The Most Exciting Destinations to Explore This Year
As we move into the new year, many of us are starting to think about our travel plans for 2023. While 2022 was a year of slow re-opening, travel opportunities for 2023 feel limitless, as old favorites (Japan, anyone?) have finally re-opened, and new frontiers await. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing beach vacation, an exciting city break, or an opportunity to immerse yourself in a new culture, there are plenty of options from which to choose.
Some of the destinations on our 2023 list may seem overly familiar, we know—Rome? Tulum? Sydney?—but we promise that each has exciting new developments and things to see and do that will make your visit (or re-visit) revelatory. And then, of course, we’ve also snuck in a few unexpected treasures, like Central Maine and Israel’s Western Galilee region, both places that are sure to delight first-time travelers and seasoned jet-setters alike.
Read on to discover the best places to visit this year, and consider adding both some unexpected destinations and old standbys to your 2023 travel bucket list.
With its laid-back outdoor lifestyle and relaxed beachy chic, Sydney’s natural assets usually get all the attention. There’s the glittering harbor, the coastline strung with world-class beaches, and the stunning World Heritage wilderness on its doorstep. But in 2023, it will be Sydney’s new cultural offerings that will steal the show.
For starters, the Sydney Opera House turns 50 in 2023. It celebrates by throwing off the scaffolding of a 10-year, $300-million renovation. Everyone in town is talking about the improved acoustics in the main Concert Hall, and many areas in the enormous building have been made accessible to people with mobility impairments for the first time. The venue will showcase its improvements with a stunning theater, music, and opera programs in 2023.
Meanwhile, just past the Harbour Bridge, Pier 2/3 opened in 2022 to house the acclaimed Australian Chamber Orchestra in a stunningly repurposed Edwardian-era finger pier extending into the harbor. It’s the latest addition to the Walsh Bay Arts Precinct, home to nine of Australia’s most important performing arts companies, including First Nations contemporary-dance powerhouse Bangarra Dance Theatre and the Sydney Theatre Company—the theater of choice for Australian cinema stars seeking a stint of live performance, such as Toni Collette, Hugo Weaving, Geoffrey Rush, and former artistic director Cate Blanchett.
Just south of Walsh Bay, Sydney’s harbor revitalization is continuing with the massive development of Barangaroo, which transformed a working wharf area into parkland (including a brand-new harbor swimming spot in view of the Harbour Bridge), cultural spaces, and the 889-foot-high Crown casino, which has transformed Sydney’s skyline.
Meanwhile, the $344-million Sydney Modern wing of the Art Gallery of NSW opened in December 2022. Designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architects Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa, it’s a sprawling glass-fronted stunner embedded into the Domain parklands over a series of stepped terraces. Inside are landmark collections of First Nations art, an underground gallery in an old World War II oil tank, and a dedicated new-media gallery.
Australia is a long journey from many places worldwide, but new non-stop flights will make connections easier than ever. Qantas has announced it will link Sydney and New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport in a non-stop, 16-hour flight starting June 14, with plans to fly non-stop to London in the future too.
And although Australia endured some of the harshest lockdowns in the world just a few years ago and closed its international border for almost 600 days, it reopened to international travelers in February 2022. In July 2022, it lifted the requirement for a COVID-19 test before entering the country. Locally, Sydney-siders have rebounded out of the tight restrictions with glee. The town is jumping, with live music pouring out of venues, conversation buzzing in restaurants, and what feels like half the city spreading a towel at the beach. Visitors are being welcomed with a choice of new luxury stays, including Heritage-listed Capella Sydney, opening in March 2023, behind a beautiful sandstone facade once occupied by the Department of Education, and the architecturally adventurous W Sydney, overlooking Barangaroo, in the dining and nightlife precinct of Darling Harbour. — Monique Choy
The classic Maine daydream usually consists of the tried and true elements: lighthouses, sailboats, and the roar of waves crashing into a rocky coast. But approximately one hour north of Portland, nestled in native Eastern white pine, lies a less coastal—and less congested—version of the state’s slogan, The Way Life Should Be.
For a state that has inspired heaping shelves of classic American literature—think “Olive Kitteridge,” “The Cider House Rules,” and, of course, anything by native Mainer Stephen King—it seems apropos that Maine was once a dominant force in the paper mill industry. In the 19th century, paper production consumed nearly half of the annual cut of Maine timber. The state’s abundant woodlands, particularly its plentiful poplar and spruce trees, made it the perfect destination for the industry to boom.
