The 2020 Uproxx Travel Hot List

Top End Safari Camp
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Unsplash
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Luke Dyson

What the hell does the phrase “hot list” even mean?

This world was around long before any of us and, with any luck, it will still be here long after we’re gone. Tracking our movements on a year-by-year basis is kind of silly when you think of it in the “we’re specks of matter, sitting on a big floating rock, warmed by a single star in a seemingly infinite sea of stars”-sense. Besides, after a decade that gave us the six hottest years on record, with increasing panic over species death, ocean acidification, and global warming, isn’t everything sort of on the hot list? (Zing!)

So why do it? Why track down the best collection of travel writers, influencers, experts, and photographers currently roaming this big, spinning rock and ask them: “Where should people visit in 2020? What should they do once they’re there? Where should they stay, eat, and drink? What parties should they go to?”

Because while “right now” is meaningless in the cosmic sense, it matters greatly to all of us living it. And where you decide to spend your hard-earned time, money, and energy is inextricably tied to our current cultural/ political moment and all the freight that that carries. So although the destinations on this list aren’t “new” in any true sense, our reasons for choosing them are. The questions “why here?” and “why now?” hung over every debate about what belonged and what didn’t. Sometimes the defining factor was a country’s embrace of a trend, like Belize and eco-tourism; other times, we recognized ancient destinations that seem particularly relevant this year, like the sacred sites of the Navajo Nation; and others still, we chose to highlight recommendations because we trusted the authority of the travelers pitching them. (This list features famous influencers, Explorer’s Club Members, Travel Channel hosts, and award-winning writers — when they talk travel, we’re eager to listen.)

Through it all, diversity — in how people identify, what makes them burn, and their distinct worldviews — is the axis around which this list rotates. Like so many fields, travel writing has long been plagued by the sort of gatekeeping that routinely rewards the same voices year after year. For the 2020 list, UPROXX Life Deputy Editor Zach Johnston and I made a sincere effort to upend that tradition. Our December kick-off call featured writers of various gender identifications, sexual orientations, and cultural backgrounds sharing their distinct perspectives about what feels “hot” in travel right now. We’re thrilled to share those insights with you here and hope that besides connecting you with new places to visit, this list introduces you to fresh, potent voices in the travel space.

At the same time as we strived to be inclusive, we created this for our core audience — young, socially conscious people, many heading out on the road for the first time, eager to explore and grow but also often keen to jump off cliffs, get a little rowdy, and dance ’til 4am (there’s a whole “festivals” section this year). The list also has a distinctly American gaze. When we call something “unique” we aren’t exoticizing it so much as noting that for most American travelers it’s going to carry a sense of newness. If done in the spirit of respect, we believe modern-day “exploration” can support Indigenous communities, aid rebuilding efforts after a disaster, and help us evolve beyond our prejudices.

All that said, to pretend that a list — even one this expansive — doesn’t contain blindspots is absurd. Its very creation is a contradiction. A common trend suggested by our travel writers, whose job is ostensibly to fly around the world on jets powered by fossil fuel, was the quest for environmental accountability across all segments of the industry. Though many of us seem to believe in setting personal carbon caps, no one felt fully ready to publicly commit to one. Is that hypocritical? Maybe. But travel writers also deserve some of the credit for the airline industry’s recent sustainability push. Perhaps the best answer when wrestling with these pinch points is: “Let’s all try our hardest.” On the ecology front, UPROXX and its writers are committed to finding solutions for the impact of the travel writing genre (through carbon offsets, slow travel, and “microcations”), though we also believe that to properly fight for something you need to bear witness to its beauty.

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In the early days of 2020, Greta Gerwig said: “Quentin Tarantino makes movies as if movies could save the world.” That’s how we feel about travel. Travel connects us. It reminds us of the natural marvels that we are called to be stewards for. It brings us face-to-face with life’s universal aspects: birth, death, art, storytelling, humor, sex, food, intoxicants… the list goes on. Those simple, core pieces of existence are shared across all cultures. Simultaneously, travel reminds us that the real world is far less black and white than it is online. The fury that we often feel on Twitter when someone thinks differently from us quickly dissipates as our journeys shade in the context and background that led a certain person to arrive at a particular way of thinking. On the road, we realize that there has to be some sort of allowance for cultural/moral relativism or every trip is going to be a series of constant battles and little growth.

Perhaps the overarching point here is: travel is messy. Just like life.

So here you go, the 2020 UPROXX Travel Hot List. A sprawling, messy, imperfect-but-often-lovely reflection of a sprawling, messy, imperfect-but-often-lovely planet. We believe that these destinations, experiences, hotels, restaurants, bars, and festivals will bring you some sense of joy. We believe they have something worthwhile to teach or reveal, this year in particular. Above all, we believe that travel can save the world, and we hope that’s reflected in every word, photo, and idea presented below.

Food+Drink

Food and drink experiences in the United States and abroad are showing more regionality, more cultural resonance, a continued emphasis on craft, and a push for sustainability.

Best of all, pretentiousness is dead.

Michelle Doucette
Michelle Doucette
Zach Johnston
01

The Yukon food scene is booming, with a focus on regenerative farming, wild foods, and Indigenous foodways.

The Yukon — already on the Travel Hot List — probably doesn’t pop into many people’s minds when they think of food havens. That will change soon, or at least it should. The region, known for being vast and barren, actually has a lot going for it when it comes to food. There’s a deeply-seeded regenerative farming community. There are seemingly endless expanses of untouched wilderness — providing everything from wild fruits, roots, mushrooms, and vegetables to wild herbs and spices to wild seafood and abundant wild game. And the people, many Indigenous, feel a sense of purpose about making a life in a part of the world that spends four months of the year bone-chillingly cold.

The energy around the food, beer, and whiskey scenes feels somehow heightened in the Yukon. It’s also unarguably unique. Masterfully crafted beers get spiked with wildflowers plucked from the nearby mountains. Chefs plan summer residencies to experiment with the abundance of wild foods. Neighboring businesses cross-pollinate in the spirit of unity, a must for any population fighting the elements this fiercely.

