2018 Travel Awards: 44 Best Travel Destinations & Gear of the Year
Use our list of the best landmarks, restaurants, gear, and more to help plan your next great Western adventure
Irene Edwards, Lauren Ladoceour, Jessica Mordo, Luke Sykora, Margo True, and Maya Wong
Courtesy of Viceroy Snowmass
1 of 46Courtesy of Viceroy Snowmass
Viceroy Snowmass, Snowmass Village, CO
In the Rockies, close-ups of snow-covered summits aren’t limited to those who reach the top of the ski lift. At this chic hotel near downtown Aspen, 163 rooms are built into the slope of Assay Hill, giving guests immediate access to the mountain from the newly redesigned lobby. The $4 million renovation also brought in Toro Kitchen & Lounge, a pan-Latin restaurant from restaurateur Richard Sandoval. From $270; viceroyhotelsandresorts.com.
Jason Merritt / Getty Images
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Jason Merritt / Getty Images
Santa Monica, California
Unlike places that require a detailed itinerary to get the most out of a vacation, Santa Monica is best seen with no endpoint in mind. In fact, a daylong browse captures the area’s laid-back spirit perfectly. Start at Third Street Promenade (pictured), where street performers play in front of retail draws like Madewell and Anthropologie. Another must: Wednesday’s farmers’ market, where 75 stalls make up the city’s largest gathering of food stands. Then, head north and rub elbows with the athleisure-and-almond-latte set on Montana Avenue, a polished version of Venice’s artsy Abbot Kinney. santamonica.com.
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Martine Beher Photography
3 of 46Martine Beher Photography
Travel Hack for Parents
BabyQuip, San Francisco
Moms and dads navigating an airport with small childrenhaul an inordinate amount of stuff—strollers, iPads, diapers, plane-friendly snacks shoved in a backpack—not to mention tired toddlers who refuse to take another step toward the terminal. To lighten the load, BabyQuip (formerly Babierge) rents out baby gear for families on the go. Choose a partner from its web site who will meet you at your destination (the hotel, the rental car office, the airport) and set you up. Bins of toys curated for a child’s age and interests go for $6 a day on average, while backpacks for family hikes start at $7. It’s a steal compared with checked luggage fees—plus, your lower back will thank you. babyquip.com.
4 of 46Monterey Tides
Monterey Tides, a Joie de Vivre Hotel, Monterey, CA
Whether you're traveling solo or as part of a group, it’s nice to have a communal space that makes you want to hang for a while before going up to your room. Opened in 2016, this Monterey beachfront hotel has a soothing, neutral-toned lobby with expansive glass windows that look out onto miles of meditative ocean. A wood-paneled fireplace surround and plenty of plush lounge chairs and sofas beckon for afternoon conversations or pre-dinner drinks. From $179; jdvhotels.com.
Courtesy of Andaz Maui At Wailea Resort
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Courtesy of Andaz Maui At Wailea Resort
Ka‘ana Kitchen at Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort, Wailea, Maui
File this memorable excursion under “Things that Only Happen in Hawaii.” The Soar + Savor series, led by Maui-born chef Isaac Bancaco, takes six guests on a cultural journey followed by a feast. The day begins with a helicopter ride (with views of Pa‘ia, Ho‘okipa, Haiku, and beyond) and a stop in Hana for stories about island life with local farmers, fishermen, and ranchers. Then it’s on to Andaz for a cooking class and a family-style meal. A guest chef or two may surprise diners; Sheldon Simeon of Bravo’s Top Chef and San Francisco hotshot Brandon Jew of Mister Jiu’s made appearances in 2018. From $1,200; andazmaui.com.
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Our longtime love affair with the outdoors must be catching on: Glamping-themed celebrations, from intimate dinners to big weddings, are gaining momentum across the West. The game changer? A boutique canvas shelter—such as the Dusk Meriwether Lite Tent from Shelter Co.—that offers a lounge-like gathering place for guests. This San Francisco–based events business also rents custom rugs, colorful poufs, pillows handmade in India, and other decorative touches for instant boho-festival atmosphere. $695; shelter-co.com.