Today, only six paper mills remain in Maine, and the glory days of its booming mill towns are long gone. While the allure of heavily touristed areas like Rockland, Camden, and Kennebunkport have cushioned the southern end of the state in tourism revenue, towns further away from the coast are finally finding their footing.
Central Maine has become an inspiring model for how to take a negative—defunct former mill towns—and transform them into hyper-local communities that enrich the lives of both natives and starry-eyed vacationers. Towns like Belgrade and Winslow, better known for their lakes than ocean views, offer plenty of outdoor adventure for campers, hikers, skiers, and more. And for those looking for a taste of Maine without breaking the bank, the area still offers the same unrivaled seafood and blueberries that you’ll find down south for a fraction of the price.
In Waterville, visitors walking down Main Street can still see the once-storied Lockwood Mills on the south end of town. The mills, which hung empty over Waterville for years, are now becoming a series of residential units and commercial spaces. It’s not the only thing being revitalized: Waterville-based Colby College has invested $100 million into the city’s downtown area over the past few years, culminating in the summer 2022 opening of the boutique Lockwood Hotel, as well as the Paul J. Schupf Art Center, which debuted in December 2022.
Head to the bar at the sleek and sophisticated Lockwood on any Friday night in town, and you’ll be greeted by a young and creative crowd sipping craft cocktails by the fireplace. The Schupf Art Center, which spotlights work from local artists, also boasts a brand new cinema set to host a portion of this summer’s Maine International Film Festival.
That swell of creative energy also extends over to Waterville’s neighboring city, Skowhegan. After securing space in a building once a county jail, co-founder and CEO Amber Lambke launched Maine Grains, a gristmill producing organic and heritage grains solely sourced from the Northeast. The mill just celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2022 and has announced plans to expand to an additional building to accommodate several new product lines and serve as an online fulfillment hub.
The three-story former jail is also home to a local radio station, a yarn store, a dry goods shop, and an artisanal cheese shop Crooked Face Creamery, founded by local Amy Rowbottom, who handcrafts all of the shop’s offerings from milk sourced from local farms. On weekends, the area around the building buzzes with crowds of locals who drive up for lunch at The Miller’s Table, the gristmill’s onsite restaurant serving sandwiches and pizzas made with dough milled onsite. The menu features no shortage of craft beers from nearby Bigelow Brewing, which has also announced recent expansion plans: the brewery will take over the 80,000 square foot former Solon Manufacturing mill on Skowhegan Island, which had a strong run producing yarn and wood products in the early twentieth century.
Of course, there’s always plenty to do in Maine for those seeking solitude in the outdoors any time of the year. Just 2 miles from Waterville, the Quarry Road Trails offer over 8 miles of singletrack trails for skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing. Outfitters like Magic Falls and North Country Rivers offer rafting trips on the nearby Kennebec River. And in this part of the state, hiking opportunities, like the lush RiverWalk at Head of Falls or the Kennebec Messalonskee Trails, are abundant—just don’t be surprised if you see a moose or two. All are perfect opportunities for visitors to get up close and personal with the trees that built the state. — Astrid Taran
Western Galilee, Israel
While Tel Aviv and Jerusalem should very well be on your Israel itinerary, devote a few extra days to exploring a side of the country that often gets overlooked—and unfairly so. Western Galilee, also known as the North Coast of Israel, stretches along the Mediterranean Sea from the Carmel Range just north of Haifa to the country’s north-westernmost tip, with rolling mountains and coastal views intermixed with archaeological sites and farm-to-table eats that can’t be beaten.
Start your trip in the port city of Acre (also known as Akko), a UNESCO World Heritage Site nestled at the northern tip of the Bay of Haifa. Conquered by a range of empires and civilizations over its 5,000-year history, Acre is best known for having once been the capital of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem. Take a tour of the Hospitaller Fortress, which served as a hospital and hospice to pilgrims en route to Jerusalem in the 12th and 13th centuries, before journeying through the Templars Tunnels. This 492-foot-long underground passage was used to link the Knights Templar’s main fortress to the port. Afterward, browse the city’s souk and artisanal shops, including Art 192, a gallery that sells ceramics, jewelry, and other wares created by Israeli craftswomen from around Galilee and Golan.