One of the best ways to get a handle on the burgeoning and exciting food scene in the Yukon is to hit up Whitehorse during the Yukon Culinary Festival. The summer food festival draws chefs, bartenders, farmers, hunters, brewers, and food lovers from all corners of the world. The events highlight the wonders of Indigenous foodways alongside migrant foods and plenty of local brews. The whole community comes together to support the people who grow, forage, and serve their food throughout the year — from farmer’s markets to public cooking events to riverside cookouts. This year, the head of the fest, star Vancouver chef Eric Pateman has decided to run several micro-fests staring at the end of summer and running through the fall, adding to the excitement.

Keep an eye on the 2020 schedule and set your sights to the culinary wonders of the great, wild north.

By Zach Johnston
Life WriterTwitter
Hama Hama Oysters
Hog Island Oysters
Poppi Photography
Hama Hama Oysters
02

Drive this route to eat well and sustainably along the Pacific Northwest’s long, verdant coastline.

We all know, oysters are divisive. Raw, baked, fried, stewed, or Rockefeller’d the mollusk has its fans and plenty of detractors. One aspect of the bivalve in undeniable though — oysters clean waterways through filter-feeding. That makes them an essential part of the ecosystem and keeping bays, fjords, and estuaries in good shape. Another added benefit: Oyster farms create jobs around harvesting, shipping, and serving. They’re also amazingly nutrient-rich and healthy. Oh, and you can eat them without any guilt of cruelty. Oysters don’t have a central nervous system, which some argue makes them vegan.

All of that said, the Pacific Northwest between Northern California and Alaska is one of the best places on the planet to indulge in all things oysters. If one was so inclined, you could rent a car in San Francisco and drive up the Pacific Coast Highway into Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia hitting oyster farms and houses along the way. A food-focused trip like this gives you a chance to try different varieties of oysters directly from the source. After all, all oysters are not created equal. Varying sizes and environmental factors have a big effect on the flavor and texture of the morsel.

Here are nine spots you can hit along the Pacific Coast between California and Vancouver, B.C. with one spot up in Alaska thrown in for good measure. Once you complete a trip like this, you’ll be an oyster aficionado and you’ll know one of the greenest, wildest regions of the country a little better.

Hog Island Oysters, Tomales Bay, CA

Order a bag of oysters and set up a cooking station at one of the free BBQ stands and picnic tables right on the bay’s shore.

Nevør Shellfish Farm, Tillamook, OR

Nevør Shellfish Farm is a roadside oyster shack where you can order a dozen large oysters for $11. Arrive early before they sell out.

Olympia Oyster Bar, Portland, OR

If you can’t make it to the farms, this is the spot to try all the best oysters grown around the region.

Chelsea Farms, Olympia, WA

Score $2 oysters at happy hour and don’t sleep on the fried oysters — a less “slimy” option for those who feel averse.

Pike Place Market, Seattle WA

Try to score a seat at Emmett Watson’s Oyster Bar or head to the fishmongers out front and down $2 oyster shooters on the street.

Elliott Oyster House, Seattle, WA

This is an institution on Pier 56 on Seattle’s waterfront. Choose from 21 varieties of locally-sourced oysters.

Hama Hama Oysters, Lilliwaup, WA

Gather around an open fire pit, drink local craft beer and wine, watch the seals play in the surf, and eat all the oysters you can handle (farmed mere feet away).

Fanny Bay Oyster Bar & Shellfish Market, Vancouver, BC

Fanny Bay Oysters are some of Vancouver Island’s best. Now, you can grab them at their official bar in Vancouver.

Skagway Fish Company, Skagway, AK

It’s a long drive up to Skagway — you’ll have to sail the Inside Passage or take a ferry, so it may require a second trip. If you make it up that way, snag a seat on the deck in the summer and order plenty of oysters as a side to your enormous king crab legs.

By Zach Johnston
Life WriterTwitter
Eem PDX
eem pdx
EEM PDX
03

This Portland darling serves Thai-Texas BBQ fusion that crosses cultures in a truly inspired way.

A few years ago, Portland was at the epicenter of the notorious Kooks Burritos fiasco — a conversation that I was personally involved in. Though the whole situation spiraled out of control, the long-term takeaway, in Portland and around the nation, is that conversations about appropriation and cultural ownership are going to continue to bubble up as foodways grow and evolve. That’s okay. While we at UPROXX believe any chef can cook whatever they like, we are open to questioning whether they should.

It’s all situational, of course, but what I do know is that Eem PDX — which won just about every single award there was to win in the Portland culinary scene last year — is doing things right. The lauded restaurant is an example of true cultural fusion in an age when society often seems like its atomizing — with Chef Akkapong “Earl” Ninsom, of famed Portland restaurants Langbaan, PaaDee, and Hat Yai, teamed with one of the best and brightest of the Texas barbecue scene, Matt Vicedomini.

The result when these two culinary minds connecting is food of the rarest variety these days: Surprising. Pickled pineapple cuts through the fat of grilled pork belly and baby back ribs are balanced with grapefruit, cucumber, Thai herbs, and pickled shallots. The spicy jungle curry with brisket is what lesser chefs dream of when they attempt to fuse foodways: The dish is made better by its eastern and western influences.

Eem PDX offers a vision of our more egalitarian future, making it’s an absolute must-stop on any Portland culinary tour. That goes double for lovers of exciting, rum-heavy, Thai-inspired tiki drinks — of which the bar offers many.

By Steve Bramucci
Editorial Director, Life/Style + CultureFacebookTwitter
Dianne Policarpio
Christabel Lobo
Rumman Amin Unsplash
04

Dubai is a food lover’s paradise where Emirati cuisine is finally getting its due.

