high-end sailings by the famed Viking Cruises on its swanky Expedition line (the Viking Polaris is pictured above) and the French company Ponant (in partnership with Smithsonian Journeys). Sailing the Great Lakes just became a far more luxurious vacation option. The most common itineraries take cruisers between Toronto or Thunder Bay and Milwaukee or Duluth, visiting such highlights as historic Mackinac Island, Niagara Falls, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, and Georgian Bay (a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve).
It's no secret that Las Vegas is one of the world's top destinations for music and entertainment. But the pandemic has sent the city's residency programs into overdrive with an ever-expanding list of big names who have decided that letting their audiences come to Nevada is a smarter alternative to widespread touring. We're about to see upcoming residencies by the likes of Adele, John Legend, Carrie Underwood, Katy Perry, Luke Bryan, Celine Dion, and Sting. Comedy residencies are also a growing trend in Vegas, with Jon Lovitz, Bill Maher, Jim Gaffigan, and George Lopez all slated to take the stage on a regular basis.
Many of these stars will play Resorts World Las Vegas (pictured above), the first major new gambling compound in Sin City in over a decade. Resorts World cost a reported $4.3 billion to build, so it has a huge stake in attracting major crowds to the Strip with the city's first Asian-style street food court, a bakery from star pastry-maker Dominique Ansel (creator of the cronut), and that aggressive events schedule stuffed with A-list performers.
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• The World's Safest Places to Go in 2022