Where to Go in 2017

Celebrate a big birthday, attend a major opening and experience a vibrant festival. These are our must-visit destinations for 2017.
 

Photo courtesy of Ottawa Tourism

Photo courtesy of Ottawa Tourism

1. Ottawa

As the country celebrates Canada’s 150th birthday this year, the nation’s capital will naturally be at the centre of it all. Throughout the year, flag-waving opportunities will include special events, festivals and general revelry with the fun reaching a fever pitch on Canada Day as Ottawa throws the nation’s biggest birthday bash. Further highlights include an arts installation in the ByWard Market neighbourhood called Inspiration Village that celebrates the country’s provinces and territories and YOWttawa, a weekend-long concert taking place this summer, featuring Canadian and international artists. —SS

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2. Grand Cayman

Cayman Crystal Caves, photo by Courtney Platt

Cayman Crystal Caves, photo by Courtney Platt

Grand Cayman is loved by swimmers and scuba divers, and for good reason—the Caribbean island offers a variety of world-class watery pursuits, from scuba diving exploration of colourful coral reefs to competing in the popular Flowers Sea Swim, a race held on Seven Mile Beach every June. But it’s a couple of dry-land attractions that have put this gorgeous island on our must-visit list this year. Take a tour of the new Cayman Crystal Caves, a series of underground caves in North Side filled with natural crystal structures that are millions of years old, then celebrate the 40th Pirates Week Festival, an 11-day extravaganza filled with parades, fireworks and mock pirate invasions in November. —AW

 

3. Orlando

Photo-illustration of Pandora: The World of Avatar

Photo-illustration of Pandora: The World of Avatar

A long-time favourite with families, Orlando will be even more appealing this year, thanks to the launch of several new theme park attractions. Among the most anticipated is Pandora: The World of Avatar, an entirely new “land” in Disney’s Animal Kingdom that looks just like the movie it’s based on, with floating mountains, glowing plants and a Banshee flight simulation ride. Meanwhile, Universal Orlando Resort has two new experiences of its own: an all-water theme park called Volcano Bay and an action-packed ride called “Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon.” —JF

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4. Doolin, Ireland

Photo by Sean De Hoichtuin

Photo by Sean De Hoichtuin

Nestled between the Burren and the Cliffs of Moher, Doolin, a former fishing village on the Atlantic coast of County Clare, is an under-the-radar base for exploring the region’s abundant natural beauty. Look out to sea from the Cliffs of Moher, visit the spa town of Lisdoonvarna, explore Doolin Cave to view the longest stalactite in the northern hemisphere and enjoy the culinary delights of the Burren Food Trail, then head back into the village for a night of music at Gus O’Connor’s Pub—Doolin is also Ireland’s capital of traditional Irish music. —DB

 

5. North Coast 500, Scotland

Photo by Iain Masterton/Alamy

Photo by Iain Masterton/Alamy

If you’re an avid road tripper, this is the year to discover Scotland’s Highland coast with a scenic drive along the newly created North Coast 500. This 830-kilometre round trip features breathtaking scenery, distilleries, fine dining restaurants and 48 architectural stops—think castles, ruins and caves filled with prehistoric bones. The route weaves past serene lochs and heather-covered mountains and includes the twisting, single-track Bealach na Bà road that rises up to a dramatic 626 metres above sea level. —DB

 

6. The Grand Canyon

Photo by Whit Richardson/Alamy

Photo by Whit Richardson/Alamy

Considered one of the seven natural wonders of the world, Grand Canyon National Park is truly an awe-inspiring place, and if you haven’t visited this 445-km-long chasm—with its towering buttes, unparalleled vistas and colourful rock layers that contain 1.75 billion years of geological history—now is the time to go, because outfitters offering tours of the park just keep upping their game. Not only can you flight-see via helicopter or explore the canyon on foot, by bike or via mule, this year you can also tandem sky dive over the canyon or embark on a week-long rafting trip down the Colorado River in the region’s first-ever emissions-free electric raft. —JF

 

 

7. San Francisco

Photo by jjwithers/iStock

Photo by jjwithers/iStock

This year is the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love, that heady, transformative period when nearly 100,000 young people from across America (and beyond) descended on San Francisco to join together peacefully in political and social rebellion. To mark this golden anniversary, the city is holding special events, tribute concerts and ’60s-themed exhibits throughout the year—providing plenty of new and nostalgic opportunities for visitors of all ages to experience the city’s legendary countercultural spirit. —JF

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8. Bermuda

Photo courtesy of Bermuda Tourism Authority

Photo courtesy of Bermuda Tourism Authority

Sailing fans should put Bermuda on their must-visit lists this year, as the 35th America’s Cup, an international yacht sailing race with more than 160 years of history, is set to take over the island’s waters in May and June. The island has been preparing for the Cup (one of the world’s biggest sailing events) for years, with renovations and the development of new hotels, restaurants and even a yacht marina. Visitors can watch the race unfold from the new America’s Cup Village, which will also host a variety of other special events. —AW