Growing up in Dubai, I’d only ever get a chance to eat Emirati cuisine when visiting neighbors or getting invited to a local wedding. There really wasn’t a restaurant where you could go to get your Emirati food cravings satisfied. Today, however, the tides are turning. A wave of Emirati restaurants is slowly working its way toward prominence in Dubai’s diverse food scene, as gastronomically-inclined residents and travelers become more adventurous in their food experiences.

With a strategic geographic location, it’s not surprising to see how the cuisine was influenced by the ancient spice and silk trade routes. Indian spices like turmeric, saffron, cardamom, and cumin all make appearances in Emirati dishes, which also focus heavily on dates, rice, bread, seafood, and meat — camel and goat are traditional, though today you will find most dishes cooked with chicken, too.

Travelers interested in trying Emirati dishes can head to Al Fanar, one of the first Emirati restaurants to open in the city, which offers an Emirati breakfast spread of traditional bread such as rigag, khameer, and chebab, served with cheese, date syrup, and eggs. Seven Sands offers both classics like harees (a meat and wheat porridge) and chicken thareed (a traditional Bedouin stew with vegetables like potatoes and pumpkin), as well as contemporary takes on Emirati cuisine. While the Arabian Tea House and Cafe in Dubai’s historic Al Fahidi district serves up a fantastic Emirati menu, its key offering is dessert and, in particular, the luquaimat. An order of these tiny, sugary, deep-fried dough balls will meet your donut needs and go perfectly with a pot of freshly brewed karak chai (spiced tea).

By Christabel Lobo
Contributing Writer
The Cosmopolitan Las Vegas
The Cosmopolitan
The Cosmopolitan Momofuku
The Cosmopolitan
05

A trip to Vegas means you can access many of the nation’s most talked-about restaurants with a smaller carbon footprint.

The Cosmopolitan Las Vegas is one of the hottest properties on The Strip. It’s pool parties are the stuff of “What-Happens-Here-Stays-Here” legend. The rooms are famously sexy. The central location means you can stroll anywhere fairly easily. But the real ace up the property’s sleeve is its restaurants. The Cosmo features one of the most lovingly curated dining collections found anywhere on earth. New York’s Momofuku, Milk Bar, and Ghost Donkey, New Orlean’s District Doughnuts, Portland’s Lardo and Pok-Pok Wings, Nashville’s Hattie B’s Hot Chicken, Washington D.C.’s Jaleo, and L.A.’s Eggslut only scratch the surface of the food options at The Cosmopolitan. Seriously, the joint seems to be collecting outlets of beloved Instagram-friendly joints like jewels in a culinary crown.

Of course, Vegas properties have been trying this for a while now. But perhaps The Cosmopolitan deserves a little more recognition than it’s been getting. After all, food obsessives are known to travel far and wide for bespoke food experiences — and that elusive food ‘gram drop. And if you can pick up five or seven of your “bucket list” meals all in one place, you can save drastically in fossil fuels. We ran the numbers on the carbon footprint you’d leave if you traveled roundtrip from Seattle to New York, L.A., New Orleans, D.C., Portland, and Nashville to try these iconic food spots.

The carbon footprint is staggering. We’re talking 5.49 tons of carbon entering the atmosphere. The scientific consensus marks individual carbon footprints at three tons (yearly) if we want to slow climate change.

What’s the number if you hit Las Vegas and start ticking those places off your list at The Cosmopolitan? One roundtrip flight to Vegas (again from Seattle) will pump 0.532 tons of carbon into the atmosphere — literally one-tenth less. Add in that Las Vegas is one of the most efficient cities in the country when it comes to carbon use overall, and you’ve got one hell of a good eco-conscious reason to go to Vegas. Especially if you’re keen to try some of the restaurants that the culinary world is buzzing about right now.

By Zach Johnston
Life WriterTwitter
Brian Yazzie
Brian Yazzie
Brian Yazzie
Dream of Wild Health
06

Minneapolis is the hub of the Indigenous American food scene — pairing culture and community.

I currently reside in modern-day Saint Paul, MN, the original territory of the Dakota people and recent home to the Ojibwe people. Culturally and culinarily speaking, the Twin Cities is a very diverse community. Foodways from Norwegian to Somali to Ethiopian to Hmong are all woven together and co-exist nicely. In recent years, local Indigenous food culture has fully entered that mix too, especially on Franklin Ave. — also known as the “Native Corridor” — in south Minneapolis.

Within a one-block radius, you can get yourself a strong cup of coffee from Powwow Grounds located inside the All My Relations Art Gallery and enjoy an Indigenous meal at Gatherings Café, located inside the Minneapolis American Indian Center. The café sources ninety percent of their ingredients from tribal fisheries, game farms, forages, and local farms like Dream of Wild Health. It’s a good look for The Twin Cities, which has one of the largest populations of Indigenous people in North America.

Dream of Wild Health is one of a few tribal-owned and operated farms in North America, focused on working with inner-city Indigenous youth. Their motto is “We Grow Seeds & We Grow Leaders” and their mission, aside from being a full-scale operating farm, is for the farm staff (95-percent women-led) to teach youth how to plant, harvest, and process organic and ancestral heirloom ingredients, then show them how to market their wares at local farmer’s markets.

Further afield, road-trippers can pay a visit to fisheries and farms run by Indigenous nations and families not far from the city. Red Lake Nation Fishery is an Ojibwe operation that sustainably catches, processes, and sells predominantly Walleye. You can drop in and pick up fresh or frozen fish or order online.

Another local Indigenous food movement in the Minneapolis area is the NāTIFS Indigenous Food Lab — a non-profit founded by Sean Sherman’s group, The Sioux Chef. The food lab is set to open a restaurant this year and The Sioux Chef team will be running pop-ups in the area throughout the year, cooking some of the most innovative Indigenous cuisine available in the United States.

When summer comes, I’ll serve as a resident chef at Dream of Wild Health. My position is cooking daily meals with the youth four days out of the week. It’s projects like this — and support for local restaurants and pop-ups from tourists — that will help the Indigenous food resurgence fully take hold around the nation.

