19 best places to travel for the summer of 2019

CNN  — 

If you’re still deciding where to take your summer vacation, 2019 brings major anniversaries, new flight routes, buzzy museum openings and more.

In no particular order, check out our picks for where to travel this summer:

1. Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

The Salar de Uyuni, or Uyuni Salt Flat, is a vast expanse near the Bolivian Andes that resembles ice.

The surreal landscape is actually leftover salt from ancient lakes. Flooding from today’s nearby lakes during the rainy season (November-March) results in a reflective surface that is every photographer’s dream.

But hotel options are limited in this remote region, so it’s big news that Kachi Lodge just debuted in May. The camp consists of six luxury domes perched on platforms that provide all the features of a hotel room (proper indoor bathroom with hot water, a double bed, heat) while also allowing unobstructed views of the surrounding salt flat.

A larger lounge dome offers a communal space with tables, floor cushions and hanging lanterns. Food is provided by Gustu in La Paz, considered one of Latin America’s top restaurants.

Beyond simply enjoying the food and scenery, guests can hike to the crater of Tunupa Volcano, mountain bike across the Salar or visit the village of Jirira and accompany a local on llama herding rounds. Come nightfall, on-site telescopes take full advantage of the star-flooded sky.

2. Las Vegas

One of Vegas' newer resorts, the Park MGM delivers on all fronts.

It seems like there’s always a new hotel opening in Las Vegas, but the recently added Park MGM stands out for a number of reasons.

For one, the property is far more than just a trendy hotel. Guests can also experience a 40,000-square-foot Eataly, the city’s first location for the food emporium that also has locations in New York and Chicago.

Then there’s the Park Theater, where up to 5,200 people can enjoy A-list artist residencies: Lady Gaga is currently in residence until November, with Janet Jackson and Cher starting this summer. For good measure, Bruno Mars will also be performing some dates in September.

It’s not a Vegas hotel without a casino, and Park MGM delivers with a classy gaming hall that retains the original chandeliers from its former life as the Monte Carlo. If that’s not enough, the NoMad Las Vegas offers that hotel-within-a-hotel option, dominating Park MGM’s upper floors with elegant, European-inspired rooms.

Daniel Humm and Will Guidara, perhaps best known for NYC’s Eleven Madison Park restaurant, are behind the NoMad Restaurant and NoMad Bar. And foodies will no doubt want to experience Roy Choi’s Best Friend, the first brick-and-mortar restaurant following his hugely successful Korean BBQ truck.

3. Nova Scotia

The Cabot Trail is a scenic route that loops around Cape Breton in Nova Scotia.

Beginning in June, new direct flights make the Canadian Maritime province of Nova Scotia more accessible than ever.

American Airlines will start seasonal service from Philadelphia and New York’s LaGuardia Airport, while United will add direct flights from Chicago. (United already flies direct to Halifax from Newark.)

Nova Scotia often gets overlooked for popular provinces like British Columbia and Quebec, but its quiet charms are worth exploring. Cape Breton Island takes a bit of work to reach, but it’s here that you’ll find challenging hiking trails, a scenic driving route minus the traffic and real-deal Celtic culture.

The Halifax Jazz Festival, held in the province’s capital, is considered Nova Scotia’s largest music festival, and goes down from July 9-14 on the waterfront.

For something you don’t experience every day, Dining on the Ocean Floor in the Bay of Fundy is a wildly popular event that involves just that. Guests feast on renowned local seafood while seated at a communal table on the ocean floor – during low tide, of course. 2019 is already sold out, so make plans for 2020.

4. London

Kensington Palace is hosting new exhibits to mark the 200th anniversary of Queen Victoria's birthday.

Between Wimbledon, the Royal Baby and new hotels, there are a lot of reasons to visit London this summer.

For starters, tennis fans will likely have July 1-14 blocked out on their calendars for Wimbledon, while royal baby fans can revel in the local zeitgeist while visiting royal hangouts like Westminster Abbey and Windsor Castle.