Natural beauty is in no short supply here, either. Just south of Lebanon, on the Mediterranean coast, the geologic formation of Rosh HaNikra comprises grottoes and white chalk cliffs that can be accessed via a quick ride down the world’s steepest cable car. Then head to the remains of nearby Keshet Cave: a large natural arch situated on the southern cliffs of the Adamit Mountain Ridge in Adamit Park. Hike the short trail to the top, where you can simply take in the spectacular views or join other adventure seekers in rappelling roughly 130 to 165 feet down to the cave floor.
Meanwhile, the region’s food and drink scene is undoubtedly one to rival Tel Aviv’s. At Alto Dairy Farm, visitors can munch on housemade sourdough bread, a variety of quiches, and fresh cheese produced from Galician goat’s milk, paired with toppings such as silan, tahini, and nuts. If you’re looking to imbibe, sip wine at Kishor Winery, staffed by members of the neurodiverse Kishorit kibbutz, or craft beers at Malka Brewery.
Got a sweet tooth? Look no further than Tosha Bakery in Achziv. Co-owned by Shahaf Avraham and pastry chef Tomer Swisa, who honed his craft in Israel and France, Tosha offers more than 30 delectable pastries and other sweets adapted from recipes Swisa’s grandmother used to make. Pick up a smattering of baked goods to split with the table—from croissants oozing with pistachio crème to mouthwatering mousses and savory bourekas—and order a cup of coffee on the side. If you still have room left for dessert, head to Odette Chocolate & Pralines Boutique for an assortment of delicious confections—including chocolate logs, chocolate-covered nuts, and pralines filled with flavors like hazelnut and olive oil—and chocolate workshops led by owner Dr. Shlomit Zamir.
Don’t leave without signing up for a cooking workshop or home hospitality experience with tour operator Galileat, which offers visitors to the region an opportunity to learn about local culture through food. Through the program, Druze, Muslim, Christian, and Bedouin hosts around Galilee are ready to welcome you into their homes to share their faith and customs, cook you a traditional homecooked meal, and maybe show you how to roll a grape leaf or two.
To truly get a feel for what it is like to live and work on a kibbutz, a collective Israeli community with agrarian roots, round out your trip with a visit to Kibbutz Kfar Masaryk. In addition to tours of the grounds, the kibbutz offers workshops on topics ranging from birdwatching to Rondo and Hora dances, an art gallery, a dining hall with buffet-style lunch, and 20 accommodations where both families and couples can spend the night. — Elizabeth Preske
Perhaps the most anticipated tourist reopening, Japan is now fully reopened to travelers, making 2023 the year to experience—or perhaps re-experience—the Land of the Rising Sun. Visitors will also be able to take advantage of a weaker-than-usual yen, as the exchange rate in 2020 was an average of 106 yen to $1—the current exchange rate is 127 yen per dollar.
For travelers with kids (or those who are simply young at heart), Tokyo is a must-visit city in 2023, with Tokyo Disney’s Toy Story-themed hotel now open. Based on the film series, the hotel offers a unique stay for visitors that includes not just rooms decorated with characters from the franchise on the walls and matching bedding but an entirely immersive experience. If you want a truly magical experience in Tokyo, the 300,000-square-foot Warner Bros. Studio Tour Tokyo – The Making of Harry Potter opens this summer. The interactive experience allows guests to explore the world of Harry Potter through a behind-the-scenes look into how the films and special effects were created, including a recreation of the indoor soundstage and outdoor backlot used to make the films.
Entertainment lovers will also want to beeline to Tokyu Kabukicho Tower in Shinjuku, set to be the country’s largest hotel and entertainment complex. Spanning 48 floors, Kabukicho will comprise two hotels, a movie theater, a massive food hall, and a four-story concert venue that will seat 1,500 people.
And for anime fans, Studio Ghibli has opened its long-awaited new theme park in Nagoya, about three hours by train from Tokyo. The expansive park spans five different themed lands based on fan-favorite films, like “My Neighbour Totoro” and “Princess Mononoke,” as well as a life-sized replica of Howl’s Moving Castle.
