From a Southern city on the cusp of welcoming a new national park to ski towns striving to make their mountains more accessible to Midwestern cities ushering in a new era of arts and culture, some of the most exciting destinations in the U.S. have one thing in common: a sense of possibility. This curated list of 11 destinations (in alphabetical order) are some of the places we at Fifty Grande are most excited about exploring in 2024. The big question is: Where to travel first?
It ranks as only the 11th largest city in North Carolina by population, but it doesn’t mean big things aren’t happening in Asheville. Come March 2024, renowned artist Dale Chihuly will bring his fantastical glass sculptures to the grounds of the famed Biltmore Estate (the former home of the Vanderbilt family, now a National Historic Landmark known as “America’s Largest Home”). The new Black Cultural Heritage Trail will be fully open, highlighting historically significant sites throughout the city. And AVLFest, a four-day music festival with 200+ performances across 22 stages, will return for its second year in 2024.
If that weren’t enough, myriad new eateries, including Beradu (which specializes in regional wild game, invasive species and local fish) and The Pot Stirred (a cafe that serves lattes and teas with foraged mushrooms and botanicals). And there will be oodles of new places to lay your head, including The Radical, The Flat Iron, Zelda Dearest, AutoCamp and LOGE Asheville.
A perennially popular destination, Aspen will offer more reasons to visit in the coming year. For powderhounds, perhaps the most compelling reason to visit Aspen Snowmass is a new high-speed quad chairlift and a major terrain expansion (increasing the skiable acreage by more than 20 percent) on the resort’s flagship mountain. For foodies, grounds for a visit include a reservation at Bosq, an innovative tasting-menu-style restaurant that just earned a Michelin star in September. Aspen also received three Michelin-recommended restaurant awards, including Prospect, Mawa’s Kitchen and The Little Nell’s Element 47.
And when visitors tire from shredding and après, a clutch of new (or newly renovated) hotels will welcome them, including MOLLIE Aspen, a just-finished 68-room boutique hotel in the center of town, and the Bauhaus-inspired Aspen Meadows Resort, which just wrapped an extensive room renovation.
Breckenridge is another Colorado city that is transforming its ski area. This year, pow chasers will get to spend less time on the chairlift, thanks to the upgrade of 5-Chair with a new high-speed quad.
Also this winter, the “Breckebeiner” Triathlon Winter National Championships (which sees athletes run, bike and cross-country ski) will take place in Breckenridge February 23-25. And the International Snow Sculpture Champions will return from January 22-31, inviting artists from around the world to transform 25-ton blocks of snow into marvelous works of art. And if you’re looking for a new place to bed down, The Carlin just opened in summer 2023. It features four hotel suites on the top floor, an open-kitchen restaurant on the main floor and a subterranean tavern.
Buffalo will be one of the cities in the path of totality during the total solar eclipse on April 8, meaning it’ll be plunged into darkness for nearly four minutes. But that’s not the only thing happening in 2024.
The Buffalo AKG Art Museum, formerly known as the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, recently reopened after a $195 million expansion, with the addition of more than 30,000 square feet that now houses special exhibitions and more of the museum’s modern and contemporary art.
Scheduled for competition in 2024 are the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Park, a 100-acre green space on Lake Erie, and renovations on The Colored Musicians Club, which once hosted the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis and John Coltrane. The nearly century-old jazz club, which is one of the last venues of its kind in the U.S., is adding more event space and classrooms — it’s part of a larger African American heritage corridor in Buffalo, which also includes Michigan Street Baptist Church, the Rev. Jesse Nash House and WUFO, a Black- and woman-owned radio station.
In its more than 350 years as a city, Charleston has continuously found ways to attract visitors, from history buffs to bachelorette parties. And thanks to the opening of the new International African American Museum in summer of 2023, there are even more reasons to visit the famous candy-colored Southern city. Located on Gadsden’s Wharf (the single largest point of entry into North America for enslaved Africans), the museum’s exhibits explore the impact of the African American journey throughout the nation and the world.
Beyond the museum, a slew of new eateries have opened in recent months, including Lowland, helmed by James Beard Award-winning executive chef Jason Stanhope, and King BBQ, which blends Chinese barbecue and North Carolina-style barbecue in its menu offerings. For overnight stays, consider newcomers, like The Loutrel and The Pinch, or newly renovated stays, like The Mills House (celebrating 171 years in 2024).
Look, Cleveland has long been quietly cool. But 2024 is the year more people will realize that.
First, thousands of visitors are expected to visit the Rust Belt city in April for the total solar eclipse. Like Buffalo, Cleveland is smack dab in the middle of the path of totality. The city has also partnered with NASA for some exciting programming and a watch party.
Other major events in 2024 include the NCAA Women’s Final Four, the Pan-American Masters Games and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony (back in Cleveland after being held in Brooklyn in 2023).
The new year will also be exciting from an arts and culture standpoint, thanks to the Karamu House (the country’s oldest Black producing theater) completing the next phase of renovations, including a new restaurant, an outdoor stage and an additional venue. Similarly, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History will be finishing a $150 million expansion.