Speaking of royals, 2019 also happens to mark Queen Victoria’s 200th birthday. Two new exhibits will open May 24 at Kensington Palace: “Victoria: Woman and Crown” explores the Queen’s private life, while “Victoria: A Royal Childhood” is a new permanent exhibit with never-before-seen items, such as a scrapbook created by her governess.

On the hotel front, The Langley is a palatial new hotel readying for a June opening. Located in Buckinghamshire, the one-time country estate of the third Duke of Marlborough, the hotel is less than an hour from London, yet feels more remote.

Balance this with an East London stay at The Stratford, a new design-forward hotel occupying the first seven floors of the Manhattan Loft Gardens skyscraper. Access to outdoor spaces, 24-hour gym and trendy dining are part of the appeal.

5. Grand Canyon

It's a fine time to visit the Grand Canyon. This year is its 100th anniversary as a national park.

It’s the Grand Canyon’s 100th anniversary as a national park, and there are multiple ways to celebrate this notable occasion.

From June 22-29, stargazers can join amateur astronomers for free at the park’s North and South Rims for the Star Party. Telescopes will be on hand to find planets (Jupiter and Saturn among them), star clusters and nebulae. There will also be slide show programs with a different focus each night, from protecting dark skies to learning how planets form.

Constellation talks and night sky photography workshops are among the free offerings, just allow yourself enough time since you won’t be the only one with this idea.

Also be sure to wear layers since temps drop quickly once the sun sets. While the event is free, the park charges $35 per car – but at least that fee covers the entire week of star-filled events.

6. Apollo 11 anniversary celebrations, multiple US cities

The 50th anniversary of when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon is July 20.

July 20th marks the 50th anniversary of when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon following a successful landing in Apollo 11, and cities across the United States will be celebrating.

Seattle will be hosting a “Destination Moon” exhibit at the Museum of Flight, a traveling Smithsonian Institution collection featuring about 20 objects from the Apollo 11 mission. Aldrin’s original helmet and gloves and the command module are among the highlights.

The Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral in Florida has been updating its complex, from adding virtual reality stations at the Apollo/Saturn V Center to a new interactive rocket launch feature. Events cover recreating Apollo 11’s launch and the welcome home celebration.

ApolloPalooza will be going down at the Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum in Denver from July 13-20. A key draw will be opening night featuring Harrison Schmitt, a former astronaut with Apollo 17.

Not least, Space Center Houston will be celebrating with pop-up science workshops for kids and tram tours that will stop at the restored mission control center from NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

7. Tasmania

The top of Mount Wellington in Tasmania offers stunning landscape views.

If you want to avoid hot, crowded destinations, take advantage of Australia’s winter and head to Tasmania, a scenic island just south of Melbourne.

Road tripping is one of the best ways to experience it, and while the route, known as the Lap of Tasmania, isn’t new, it now has a dedicated online presence. The new Lap of Tasmania resources now make it easier than ever to plan a leisurely road trip.

The entire route is just over 900 miles and takes about a week to complete; even better, it’s designed to incorporate 12 of the best points of interest.

While the capital of Hobart is the most well-known destination, the trip introduces road trippers to Tamar Valley’s wine region; Tasmanian devils on the Tasman Peninsula; and the East Coast’s famed beaches. Among them is Bay of Fires, famed for its orange-tinged rocks, and Binalong Bay, a pristine curve of white sand that’s worth visiting even if it’s too chilly to take a dip.

8. New York City

New York will host the first US-based WorldPride event in June.

Yes, there are always new reasons for visiting New York City, but this summer is shaping up to be especially busy.

First, there’s the brand-new Hudson Yards neighborhood along the High Line, sandwiched between 30th and 34th Streets on one end and 10th and 11th Avenues on the other.

It debuted in March, bringing with it a mall’s worth of high-end restaurants (Kāwi from Momofuku Group, TAK Room from French Laundry’s Thomas Keller) and chain stores (Neiman Marcus, Louis Vuitton) interspersed with more affordable options in those categories (Shake Shack, Athleta).