By Brian Yazzie
Contributing Writer
Matt Payne
Matt Payne
07

Coffee plantations near Bwindi Impenetrable Forest employ ex-poachers while helping preserve one of the planet’s most treasured species.

A rainforest hike to visit the mountain gorillas of Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It’s equal parts other-worldly and deeply human. But, visitors only get an hour with these magnificent creatures — with whom we share 98.4 percent of our DNA — before returning to the lodge. Then the next safari begins, a coffee safari.

Uganda’s robust Arabica plays a pivotal role in keeping the gorillas and their habitat healthy. When guests extend their stays to participate in Coffee Safaris, farmers — often reformed poachers — provide insight into the local coffee culture, as they walk visitors through the process from growing to roasting, ending the experience with a tasting at the edge of the rainforest.

Doctor Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka’s non-profit Gorilla Conservation Coffee works with more than 500 coffee farmers around Bwindi Impenetrable Forest to harvest and export coffee around the world. The proceeds go back into her sister non-profit Conservation Through Public Health, dedicated to the health and wellness of the surrounding community.

It’s an ethical, important approach which you can witness in person or support by ordering imported beans. After all, a healthy community means healthy gorillas.

By Matt Payne
Contributing Writer
Pinky's Los Feliz
Dalibor Bosnjakovic Unsplash
Pinky's Los Feliz
Pinky's Los Feliz
08

Craft cocktails and classic vinyl meet at this hip Los Feliz haunt that gets drinking whisky highballs in 2020 just right.

It’s hard to imagine a place that checks more boxes off the “peak Los Feliz” rubric than Pinky’s, a new cocktail bar tucked away in an alley behind Skylight Books on Vermont Avenue in Los Angeles. Aside from boasting the coveted Suntory Whisky Highball Machine — a multi-faceted Japanese contraption that produces effervescent, highly-carbonated sparkling water, and keeps both the sparkling and the corresponding whisky very, very cold — the bar also has an expertly-crafted, extensive cocktail menu curated by wunderkind Jordan Young, who is a co-owner of Pinky’s and the beverage director at its nearby sister restaurant, Atrium.

Drinks aside, the interior of the bar hits like a glassy, tropical paradise — with turquoise tile, gold accents, glass bricks, and a magnificent ‘70s flair that just won’t quit. Finally, nightly music curation, from local DJs selected by Alex Rodriguez — a vinyl collector who also manages Glass House Records in Pomona, and curates the on-site record store for Coachella — means the soundtrack is unexpected, smart, and always entertaining. Come when Rodriguez himself is DJ-ing to get a heady dose of Italo disco, Brazilian music, and funk. Pair that playlist with an unbelievably fizzy whisky and the perfect, low-key weeknight hang is born.

By Caitlin White
Pop Music CriticFacebookTwitter
Mohammad Saifullah Unsplash
Nuff Unsplash
Jeison Higuita Unsplash
Ash Edmonds Unsplash
09

You might think “beer” when you think of Germany, but Berlin boasts one of Europe’s most exciting bar scenes.

Berlin is known for its debauchery. It’s one of the hardest partying cities in the world — where sex, drugs, and DJ sets pretty much run 24/7 in one corner of the city or another. Seriously, this city goes hard. But, as with all places, no city is a monolith and Berlin is also home to lush beer gardens, sidewalk summer cafes, a killer local food scene, and some serious history. Oh, and straight-up one of the best cocktail scenes in Europe, if not the world.

Berlin’s cocktail culture reaches back to the city’s wild history of partying in the 1920s, when Leni Riefenstahl, Josephine Baker, Anna May Wong, and Marlene Dietrich reigned supreme, but the more modern scene was borne out of the post-Berlin Wall era. Spots like Green Door (classic room for classic drinks) and Rum Trader (amazing rum bar with a low-key nod to Trader Vick’s) set the stage for perfection in mixing and stirring cocktails in hip, slightly exclusive settings. Both places have door-control, which is pretty normal for Berlin. Ring the buzzer and hope there’s a seat open for you.

After those stalwarts, the next generation of great bars refining the Berlin drinking experience was Victoria Bar (my former employer), which basically put the Berlin scene on the international map with a win in the French guide Gault et Millau. The bar’s owner, Stephan Weber, has been instrumental in creating many of the unique recipes that now dominate the cocktail mixing world like, say, the recent popularity of elderflower.

From there, speak-easy Stagger Lee, the perfect Bar Zentral, super-exclusive Buck & Breck, laid-back Schwarze Traube, always-on-point Geist im Glass, and fun-as-hell Mr. Susan all offer something a little different, depending on what you’re craving.

Berlin seems to be back on the tip of everyone’s lips this year and the party scene is certainly part of that. But the city’s bars — ranging from refined to dive-y — deserve a big slice of the credit, too.

By Zach Johnston
Life WriterTwitter
Lindsay Page Stein
Lindsay Stein
Louis Hansel
10

Tel Aviv’s food scene remains potent by constantly innovating.

Tel Aviv — with its continuous influx of new chefs and restaurants — has been at the forefront of innovative cuisine for decades and this year will be no different. With a huge emphasis on fresh farm-to-table dishes, the lively city is a hotbed for foodies who appreciate local high-quality ingredients and multicultural dining experiences. Aside from the fine-dining culture, there are plenty of open-air markets, hole-in-the-wall joints, and street stalls serving some of the best food you’ll ever taste. This year, Tel Aviv’s food scene (and tourism in general) is projected to be off the charts, especially in the vegan space.

Inbal Baum, the founder of Israel’s leading food tour provider Delicious Israel, predicts the trending restaurants that are sure to make every 2020 hot list. One being Burek, which she describes as a seven-course dinner party with a live DJ, changing seasonal menu, and an open studio kitchen so that guests can interact with the chef. Another local eatery to be on the lookout for is Opa, a culinary experience celebrating organic, plant-based eating.