Spondylotithesis / Getty Images
7 of 46Spondylotithesis / Getty Images
Long Beach Airport, Long Beach, California
An unexpected layover never ranks high on our list of adventures. But at this sunny SoCal terminal, the proximity to the waterfront and a slew of ongoing improvements are worthwhile consolations. The airport is currently on phase two of a $74 million renovation; in June, it began offering Hawaiian Airlines flights to Honolulu. If you have enough time on your hands, head to the aquarium for the afternoon or check out the craft beer scene at Ballast Point Long Beach, just 6 miles away. visitlongbeach.com.
Courtesy of Eggslut
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Courtesy of Eggslut
Sin City Sammie
Eggslut, Las Vegas, Nevada
From Filipino-American chef Alvin Cailan, the wildly popular Eggslut has touched down at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas resort and casino—and the hourlong wait for breakfast sandwiches says it all. The first non-SoCal storefront for the L.A.-based chain busts out its signature offerings, including the infamously named Slut (a coddled egg on top of smooth potato puree with chives served on baguette slices). One of those should carry you well into the lunch hour before hitting the slots or a show. Get in line. cosmopolitanlasvegas.com.
Courtesy Visit Newport Beach
9 of 46Courtesy Visit Newport Beach
Lido Isle, Newport Beach, California
Known for its turnkey homes and a quaint nautical flair, this Orange County enclave is like a West Coast version of a classic Cape Cod village. Live like a sea captain for a few nights at the recently opened Lido House, a 130-room property with candy-stripe poolside cabanas and a turret with sunset views. Rent a boat at Lido Marina Village (pictured) to make the most of your time on the water. From $389; visitnewportbeach.com.
Suzanne Stroeer / Aurora Photos / Getty Images
10 of 46Suzanne Stroeer / Aurora Photos / Getty Images
Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument Escalante, Utah
Since its first days as a national monument in 1996, the federally protected land—which now covers just over 1 million acres—has been a beloved spot for explorers in search of hiking, backpacking, and mountain biking trails among Utah’s colorful canyons and cliffs. Grab your camera and get here while the weather is still warm—there’s a photo-ready plateau, rock formation, or fossil around every bend. escalanteut.com.
Courtesy of Hotel Zetta
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Courtesy of Hotel Zetta
Hotel Zetta, San Francisco
Take your midnight snacking to the next level. The downtown hotel’s Well + Away VitalBar program supplements the usual temptations (Snickers, Mexican Coke) with healthier options to combat jet lag and stress. Organic and vegan Justin’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups, locally made Superfood+ Bars from Navitas Organics, elixirs by L.A.’s Moon Juice, and Forever Beautiful superfood mix from California’s Your Super fill the in-room baskets. No more going to bed hungry! From $269; viceroyhotelsandresorts.com/zetta.
Courtesy of The Broadmoor
12 of 46Courtesy of The Broadmoor
The Broadmoor Fly Fishing Camp, Colorado Springs
Along a winding river about 40 miles west of The Broadmoor—a 100-year-old Italian Renaissance–style resort that recently unveiled a pricey refresh—stands the historic hotel’s unlikely offshoot: a seven-cabin fishing camp. Compared with the mansion's ornate furnishings and gilded details, the accommodations are humble, but the service is just as full (a chef is available to cook up the day’s catch for dinner). Beginners do well with hands-on instruction, and seasoned pros will geek out over the Orvis gear and bevy of brown trout. From $1,005, all-inclusive; broadmoor.com.