Oh, and let’s not forget Mercado Little Spain, a 35,000-square-foot food hall dedicated to all things Spain.

There are also cultural attractions, from art galleries to The Shed, a vast performance space. You can even base yourself right in the action at the new Equinox Hotel, a first for the brand that is just as upscale as its gyms.

In other hotel news, the super buzzy TWA Hotel is at the center of the long-awaited revival of JFK’s TWA Flight Center, designed in the 1960s by Eero Saarinen. It opened May 15, making it the first hotel within the airport’s terminal.

Not least, June brings WorldPride, a reoccurring global event for the LGTBQI+ community.

NYC holds the honor of hosting the first US-based WorldPride; the city’s 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, a pivotal event on June 28, 1969 that sparked the beginning of the gay rights movement, made the city an obvious choice. A full month of lectures, rallies and parties are expected to attract more than three million people.

9. French Polynesia

French Polynesia may be difficult to get to, but its scenery is an easy sell.

Weather-wise, Tahiti may not seem like an obvious choice for summer travel, but as it’s located in the Southern Hemisphere, winter there means comfortable temperatures averaging around 80 degrees Fahrenheit and less humidity.

A newer airline competitor also means it’s now more affordable than ever to visit this bucket-list spot.

In May 2018, budget airline French bee quietly launched a new route from San Francisco to Papeete, Tahiti, starting at just $660 round trip, opening up French Polynesia to more than honeymooners.

There’s also more to French Polynesia than the popular islands of Tahiti and Bora Bora (the latter known for its dreamy overwater bungalows).

Among the 118 islands are ones like Rangiroa, a haven for divers and snorkelers who come for its famed Blue Lagoon, pearl farm and the only coral winery in the world.

Then there’s Taha’a, a vanilla-scented paradise that’s often overlooked for Bora Bora. Moorea is another neighboring island that offers everything from trendy restaurants to shopping, without feeling overdeveloped.

Plus, many islands have local guesthouses and casual cafes, helping to keep costs down.

10. Anchorage, Alaska

The landscapes outside of Anchorage are well worth the journey.

For the first time starting July 6, United Airlines will begin flying a direct seasonal route from Newark to Anchorage until September 8.

While East Coasters can take advantage of popular Alaskan cruises, there are good reasons to stick around in Anchorage, too. Average temperatures tend to reach a balmy 60 degrees Fahrenheit, and sunlight lasts for about 22 hours on June 21, the summer solstice. And yes, there’s a Downtown Summer Solstice Festival to celebrate.

Summer days in general last longer, allowing more time to sample the city’s dozen or so craft beer breweries and emerging food scene (we’re looking at you, Muse).

The Anchorage Museum added a new wing in 2017 that’s all about contemporary Native artwork, while Town Square Park plays host to free Thursday night concerts in summer.

And though it’s a 40-minute flight from Anchorage, the remote Tordrillo Mountain Lodge is fresh off a multimillion-dollar renovation, and among its new offerings is the state’s first via ferrata, a climbing route that includes fixed anchors, like steel cables, to help climbers. This one, next to the Triumvirate glacier, also features two suspension bridges.

11. Singapore

Sir Stamford Raffles created a British trading post in Singapore 200 years ago.

Singapore is still enjoying increased attention thanks to the “Crazy Rich Asians” book and movie franchise, but that isn’t the only reason to visit the island nation.

2019 just also happens to be the 200th anniversary of Sir Stamford Raffles creating a British trading post here. Staying at the iconic Raffles Singapore is one way to mark the occasion. The hotel plans on reopening August 1 following an extensive restoration begun in 2017.

But that’s not all. For the past seven years Singapore’s Changi Airport has been named the best in the world by Skytrax, and for good reason – it’s a wonderland with arcade games, gardens and art installations.

The airport is making headlines not just for topping the list again, but for its latest addition, the Jewel.

