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Top Travel Picks for 2017

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    En español | The turn of the year triggers travel resolutions galore, so stop dreaming and pack those bags! Here are a dozen destinations all over the world that we expect seasoned travelers to visit in 2017. To make it onto our list, each site had to be hosting a milestone event next year, qualify as a lesser-known gem — or simply make us feel at home.

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  • Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post

    Washington, D.C.

    In addition to the people-watching on tap around Jan. 20, the capital gets our vote for its stunning new National Museum of African American History and Culture, already a hot-ticket tourist magnet. (Though advance tickets are sold out through spring 2017, a smattering of same-day passes get handed out at 9:15 a.m. daily.) And the Federal City becomes Vegas on the Potomac with the December 2016 opening of MGM Resorts’ casino hotel in the National Harbor complex. Catch Cher or Lionel Richie in the theater, or hop the water taxi to Old Town Alexandria, just across the river.

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  • Mark Hogan Photography/Getty Images

    Ottawa, Ontario

    With Canada poised to celebrate its 150th birthday all year long in 2017, it’s a perfect time to explore the (let’s admit it) often-ignored capital of our cordial neighbor to the north. Stroll (or ride a rental bike) along the historic Rideau Canal. The National Gallery of Canada — all striking granite, glass and steel — houses works by native artists, as well as Michelangelo and Picasso. The Canadian Museum of History opens its new 40,000-square-foot exhibit space in July. And shoppers, bring empty suitcases: The indoor-outdoor ByWard Market sells everything from maple-sugar treats to local crafts.

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  • Hiroyuki Matsumoto/Getty Images

    Tennessee

    2017 will be a Tennessee tourism trifecta:
    1) Nashville celebrates the 125th anniversary of Ryman Auditorium, the Grand Ole Opry’s first home, while the nearby Country Music Hall of Fame turns 50.
    2) Memphis takes center stage in August, with a candlelight vigil and concerts marking the 40th anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death. (The new Guest House at Graceland “celebrates Elvis and his legacy.”)
    3) Bristol, Tenn., and its sister city, Bristol, Va., (on either side of a shared main street) honor their rich musical heritage (Jimmie Rogers, the Carter Family) and the 90th anniversary of some historic recording sessions. The Birthplace of Country Music Museum — a Smithsonian affiliate — invites visitors to mix music and sing karaoke.

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    Cuba

    Off-limits to U.S. visitors for half a century, Cuba recently began welcoming Carnival cruise ships, stateside hotel brands and flights by U.S. carriers. So now’s the time to see those restored 1950s cars and colorful Spanish Colonial architecture before the masses arrive. Americans may visit independently (your airline can secure the necessary visa), or book a “people-to-people” tour to spots including Havana, Trinidad and Cienfuegos. Austin Adventures’ walking tours take you to Ernest Hemingway’s Havana villa and national parks. And you can bring home unlimited Cuban cigars “for personal use.” (Note: Fidel Castro’s death and a new U.S. administration could lead to policy changes.)

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    Lodi, Calif.

    Creedence Clearwater Revival sang about being “stuck in Lodi again” in 1969, but songwriter John Fogerty meant no disrespect; he just liked the sound of the name. Today a different type of music — that of clinking wine glasses — has visitors pouring into this up-and-coming vineyard region south of Sacramento. Low-key Lodi is home to dozens of laid-back family operations, where dogs gambol as you sip superb vintages from A (albariño) to Z (zinfandel).

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    New Zealand

    This serene island nation, known best for its natural wonders, also came out on top of the 2016 Prosperity Index — the Legatum Institute’s annual ranking of all the world’s countries by wealth, safety and environment. (If the waterfalls, ferns and moss-draped trees of Fiordland National Park look familiar, it’s because their storybook beauty starred in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies.) You can sample a traditional Maori dinner in Rotorua, where geysers spout hot steam all over town, or take the TranzAlpine train from Christchurch to view the stunning South Alps.

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  • Courtesy McPherson Cellars Winery

    Lubbock, Texas

    Home to sprawling Texas Tech University since 1923, this west Texas plains city was also the 1936 birthplace of rocker Buddy Holly. (How much is the hometown hero revered? Exhibits at the Buddy Holly Center include the black-rimmed eyeglasses he was wearing when he died in a plane crash at 22.) Lubbock was also the training ground for thousands of glider pilots who risked their lives flying behind enemy lines in World War II; the affecting Silent Wings Museum tells their stories. The city’s rejuvenated downtown includes McPherson Cellars winery (shown here) and trendy restaurants serving cuisine from New American to Spanish tapas.

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    Lima, Peru

    Peru’s sprawling capital has become a culinary hot spot. When Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants awards were handed out in Mexico City in September, Lima restaurants walked off with two of the top five rankings. Central — known for creative tasting menus that celebrate Peru’s culinary roots— won top honors. Veteran travelers who have already taken in Machu Picchu and Cuzco will delight in sampling the ceviche on offer around town. The dish — raw fish marinated in lime and spiced with chili pepper — can be ordered in endless mouth-watering variations.

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    Denali National Park & Preserve, Alaska

    Guess what turns 100 in 2017? This 6 million-acre wilderness shadowed by North America’s tallest peak, that’s what. On a spring or summer bus ride along its 92-mile access road — the only road in the park — you stand a good chance of spying a moose, a wolf or even a grizzly bear. (Private vehicles, such as those carrying disabled visitors, must have a permit to pass the 15-mile point.) Camp out in the park, or stay in a rustic backcountry lodge. Cruise passengers often arrive via the McKinley Explorer train (operated by the Holland America and Princess lines), but independent travelers can reserve a seat aboard as well.

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  • Chuck Bigger/Alamy

    Nebraska Sandhills

    Treat yourself to some of the best viewing of the next total solar eclipse (Aug. 21) in the Sandhills of western Nebraska. The town of Alliance, which straddles the projected centerline of the eclipse, is gearing up to welcome observers; have your protective eyewear in place by 10:27 a.m. Mountain Time. Another viewing party will be thrown just north of town at Carhenge (shown here), where vintage vehicles have been stacked atop one another in homage to England’s Stonehenge. Can’t make it in August? Special events and exhibits will celebrate Nebraska’s 150 years of statehood all year long.

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    Singapore

    This exceptionally safe city-state boasts a lively Chinatown and a state-of-the-art concert hall whose roof mimics Asia’s spiky, oval, famously aromatic durian fruit. And no, you won’t get caned for chewing gum on the sidewalk: The city has shed that old image, to the point where it’s easy to sin in Singapore. Start by sampling the city’s casinos, trendy bars and popular racetrack, then take in some of the risqué modern artwork at the National Gallery Singapore. Cap your visit with cheap but delicious street food from the city’s “hawker centres” (don’t miss the chili crab!).

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    Umbria, Italy

    Tired of the tourist hordes in Florence? Head for this lesser-known enclave of central Italy, whose olive groves, spire-like cypress trees and walkable hill towns (Spoleto is shown above) rate high with true cognoscenti of Italy. Indeed, Umbria may be the new Tuscany — a rolling, verdant haven that is joyously accogliente (welcoming) to cyclists, hikers, wine mavens, foodies and art aficionadi. Assisi’s Basilica of Saint Francis houses the world-famous fresco The Life of Saint Francis; take time to examine all 28 panels. Or explore the osterias and piazzas of Perugia, whose Galleria Nazionale showcases religious masterpieces dating to the 13th century.

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