Thomas J. Story
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Thomas J. Story
Destination on the Rise
Costa Palmas, East Cape, Baja California Sur, Mexico
The hype about Costa Palmas seems inevitable, given its location within an hour of Los Cabos International Airport and opposite the party-ready Cabo San Lucas corridor. The 1,000-acre compound on the East Cape of Baja, with its two-mile sweep of shore bordering the calm and swimmable Sea of Cortez, was nothing but a stretch of white sand when L.A. real estate firm Irongate purchased it in 2014. But now all eyes are on Costa Palmas, site of a soon-to-open Four Seasons Resort and Residences and an outpost of the ultra-exclusive Aman Resorts. Four modernist cabanas by New York architects Guerin Glass—open to prospective buyers of the multimillion-dollar residences—sit by the water, flanking an open-air beach club and an adventure center with kite surfing, kayaks, and ATVs. Behind the dunes, a bleached-wood boardwalk traverses a natural lagoon to a restaurant and bar run by Argentine chef Gonzalo Cerda. Life continues largely as usual in the nearby towns of La Ribera and Santiago: Anglers pull their boats ashore full of snapper and dorado; the Rancho Ecológico Sol de Mayo charges a modest entrance fee to access waterfall hikes and rocky plunge pools (the 30-foot cliff jump is not for the faint of heart). A lush organic farm strung with fairy lights hosts gatherings as well as multicourse cookouts. Already there are gossip-column mentions of Costa Palmas (Gwyneth Paltrow’s bachelorette party!), and private jets are poised on the horizon. Go see the East Cape before the boldface names descend. This is the travel world’s next big thing. costapalmas.com.
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Behind the Scenes of our Travel Awards Cover Shoot
Go behind the scenes of August's cover shoot in Costa Palmas, winner of one of our 2018 Travel Awards.
Hearth & Dram
15 of 46Hearth & Dram
Hearth & Dram, Denver
This restaurant is the watering hole to write home about (or at least capture on social media). The handsome interiors—a modern take on the golden age of the railroad—are particularly apropos given that Union Station is only a block away. And in terms of a place to kill time, the bar makes a pretty sweet setup for a glass of Scotch and a plate of housemade charcuterie before your 5:45 p.m. train leaves the platform. hearthanddram.com.
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The Vintages, Dayton, Oregon
At this Willamette Valley park, each wheeled abode is different—a 1963 Airstream Overlander and a 1948 Westwood are two of the 31 options. Amenities include pour-over coffee, terrycloth robes, hotel-quality linens, and cruiser bikes to take you over the bridge to downtown Dayton. At night, trade ghost stories over The Little Campfire Kit, a grown-up summer camp perk with artisanal s’mores ingredients and a bottle of Pinot Noir. From $115; thevintages.com.
17 of 46Dave Lauridsen
Urban Wine Trail, Santa Barbara
We’re big fans of the Santa Barbara wine scene’s distinctive vintages poured in sophisticated settings without even a hint of pretension. From the artsy Funk Zone district to the historic Presidio neighborhood, the city hosts more than 28 tasting rooms, most sampling the surrounding Santa Ynez Valley. For the full oenophile effect, buy a Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail Membership Card for $150, and then enjoy flights throughout the square-mile cluster. urbanwinetrailsb.com.
18 of 46Rachel Weill
Under Canvas Zion, Virgin, Utah
The difference between camping and glamping can be huge—and Under Canvas Zion definitely comes down on the fluffy-pillow side of the equation. At this luxe tent resort located on 196 acres next to Zion National Park, the roomy canvas suites include daily housekeeping and Casper mattress beds (some with views of the stars). A wood stove keeps toes warm at night, and a private deck practically begs you to wake early enough to see the sunrise. From $439; undercanvas.com/camps/zion.
19 of 46Mountain Shadows
Mountain Shadows, Paradise Valley, Arizona
A 1950s desert hideaway for Hollywood’s elite, this Phoenix-area retreat reopened in 2017 after a long, meticulous reconstruction. Mid-century details laid the groundwork for design, with low-slung chairs, metallic accents, and bar carts worthy of a Mad Men tipple. The massive new wellness center features a stunning gym and moonlight rooftop yoga studio, as well as a pair of 75-foot pools with mountain views to enjoy with your post-workout smoothie. From $159; mountainshadows.com.