The $1.25 billion mixed-used space is a super modern glass-and-steel structure connecting three of the four terminals, complete with next-level features not typically found in your average airport. Namely, a 130-foot-tall indoor waterfall; a Canopy Park containing a 164-foot bridge surrounded by gardens and walking paths; an IMAX movie theater; an indoor botanical garden and almost 300 shops and restaurants.

Come June and beyond, the complex is expected to reveal more fun in the form of suspension nets, slides, hedge and mirror mazes and more.

12. Seattle

Seattle's Space Needle has recently been renovated to the tune of $100 million.

For those that missed it, Seattle’s Space Needle is fresh off of a $100 million renovation.

Completed late last summer, the attraction now features floor-to-ceiling angled glass windows encircling the top of the bi-level observation deck, fronted by glass benches. The top level is where visitors will also find the new Atmos Cafe.

The lower level now sports a revolving glass floor, considered the only one of its kind in the world, and is also home to Atmos Wine Bar. A spiral staircase connects the two levels without sacrificing the views.

Over at Pike Place Market, the 112-year-old institution has expanded for the first time in 40 years with the newly added MarketFront. The $74 million addition offers 30,000 square feet of space with a public plaza, a food hall for vendors like Old Stove Brewing Co., Honest Biscuits and indi chocolate, as well as a glass-enclosed pavilion for produce sellers and craftspeople.

Not least, Seattle is experiencing a hotel boom, adding almost 2,000 new rooms in 2018. Among the notable additions are Hyatt Regency Seattle and Moxy Seattle Downtown.

13. France

The 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup is going down in France, with soccer matches between June 7 and July 7. Games will be held in Paris, Nice and seven other destinations across the country, from the student-filled Montpellier to medieval Rennes.

The 75th anniversary of D-Day is also in 2019, marking the occasion when Allied troops landed on the Normandy coast on June 6, 1944. Fireworks and a massive picnic on Omaha Beach are among the planned festivities.

Meanwhile, the Loire Valley is marking 500 years since Leonardo da Vinci passed away at Clos Lucé in 1519. The calendar of events at the chateau includes a summer exhibition featuring a tapestry of “The Last Supper,” a stage production about da Vinci’s heirs and the European Renaissance Music Festival.

In Paris, the famed Galeries Lafayette department store just opened a new flagship in March on the equally famous Champs Élysées.

Besides spotlighting high-end designers and fashion-forward newcomers, the 70,000-square-foot store is considered more conceptual than the original, featuring pop-ups, a personal stylist app and smart hangers, a cutting-edge technology informing customers about a product’s availability.

14. Churchill, Manitoba

Whale watching is a big draw in Churchill, Manitoba.

For those who don’t wish to fly to remote Churchill in Northern Manitoba, best known for its polar bears and beluga whales, train service on VIA Rail Canada resumed in December for the first time in 18 months. (There are no roads to Churchill.)

The train ride from Winnipeg takes about 48 hours, depositing visitors in a small town with less than 1,000 residents. But come summer, tourists arrive for beluga whale season, as Churchill annually attracts about 60,000 of the friendly whale species.

While it’s easy to spot belugas from the shore, a handful of tour groups offer different ways to get in the water with them.

Lazy Bear Expeditions offers a kayak option, while you can paddleboard among them with Frontiers North Adventures.

15. Rwanda

Akagera National Park in Rwanda has been restocked after years of poaching.

Mention safari and Rwanda, and gorilla trekking is probably the first thing that springs to mind.

The brand-new Magashi Camp from Wilderness Safaris helps to challenge that notion, since it provides another opportunity to visit the Big Five (lion, leopard, rhinoceros, African elephant and Cape buffalo) in Akagera National Park.

It’s not the first, but Magashi Camp, opened in May, is the most high-end option, outfitted with just six large tents that accommodate a king-sized bed, comfy seating and locally made decor.

