4. Airports will try to impress you
I live in New York and often fly in and out of LaGuardia — an airport that's usually on travelers' "10 worst" lists. Well, no longer! A tired food court formerly featuring bad Chinese and pizza by the slice now has a huge salad bar and refrigerated shelves stacked with hummus and carrots, fresh fruit and yogurt parfaits. The waiting area for flights now has seating zones to suit everyone's tastes, including comfy booths with tables and individual lamps, high stools at counters, and even a section with iPad rests at every seat. Other airports are sprucing up as well: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International, Los Angeles International, Dallas-Fort Worth International and Las Vegas' McCarran International are all in the midst of multibillion-dollar improvements that include more airy and welcoming terminals and better dining and shopping options. Travelers may actually want to lengthen their time between connecting flights.
And if you're looking for top trendy places to go this year, check out the places below.
5. Anywhere touched by Abraham Lincoln
Move over, "George Washington Slept Here" — 2013 is all about Abe Lincoln. Movies have a way of shedding a new light on a destination, and what The Da Vinci Code was for Rome and The Lord of the Rings was for New Zealand, Steven Spielberg's award-winning Lincoln will be for Pennsylvania, Virginia and Kentucky.
Richmond, Va.: The state capital (and former capital of the Confederacy) has a "Movie Trail" tour marking the sites where Lincoln was filmed, as well as places where the real Lincoln once visited.
Hodgenville, Ky.: Here you can visit the iconic cabin at Abraham Lincoln Birthplace, a National Historic Park, and 10 miles away see his rustic boyhood home in Knob Creek.
Gettysburg, Pa.: This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, which took place on the spot now known as Gettysburg National Military Park — also the site of Lincoln's historic Gettysburg Address on Nov. 19, 1863.
6. The Nicaraguan coast
This has been one of my favorite countries since I visited in 2006 and fell in love with its Pacific Coast and beautiful crescent-shaped beaches. San Juan del Sur is the main coastal town, a once-quaint fishing village that's now a rustic retreat for surfers, hikers and obsessively texting business people attempting rest and relaxation. There's sailing, kayaking and scuba diving, as well as barefoot restaurants and well-poured drinks in sandy bars. As Costa Rica becomes more and more expensive, vacationers looking for sun, surf and simplicity are heading to Nicaragua.
7. Rio de Janeiro
With the World Cup in Brazil in the summer of 2014 and the Rio Summer Olympics on its heels in 2016, this city, which has always been a top destination, is set to become a tourism tour de force. But why wait? It's only going to get more expensive and more crowded, so this is the year to visit. From June 15–30, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) holds the Confederations Cup, a sort of a preview of the World Cup where you can experience "football" (as Brazilians call their first, second and third sport) without competing with the entire planet for tickets, hotel reservations and airline seats. Even if you can't get tickets to a game, you'll feel the excitement of soccer in the air while you see everything else that Rio has to offer.
Samantha Brown is AARP's travel ambassador.
Also of Interest
- 11 cities you should consider visiting in 2013
- Is Obama ready to propose big Social Security changes?
- Join AARP in the fight to end hunger
Visit the AARP home page for travel discounts, tips and more