Japan has always been a bastion of luxurious hotels, and now the tony EDITION brand will plant its roots in Ginza, opening an 86-room hotel with three restaurants, including a rooftop bar where you can take in the expansive Tokyo skyline. Meanwhile, local brand Tokyu Hotels opened Hotel Higashiyama last July in Kyoto. Located near Chionin Temple and Heian-jingu Shrine, staying at the hotel is a zen-like experience with rooms arranged around a central courtyard with a Japanese garden. Each room also comes with a box full of original tea utensils that you can use to brew your own Japanese tea.
For families, Hoshino Resorts, which currently operates 58 properties in and around Japan, has just opened RISONARE Osaka, which bills itself as a hub of creativity where children can draw on the walls and windows of their guest rooms with crayons. Marking itself as Japan’s first hotel to embrace the Reggio Emilia Approach, an early childhood education program, it hopes to become a hotel that offers value by creating opportunities to nurture children’s artistic creativity.
Further north, Club Med has opened its newest ski resort in the area, Club Med Kiroro in Hokkaido. The all-inclusive resort offers up some of the best skiing in the region and will feature a natural open-air hot spring and spa, with all the attractive features the brand continues to be known for.
If you’ve been saddened by the news of Danish restaurant Noma closing its doors, but don’t have plans to visit Copenhagen before then, you may still be in luck. The long-standing “world’s best restaurant” is holding a 10-week pop-up in the Ace Hotel Kyoto from March 15 to May 20, 2023, focusing on a tasting menu inspired by the region’s distinct ingredients and culinary history.
And, of course, after you’ve exhausted all the traditional culinary adventures Japan has to enjoy, you can take respite in the comfort food of choice at one of the country’s long-standing top hotels: Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo, which features 12 restaurants and bars across its 38 floors. You’ll have everything from traditional Cantonese at Sense, upscale French cuisine at Signature, and even Michelin-starred Tapas Molecular Bar. At the end of the night, tuck away to the rooftop Mandarin Bar and admire Tokyo’s glittering sprawl. It’s good to be back. — Ryan Smith
In unexpected social media trends of the year, the infamous Drake Passage—the notoriously rough body of water that separates South America and Antarctica—has made its rounds on TikTok. And that’s because more people than ever are heading to the southernmost destination in the world.
Antarctica is heating up, both figuratively and literally. With the rapid growth of the expedition cruising industry, particularly in the luxury sector, getting to Antarctica has never been easier.
Between 2022 and 2023, nearly a dozen new polar-class ships have been or will be launched by both existing and new cruise lines: Viking Octantis and Viking Polaris, Silversea’s Silver Endeavor and Silver Nova, Seabourn Venture and Seabourn Pursuit, Atlas Ocean Voyages’ World Traveller; Aurora Expedition’s Sylvia Earle; Albatros Expedition’s Ocean Victory and Ocean Albatros; Scenic Eclipse II; and Swan Hellenic’s SH Diana, among them. And that’s not to mention numerous others that debuted in 2020 and 2021. Between them, you’re treated to comforts like high-end spas, toys like helicopters and submersibles, and, of course, fine dining.
What’s more, even land-based Antarctic expeditions are growing. Luxury operator White Desert just opened its third space-age glamping facility, Echo Camp, on the continent; to get there, White Desert flies guests from Cape Town to Antarctica via private jet.
With so many options for visiting Antarctica, there hasn’t been a better (or at least a more convenient) time to visit the White Continent. But returning to Antarctica heating up, is it ethical to go?
As an icy continent, Antarctica is, perhaps unsurprisingly, directly impacted by planetary temperature change. But Antarctica’s climate is complex and dynamic, with dramatic regional differences. East Antarctica, for instance, has seen some cooling trends; the South Pole, which is technically in East Antarctica, had its coldest winter on record in 2021. And long-term Antarctic sea ice trend shows essentially zero change, according to Climate.gov. But the Antarctic Peninsula in West Antarctica, where most expedition cruises sail, is warming dramatically.
It’s important to acknowledge that cruising is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, just like flying. Even ships that use liquified natural gas, which is touted as a more sustainable alternative to diesel, contribute to emissions, just in the form of methane rather than carbon dioxide.