Separate tents house a communal lounge, dining area and bar, and there’s also a pool on-site. As the camp overlooks Lake Rwanyakazinga, guests can spot a plethora of hippos and crocodiles without leaving the premises.

Game drives afford the chance to spy not just the biggies, but giraffes, zebras and about 500 bird species. It’s important to note that Akagera National Park has been restocked after years of poaching: lions were reintroduced in 2015, and black rhinos followed in 2017.

16. Washington, DC

The new International Spy Museum opened in Washington in May.

The International Spy Museum in Washington, DC has been closed since January in order to move into a brand-new building double the size.

The new-and-improved museum debuted on May 12 in its boldly designed home, unveiling an updated and expanded espionage collection since much of the original collection from 2002 felt dated.

The refresh includes more contributions from women and people of color; an exhibit on cyberwarfare with an interactive feature; and part of a ’50s spy tunnel from Berlin.

There are also exhibits that explore controversial issues like interrogation techniques and whistle blowers, both answering and raising questions.

Plus, some favorite aspects are returning bigger and better, from unexpected spy gadgets to an interactive air duct. Now located near the National Mall, plan to spend at least an entire afternoon here playing spy.

17. Switzerland

Vevey, Switzerland, hosts a momentous wine festival once every 20 years.

It’s mainly oenophiles who are in on the secret of Swiss wine, simply because the country doesn’t export it. Well, unless you count the 2% that it does export.

One can visit the Ticino wine region in Switzerland’s Italian-speaking region, or head to Fête des Vignerons, a major wine festival held once every 20 years in Vevey.

From July 18 to August 11, the small town of about 20,000 villagers will expect about 400,000 visitors, kicking off the festivities with an elaborate show performed by more than 5,000 locals telling the story of the wine-growing process.

The following weeks are filled with wine tastings, concerts, performances and nightly processions. The largest procession, the Coronation Parade, happens opening day on July 18, with more than 8,000 costumed participants making their way through town.

In addition to local restaurants, 50 food and beverage stands will be readily accessible throughout, offering fresh baked bread, sausage and cheese.

18. Kenya

The wildebeest migration is an annual undertaking where more than a million wildebeest, members of the antelope family, migrate stampede-style from the Serengeti in Tanzania to the Masai Mara in Kenya.

To help witness this thundering spectacle, the largest migration of its kind, Kenya Airways just added a new direct flight from JFK to Nairobi.

The herd (along with a mix of zebras and gazelles) starts the long-haul trek in spring, reaching Kenya as early as July. Peak herd is reached in August before the gang starts the return trip home in October.

The newly renovated Sanctuary Olonana is a Masai Mara property that deviates from the average safari lodge with modern, glass-enclosed suites. Plus, the lodge is just 40 minutes away from the well-trampled migration route.

Also of note, the andBeyond Bateleur Camp, also in Masai Mara, has been completely rebuilt and reopened this past spring. Despite the modern updates, the high-end camp still channels an earlier era.

19. Norway

Trondheim is known for its local food scene and a storybook setting.

Many people head to Norway in winter for the Northern Lights, but obviously the weather is much better in summer, complemented by long days of sunlight.

An extra incentive to visit in 2019 is the unveiling of the extensively renovated Britannia Hotel in Trondheim. The $150 million undertaking of the historic 19th-century building took four years, reopening in April to reveal a five-star experience.

The 257 rooms are outfitted with Carrara marble bathrooms and beds from Hästens, regarded as one of the world’s most luxurious (and expensive) brands: prices easily run in the five figures.

The six dining options are equally impressive. Fine-dining Speilsalen is overseen by Christopher Davidsen, who won a silver medal at the 2017 Bocuse d’Or, a prestigious international chef competition.

Then there’s the wine cellar/bar, holding 10,000 carefully chosen bottles, and the airy Palmehaven, a grand, light-filled room that makes the perfect backdrop for afternoon tea.

As for Trondheim itself, Norway’s third-largest city is known for its local food scene, Nidaros Cathedral, independent shops and the Nidelva River that cuts through the storybook setting.