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Top U.S. Vacation Destinations for 2016

  • Backpacker, Glacier, Snow, Alaska, Top U.S. Vacation Destinations
    Design Pics Inc / Alamy Stock Photo

    En español | How about making a New Year's travel resolution: Get to some American places that will celebrate special 2016 events and new attractions. Or choose an under-the-radar destination from the list here. 

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  • USS Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii, Top U.S. Vacation Destinations
    Barry Wong

    Oahu, Hawaii

    Ceremonies commemorating the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor will take place on Kilo Pier and at Oahu memorial sites. Student musicians from Japan and the U.S. will perform together at the Battleship Missouri Memorial. The National WWII Museum is offering a weeklong symposium and tour, including an early-morning anniversary ceremony on Dec. 7 and a private dinner on the USS Missouri deck. 

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  • Backpacker, Glacier, Snow, Alaska, Top U.S. Vacation Destinations
    Design Pics Inc / Alamy Stock Photo

    Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska

    A park visit is only fitting for 2016, the centennial of the National Park Service. Why not choose the least-visited of the 59 national parks: 13.2 million-acre Wrangell-St. Elias in south central Alaska to hike, fish, bird-watch or camp. Try a flyover in an air taxi or go on a multiday, guided rafting tour along the Nizina River. You'll find lodgings in Kennecott or McCarthy beside massive glaciers. Celebrate any visit with a meal of fresh-caught salmon from the Copper River. 

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    American Samoa

    Get away from it all. Visit the Pacific islands of American Samoa, the only U.S. Territory south of the equator. The capital, Pago Pago, sits on a lovely harbor and offers easy access to quiet beaches, rocky islands and villages. Hike on the trails of the National Park of American Samoa, snorkel in Fagetele Bay Marine Park or explore the wildlife of the National Marine Sanctuary.

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  • Beachfront Cottage, Seaside, Florida, Top U.S. Vacation Destinations
    Arcaid Images / Alamy Stock Photo

    Seaside, Florida

    Remember the idyllic small-town, picket-fence setting of The Truman Show with Jim Carrey? That movie was filmed in this Gulf Coast planned community with no fast-food restaurants or high-rise condos. This year, Seaside marks the 35th anniversary of its founding. Visitors can rent one of the well-kept pastel houses that dot its peaceful streets, ride bikes to more than a dozen eclectic eateries, and join residents and visitors for spectacular sunsets on the long, white-sand beach. Seaside’s motto, “a simple, beautiful life,” says it all. 

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  • Explore Your World, A A R P Real Possibilities, Colorful sunset reflected in still water. wooden row boat with oars in foreground center

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  • Riverwalk, Boat Tour, San Antonio, Texas,  Top U.S. Vacation Destinations
    David Sucsy

    San Antonio, Texas

    Go beyond the Alamo on the city's River Walk, expanded to reach the trendy Pearl district, where you’ll find inviting shops, farm-to-table restaurants and the recently opened Hotel Emma, a boutique lodging in the converted brewery where CEO Emma Koehler oversaw the making of Pearl Beer in the early 1900s. Nearby, the world-class San Antonio Art Museum holds important collections of Greek, Asian, contemporary and folk art. Foodies should mark their calendars for May’s Culinaria fest, spotlighting area wineries and cuisine, from food-truck fare to the best of the city’s diverse restaurants. 

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  • Wave Field, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Top U.S. Vacation Destinations
    Andre Jenny / Alamy Stock Photo

    Ann Arbor, Michigan

    It may be a bustling college town, but Ann Arbor is also a haven for grownups. Stroll along Main Street, with its restored 19th-century brick storefronts that are now home to inviting restaurants, boutiques and upscale bars. For some outdoors adventure, canoe or kayak man-made rapids on the Huron River. Don't miss the undulating grass “Wave Field” created on the University of Michigan campus by Vietnam Veterans Memorial designer Maya Lin, and the sprawling Zingerman’s complex, home of a mail-order food empire and a deli that chef Mario Batali called “my temple of deliciousness.” End the day with a superlative craft cocktail at speakeasy-style the Last Word. 

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  • Forsyth Park Fountain, Savannah, Georgia, Top U.S. Vacation Destinations
    Sean Pavone / Alamy Stock Photo

    Savannah, Georgia

    This port city with nearly two dozen verdant squares is a wonderful place to ramble. Get oriented with a hop-on, hop-off bus tour that passes the Mercer-Williams House, the mansion featured in the film Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Contemporary attractions include the fascinating SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) Museum of Art and the red-hot The Grey, a recently opened restaurant that dishes up a creative take on Southern cuisine in a nicely restored 1938 Greyhound bus depot. 

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  • Capital Wheel, National Harbor, Maryland, Top U.S. Vacation Destinations
    Getty Images

    National Harbor, Maryland

    Ferry across the Potomac River from Alexandria, Va., to arrive at this hotel, restaurant and shopping destination that's quietly turning into a real tourist must-see. It started with the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, with restaurants and a spa under a 19-story glass atrium. Then came shopping outlets and a 180-foot-tall riverside Ferris wheel. A Vegas-style MGM gaming resort is due later in 2016, featuring restaurants from renowned food-world names including José Andrés. National Harbor’s winter extravaganza called “Ice!” features 2 million pounds of carvings and draws a big crowd annually. 

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  • Waves on Rocks, Boats, Catalina Island, Top U.S. Vacation Destinations
    Getty Images

    Catalina Island, California

    The Four Preps' hit song said the island, also called Santa Catalina, is “26 miles across the sea” from the L.A.-area coast. (In fact, it’s about 22.) The former playground for Hollywood royalty — including Charlie Chaplin and Judy Garland — still offers a romantic, throwback tropical vibe. The newly restored circular casino, built in 1929, used to host big bands. Now a gathering place rather than a gambling hall, it hosts entertainment events and a movie theater. Shop in an array of boutiques, sun yourself on inviting Descanso Beach and sip a drink at the remodeled Descanso Beach Club, or cruise around in a golf cart or on a tandem bike. (The island restricts motor vehicles.) Get there by boat from San Pedro, Long Beach, Newport Beach or Dana Point. 

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  • Guitar Sculpture, Grand Old Opry, Nashville, Top U.S. Vacation Destinations
    Ian Dagnall / Alamy Stock Photo

    Nashville, Tennessee

    This country music mecca and foodie destination continues to amp up its tourist appeal. Venerable Ryman Auditorium, original home of the Grand Ole Opry, has added new exhibits and a cafe. A museum dedicated to country legend George Jones has also just opened. The Frist Center for the Visual Arts, housed in an art-deco post office, marks its 15th anniversary in 2016. Get a taste of the hip side of the city, from Craftsman bungalows to funky eateries, on an East Nashville walking and tasting tour by Walk Eat Nashville.

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  • Wheel
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