“Though every product and dish is 100 percent vegan, this isn’t just another vegan restaurant,” says Baum. “It’s headed by Chef Shirel Berger, who just won Chef of the Year by Time Out Magazine, and is a totally unconventional must-try experience in 2020.”

Setting the stage for 2020 travel, the country is about to welcome 10 new properties from the Isrotel hotel chain while moving ahead with a $480-million expansion of Ben-Gurion Airport to accommodate an additional 30 million travelers a year. In line with this growth trend, Intrepid Travel has seen its global bookings to Israel increased by 84% in just the first half of last year, with that momentum sustaining through 2020. What’s that mean for food? More crowds, perhaps, but also lots of new innovation and big ideas.

By Lindsay Stein
Contributing Writer
Guinness
Guinness
Guinness
11

Guinness Storehouse is offering a never-before-seen tour of brewery operations, perfect for any lover of the famous stout.

For the past two decades, Dublin’s #1 beer-lover’s destination — the Guinness Storehouse — has been offering travelers a chance to indulge in all things connected to “The Black Stuff.” The Guinness Storehouse is a multi-floor, interactive experience that takes you through the history of Guinness and the process of making this famous stout. The whole experience ends at the iconic Gravity Bar, where you can get your “free” glass of stout and take in a 360-degree view of Dublin.

It has not, historically, included a tour of the actual brewery, much to the chagrin of many a beer-loving tourist. Until now.

On January 17th, Guinness opened a new tour program called “Behind the Gate,” which allows keen travelers the chance to actually walk the brewery floor, tasting a lot of beer (paired with food) along the way. The tour is guided by Guinness’s beer ambassadors — who’ve devoted their lives to loving all things Guinness and getting you to love it too. Their expertise gives the tour a depth that you just can’t get anywhere else. It’s also a commitment. You’re going to be walking, tasting beer, and eating for about two-and-half hours.

The $105 price tag looks steep on the surface. But that includes two tastings and one food pairing with Guinness and its experimental sub-brands that are only brewed and served at their Open Gate micro-brewery. The ticket also gives you access to the whole Storehouse and Gravity Bar, saving you €20 ($22). Be warned, you’ll need to book ahead to get on this tour. It’s already very popular and waiting until you get to Ireland may mean you don’t get a slot.

By Zach Johnston
Life WriterTwitter
Getty Image
Getty Image
12

Focus your Italy trip on one of the best food products on earth, Parmesan cheese.

Set amidst the scenic heart of Italy’s 2019 Hot Listed Emilia-Romagna region, Parma is a veritable wonderland for gourmands. In the immediate area, you’ll find no less than 20 Michelin-starred eateries. Places like Ca’ Matilde and Parizzi are unassuming family-run enotecas (casual restaurants centered around local wine), offering fresh takes on the local fare, often studded with the city’s eponymous prosciutto and its most prized export: Parmigiano Reggiano.

Head just outside of town on the Parmesan Cheese trail and you can trace this sharp, nutty delicacy back to the dairies and farms from whence it came. Traditional techniques mark these 84-pound wheels of produce as wholly unique and among the first foods to receive protective status by the European Union. After tasting the goods, typically aged between one and three months, you can tour the Parmesan Cheese Museum. Because, yes, that is a real thing.

It’s not all about the food, either. Back in the center of town, you can sightsee among ruins dating back more than two millennia. And this year is a particularly auspicious one for the former Roman colony, as Parma will hold the title of Italian Capital of Culture. A panel of Italian tastemakers votes annually on one native region to wear the mantle. The city of approximately 197,000 won out thanks, in part, to its recently minted status as a UNESCO Creative City for Gastronomy.

There’s perhaps never been a better time to say, “cheese.”

By Brad Japhe
Contributing Writer
CE LA VI
Native
EK YAP
13

Singapore’s cocktail scene has blown up over the last few years. Now’s the time to indulge in all the watering holes the city has to offer.

It’s no secret that Singaporeans take their food seriously. The city is iconic for its hawker centers and street eats and boasts the world’s cheapest Michelin-starred meal. But in recent years, the country has assumed a new national identity as a smoking hot drinking destination — thanks to an influx of creative and high-caliber cocktail bars, with an impressive five featured on the World’s 50 Best Bars 2019 list including the breathtaking ATLAS bar at Parkview Square (#8), ingredient-driven Native (#12), and Hemingway-influenced speakeasy The Old Man (#38).

Singapore’s most celebrated watering holes are mind-blowingly innovative, inspired, and provocative. And cocktail enthusiasts who drink their way through the city are in for a treat of epic proportions. In addition to the aforementioned spots, super hip 28 HongKong Street, retro airport-themed Idle Wild, and sexy NYC offshoot Employees Only should be on your list. If you’re into panoramic skyline views, hit up Smoke & Mirrors at the National Gallery, CÉ LA VI at Marina Bay Sands, and 1-Altitude (the highest-elevated alfresco bar in the world).

A tasting at Brass Lion Distillery (Singapore’s first micro-distillery) followed by a gin-based libation at their bar makes for another notable stop. And, of course, no trip to Singapore is complete without sipping an original Singapore Sling at the Long Bar at Raffles Hotel, where the famous pink cocktail was created in the early 1900s.

By Megan Murphy
Contributing Writer
Sacro
Alicia Kennedy
Alicia Kennedy
14

Whether you’re in the steak capital of Argentina or small town USA, going vegan for a whole trip has something to teach you about our relationship with food.

The common understanding might be that veganism is a restrictive diet, but traveling while giving up all animal products — from meat and fish to dairy and eggs — opens food-focused travelers to restaurants and dishes that veer far from the more basic, tourist-tested menu items. Plus, it’s a greener, low impact way to see the world.

On a recent trip to Buenos Aires, considered by many to be the steak capital of the world, I only dined at vegetarian restaurants (with a keen eye toward the vegan options). I came away with more insight into the city and the seasonal produce that it has access to than the average Francis Mallmann acolyte could ever get. I found Sacro, a fine-dining restaurant putting out exquisite small plates better than anything I’ve tasted in New York City; vegan eggs at Buenos Aires Verde; and simple-yet-refined vegetable-centric small plates.

