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A new year means new adventures. To inspire your next journey, we've got the most desired international and domestic destinations based on the recent TBEX Professionals Survey from SPG Amex, which polled the world’s top travel writers, photographers and bloggers. Here are some suggestions for authentic experiences, delicious food, and more, as well as a must-stay hotel in each country or city:
Five thousand years of history—along with the world's largest population—greet you in China. From the cosmopolitan metropolis of Shanghai to Chengdu, the home of Sichuan cuisine and the Wolong National Panda Reserve, from the stunning rural beauty of the Yunnan province to visiting the Terracotta Warrior Army in Xian, you may need to plan several trips.
The Forbidden City (aphotostory/istockphoto)
Visiting Beijing, the capital city, is a must and the W Beijing offers proximity to both historic sites and bold skyscrapers. Just steps away is Tiananmen Square—the world’s largest public square—as well as the eclectic, vibrant Silk Market. The captivating Forbidden City is also nearby, with its 9,000 rooms, countless courtyards, and magnificent treasures.
The W Beijing Hotel Chang'an
There's high culture at the renowned Beijing Opera and a taste of real, everyday Beijing at a night market. You can also book bus tours that will take you to sections of the Great Wall, so you can take your envy-inducing #GreatWall selfies. And if you don't make it to Chengdu, don't worry—the Beijing Zoo has pandas, too.
It's no surprise why Japan is on many travelers's wish lists: Mountains, cutting edge cool products, and incredible food. The archipelago nation offers bullet trains that connect major cities—and 11 different islands inhabited mostly by cats, plus one with foxes.
The Shukkei Garden in Hiroshima (thanyarat07/istockphoto)
Known as the "City of Water," Hiroshima offers endless exploration, from the UNESCO world heritage Itsukushima Shrine (take a ferry!) to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, a testament to ending the use of nuclear weapons. There's also the Hiroshima Castle, which features a replica of the nearly 16th century castle destroyed during World War II (the castle showcases the history of the city before the war and there are also panoramic views from the exterior), and the Shukkei Garden, with charming inlets and bridges.
The lobby of the Sheraton Hiroshima
Don't forget to try the famous regional dish, okonomiyaki, a savory crepe/pancake layered with items like eggs, cabbage, pork, bean sprouts or octopus. You can also get it with oysters, and Hiroshima is particularly known for its bivalves. Some restaurants serve oyster udon, but fried oysters are especially popular (try a meal at the Kanawa Oyster Boat).
The Sheraton Hiroshima is located near the bullet train, making it an accessible, unforgettable destination.
Going down under is a surefire start to an incredible trip: Bountiful beaches, the rich, 50,000 years-and-counting history of the Aboriginal people, diverse nature, and, of course, The Outback.
Melbourne at dusk (Kokkai Ng / istockphoto)
Melbourne is the a dynamic, multicultural capital city of Victoria. Besides being easy to navigate, thanks to its grid layout and abundance of public transport, you can find hidden bars, hip restaurants, and street art along the many laneways.
Exterior of the Sheraton Melbourne from Carlton Gardens
The Sheraton Melbourne is in the heart of the laneways, near museums, theaters and shopping, like the open air Queen Victoria Market. Venture a little further out, and hit up some of the spectacular vineyards (chardonnay, shiraz, and pinot noir are the predominant varieties). You can also plan a day trip to behold the stunning 12 Apostles, dazzling series of rock stacks, canyons, fissures, and reefs on the Victoria coastline— it's a four-hour drive each way, but it's worth it.
The Crescent City is always welcoming to visitors, offering a laidback, intimate atmosphere with countless activities. Mouthwatering cuisine, from high end gourmet fare at to down-home favorites like oyster po' boys and muffalettas, to excellent bars, tourists can also enjoy being in the "Festival Capital of the World."
Crayfish etouffee (sf_foodphoto/istockphoto)
At the Le Méridien New Orleans
Near the Warehouse District, Harrah's Casino and shopping, the Le Méridien New Orleans just underwent a $29 million renovation. It's also steps from—but not directly in—the French Quarter, so you'll get a restful night's sleep!
New York, New York
It's been waiting for you! Whether it's a newcomer's first trip or a resident's staycation, New York offers an embarrassment of things to enjoy.
Walk the newest part of the High Line, or traverse the newly reopened High Bridge, bringing the Bronx and Manhattan together. Visit the new Whitney Museum or see an old favorite, like the Queens Museum with the Panorama of the City of New York. Visit Bay Ridge for authentic Italian favorites or Flushing for the best Chinese. (We have plenty of ideas here, including tourist attractions you should check off your NYC bucket list.)
Turn-of-the-20th century splendor at The Gramercy Park Hotel
The Gramercy Park Hotel is perfectly situated in, yes, Gramercy Park, and its 185 guest rooms and suites feature hand-stitched leather-topped desks and deep red velvet curtains, a throwback to its 100-year-old history. There's also Danny Meyer's Maialino restaurant for a decadent meal or the Rose Bar for an elegant nightcap. And you can get a key to Gramercy Park!
While the sitcom Portlandia is a satire, it's not too far from the truth, as the northwestern city is an oasis of great coffee, organic food, artisans, liberal views, and eco-friendly policies. And visitors are lucky for it, as much of Portland is accessible by either a light rail, streetcar, bike ride, or walk away.
Indie coffee shops and vintage boutiques, stylish bars and, yes, Powell's bookstore, will delight you. The strikingly decorated The Nines Hotel, situated atop the landmark Meier & Frank Building, puts you in the heart of downtown Portland. Located right across from Pioneer Square and near the MAX light rail, the hotel puts you within walking distance of restaurants Maurice, Tasty n Alder, and Little Bird Bistro. But foodies should definitely check out the food cart scene—there’s over a full block of them at the Alder Street Carts; Nong’s Khao Man Gai (Thai chicken and rice) and 808 Grindz (Hawaiian) are two delicious ones.
Inside the library of The Nines Hotel
Take a trip to the International Rose Test Garden (it is the rose city, after all) in the summer, but year-round, the farmer’s market on Saturdays near the water front is a good. And if you get to see a Portland Timbers game at Providence Park, behold the insanely devoted fanbase.
There is a city beyond SXSW, you know! Whether you're there for the big festival or during a less-crowded time, there's plenty to do and see—and eat/drink! For those whose appetites are a major part of the agenda, there's Mexican (try the migas at Cisco's or avocado margarita at Curra's), BBQ (note that the incredibly popular Franklin Barbecue isn't open on Mondays) and tons of bars (head to Jackalope's to shoot pool and drink cheap beer).
There's tons of great music, with venues (listen to jazz in the Elephant Room's basement) and record stores (browse the vinyl at Waterloo Records) galore. Vintage shoppers are also in heaven in Austin, with many boutiques South of Congress. Stop by to see the street art at Graffiti Park on Baylor Street and take a dip in Barton Springs.
The rooftop lounge at the Westin Austin Downtown
The Westin Austin Downtown is perfectly situated a block from the Austin Convention Center and 6th Street, which means it's steps from historic sites, eateries, and club. And did we mention the world famous Austin Bats around the corner?
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