But what makes cruising to Antarctica worth the potential environmental trade-off is the continent’s ability to turn you into an ambassador for protecting Earth. On one of my trips to Antarctica, a naturalist told us that often people don’t care to protect what they don’t know. Being able to fully immerse yourself in the wilderness of Antarctica—to hear the thunderous crack of a glacier calving and the roar of the tsunami that follows, to watch an Adélie penguin waddle across your path with a pebble in its mouth to build a nest with its mate, to witness humpback whales lunge feeding in an extraordinary display of graceful choreography—makes you care just so much more about not just Antarctica, but the entire planet.
That’s why we encourage you to visit Antarctica, but we implore you to do so with the right intentions. Don’t just book a trip to check off your seventh continent. Do your research into the company you book with, ensuring they’re a member of the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators. This organization ensures its members adhere to the best practices for protecting wildlife and the environment and take all precautions for human safety. And keep in mind that Antarctica is a remote, extreme, and dangerous place—listen to your guides at all times, and be highly mindful throughout your entire trip. A trip to Antarctica is an extraordinary privilege that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Travel with intention, be safe and open yourself up to the wonders of the White Continent. — Stefanie Waldek
If it seemed like everyone on your Instagram feed was in Italy last year, you’re not imagining things. A 2022 study by Allianz found that demand for Europe travel was up 600 percent, and Rome ranked as the fifth in-demand summer destination. That trend is likely to continue into 2023. A recent survey by the Leading Hotels of the World found that Italy is currently leading the pack for bookings this year.
Rome is called the Eternal City for a reason, but in addition to its many timeless pleasures, it has some compelling new reasons to go in 2023, especially if it’s been a while since your last visit. The Mausoleum of Augustus—the world’s largest circular tomb—reopened to the public in 2021 after an 8 million euros restoration. Also in 2021, the Colosseum opened the underground level known as the hypogeum, allowing visitors to walk the narrow corridors where gladiators prepared for the games and wild animals were kept before being hoisted up to the stage on wooden platforms. To visit the underground level, you must book a guided tour, such as the official Moon over the Colosseum tour, or a private tour with a company like Roma Experience.
Last year saw the inauguration of the Museo dell’Arte Salvata (Museum for Rescued Art), which displays looted or lost antiquities and other artworks that have been recovered before they’re returned to their rightful homes. In addition, a restoration of the Sacred Area of Largo di Torre Argentina—where Julius Caesar was assassinated—is currently underway. When it’s completed, visitors can join the cats at the Largo Argentina Cat Sanctuary and get up close and personal with the ruins, which lay just below street level in an open area in the heart of Rome’s centro storico.
In terms of modern developments, the city’s hotel scene is heating up in a big way, bringing hip new affordable options and luxurious properties by international brands. Already open are the Hoxton Rome and Mama Shelter Roma—where budget-conscious travelers don’t have to sacrifice style—and Soho House Rome and the W Rome, both of which boast rooftop restaurants and pools.
Coming soon are high-end hotels by Six Senses, Edition, Nobu, and Bulgari, in addition to Palazzo Roma, a luxury boutique hotel in a historic palazzo by the Shedir Collection (the company behind Hotel Vilòn and Hotel Maalot)—all slated to open in 2023. Plus, Thai brand Anantara is currently renovating the historic Palazzo Naiadi hotel on Piazza Della Repubblica.
Whether or not you splurge on a room, these new hotels are bringing buzzy restaurants and bars to attract locals and international visitors. The Bulgari Hotel, for example, will have a restaurant by lauded chef Niko Romito. The W has two hot restaurants: Giano by Michelin-starred Sicilian chef Ciccio Sultano and Otto Rooftop, which serves pizzas by esteemed Roman pizzaiolo Pier Daniele Seu, whose pizzeria Seu Pizza Illuminati is ranked number 8 on the list of the 50 Top Pizzerias in the world.
Indeed, it’s a perfect time for pizza aficionados to visit Rome. The city has seen a wave of next-gen pizzaiolos energizing the scene. Top spots include 180 Grammi in the off-the-beaten-path neighborhood of Centocelle, L’Elementare, which has locations in Trastevere and the Parco Appio, and I Quintili by pizzaiolo Marco Quintili, who hails from the province of Caserta, which is known for having some of Italy’s best pizzerias. A visit to Rome in 2023 will be a feast for all the senses. — Laura Itzkowitz
Prince got it right, per usual, when he told Oprah in a 1996 interview that he’d always live in Minnesota because “it’s so cold it keeps the bad people out.” The state’s residents are notoriously nice, which makes Minnesota a particularly welcoming place to visit, no matter the weather. With the addition of a luxury hotel, a restaurant at the helm of pivoting American cuisine, and other must-see locales, it’s easy to understand why you’d want to visit the land of 10,000 lakes. (Though, as Minnesotans will politely correct you, the state technically boasts 11,842 lakes—but who’s counting?)
