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Top 14 places to visit in America in 2016

Jamie Ditaranto, SmarterTravel.com | January 7, 2016

Travel Advice and Tips

Below you’ll find the Top 14 places to visit in America in 2016, up first:

San Diego, California

2016 marks the 100-year anniversary of the famous San Diego Zoo. Locals and visitors alike can celebrate this momentous occasion by visiting one of the Zoo’s new exhibitions or events throughout the year.

San Diego will also become home to America’s first bi-national airport in 2016. A 390-foot pedestrian bridge known as the Cross Border Xpress, will allow travelers flying through Tijuana International Airport to enter the US without having to step outside. For just $18, travelers can skip the vehicular border traffic and walk across the overpass directly to a U.S. border inspector in as little as five minutes. Visiting both Tijuana and San Diego in one trip will be a breeze with the new Cross Border Xpress.

Louisville, Kentucky

Urban Bourbon Trail added seven new distilleries with bourbon, brandy and even moonshine for 2016. Mega Cavern opens in 2016, too. This underground bike park built 100 feet underground in a limestone cavern has over 320,000 square feet of BMX tracks, trails and jumps – for both beginners and seasoned pros of all ages. They offer a ropes course, tram-car, and zip-lining, too. With climate control set to 60 degrees Fahrenheit, you’ll never have to worry about sunscreen or rain in this cave.

National Parks

The National Park Service will be celebrating its 100th birthday on August 25, 2016, but will be celebrating all year long with various events throughout the United States. The scenery and majesty of the National Parks does not disappoint, no matter when you visit. Stargaze at Joshua Tree National Park, experience the grandeur of the Grand Canyon, explore pueblos over one thousand years old at Canyon de Chelly National Monument or sled on perfect white sand dunes at White Sands National Monument.

Parks free on the following days to honor the Centennial:

January 18: Martin Luther King Day

April 16-April 24: National Park Week

August 25-August 28: National Park Service Birthday

September 24: National Public Lands Day

November 11: Veterans Day

San Antonio, Texas

Spanish Missions of San Antonio were declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in July 2015. When checking out these historical “landmarks” of the Spanish Empire, look beyond the Alamo to many more missions south of San Antonio, some you can even explore via kayak on the San Antonio River. This option allows you to see the incredible, newly restored, native vegetation along the river. Visit the newly opened Emma Hotel in San Antonio’s center and the historic Pearl Brewery’s delicious tasting tours


Hawaii vacations are always a popular trip to take. Haleakala and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park will be celebrating the National Park centennial in 2016. This year is also the 50th anniversary of the Aloha Fridays tradition, an islands-wide celebration of the native Hawaiian shirt. These two events mean new hotels, restaurants and other openings to accommodate the influx of tourists. Virgin America launches its first Hawaiian route with service from San Francisco in late 2015. Delta announces a new route from Minneapolis, too–meaning Midwesterners can easily escape to this tropical paradise.

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Olympic kayakers and canoeists regularly train in The Oklahoma City Boathouse District. In 2016, this area will become home to RIVERSPORT Rapids, a state-of-the-art aquatic adventure facility. This will be the first facility of its kind equipped for both families and Olympians.

Don’t miss the live music, local beer and, of course, delicious food at Oklahoma City’s 45,000-person food truck market, H&8th. 2016 is the first year that the market will occur monthly, rather than yearly, to accommodate the large crowds and coordinate with the Pro-am bike races.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Due to its important role in American history, Philadelphia was recently named as the first UNESCO World Heritage City in the United States. One prominent attraction to visit includes the One Liberty Observation Deck which offers incredible panoramic views of the city. Other notable points of interest are The Barnes Foundation and the Philadelphia Museum of Art because they will display famous international art exhibitions throughout the year. Recently named as the best North American city for live music, be sure to check out one of the many live music options. Philadelphia will host the Democratic National Convention and the 200th anniversary of the African American Episcopal Church in Summer 2016.

Cleveland, OH

The city’s public square will undergo a “green” renovation in 2016. Restaurant and retail spaces in Edgewater Park and the Flats East Bank District will also experience a rebuilding. In 2016, pedestrians will have more to do in Cleveland than ever before. Be sure to sightsee along the Cuyahoga River and explore the beaches of Lake Eerie.

Daytona, FL

The new and improved Daytona International Speedway, opening in January, will have 11 new social areas, 60 new luxury trackside suites and 101,000 new grandstands complete with arm and back rests plus over 5,000 solar panels. This revamp, known as Daytona Rising, is sure to thrill racing fanatics and the average visitor alike.


Indiana’s Bicentennial is in 2016 with celebrations including summer symphonies on the beach, a sand sculpture contest at Indiana Dunes State Park and much more. Indiana’s microbreweries even join forces to create a special bicentennial beer for the occasion. Plus, the 100th Indy 500 happens in 2016.

Hartford, CT

After a 60-year hiatus, Hartford welcomes professional baseball back in 2016 with a minor league team and a new stadium, Dunkin Donuts Park—complete with a supermarket and Thomas Hooker Brewing Company. Hartford will also see new hotels including Hotel@440 and Delmar West Hartford.

Detroit, Michigan

Legoland, an intensive Beatles exhibit and an expansion to the Sea Life Michigan Aquarium all happen in Detroit in 2016. That’s not all, either. The Polk Penguin Conservation Center, the largest penguin facility in the world, will also open in 2016. Four species of penguin live and play in this wonderful aquatic environment. 

Las Vegas, Nevada

To celebrate its 50th anniversary, Ceasars Palace opens Julius Tower. Celine Dion performs her 1,000th show at Ceasars Palace in August. The AXIS at Planet Hollywood welcomes new residents in 2016 Jennifer Lopez and Lionel Richie. This will be quite a year for anniversaries in Vegas.

Galveston, Texas

This little island off the Texas coast will be the latest city for both Carnival Cruise Lines and Disney Cruise Line to call home. The Port of Galveston will host the Carnival Cruise’s Carnival Breeze on May 8. After a beach nourishment and expansion project, you’ll want to check out Galveston’s seven miles of new beach this year.

More from SmarterTravel:

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