Nevermind the new-year resolutions. January is the perfect time to make your 2017 wish list of where to go with the family (or as a couple…or with your girlfriends for a weekend away). I’ve been mentally preparing my list for a while, now I’m making it official. Here are my top picks for 2017. Where are you going?
I’ve been mooning over Lisbon for ages, since I heard about this cool motorcycle sidecar tour at the Four Seasons Lisbon, and since listening to friends talk about it. One friend lists the delights, including,
- the friendly, down-to-earth Portuguese who also have a surprisingly hip side
- fresh seafood including the beachside restaurants in hidden coves
- the Eucalyptus Forrest, historical sites and beautiful coast within a short train ride from the city centre (check out this list of day trips from Lisbon on Travelsewhere)
- the rooftop bars with views of the sea
- the wine, strong coffee and baked goods
- the juxtaposition of old and new historic sites
In addition, our good friend Maria from One Tiny Leap knows it well and has loads of advice and inspiration, including where to stay with kids, a weekend guide and best beaches.
On BritMums, we featured the Danish city of Aarhus (www.visitaarhus.com), one of the European Capitals of Culture in 2017 and Denmark’s second-largest city, in our list of best places to go in 2017. It’s definitely made the Jenography list too. There is an entire year of mind-blowing events, new experiences and collaborations. A few of the temptations:
- 4 mega events, which include Viking ships, orchestras, light processions and massive installations
- Experiences such as a mass dawn bike ride; the Land of Wishes experiences in which children take the audience on a “playful dream journey”; a Message to the Future, telling the story of 2 children Luck and Fortuna and their journey from darkness into the light; LIFE-BOATS, women-shaped boats by artist Marit Benthe Norheim, which you can board and explore; and fireworks
- 3 Michelin-starred restaurants in the city itself, alongside kid-appealing grill bars with gourmet hotdogs, freshly-caught fish dishes from the bay, Nordic cuisine and quaint coffee bars
- Plus illuminated architecture and installations, live music, site-specific performance art and more!
3. The Star Wars experience at Disneyland Paris
Over the Christmas season you may have felt the presents but now you can really feel the presence (sorry!), between 14 January and 26 March at Disneyland Paris. With “Season of the Force” you can relive epic scenes with a nighttime show with state-of-the-art projections, special effects and live Star Wars characters. Stormtroopers will patrol the streets (make sure you have your papers!). And in a slightly more down-to-earth move, from spring, you’ll be able to stay in the new country chic leisure complex, designed with the Pierre et Vacances Center Parcs group, which includes a geothermal lagoon, gardens, “Enchanted Island” and more.
4. Abu Dhabi
The UAE has the reputation for glitz and Dubai is a frequent destination for many of the families we know. But for several years Abu Dhabi has been gaining a reputation as a fantastic place to visit for grown-ups and kids and not just because of the expected attractions. There are of course beaches, sand skateboarding (yes please!) plus the Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque, the Yas Waterpark (15 football pitches of rides, slides and attractions), the Arabian Wildlife Park, the Corniche (with beach, play areas, cycle paths and restaurants)…
Susan from Best Bits Worldwide, an expert in finding the best of luxury travel, shares our enthusiasm for Abu Dhabi. “I have been to Abu Dhabi twice, flying with Etihad to Bangkok…but I’ve never left the aeroport. It’s time to land and stay! 2017 is my year to see Abu Dhabi – I can feel Ferrari World calling me!” says Susan.
Don’t miss out on Saadiyat Island, which is being transformed into a cultural destination — the centre of a modern Arab Renaissance — with the Louvre Abu Dhabi (the first branch outside of France), a New York University campus. the Zayed National Museum, alongside boutique hotels, golf, upscale dining and more. visitabudhabi.ae
5. Paphos, Cyprus
Cyprus is not only a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in 2017 it’s the other European Capital of Culture and also a personal favourite destination of mine to which I can’t wait to return. Here’s my plan: Book into the Almyra hotel right on the waterfront, ideally in one of the Kyma Suites with lawnside terrace and rooftop lounge, or one of the Family Suites with connecting rooms. Then visit the best of the city’s sites which are being turned into an Open-Air Factory of Culture, taking in the Jazz Encounters (29-30 April), and one of the theatre productions of Lysistrata or Trojan Women.
6. Puy du Fou near Nantes, France
This award-winning historical theme park turns 40 this year and brings history to life with a new show, a themed hotel and 2 new restaurants. Le Grand Carillon features melodic choreography as bell ringers play famous music tunes on 70 giant bells. We hear about “bonkers accommodation” from a reliable source: Renaissance-style glamping tents, a Middles Ages Citadel (new for 2017) where you’re guarded by knights, and an “Ancient Rome” villa where you may even hear lions roar, to name a few. Plus we love a menu that includes sardines in oil (brain food!), chicken basquaise, manchon de canard and Viennese chicken sandwiches for the kids. The park is 1 hour from Nantes Atlantique aeroport and there is a shuttle service (reservation needed) between the TGV station of Angers. www.puydufou.com
7. Texas — Fort Worth, Austin, Big Bend and more
It’s my home state but that’s not the only reason why I recommend visiting the Lone Star State. There’s so much to discover, from quintessential Texan experiences with cowboys and cattle to exploring the breathtaking variety of landscape in the biggest state in the continental U.S.
Some places to put on your list:
- Big Bend – The stark rugged beauty of this national park in the “elbow” of Texas feels as if it stretches the length and breadth of the state. Hike, canoe, camp and explore the quirky small towns that have drawn artists, writers and free spirits for decades. Don’t miss the little Mexican town of Boquillas — you get taken across in a rowboat and walk up to the village to have a cerveza and a meal in the simple Jose Falcon restaurant. Check out these 10 must-do activities in Big Bend. visitbigbend.com
- Fort Worth – Just a hop from the Dallas-Fort Worth aeroport, this inviting city provides both sophisticated urban fun with exciting food and world-class museums plus Texas music, a rodeo and twice-daily cattle drive for a real yeehaw experience. www.fortworth.com
- Austin – It’s no secret that the state capital has become one of America’s hot cities. Live music, yes. Supercool restaurants, yes. Watersports and the nearby Hill Country and some unusual things kid will love. And now direct flights from the UK! Use my 22 things to do with kids in Austin for your checklist.
Are any of these on your list for 2017 or are you planning trips elsewhere?
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