The Hollywood Roosevelt
20 of 46The Hollywood Roosevelt
The Hollywood Roosevelt, Los Angeles
What could be more L.A. than avocado toast by a pool? Dive into your morning meal at The Hollywood Roosevelt, whose iconic 1960s-style hotel pool features a David Hockney mural on the bottom. Lift your eyes from the art to glance at the weekend menu—which includes breakfast classics like scrambled eggs and vanilla-bean pancakes, as well as lighter options such as acai bowls—before claiming a sunny chaise for the day. thehollywoodroosevelt.com.
Courtesy of Waldorf Astoria Park City
21 of 46Courtesy of Waldorf Astoria Park City
Waldorf Astoria Park City, Park City, Utah
We’re calling it now: The nextski-resort drink of choice iscraft beer made in collaboration with the hotel. In Utah, that brew is Waldorf Astoria and Park City Brewery’s love child, Pow Day. The crisp pale ale, which has a hint of rye to it, is only available at the posh mountain lodge or the taproom. Get into the post-run spirit and take the beverage back to your room to enjoy by the fire. From $350; waldorfastoriaparkcity.com.
The Elizabeth Hotel
22 of 46The Elizabeth Hotel
The Elizabeth Hotel, Fort Collins, Colorado
Boutique hotels love working in a secret nook or a hidden gem for guests to discover. Sometimes it comes in the form of a well-stocked book collection or a speakeasy-type bar. The Elizabeth Hotel goes the musical route with its Instrument Lending Library. Test out the rotating lineup of keyboards, string instruments, and amps, or strum a few chords on replicas of iconic guitars like the 1957 Gretsch Duo Jet played by George Harrison and Eric Clapton’s signature Martin guitar. You can even borrow a classic rock album to put on your room’s turntable—air guitar optional. From $212; theelizabethcolorado.com.
Courtesy of Halcyon, a hotel in Cherry Creek
23 of 46Courtesy of Halcyon, a hotel in Cherry Creek
Adventurer’s Crash Pad
Forgetting to take yourGoPro on vacation stings a lot less when the concierge has a stash to lend out. Such convenient service at this hotel is an outdoor lover’s dream—the hand-picked gadgets and equipment in its Gear Garage can spare you from, say, relying on your phone to film tomorrow’s hike up Mount Bierstadt. Choose from Piaggio scooters, bikes, longboards, or a rotating selection of cameras, and head out for the day. The inventory changes as seasons shift, so snowshoes, sleds, and Arc’teryx goodies are fully stocked by the time winter hits. From $329; halcyonhotelcherrycreek.com.
Courtesy of The Art, a Hotel
24 of 46Courtesy of The Art, a Hotel
The Art, A Hotel, Denver
Whereas some hotels might hang a framed Matisse print or two and call it a day, The Art is filled with truly noteworthy works. One block away from the Denver Art Museum in the Golden Triangle cultural district, this thoughtfully curated accommodation has a Leo Villareal LED light installation in the lobby; sculptures by Kiki Smith and Deborah Butterfield; and loaner bikes designed and painted by local students. Guides offer complimentary hotel art tours every Saturday. From $289; thearthotel.com.
Courtesy of The Garland
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Courtesy of The Garland
Healthy(ish) Happy Hour
The Garland, Los Angeles
If there’s anything that will make an East Coaster say “That’s so California,” it’s probably The Garland hotel’s health-minded bar bites at The Front Yard. A cheeky spin on the 5 o’clock drinking ritual, the daily shindig offers fresh concoctions for anyone seeking a nourishing treat. Sip on a glass of Ginge + Juice or share a plate of cauliflower tacos. In the mood for a classic cocktail? Don’t fret. Traditional booze—and decadent snacks—are also on offer. thegarland.com.
