Vacation destinations aren't like party frocks; you don't hear that someone went to Ibiza and think, "But, oh, that's SO 1999."
Still, there is such a thing as buzz in the travel world.
We asked some travel writers and industry insiders for these picks for 2002's hot destinations.
Hot family spot: New York
SELECTED BY: Kyle McCarthy, editor of FamilyTravelForum.com, an Internet site dedicated to travel with children
WHY: Glamorous New York, with its nonstop action, loads of attractions, and newly cleaned-up Times Square, has always been great fun for kids. But since the Sept. 11 World Trade Center attack, New York "has become the global capital of heroism, resilience, altruism, patriotism and other values parents want to share with children," McCarthy says.
WHAT TO DO: The city's major family attractions, such as the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty, have become icons for America's renewed spirit, McCarthy says. Even ground zero, evolving from its sad role as a national memorial into a construction zone symbolizing the country's recovery, will be a must-see for many.
Aside from the museums, Broadway shows, great shopping and dining, there are always free events — parades, Central Park concerts and Shakespearean theater, TV tapings, Times Square performers and the nation's best people-watching. Getting around with little ones is easy, with your choice of guided double-decker bus, pedicab, horse-drawn carriage, ferry and walking tours.
WHERE TO STAY: New York is still hurting from declining tourism, so there are great deals at all price levels. Of note: The legendary Plaza (home of children's literary heroine Eloise) and the chic Parker Meridien (silent movies show in the elevators) are offering special deals for families on adjoining rooms with kids' amenities. Also, through Feb. 28, the Paint the Town Red, White & Blue promotion offers discounts for theater, dining and shopping; through March 31, book special luxury hotel, theater and dinner packages with a special Freedom Package.
DETAILS: 800-692-8478; www.nycvisit.com
European stop: Vienna
SELECTED BY: European editors at Fodors, the travel book publisher
WHY: Historically one of the great capitals of Europe, Vienna has enjoyed a renaissance in the past few years, with a vast new museum district and a slew of new restaurants and night-life options. But traditional treasures — especially the gorgeous concert halls, heirs to the great works produced by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and other great composers — are still celebrated in this quietly elegant city.
WHAT TO DO: The new pride of Vienna is the Museums Quartier, which opened in June in what was once the imperial stables, located in the heart of the city near the Hofburg Palace. Billed as one of the largest cultural districts in the world, it has shops, restaurants and performance halls in addition to a children's museum, an architecture museum, a modern art museum, and the Leopold Museum, featuring Central European masters. An additional wing, with cutting-edge media and art studios, will open in 2002.
After all that culture, refresh yourself the way the Viennese do: Stop in a coffeehouse for one of Europe's finest pastries, or linger in a huerige, an Austrian wine tavern. And if your timing is right, you can even participate in one of Vienna's most hallowed traditions: the ball season. That's ball as in waltzing and formal dress; there are hundreds of balls between New Year's Eve and the beginning of Lent, some quite fancy and others with silly themes or costumes.
DETAILS: For general Austria information, www.austria-tourism.at; 212-944-6880.
National Park: Glacier
SELECTED BY: Editors of Fodors, the travel book publisher
WHY: In the wake of Sept. 11, national parks nationwide have had a bump in attendance, says Fodors spokeswoman Jane Glennon, and Glacier, in northwest Montana, is likely to gain even more fans. It's one of America's greatest natural settings, with pristine lakes, rugged summits, thick forests, icy tundra, rushing waterfalls and prairie carpeted by summer wildflowers. And there's added incentive to get there soon — thanks to global warming, the glaciers are slowly melting.
WHAT TO DO: Get out of the car; unlike in Yellowstone and other famous western national parks, you can't see much from the road, though the ubiquitous red tourist buses that run through the park are good for catching the highlights. There's great hiking, especially on the lesser-used backcountry trails; keep an eye out for bears (both grizzly and the smaller black bears), moose, mountain goats, wolves, bighorn sheep, bald eagles, white-tailed deer, beavers and river otters.
A river (the Middle Fork of the Flathead River) does run through it, and fishing for trout is a popular summertime pursuit. So is white-water rafting; this is where Meryl Streep rowed for part of "The River Wild," though there are gentler stretches. Other options, from cross-country skiing to bicycling tours to helicopter excursions, are available. DETAILS: The Web site www.nps.gov/glac has been temporarily suspended, but is expected to return.
Island/Beach: Puerto Rico
SELECTED BY: James Badham, editor in chief of Islands magazine, which covers the estimated 500,000 islands of the world.
WHY: Jennifer Lopez, Ricky Martin, salsa dancing, mojitos, Nuevo Latino cuisine — "All things Latin seem to be really big, and Puerto Rico is really at the center of it," Badham says. And while it may feel exotic, remember Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory where many people speak English.
WHAT TO DO: Puerto Rico is more than just beautiful beaches — though we'll get to those in a minute. San Juan, the capital, offers shopping, colonial architecture, great restaurants and night life, including discos where you can practice your salsa moves. For beach visits, Badham likes the small island of Culebra, which can be done as a day trip from San Juan.
WHERE TO STAY: Puerto Rico has enjoyed a huge boom in hotel construction and renovation over the past few years. The Hyatt Cerromar and Hyatt Dorado resorts have just completed total renovations; the upscale hotels share 1,000 acres and full amenities. Puerto Rico also has a growing network of paradores, or country inns, with charming rustic settings on the beach, in small villages or even on coffee plantations, and rates as low as $50 per night.
DETAILS: www.gotopuertorico.com; (800) 866-7827.
Historic destination: Colonial Williamsburg
SELECTED BY: Pamela Thomas, editor, Pathfinders, a travel magazine geared to people of color; www.pathfinders.com
WHY: The living, outdoor museum of restored Williamsburg is a fitting pilgrimage for these times, when many people are re-examining — and treasuring — what it means to be American. And this 18th-century capital of Virginia is one of the most well-rounded historical attractions in the nation.
WHAT TO DO: Celebrating its 75th anniversary with festivities lasting throughout 2002, Colonial Williamsburg keeps visitors, especially families, interested with lots of interactivity. Rent a historic costume to wear for the day, take a wagon ride, march in a militia, or try posing in the stocks. Wander the old town, where bakers pull loaves from old-fashioned hearths, saloon-keepers burst into song and blacksmiths shoe horses. Even if kids tire of the museums, they'll likely be fascinated by the costumed interpreters.
WHERE TO STAY: You can sleep where George Washington slept, sort of; five hotels are part of the complex. These include the recently restored, luxurious Williamsburg Inn, with a spa, restaurants and historic cachet, and the modern, family-friendly Woodlands Hotel, which opened in August and offers a pool, table tennis, shuffleboard and other activities. There are many other chain motels and hotels just outside the historic center; a good place to look for deals is www.williamsburgreservation.com
DETAILS: (800) 447-8679; www.colonialwilliamsburg.org