Even if veganism isn’t in the cards for you, let this be a reminder: What makes a destination most famous is never the whole culinary story.

By Alicia Kennedy
Contributing Writer
Zack Woolwine Unsplash
Blue Door
El Morocco Club
15

Tangier’s food scene goes beyond the humble-yet-delicious tagine, with a deep history of cross-pollination.

There’s always going to be something unique about the food in a city that has been at the crossroads of humanity for millennia. Food, spices, hashish, tea, and people have been moving through Tangier for eons. The Berbers, Phoenicians, Mauretanian, Greeks, Romans, Vandals, Arabs, Portuguese, English, Spanish, French, and Moroccans have all left their mark on the ancient city — even Hercules called the place home. This has created a cuisine that’s wholly unique, widely influenced, and naturally delicious.

On a personal level, Tangiers has long been one of my favorite food cities. I got into it after watching an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. I knew I had to go and retrace his steps. My first stop is always Restaurant Andalus, Bourdain’s favorite hole-in-the-wall haunt when he dropped into the city. The spot is a fish restaurant where you pick the fish of the day from a display and a method for cooking said fish and then sip your super strong mint tea while the chefs do their thing. There are five tables, an open kitchen, and the prices are crazy cheap for the middle of the Kasbah.

More recently, I’ve also tried my hand at cooking Tangier’s iconic dishes. On a recent trip with Windstar Cruises, I decided to take a cooking course with Blue Door Cuisine. We made beef and plum tagines. While they simmered, our local chef/ guide showed us the nuances of making local bread and then we went to a hundred-years-old communal bakery around the corner to have our flatbread baked. The tastes those centuries-old ovens imparted into the final product was undeniably unique and delicious. The tagine was extraordinary too.

If you’re in need of a more refined setting to dive into the local foods of Tangiers, hit up spots like El Morocco Club. This is a more white tablecloth experience, with stellar food that represents the blending of French and Berber cuisines and a wonderfully refined flair.

Not to wax all philosophic, but there’s a true sense of place in the streets of Tangier. You can wander through a maze of motley-tiled food markets in the Kasbah amongst butchers, spice dealers, farmers, and street cooks — all creating a chaotic scene and smells that are absolutely intoxicating. The openness of the vendors is undeniable, as free samples are always handed out with a smile and nod of appreciation. Language barriers are broken down easily with nods, shakes of the head, and gesticulating.

Are these important reminders of our connectivity through food in this new era of isolationism? You’d better believe it.

By Zach Johnston
Life WriterTwitter
Spezial-Keller
Zach Johnston
Spezial-Keller
16

Munich may get millions of visitors per year, but beer lovers in the know are skipping the crowds and heading to Northern Bavaria.

The vastness of the German beer scene can’t be overstated. Yet, for most, Munich’s lagers tend to dominate the conversation. 2020 should be the year beer lovers and travelers look beyond Munich and Oktoberfest when they dive into one of the world’s best beer scenes. And the best place to go beyond the throngs of beer-swilling revelers in Munich is to head to north Bavaria and the city of Bamberg.

Between April and October, the beer gardens of Bamberg are packed out with locals and beer lovers alike. There are lush gardens with excellent local Bavarian treats (beer cheese, pork shanks, braised stuffed onions) attached to the main breweries in the city. And, yes, there’s plenty of delicious lager from spots like Mahrs, Fässla, and Keesmann to name only a few. But it’s really the hilltop beer gardens with their picnic tables, shady trees, and affordable local brew (expect to pay three to four euros for a half-liter off the tap) that make the scene what it is. Wilde Rose Keller and Spezial-Keller are the spots where you can while away an entire day drinking the true specialty of the town: Smoked beer.

Bamberg is world-renowned for their smoked malts. A trip to Schenkerla Rauchbierbrauerei is a step back in time, with some of the best beer in the city coming out of old wooden kegs. Then hit up Spezial-Keller and try their more modern iterations of smoked beer, so that you can compare and contrast.

This is a super accessible spot in Germany that doesn’t get heavy tourist traffic, all wins in our book. It’s all too easy to strike up a convo with the locals, especially if you want to talk beer.

By Zach Johnston
Life WriterTwitter
Boragó
Mark Stevens
17

Santiago has one of South America’s most progressive food scenes and Boragó rides at the forefront of that wave.

I’ve developed a somewhat dangerous habit this year: Eating at some of the best, and often most expensive, restaurants in the world. Boragó — ranked 26th on this year’s World’s 50 Best list (if you take stock in such subjective rankings) — is a fitting standard-bearer for the cadre of South American restaurant redefining the cuisine in the region.

The establishment is deeply unique, even in this rarified space (my girlfriend Jess and I have eaten at five of 2019’s top fifteen over the last eighteen months). Chef Rodolfo Guzman and his team have captured the service and most definitely the food quality of a Michelin starred restaurant, but have also achieved that unquantifiable, homey feel of food and time and place mixed together.

Boragó feels youthful. The people behind it serving and cooking, seem excited about what they’re doing. The experimentation with fermentation feels new and distinctly Chilean, though reminiscent of methods used at Noma and Central. One key ingredient that makes the operation worth an add-on to your South American agenda: Boragó won the 2018 World’s Best Latin American Restaurant Sustainability Award.

Yes, it’s expensive. But it’s also ecologically innovative, fiercely experimental, supremely comfortable, and one of the most deeply enjoyable dining experiences of my life. That should come at a cost.

By Mark C. Stevens
Contributing Writer
Pit Caribou
Brasserie Auval
AuVal
18

Quebec has one of the most innovative beer scenes in North America, leaning into Belgian traditions and carving its own identity.

One of Canada’s best beer trails is found in Quebec: La route des bière de l’est (the eastern beer route). You start in the Lower St. Lawrence area near Quebec city and you can go east as far as the Magdalen Islands on the Atlantic coast. There are eleven breweries along this route and each offers a slice of Quebec life … and, of course, plenty of beer.