Courtesy of Hotel Californian
26 of 46Courtesy of Hotel Californian
Hotel Californian, Santa Barbara
Trust interior designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard to bring a serious dose of Moroccan glamour to this quintessentially Santa Barbaran structure. Behind the red-tile roof and white stucco walls of the 121-room hotel, high-impact Moorish elements include intricately tiled floors, patterned ceilings, and arched doorways in the spa. Forgo the beach for a swim in the rooftop pool—that is, if you can pull yourself away from the countless photo ops. There is not a bad angle in this place. From $550; thehotelcalifornian.com.
Andrea M. Gómez
27 of 46Andrea M. Gómez
Yosemite National Park, California
We hear you loud and clear: You love Yosemite, no matter what the season. Sunset reader Julian Siminski of Los Angeles, for example, recommends the “majestic” cross-country skiing through the valley in December, with El Capitan as a backdrop. Each year, the 1,189-square-mile Unesco World Heritage Site receives more than 4 million visitors—and for good reason. This is nature at its finest, whether you’re spying the spectacular Horsetail Fall; making the epic climb up Half Dome; taking in the valley’s panoramic views; or standing in silence in the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. In April 2018, the park announced a $5 increase in entrance fees to help support restoration programs, campground maintenance, and infrastructure. Consider it a small price to pay for having this awe-inspiring part of the world in our own backyard. nps.gov/yose.
Courtesy of Spirit of the West Adventures
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Courtesy of Spirit of the West Adventures
Spirit of the West Adventures, Heriot Bay, B.C.
No need to set your phone’s alarm if you’re on the Whales and Wilderness Glamping tour—you’re likely to wake to the sound of whales blowing outside your tent each morning. Nature lovers looking for an off-the-grid type of trip can expect four days of relaxing kayaking in northern Vancouver Island and around the edge of the Broughton Archipelago, which just so happens to double as the heart of orca and humpback territory (hence the sunrise wake-up calls). From $1,388 U.S.; kayakingtours.com.
Courtesy of Ventana Big Sur
29 of 46Courtesy of Ventana Big Sur
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort, Big Sur, California
Ventana Inn has been around since 1975, but when land-slides blocked access to much of Big Sur in 2017, the resort’s new owners took the opportunity to give the legendaryproperty a multimillion-dollar facelift. The architecture still feels charmingly low-key: All 59 rooms and suites on the 160-acre property have private balconies or patios, fireplaces, macramé wall art, and leather and wood furnishings for that cozy cabin feel. To truly escape the daily grind, book a tent at the Redwood Canyon Glampsites, which has limited cell service. Work emails will just have to wait. From $850; ventanabigsur.com.
Courtesy of Piggy Smalls
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Courtesy of Piggy Smalls
Island Hot Spot
Ward Village, Honolulu
There’s more to Honolulu than mai tais and Waikiki Beach, despite what some of those Facebook photos suggest. Case in point: Ward Village, a shopping and dining collectivein the heart of the hip Kaka‘ako district. The former industrial area is filled with indie clothing boutiques, locally owned businesses, and street art. Our go-to? Piggy Smalls (pictured), an offshoot of a popular Chinatown spot that does amazing spiked slushies and puts a creative twist on the familiar bánh mì. wardvillage.com.
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The Porter, Portland
Here’s one for the bibliophiles among us. At this Pacific Northwest establishment, it’s perfectly appropriate to nestle into the lobby couch, avoid small talk, and curl up with a good page-turner for a few hours. Making its debut in April 2018, the downtown addition offers a City of Roses–inspired collection of books for guests to check out. We thought we’d never leave the building. From $299; theporterhotel.com.
Courtesy of Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa
32 of 46Courtesy of Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa
Garden of Earthly Delights
Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa, La Jolla, California
This hacienda-style resort is the kind of place that makes it easy to break up with your phone. And your laptop. And your tablet. Your Fitbit can stay, though, because the Estancia offers a very walkable 10-acre garden of cactus, roses, birds-of-paradise, and California natives that winds around the adobe-style buildings. The plant life continues at The Spa at Estancia, where you can stretch out in the indoor-outdoor relaxation areas, eucalyptus steam room, and meditation garden. Follow up with a private cabana or daybed session, then do it all again tomorrow. From $289; meritagecollection.com/estancialajolla.
