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AARP’s Top US Vacation Destinations for 2017

  • Ray Bulson/AlamyRay Bulson/Alamy

    En español | From small towns to big cities, island escapes to national parks, there’s something for every traveler on our ‘hot’ list.

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    Honolulu

    Plan ahead for the two-month long art festival Vanity Fair touts as one of the “must-sees” this year. The inaugural Honolulu Biennial, from March 8 to May 8, is a contemporary visual arts event — hosted at multiple locations throughout the city — celebrating the ideas, artand culture of artists from various places, including Hawaii, the Philippines, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand and China.

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    Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

    Take a front row seat in Jackson Hole, Wyo., on Aug. 21, to witness the first solar eclipse to cross the U.S. in 40 years. Most stargazers will head into Grand Teton National Park to get an easier view of the moon as it passes directly in front of the sun at approximately 11:35 a.m. MT. But if camping isn’t your thing, there are other accommodations, at various price points, located in the area, such as the Four Seasons Resort Jackson Hole or Rusty Parrot Lodge. Be smart and reserve rooms in advance.

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    Detroit

    Detroit is known as “America’s Comeback Town” for good reason. The art scene is booming, and restaurants are cropping up left and right, such as Parc, the buzzworthy downtown spot that serves up meat dishes and some of the best views of the city. Sports enthusiasts are keeping a close eye on the District Detroit, a 50-block entertainment hub and sports arena — and the new home to the Pistons, Tigers, Red Wings and Lions — that’s set to open this fall. Relive Prohibition and the Roaring ’20s with a Feet on the Street walking and bus tour.

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    Coastal Georgia

    Savannah gets all the glory. But the Georgia coast — including Amelia, St. Simons, Eagle and other islands — is just as dazzling. Check out historic Tybee Island — a 28-minute drive east of Savannah and the location for the upcoming Baywatch movie — which is home to Georgia’s oldest lighthouse, and Fort Pulaski, a pre-Civil War-era fort. Indulge in a romantic couples massage at the King and Prince Beach & Golf Resort on St. Simons Island or explore wildlife at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island. Try geocaching at Skidway Island State Park, the adult version of a scavenger hunt using GPS devices.

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    Portland, Ore.

    Take time out to smell the 500 varieties of roses at Washington Park’s International Rose Test Garden on its centennial anniversary. Visit in September to catch the second bloom and avoid the crowds. Find out why Portland is a leader in the craft beer trend with a stop at the Ex Novo Brewing Co., or stroll through the Portland Art Museum to see one of the most diverse Native American collections in the U.S. For more outdoor fun, grab some wheels and explore this bike-friendly city — with more than 350 miles of pathways, there’s always plenty to see.

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    Houston

    Even though the 2017 Super Bowl crowds have come and gone, Houston still will be a hot destination this year. Dozens of newly posted pedestrian signs downtown make it easier for visitors to access city attractions, including the Downtown Aquarium and Green Street, a 4-block area that attracts shoppers and foodies alike. New additions expected this year include Emancipation Park’s $33 million makeover, the relocation and expansion of the Lone Star Flight Museum, and vibrant new restaurant openings such as James Beard Award-winning chef Chris Shepherd’s One Fifth Steak  — a unique eatery that plans to rotate cuisines (think steakhouse to seafood) each year for the next five years. 

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    San Francisco

    Celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love with museum exhibits, concerts and Haight-Ashbury Flower Power walking tours through the most famous of hippie neighborhoods. Catch a “L-O-V-E”-themed Giants baseball game at AT&T Park, or amble around the San Francisco Botanical Garden and jump on one of the pianos available for impromptu ’60s jam sessions. And in keeping with the times, there will be music in the air just about everywhere, including the nostalgic Summer of Love Concert in Golden Gate Park (June), the Fillmore Jazz Festival (June 1-2), the Monterey International Pop Festival (June 16-18) and Jerry Day (Aug. 6), a tribute concert to the late, great Grateful Dead icon, Jerry Garcia.

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    Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska

    The 6-million-acre park, home to North America’s highest peak, Mount Denali, marks its 100th anniversary in February — but the celebration continues all year. Winterfest, on Feb. 25-26, offers up dogsled rides and guided snowshoe walks, while Summerfest, on June 10, will feature musical performances, birthday cake and activities for kids. Hike one of the park’s 30-plus marked and unmarked trails or jump on one of three bus tours — the 4.5-hour Natural History Tour, 8-hour Tundra Wilderness Tour or the 12-hour Kantishna Experience — provided by the National Park Service. Look skyward to spy the glimmering Northern Lights, which are best seen between September and March.

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    Greenville, S. C.

    Once struggling, Greenville’s revitalized downtown is now known as one of America’s success stories, with an increase in new homes, shops and art studios. Foodies will flock to the 20 new restaurants and cocktail bars that have opened or are in the works, including Kitchen by Wolfgang Puck, the speakeasy-themed Swordfish Cocktail Club and award-winning Chef Sean Brock’s Husk Greenville. Feeling adventurous? Bike along the 19.9-mile Swamp Rabbit Trail or stroll along the Reedy River to shop, listen to live music and watch artists create at Art Crossing Studios.

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    Sedona, Ariz.

    Always a popular R&R destination, this Arizona mountain town has some new additions, including the $7 million renovated, four-star L’Auberge de Sedona Resort & Spa, which upgraded 30 creekside cottages and added the Cress on Oak Creek restaurant, a new prix-fix fine dining experience. Try a craft margarita, such as the Sun Devil or Burning Leaf, at the new SaltRock Southwest Kitchen, or go wine tasting along the Verde Valley Wine Trail. Hikers, bikers and golfers alike will delight in the area’s beautiful red-rock terrain. But to really take in the views of this spirit-rejuvenating destination, go big with a hot-air balloon ride.

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