For me, the best part is the Gaspésie region at the eastern tip of this trail, and that’s coming from a local. It’s my favorite region of Quebec, and that’s coming from a local. The landscapes are simply breathtaking all the way along the road. I love Chaleurs Bay, Percé Rock, the Chic Choc mountain chain, the ocean, unique maritime wildlife, and so much more about this area. The best part? This route has two of my top five breweries in all of Quebec.

You have Pit Caribou in the Percé area. They get pretty creative and the results are always delicious. Then there’s Brasserie Auval in Val-d’Espoir, which is my all-time favorite brewery. The head brewer is a hop magician and I put his beers in the same category as Treehouse, Other Half, Monkish, Bissel Brother, or Hillfarmstead in the U.S.

Even if you’re not into craft beer, you’ll love Gaspésie. Winter, fall, spring, or summer, it’s always full of outdoor things to do, beautiful nature, and great food from the land to the sea. Pro tip: Some breweries, like Auval, are only open to the public in the summertime. So plan ahead before you go.

By Émilie Leclerc
Contributing Writer
Aliyah Jamous Unsplash
Zach Johnston
19

New Haven has one of the oldest Italian-American communities in the U.S. and their pizza scene demands your attention.

You might not know it, but New Haven, Connecticut has one of the coolest Little Italy’s in America. I don’t say that lightly. I’m a big fan of that nation’s Little Italys, in general, and revel in any chance to walk the streets of Federal Hill in Providence, Grand Street in New York, The Hill in St. Louis, or Mayfield Road in Cleveland. What sets New Haven’s Wooster Street area apart is that it has some of the best pizzerias in the country, mostly crowded within a few blocks.

The 100-year Italian-American history of the city has spawned Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana and Sally’s Apizza on Wooster Street and Modern Apizza up on State. All three are masterful representations of the local style of “apizza” with a thin crust, coal-fired pie heavy on the tomato unless it’s white and loaded with fresh clams. Each spot has its own vibe and has plenty of local craft beer and Italian wines to wash down these charcoal ripped pies.

Stepping into the more modern era, BAR — over on Crown Street, across the street from Louis’ Lunch (where the American version of the hamburger was conceived) — you’ll find a modern brewpub serving up inventive interpretations of New Haven’s apizza. Try their mashed potato and bacon pie for a meal that might change your whole definition of what pizza is and isn’t.

If you get tired of pizza (we’re not sure that’s even possible), you can hit the aforementioned Louis’ Lunch for a classic burger on white bread toast. Or head over to Ordinary tavern for some of the best and most inventive cocktails in the country — and, not for nothing, one of the best bar burgers on the planet. From there, bar hop around the city, eat more pizza, and enjoy one of the coolest food and drinking scenes in America in a city that always seems to be just off the mainstream’s radar.

All of this seem a little overwhelming? You can always book a tour with a local pizza historian who’s devoted his life to the wonders of New Haven’s apizza culture.

By Zach Johnston
Life WriterTwitter
Giancarlo Aponte
Mark Stevens
20

If you’re thrilled by haute cuisine, Lima is 2020’s one “can’t-miss” stop.

Over the past several years, Lima’s high-end food scene has exploded like a Roman candle, demanding international recognition. Powered by the trifecta of Central, Maido and Astrid y Gaston, Lima has fostered a high-density concentration of world-class restaurants in a small region, reminiscent of Basque Country. And why shouldn’t it? Peru has the terrain and biodiversity to sustain generations of experimentation.

I recently experienced — and that’s really the right word for it in this case — the tasting menu at Maido, which serves Nikkei (Japanese techniques applied to Peruvian ingredients presented like art on a plate). We sat at the bar, and food-wise I believe it was the best single meal of my life. Though just one night prior, I sat at the bar at Central and had a mini eight-course teaser of their spectacular tasting menu, which is altitude driven.

Chefs like Mitsuharu Tsumura at Maido, Virgilio Martinez at Central (watch the excellent Chef’s Table on him), Pía León at Kjolle and others have systematically destroyed the notion of Lima as a Machu Picchu-stopover. There’s never been a better time to bear witness.

Just remember to plan ahead well in advance. These are some of the harder restaurants to get into in the world and prices can be prohibitive for the casual (or local) diner.

By Mark C. Stevens
Contributing Writer
Minesh Bacrania
Minesh Bacrania
Minesh Bacrania
21

See if hard kombucha is for you by planning a tasting at this female-led brewery in New Mexico.

Walking through the doors of the Santa Fe, New Mexico-based hard kombucha haven HoneyMoon Brewery, feels like entering the swanky-yet-cozy loft of a stylish friend. Welcomed in by Ayla Bystrom-Williams, founder and CEO of HoneyMoon Brewery, and co-founder/brewer, James Hill, one can’t help but notice that this isn’t your average brewpub.

The first wrinkle is in the name itself, of course. “Brewery” is usually associated with beer. But Honeymoon is certainly involved in the business of brewing, and they’re doing it with all the verve and passion of any traditional brewery in the country.

As hard kombucha gains fame, the criteria it takes to meet that definition is slowly becoming less ambiguous. Though non-alcohol kombucha has been around for over 20 years in American homes, it’s been a staple for thousands of years in eastern Europe and Asia. The fermented tea is created by brewing black or green tea and adding sugar. It’s then left to ferment with a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY). The outcome is a fermentation that yields alcohol, and voila, hard kombucha is created!

Plan a side trip to HoneyMoon the next time you’re in Santa Fe. Besides tasting the company’s effervescent goodness, we can’t think of a better way to support a woman of color entrepreneur than to do so while figuring out which of the nine flavors you vibe with the most.

By Gabrielle Pharms
Contributing Writer
Westland Distillery
Carson Artac Photography
OOLA Distillery
22

Kentucky and Scotland too far this year? Head up to Seattle for one of the longest whiskey trails in America.