Courtesy of Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite
33 of 46Courtesy of Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite
Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite, Fish Camp, California
A short two miles from Yosemite’s southern entrance, the 75-acre resort ticks off all the must-have boxes of a High Sierra stay—roomy cottage suites, park tours, and a sauna situation that your hiked-out muscles will appreciate. Animal lovers who like to indulge their fur babies, take note: The lodge offers pampered-pet packages and massages for four-legged guests. Yes, really. From $390; tenayalodge.com.
Visit Walla Walla
34 of 46Visit Walla Walla
Walla Walla, Washington
Widely known for its wheat and sweet onions, Walla Walla is also gaining recognition for its 120 wineries and tasting rooms, many of which occupy restored early-20th-century buildings. Show up at Saffron Mediterranean Kitchen on any night of the week, and you may find it filled with young winemakers behind some of the best Cabernets and Syrahs in the country. Chefs have followed the grapes, and the combination has energized this once-sleepy community. The introduction of nearby Eritage Resort—a 10-room refuge slated to open this summer, with lakeside villas to come—is bound to seal the deal. From $350; eritageresort.com; wallawalla.org.
Courtesy of Sunski
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Courtesy of Sunski
Sunski, San Francisco
Sunski designs polarized lenses that don’t slip even if you’re paddleboarding on a bay or biking to the beach. The style factor is high, so they transition seamlessly from daytime to nighttime activities. What’s more, the company donates a percentage of each year’s sales to environmental causes such as Save the Waves and Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation. From $48; sunski.com.
The Sandman Hotel
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The Sandman Hotel
The Sandman Hotel, Santa Rosa, California
The midcentury design craze shows no sign of slowing down, thanks to an uptick of boutique hotels embracing geometric patterns, teak furniture, and a 1960s-era lamp or two. A stopover at this roadside inn, which reopened in summer 2017, should certainly include a meal at the Pool House & Bar, an indoor-outdoor retreat with funky palm-leaf wallpaper, rattan chairs, and a vintage Paul T. Frankl sofa and ottoman. Talk about Throwback Thursdays. From $144; sandmansantarosa.com.
37 of 46Erin Kunkel
Santa Barbara, California
In response to the devastating Thomas Fire, which began in December 2017, and the January 2018 Montecito mudslide, Santa Barbara area residents have a renewed sense of community and purpose. Their resolve has only strengthened the city’s mission of making over warehouses and historic buildings into modern places to gather. The food scene keeps evolving, as do the Pinots and Chards from the fertile valleys to the north. But there’s still a lot of work to be done, so if you happen to come across a craft fair or beer tasting that supports the relief efforts, by all means: enjoy. santabarbaraca.com.
Courtesy of The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas
38 of 46Courtesy of The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas
The Chandelier, Las Vegas
Of all the joints in which to indulge in a post-dinner, pre-show cocktail, the multistory hangout at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas gets our vote for avoiding the gaudy kitsch of Elvis impersonators and bachelor parties roaming the Strip. The 24-hour bottom level is the liveliest of the three floors, while the more sophisticated Level 1.5 seats you inside a massive light fixture. The top perch serves as an ideal place for a mid-afternoon escape from the hustle and bustle of the slots. The drink we can’t stop ordering: a color-changing number called We’re All Mad Here. cosmopolitanlasvegas.com.
Courtesy of The Resort at Paws Up
39 of 46Courtesy of The Resort at Paws Up
The Resort at Paws Up, Greenough, Montana
A 40-minute drive east of the Missoula International Airport, this working Montana ranch is beloved for many reasons: large cabins to rent, luxury tents with up to three bedrooms, heated bathroom floors, and outdoor jacuzzis for stargazing. Island Lodge at Salmon Lake (the newest wow destination, which opened this summer) is surrounded by a 5-mile-long body of water at the southern end of Seeley Swan Valley and offers waterskiing, fishing, canoeing, and boat tours. It’s a bucket-list getaway worth saving up for. From $1,690; pawsup.com.