Start your stay in Minneapolis, the livelier of the Twin Cities. Hop on the light rail at MSP airport, and 30 minutes later, you’ll step off in downtown Minneapolis, where you can check in for a stay at the state’s first five-star hotel, Four Seasons Hotel Minneapolis. Located two blocks from the Mississippi River and four blocks from famed music venue First Avenue, the Four Seasons is within walking distance of all that downtown and its posh adjoining neighborhood, the North Loop, have to offer. That’s assuming you can tear yourself away from eating every meal at Mara, the Mediterranean-inspired restaurant by award-winning chef Gavin Kaysen, located within the hotel.
One meal you must venture out for is a dinner at Owamni, the highly-praised restaurant at the center of the Indigenous foods movement. Perhaps you read about Owamni in The New Yorker, or maybe the name sounds familiar from their 2022 James Beard Award win for Best New Restaurant. Every menu item is “decolonized,” as co-owner and Oglala Lakota chef Sean Sherman calls it, free of ingredients introduced to North America after Europeans arrived. Forget dairy, cane sugar, black pepper, and wheat flour. You don’t need them, at least as far as the Owamni menu (which features dishes like bison stew and blue corn mush) is concerned. The restaurant is just an 11-minute walk from the Four Seasons, so go ahead and indulge in one more glass of whatever you’re washing your elk short ribs down with. If the weather allows—always a gamble, though Minnesotans are bred to soak up every warm, sunny day—enjoy your meal on the patio overlooking the Mississippi River.
Add the Minnesota Zoo to your itinerary too. Located just south of the charming capital St. Paul, the zoo is not only home to lions and tigers and bears (oh my!) but also the world’s longest elevated pedestrian loop. The Treetop Trail is a 32-foot-high, 1.25-mile walking path through the zoo’s various lush landscapes, including a reflection pond, wetlands, and, as the name implies, a forest. The trail’s multiple access points, with elevators and ramps, allow guests of all mobility levels to enter and exit in different locations to get a glimpse of their favorite animals. If all goes to plan, the Treetop Trail will open this summer, hopefully just in time to coincide with the zoo’s annual and adorable Farm Babies exhibit.
For a more all-encompassing view of the midwest, book Viking’s new Great Lakes Collection cruise. The two-week-long excursion travels between Duluth, Minnesota, and Toronto, winding through the Great Lakes with pit stops at iconic locations like Niagara Falls and Mackinac Island.
We like to think Prince would be the first aboard. — Megan McCarty
The city that launched a thousand hashtags and the poster child of boho-chic, Tulum is one resort town where every year brings something new. Between the booming beach clubs and luxurious boutique hotels, there are many reasons why travelers keep returning again and again to this once-sleepy fishing village next to the Mayan ruins. Roughly a two-hour drive from the Cancun Airport, Tulum has always proved rewarding for those willing to go the extra mile, but the coming years are promising an easier way to get there so that you can skip the pricy cab fare or the rental car.
There are two massive infrastructure projects on the horizon in Tulum: the Maya Train and a brand-new international airport. Construction has been underway on the Maya Train, which will connect Tulum to not only Cancun but other major cities on the peninsula like Bacalar and Izamal. The first section of the train line is expected to open in December 2023, but the project has also been controversial, enduring harsh criticism from environmentalists and human rights advocates.
Meanwhile, the new airport will sit 20 minutes south of the city center near the ruins of Muyil. The first route will run between Tulum and Mexico City’s brand-new airport, Felipe Ángeles (AIFA), and low-cost airlines are already eyeing the new landing strip. It’s been given an opening date of December 2023, but it might take until mid-2024 for the regular service to kick in. Both projects are working towards decongesting traffic from Cancun as more and more holidaymakers are finding their way down to Tulum worldwide. The new international airport will also give travelers a better starting point for exploring the southern reaches of Quintana Roo, like the multicolored lakes of Bacalar (two hours south of Tulum) and the far jungle side of the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve.