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9. Curaçao

Photo by Shannon Greer Photography/Rubber Puppy Productions

Mundo Bizarro, photo by Shannon Greer Photography/Rubber Puppy Productions

One of the best reasons to visit this Caribbean island right now is to explore Pietermaai—a revitalized area in the capital city of Willemstad. More than a decade of dedicated restoration work has brought this historic, seaside district alive with shops, boutique inns, restaurants and vibrant nightlife. —AW

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10. Edmonton

Rogers Place, photo courtesy of Edmonton Economic Development

Rogers Place, photo courtesy of Edmonton Economic Development

There’s a sense of excitement around Alberta’s capital city, due in large part to its newest cultural and sporting attractions. Rogers Place—the crown jewel of the still-in-development Ice District—recently opened just steps from some of the city’s best downtown restaurants and independent shops. Not only is this state-of-the-art arena the new home of the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers, it is also quickly becoming an attractive concert venue for international artists, promising an influx of major shows. And, just a few blocks away, the new Royal Alberta Museum, soon to be Western Canada’s largest museum, is poised to open in late 2017. —AW

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11. Nashville

Photo by Brian Jannsen/Alamy

Photo by Brian Jannsen/Alamy

 

Nashville has lovely green spaces, an array of exciting restaurants and a budding tech sector that’s bringing new buzz to its streets. But it’s the city’s music scene—with its deep country roots and storied performance venues—that will always be its true heart and soul. This year, many of Nashville’s most iconic music institutions are marking major anniversaries, which means Music City will be hosting even more concerts, festivals and music-focused exhibits than usual. Translation: if you’re a music-lover, this is the time to visit. —JF

 

 

Music City’s 2017 milestones:

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12. Muskoka, Ontario

Photo courtesy of Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Corporation

Photo courtesy of Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Corporation

With its idyllic landscapes, glistening lakes and quaint towns, Muskoka is the quintessential Canadian spot for a classic, cottage-country getaway. But recently, the area has also been attracting young, hip entrepreneurs looking to escape the bustle of city life. They have brought an understated, but oh-so-cool vibe to the area and a variety of new businesses, including three breweries, a surf club, a cold-pressed juice “pub” and boutique clothing stores. —SS

 

13. Belize

Photo by Dan Hallman/Getty

Photo by Dan Hallman/Getty

One of WestJet’s newest destinations, Belize has it all for the outdoor adventurer: sandy beaches, lush rainforest, a huge barrier reef, intricate cave systems and crystal-clear Caribbean waters. But this small nation edging the eastern coast of Central America also has almost 3,000 years of Mayan history. Recently, a rare burial chamber, was unearthed at the ancient Xunantunich Archaeological Reserve in western Belize, about a two-hour drive from Belize City. It’s too soon to say when you’ll be able to tour this epic find, but, with more than 600 Mayan ruins in the country, there are plenty of archaeological sites to explore while you wait. —DB

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14. Mérida, Mexico

Photo by Pete Schnell

Photo by Pete Schnell

In-the-know travellers have only recently begun to recognize the undeniable draw of this “mini-Mexico City.” Go now, before the real crowds arrive. The cultural hub of the Yucatán, Mérida is home to one of Mexico’s largest historic districts, the centro historico, as well as one of the continent’s oldest cathedrals—the 419-year-old Catedral de San Ildefonso. Stay at a restored hacienda, visit more than a dozen museums and galleries and dine on unforgettable Yucatecan cuisine at the energetic Lucas de Gálvez market. —AQ

 

 

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15. Galiano Island, B.C.

Bodega Bridge, photo by Gewnael Lewis

Bodega Ridge, photo by Gewnael Lewis

While Galiano is the easiest Gulf Island to access from Vancouver (less than an hour’s ferry ride), it’s also the most rugged, remaining largely untouched by development. Outdoor adventure abounds, but the real surprise here is the burgeoning food scene. Pilgrimme, a quaint, tucked-away spot, has received national accolades for its West Coast cuisine prepared with local and foraged ingredients. Other culinary standouts are set to emerge as talented chefs from the mainland continue to arrive on the island—including Vancouver chef Josh Blumenthal who is taking over operations at Bodega Ridge. —SS

 

16. London, England

Photo by Tony French/Alamy

The Natural History Museum’s Hintze Hall, photo by Tony French/Alamy

In a city bursting with culture, here are some new attractions that are sure to delight. After a 38-year residency in The Natural History Museum’s grand Hintze Hall entrance, “Dippy,” the 292-bone diplodocus dinosaur skeleton, is going on a UK tour this summer making way for a life-sized blue whale skeleton that will fill the legendary space. Elsewhere in the city, you can celebrate the 125th anniversary of the publication of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by visiting the sleuth’s favourite haunts and the original Scotland Yard police station, a luxury hotel with two bars, a library and dining rooms, set to open early this year. —DB

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17. Montreal

Quartier des spectacles, photo by Martine Doyon/

Quartier des spectacles, photo by Martine Doyon/

Montreal celebrates its 375th birthday this year, and while this dynamic city has long been known for its innovative arts scene, things are about to get even better, with nearly 175 exhibits, performances and events planned through 2017. Expect the lights to be brighter and the art to be bolder. May 17 marks the official founding of Montreal, and, in addition to the considerable partying that will take place, the Jacques Cartier Bridge will be illuminated with nearly 3,000 lights as part of the Living Connections project. —SS

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