With the proliferation of distilleries across America, getting a good, local bottle of whiskey, rum, or vodka has never been easier. There are over 1,500 distilleries in the country right now, a dramatic increase over just ten years ago. That’s helped open up other regions of the U.S. to booze-inspired tourism. For instance, if you’re on the West Coast and can’t make it to Kentucky or Scotland to tour distilleries, there are local options that’ll sate your desire to blend travel and whiskey into one experience.

Washington State has nearly 50 distilleries. 27 of them are in and around the Seattle-Tacoma area alone (one of America’s biggest agricultural regions in its eastern reaches). That’s a lot of booze, folks. Using Seattle as a base of operations for a wider deep-dive into craft distilleries, you’ll be able to get an insight into the people and products that are trailblazing a new path in craft spirits. Spots like OOLA, Westland, and 2018’s distillery of year Copperworks are great places to start your whiskey-soaked journey.

Each one of WA’s distilleries offers an experience, with plenty of chances to learn more about the whole process from grain to glass. Plus, you’ll be in Seattle where you’ll never be out of great food options to counter all the whiskey you’re going to drink.

By Zach Johnston
Life WriterTwitter
Wife and Husband
Jenavieve Belair
23

Sometimes you can build a trip around a single pursuit. In this case, finding the best cup of coffee in Japan.

I could write an entire novel on how much I loved my time in Japan. My sister and I went on a whim last fall, with very little planning. Rather than trying to see everything, we decided to explore one thing: coffee. The rationale made perfect sense: Good coffee is like the traveler’s north star these days, guiding a path to all that is good and hip and energetic.

And so, we planned our days around scouting out and walking to find good coffee, and never once did it disappoint. Traveling with a singular goal for the day is the best kind of planning — you have a destination, but really the magic is what you find along the way. We wandered through the ultra-hip Harajuku neighborhood to reach The Roastery by Nosy Coffee and the Deus Ex Machina outpost. We traversed Kyoto in search of Wife and Husband, HERE, and % Arabica, all of which far exceed any expectation we had. The only thing rivaling their respective espresso iterations was the incredible aesthetic seen in each.

Let’s face it, Instagram has blown out the travel scene and just hitting all the “must go” spots while visiting some city or another just won’t cut it this year. We’re all about getting off the beaten path and finding little gems along the way. Which is exactly what this did for us. We found heaps of vintage boutiques and tiny local spots to pop in for lunch. We saw temples and shrines and took long, history-infused walks. All of this we never would have experienced if we weren’t in search of that single, perfect cup.

Alicia Kennedy
Patrick Fore Unsplash
Maja Petric Unsplash
24

It’s a little extra effort, but tracking down local spirits, wines, or beers offers a unique insight into the cultures you visit.

To keep a trip locally and sustainably oriented while gaining insight into nearby drinking culture, make sampling the local alcohol a priority in 2020. This goes for everything from visiting the many craft breweries of small cities like Albuquerque (start at Bow & Arrow Brewing Co.) to trying the New American amaros of Forthave Spirits in Brooklyn to watching sugarcane being pressed at St. Nicholas Abbey in Barbados to sipping seasonal vermouths at Channing Daughters Winery on the East End of Long Island.

Wherever you are, there’s sure to be a scene to explore. And it will teach you something about the destination you’re visiting.

You can also apply this ethos when choosing cocktails made with local agave distillates at bars like El Gallo Altanero in Guadalajara. Oh, and don’t forget a sea-salty Île de Ré Cognac from producers like Camus while in France. All of these spots — and more like them around the world –provide a glimpse into the terroir and culture of various locales, viewed from both a contemporary and traditional perspective.

Leave the mass-produced brews and tipples behind this year. If you’re interested in booze in any of its permutations, source it locally while on the road.

By Alicia Kennedy
Contributing Writer
Freeland
Freeland Distillery
Unsplash
25

Visit women-owned businesses like Portland’s Freeland Distillery — where a cool story is matched by an excellent product.

2019 saw one of the more egregious examples of misogyny that I (a male, with obvious blindspots) have ever witnessed in the drinks industry. A diverse group of well-respected, mostly-female “beer influencers” had their knowledge and credentials publicly challenged by two male hosts on a podcast owned by the beer industry’s largest endemic publication. The fallout was swift and dramatic. But it was also a teachable moment and a chance to usher in new conversations and voices in the all-too-male dominated drinks industry.

In 2020, the quest for diversity in the spirits and beer industries needs to push farther than ever. That demands industry support, strong leadership, and opportunities for all, but it also requires customer love. That’s why we urge you to find and track down operations led and/ or owned by women in 2020.

Need someplace to start? Try the booming Freeland Spirits in Portland, Oregon — a woman-owned distillery that’s making waves with its excellent product offerings and stunning blue bottle.

“People like our story because we’re women-owned and operated,” says Molly Troupe, master distiller at Freeland. “But they fall in love with us because we make great stuff.”

They do. I’ve tasted it. Freeland’s original product was a genever, the predecessor to gin, called “Geneva.” I liked it, but found their actual gin and their canned G&Ts to be even better. The flavors for both are bright and herbaceous, dancing on the palate without being overly juniper-heavy. I personally like my gin to taste like citrus with whispers of the forest, rather than vice versa, and Freeland nails this balance.

If gin isn’t your vibe, you could visit Cabinet Mountain Brewing Company in Libby, Montana or Republic Restoratives in DC or You & Yours Distilling in San Diego or taste hard kombucha at HoneyMoon Brewery in Santa Fe or…

Point being, you’ve got options. And by visiting one of these establishments you’ll be making the industry better while getting the chance to try excellent product offerings. What more could you ask?

“We like to think we’re a triple threat — authentic story, great product, awesome packaging… and great people,” Troupe says with a broad smile. “Okay, a quadruple threat.”

By Steve Bramucci
Editorial Director, Life/Style + CultureFacebookTwitter