Tulum’s beachfront is stacked with luxury hotels that claim the best location in the city and are always trying to make the biggest splash in art and design. You can find the influencer set lining up for snapshots in front of the “Ven a la Luz” sculpture at the Ahau Tulum Resort or booking the top suite La Valise, where the bed rolls out onto the balcony so you can sleep under the stars. However, Hilton has just opened two new hotels in the area, which will pose shiny new offerings for travelers in 2023. The centrally-located Motto delivers Tulum style with a rooftop infinity pool, and with comparatively affordable rates, it’s a good choice for those who plan to bounce between the city center and the beach. Alternatively, the Conrad Tulum Riviera Maya is 20 minutes away from Tulum proper, sitting on the turtle-filled beaches of Akumal, but the resort offers a more traditional Riviera Maya resort experience, but with the Tulum twist of holistic wellness experiences and bass-thumping DJ sets.
As always, Tulum’s beaches are the star attraction. The gentle blue waves are watched over by the ruins of an ancient Mayan city, and the wind conditions entice kite surfers to strap on their boards and fly. The only thing that could ruin this picture is the massive clumps of sargassum seaweed that wash up on the shores daily. However, this problem will be mitigated in 2023 thanks to a new 1.4-mile-long anti-sargassum barrier that stops the seaweed before it washes up on the beach.
Tulum is a place that is constantly transforming, and with many promises on the horizon to make it even more accessible, this is a place to watch. — Jamie Ditaranto
Honestly, there is no wrong time to visit Disneyland. But making a pilgrimage to “The Happiest Place on Earth” during 2023 will make your visit extra sweet, and we’re not just talking about the consumption of the park’s sugar-coated churros.
This year the Walt Disney Company is celebrating a century of creating its unique brand of animated magic. The Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio—which it was initially named—was formed on Oct. 16, 1923, just months after 21-year-old Walt made the move to Los Angeles. There will be a year-long cross-company global observance to honor the centennial, with Disneyland being the centerpiece of the celebration. Beginning on Jan. 27, 2023, the park will feature added entertainment, festivities, and an abundance of razzle dazzle sprinkled throughout the park—all for the Disney100 Celebration, Sleeping Beauty’s castle will be given a platinum-hued glow to kick it all off. The castle will also be the focus of the new nighttime extravaganza entitled Wondrous Journeys. This brand new show will use the castle, Main Street U.S.A., Rivers of America, and the facade of “it’s a small world” as the canvas for a visual cavalcade featuring snippets and nods to every film that Disney has released during the past hundred years. Meanwhile, over at California Adventure, this year will see the debut of World of Color – ONE, the new water projection show paying homage to Disney classics, both new and old, alongside moments from “Star Wars” and Marvel movies.
Disney parade lovers will be thrilled with the return of the wildly popular “Magic Happens” parade in late February. The over-the-top extravaganza pays tribute to cherished moments from Disney’s films from “Moana” to “Frozen” to Pixar’s “Coco” with music, dancing, and elaborate floats, all led by an iridescent outfitted Mickey Mouse. But Mickey will have much more than merely a parade presence.
Since “it was all started with a mouse,” as Walt Disney once famously stated, it’s only fitting that Mickey Mouse will star in this year’s most anticipated debut. On March 27, Mickey’s Toontown, which has undergone a massive remodel, will reopen to guests. The reimagined land will feature CenTOONial Park, a sprawling grassy knoll, interactive play areas, and a bevy of water features, which will be a welcome addition on those hot southern California days. The highlight of the land is the west coast debut of Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Train, opening on Jan. 27. The attraction—which already exists in Hollywood Studios in Walt Disney World—will be housed in the memorabilia-filled El CapiTOON Theater.
Over in Critter Country, big changes are on the horizon. Disney is transforming the wet and wild Splash Mountain into Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. While this metamorphosis won’t be complete until next year, you can get a taste of the “Princess and the Frog” vibe with the debut of Tiana’s Place. The French Market in New Orleans Square, right around the bend from Critter Country, will be reimagined with a menu to reflect Tiana’s culinary talents for dishes such as gumbo and beignets.
Speaking of beignets, whenever there is something to celebrate, Disneyland invariably cooks up something tantalizing and wildly creative. The year will be sprinkled with an eclectic array of new treats, both sweet and savory, along with food-centric commemorative souvenirs like the Mickey Mouse popcorn buckets and sippers, to go along with all the other commemorative Disney100 apparel and merch available for purchase.