Courtesy of Hydro Flask
40 of 46Courtesy of Hydro Flask
New Camping Essential
Hydro Flask Unbound Series Soft Cooler Pack, Bend, Oregon
It’s day two at your favorite state park pull-in site. The ice that once kept your beer chilled is now a puddle of lukewarm water, and the hand-me-down cooler is heavy and awkward. Oh, the joys of tent life! That’s why our eyes lit up at the sight of this minimalist alternative, which uses cold-retaining technology to keep drinks at low temperatures for up to 48 hours. Watertight zippers render it leakproof, and the adjustable woven sternum strap is comfy enough to wear while hiking up a trail. From $275; hydroflask.com.
Courtesy of Clif Family Winery
41 of 46Courtesy of Clif Family Winery
Clif Family Winery, St. Helena, California
The Clif Family Tasting Room’s adjoining food truck, the Clif Family Bruschetteria, is helmed by chef John McConnell, whose kitchen on wheels gets major props from Napa Valley regulars. The seasonal farm-to-truck menu is devoted to fanciful variations of the grilled-bread antipasto that pair perfectly with a bottle of Grenache. Or simply cut to the chase with the Bruschetta + Wine Tasting Trio. cliffamily.com.
Emily Coey / Peace Vans Rentals
42 of 46Emily Coey / Peace Vans Rentals
Peace Vans Rentals, California & Washington
Road trips don’t have to be synonymous with insufficient leg room and fast-food dinners. With new motors and a little (okay, maybe a lot of) elbow grease, these expertly restored 1980s and ’90s VW camper vans are kitted out with clever touches, like original built-ins alongside a beer growler (upon request) and two full-size mattresses. You bring the dashboard hula girl. $215 per night, for a 6-night minimum; peacevansrentals.com.
Courtesy of Visit Estes Park
43 of 46Courtesy of Visit Estes Park
Estes Park, Colorado
You can drive from Denver to this quaint alpine village during the time it takes to watch that solid B-level movie on the plane. Known as a gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, the city has a full roster of outdoor activities (fly fishing! camping! hiking!) and, of course, The Stanley Hotel, which provided the inspiration for Stephen King’s The Shining. Next to downtown is Performance Park, an outdoor music venue with free concerts and a natural rock wall for climbers to scale. The best time to visit is during the fall, when the crowds of summer visitors have cleared out. Schedule a trip to catch the autumn foliage at its peak. visitestespark.com.
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Willamette Valley Must
This small agricultural community has responded to the Pinot Noir–driven tourist boom, and now you hardly need to leave its limits to experience the valley’s riches. Downtown, on picturesque Third Street, you’ll find 19th-century brick buildings housing restaurants, cafes, art galleries, and boutiques, as well as 15 wine-tasting establishments. Right off Third lies the 36-room Atticus Hotel, whose moody, atmospheric interiors provide a restful night’s sleep. From $330; atticushotel.com; visitmcminnville.com.
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Rei Adventures Four Corners Hiking, Albuquerque
For active adventurers checking off once-in-a-lifetime experiences, this seven-day journey surely delivers. You’ll be trekking through San Juan National Forest and rafting along the San Juan River, spotting desert bighorn sheep along the way. The REI Adventures excursion begins and ends in New Mexico, with pit stops in Arizona, Colorado, and Utah. Also on the agenda: the Native American pueblos of Chaco Canyon and Mesa Verde National Park with your own private tour guide. From $3,599; rei.com/adventures.
Thomas J. Story
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Thomas J. Story
Resorts, destination towns, memorable meals, action-packed attractions, and gear that also put us in vacation mode.