Olympic glory, major celebrations, and out-of-this-world trips—welcome to the most intriguing places to visit in 2018. It will be a year packed with reasons to ditch the daily grind and expand your horizons.
Editor’s note: For the latest version of this story, see The 12 Best Places to Travel in 2019.
The Best Places to Visit in 2018
These 10 travel destinations are going big in the new year, welcoming world-stage events, major openings, and more.
The new year heralds big things in Orlando. In 2018, Orlando will get new flight routes from Delta, Frontier, JetBlue, Southwest, and Spirit, further expanding flight options from cities around the country. Hotels slated to open in 2018 include the boutique Delaney Hotel, Universal Orlando’s on-site Aventura Hotel, and the waterfront Margaritaville Resort Orlando.
Orlando’s biggest attractions are getting bigger, too, with the addition of Fast & Furious—Supercharged at Universal Studios, Toy Story Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, plus new and improved rides at SeaWorld Orlando and LEGOLAND Florida. And earning its place on WalletHub’s list of best “Foodie” cities in the U.S., Orlando will debut Circo Orlando, a new Le Cirque group restaurant; a new Jose Andres tapas spot; and more fine dining options.
Minneapolis is ready for its time in the spotlight. The city will host a free 10-day Super Bowl Live festival leading up to Super Bowl 52 on February 4, 2018. The festival is open to the public and includes concerts, attractions, and an interactive NFL theme park. Minneapolis will also welcome the Summer X Games, the WNBA All-Star Game, and the NCAA Volleyball Championships in 2018.
And while sports festivities will come and go, the city is set to unveil more permanent reasons that makes it a great place to visit as well, including the rebuilt 12-block Nicollet Mall, as well as new public amenities and green spaces courtesy of the massive Minneapolis Big Build project.
Situated in the Mediterranean Sea between the mainland of Europe and Africa, Malta is set to be one of the decade’s most engaging European Capitals of Culture. Valletta, the nation’s capital, will be the official host of the year-long celebration, but the entire island of Malta—and neighboring Gozo—will get in on the festivities.
Rooted in the tradition of the festa—the village feast—Valletta 2018 delivers 12 months of festivals, music, theater, traditional celebrations, and hands-on experiences. Come for Carnival, fashion week, the maritime festival Pageant of the Seas, the international arts festival, or one of dozens more major events that make it a standout place to visit throughout the year.
You’ll find a vacation and inspiration in the Netherlands in 2018. New U.S.-Amsterdam service from Delta and KLM—plus direct Eurostar high-speed train service from London, starting in the spring—make a visit both easier and, likely, more affordable. And while Amsterdam is a perennial favorite, the real reason to head to Holland in 2018 is Friesland, the northern coastal region that’s set to shine as an official Capital of Culture.
With more than 45 major international events and hundreds more local programs, visitors looking for creativity on display should set their sights on the city of Leeuwarden and the surrounding countryside. Giant puppets, environmental art, a city-wide Rube Goldberg machine, and arts festivals meant to inspire and surprise—the creativity of the Dutch will be on keen display.
If you don’t yet know how to pronounce Pyeongchang perfectly, you will soon. The host city of the Winter Olympics in the mountains of South Korea seems remote, but offers an accessible (about three hours by shuttle) and compelling place to visit beyond Seoul, the country’s capital city. Visitors can take advantage of discounted rail passes to explore the South Korea in February and March, and with direct flights from American, Asiana, Delta, Hawaiian, Korean, and other airlines, there are plenty of route choices.
Once you’ve watched the Olympics, you can even live your own athletic adventure at one of the nearby ski resorts that will be open for recreational skiing. And with the long-awaited opening of Seoullo 7017, it’s a good time to stop in Seoul as well. The converted former highway is now an elevated public park flanked by cafes, shops, and performance areas.
After a serious battering during the 2017 hurricane season, the Caribbean may be off the radar of many travelers. But it shouldn’t be: Just a few months into recovery, more than 75 percent of Caribbean destinations are already welcoming back tourists. The region’s 32 countries are spread out across 1 million square miles of aquamarine waters, guaranteeing that paradise-seekers will find a full measure of resorts and beaches ready to welcome them.
By making the Caribbean a place to visit in 2018, you’ll be helping to support rebuilding efforts in this region that depends so heavily on tourism. Check the Caribbean Travel Update to find out if your island of choice is open for business.
Discover something old and new alike in Jordan, where the new Jordan Trail forges a 400-mile hiking route past ancient monuments, through tiny villages, and across some of the world’s most spectacular landscapes. Parts of the trail have been used by travelers for millennia, but the full route has only been operational for a few months. Hiking the entire trail takes between 40 and 45 days (though some are able to do it in less). Many opt to just hike a few days along a portion of the trail.
Looking to mix hiking and less physically demanding endeavors on a trip to Jordan? The Jordan Pass bundles prepaid entry to 40 attractions and waived tourist entry fees if you get the pass in advance. And Royal Jordanian Airlines offers a discounted flight pass that can reduce fares by up to 50 percent.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Buenos Aires knows how to celebrate, and in 2018, it will be in prime form as it welcomes major international sporting events. More than 4,000 youth athletes and thousands of spectators will flock to the city for the 2018 Youth Olympic Games. The city also will host four free Olympic parks featuring music, cultural and arts festivals, and, of course, more sports. In November, the IRONMAN 70.3 South American Championship pits 75 of the world’s fittest humans against each other in one epic race.
Whether you’re considering Buenos Aires as a place to visit for sport or simply because Buenos Aires is among the world’s most beloved cities, you can visit for less in 2018: The exchange rate is at a low against the dollar, and international visitors can save even more with a hotel tax reimbursement offer.
Mexico City, Mexico
Mexico City has been at the forefront of style for a long time, but its position as a world leader will be cemented next year as it claims the title of World Design Capital 2018. With its seamless blend of old and new, the city will use the year to expand efforts to “transform lives through design.”
Put it on your list of places to visit this coming year to take advantage of bike-sharing programs, urban gardens, and new parks where you can participate in signature design events throughout the year. Mexico City is North America’s first World Design City, and with new and soon-to-launch flights from the U.S. from Aeromexico, JetBlue, and Volaris, it’s easier to reach than ever.
The final frontier is here. Space tourism has arrived, even if you can’t use your frequent flyer miles to book just yet. Both Virgin Galactic and Space X are planning to launch non-astronaut leisure seekers into orbit in 2018.
With flights starting at around $250,000 (and likely reaching into the millions)—not to mention the extensive training that goes into a trip to space—this is one destination that will remain financially out of each for most people in 2018. But it’s increasingly feasible as a future destination, and undoubtedly one giant leap for tourist-kind.
More from SmarterTravel:
- 10 Natural Wonders to See Before They’re Gone
- 12 Foreign Islands Most Americans Have Never Heard Of
- 10 Most Intriguing Places to Visit in 2017
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