If you’ve been looking for a good excuse to visit the “Happiest Place on Earth,” partaking in the Disney100 Celebration is a pretty worthy one. Plus, there are churros. — Sunny Chanel
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Few cities in Asia and the world blend an opulent British-colonial past with ever-growing, space-age skylines like Kuala Lumpur, shortened to “KL” by most locals—and now, Malaysia’s capital will soon be more accessible than ever to visit.
Expect more seamless connections from the U.S. to this Southeast Asian gateway after the Federal Aviation Administration upgraded Malaysia’s air safety rating in October 2022. A coil of highways and light-rail transport systems connects the airport to the former small towns of the Klang Valley, which now function as KL’s many thriving residential neighborhoods.
They attract foreigners who find no match for Kuala Lumpur’s low cost of living and quality of life. Since last year, Malaysia’s De Rantau Pass, Southeast Asia’s first full-fledged digital nomad visa, has a rock-bottom income requirement of $2,000 a month and allows stays of up to two years.
Today, the Klang river that marked the city’s humble beginnings—Kuala Lumpur means “muddy estuary” in Malay—is strangled by development but still flows by some of the old city’s architectural gems, such as the Jamek Mosque and the old Kuala Lumpur Railway, completed in 1916 by the former British colonialists. These old dames rub walls with modern buildings, monorail, LRT overpasses, shopping malls, and futuristic skyscrapers.
The next giant to open mid-2023 is Merdeka 118, the world’s second-highest building. Soaring above the tourist enclave of Pasar Seni and Petaling Street, the city’s bustling Chinatown, this 118-story, 2,200-foot tall, dark glass tower stretches up to the sky as the supreme example of Malaysia’s world aspirations.
Before that, the 88-story, 1,400-foot-high Petronas Towers held the world’s record for the tallest building from 1998 to 2003. These futuristic twin towers are the trademark of KLCC, Kuala Lumpur’s glitziest and central neighborhood, filled by the city’s largest shopping malls and the plushest entertainment and dining options.
Perched on the 48th floor of the Naza Tower, literally “haute” restaurant Dewakan boasts authentic Malaysian dishes prepared with rare ingredients and stunning views of the Klang Valley hemmed by the viridian slopes of the nearby Genting Highlands, the city’s quickest getaway to fresh air, shining casinos, and a plethora of resorts.
It’s no wonder that in December 2022, Dewakan and the French-inspired DC by Darren Chin earned a star each in the first Michelin guide to Kuala Lumpur and northern sister Penang island. But Michelin’s recommendations only scratch the surface of Kuala Lumpur’s labyrinthine food scene, which mixes Malay, Chinese, Indian, and international cuisines and boasts some of Asia’s best street food culture.
First-time visitors usually spill from bar-and-nightclub strip Bukit Bintang to the adjacent tourist-friendly Jalan Alor, a haven of Chinese seafood and staple dishes like KL Hokkien Mee (noodles smothered in a sweet-salty black soy sauce with prawns, pork belly, and cabbage) and bak-kut-teh (pork ribs cooked in a broth of herbs and spices).
But the savviest local foodies brave the city’s eternal traffic jams to venture out of the center to suburbs like Petaling Jaya, where Marriott opened minimal-chic Le Meridien in June 2022, and Subang Jaya—in particular, its SS15 district. From Jibril’s irresistible salted egg butter chicken to Uncle Seng’s choice of handmake pork and chicken curry noodles, and the zesty pork burgers of Burgertory, this district will add inches to your belt.
When the city becomes too much, one doesn’t have to travel far to wind down in nature. The longest trail at Kota Damansara Community Forest Reserve, Denai Tiga Puteri Peak, is a two-hour out-and-back scrawl across the rainforest to a viewpoint overlooking a busy highway and the city’s skyline.
For more challenging trails, Bukit Saga in the northeastern area of Ampang has something for every level, from quick strolls to a whole day hike across the connecting Saga and Apek hills. Bukit Gasing in Petaling Jaya is next to the city’s heart and can also be visited by car, driving up to a perfect viewpoint to soak Kuala Lumpur’s lights come alive after pink-hued sunsets. — Marco Ferrarese