For hotels, the old Renaissance Cleveland Hotel, the first hotel in the city, will reopen as the Hotel Cleveland and a former office building will be reborn as the 97-room Fidelity Hotel.
If you don’t already think of Detroit as a cultural hub, 2024 will be the year to change that. This year, the NFL Draft is expected to bring in hundreds of thousands of people, who can spend their time exploring the transformed Riverwalk, a 20-year project by the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, offering 3.5 miles of parks, playgrounds, pavilions and views of Canada. Alternatively, they could visit Michigan Central, a former transportation hub turned multifaceted space with restaurants, retail, community areas and exceptional art. Or perhaps they could take a spin around another 2024 milestone catalyzing Detroit’s rebound: the completion of the $1.5 billion Hudson Tower Site, a buzzy downtown retail, residential and dining center. The Hudson Tower Site will also offer a new, currently unnamed hotel, adding a boutique accommodation scene that flourished in 2023, with the unveiling of the Godfrey Hotel, The Cambria and Roost Hotel.
If you’ve heard of Girdwood, Alaska, chances are it’s because you ski or snowboard. Home to Alyeska Resort, Girdwood is Alaska’s premier skiing destination, with more than 650 inches of powder each season and the longest continuous double black diamond ski run in North America. And now that Alyeska has joined the Ikon Pass, it’s likely to become an even more popular destination for ski bunnies.
However, the mountain isn’t the only reason to visit the tiny Alaska town. Hotel Alyeska has undergone a slew of improvements in the last two years, including major room renovations and the new Veilbreaker Skybridges (only open in the summer), a type of via ferrata that sees adrenaline junkies crossing narrow metal walkways suspended 2,500 feet above the valley floor. There’s also a recently completed outdoor thermal spa, the Alyeska Nordic Spa, which offers plunge pools, hot tubs, Finnish and barrel saunas, steam rooms, massage treatment rooms, an on-site bar and more.
This year, Ted Stevens International Airport in Anchorage (roughly 45 minutes from Girdwood) got new direct flights from JFK and San Diego, making the area even easier to visit.
For the first time in decades, the Las Vegas skyline is changing, thanks to the addition of Sphere, the 3,644-room Fontainebleau Las Vegas and major renovations at anchor properties, including Bellagio Hotel & Casino, Paris Las Vegas and Four Seasons Las Vegas. Another change? In recent years, Vegas went from the palace where you bet on sports to where you watched them. 2024 will see another Formula 1 Grand Prix and Super Bowl LVIII in Vegas, as well as games by current NHL Stanley Cup champions, the Vegas Golden Knights, and the Las Vegas Aces, now back-to-back world champs after just securing the 2023 WNBA title. A slew of new restaurants (including new concepts from Bobby Flay and Michael Mina) and bars (such as The Vault, an over-the-top lounge in the Bellagio that features a staggering collection of vintage and hard-to-find spirits) have just opened or are opening in the coming months. And, in 2024, some of the biggest names in music are doing residencies in Vegas, including U2, Christina Aguilera, Katy Perry, Adele and Carrie Underwood.
At some point in 2024, the United States will likely see its newest (and 64th) National Park, Ocmulgee Mounds, in Macon, Ga. The area is known for once being part of a capital-like city for the Muscogee (Creek) Nation (now residing in Oklahoma), and visitors can see some of that more-than-17,000-year-old history in the form of clay and dirt earthen mounds that were used for sacred ceremonies. Currently, Ocmulgee Mounds is a National Historical Park, but it has widespread bipartisan support for promotion to becoming a National Park — all Congress has to do is schedule a vote. When that happens, Ocmulgee Mounds will become the first National Park in Georgia and the first in the U.S. that is co-managed by a tribal group that was forcibly removed from their ancestral lands.
Macon, the gateway city to Ocmulgee Mounds, recently completed a revitalization project for the city’s bicentennial. The downtown core now includes dozens of shops and art galleries, 30 entertainment venues, more than 50 restaurants (many of which are part of the Macon Bacon Trail) and two new boutique hotels. And in January 2024, the world’s largest indoor pickleball facility, with 32 indoor courts, will open in Macon.
Did you know that nearly 90 percent of the nation’s lobster supply (we’re talking 40 million pounds annually) comes from Maine? There’s arguably no better place to try it than Portland, one of the largest fishing ports and a city known for its creative dining and drinking scene. In fact, new restaurants, bars and breweries are constantly popping up. In just the last few months, Portland has seen the opening day of Novel (a combination bookstore, coffee shop and bar), Thistle & Grouse (featuring a raw bar, charcuterie boards and small plates), When Pigs Fly (an artisanal bakery) and Clam Bar (a seafood shack where everything is served with a twist), just to name a few.
When visitors need a break from all the chomping and chugging, they can have a rest at The Longfellow Hotel, an intimate 48-room hotel near the restaurants, shops and galleries of Portland’s vibrant West End, which is slated to open this summer.