FEATUREBy Jordan RaneNiche Travel Towns
More than 60% of global travelers are expected to prioritize leisure travel in 2024, according to Forbes. As popular destinations fill with tourists, it’s time for some strategic, personality-tailored soul searching on the subject. Let’s call it a quick, travel-niche nudge to get you thinking about your next ideal destination.

So, where will it be? Travel leads us every which way, for every which reason. Here are four favorite U.S. destinations — tailored for four specific traveler types — to inspire your next getaway.
Park City, Utah, needs no introduction as one of the top fly-in alpine meccas in the Rockies, with its famed pair of ski resorts, Winter Olympics pedigree and tony Old West town – all within a 40-minute drive from Salt Lake City International Airport. Park City Mountain Resort is currently America’s largest ski area, with more than 7,300 acres of schussable terrain. Its neighbor, Deer Valley, remains one of the poshest powder magnets on the planet.

Beyond the slopes, a Park City getaway offers an unbeatable lineup of extracurricular winter adventure options – ranging from dogsledding trips in nearby Wasatch National Forest to bobsled rides on an official Winter Olympic track at Park City’s proudest property, Utah Olympic Park. When it’s time to kick back, Park City hosts some of the finest après-adventure sipping in the mountains at High West Distillery & Saloon — aka “the world’s first and only ski-in gastro-distillery.”

How is Chicago not in this slot, with its 16,000 eating establishments, slew of Michelin stars, and legacy of food festivals, including one dedicated exclusively to bacon? As it turns out, we’ve been overlooking Minneapolis and St. Paul – the most underrated, adjacent foodie towns west and east of the Mississippi. You don’t need to be a Twin Cities resident to appreciate the serious culinary achievements that have been quietly cooking here in the shadow of more obvious foodie hubs across the country. You can come taste them for yourself.

The globally influenced range of nationally renowned restaurants in Minneapolis and St. Paul has left local staples like wild rice, walleye sandwiches and cookie salad in the dust. It now includes James Beard award-winning chef Ann Kim’s woodfire-themed Young Joni, top toque Daniel del Prado’s lineup of hotspots including Tex-Oaxacan-style Colita and Japanese-Italian fusion Sanjusan, and St. Paul’s top Ethiopian kitchen Bole, among many other gems. When you need them, beloved midcentury faves like Cecil’s Deli and Al’s Breakfast are still here, too.

Minnesota’s equally underappreciated wine country will lure savvy oenophiles southeast to Winona, while beer fans can make the pilgrimage to nearby New Ulm to sample suds from the country’s second oldest brewery, Schell’s, launched in 1860.
Paris, London and Hong Kong may officially attract more tourists than New York City, which lands eighth in the latest rankings of the world’s most visited towns. But in the Big Apple, the sheer number of sensory-overloaded pleasures of roaming without a car, watch, or concrete plan takes a back seat to no other metropolis.

Arm yourself with a Metrocard and experience all the crazy little spaces between the usual tourist attractions. By all means, hit Guy Fieri’s latest restaurant in Time Square, Bethesda Terrace in Central Park, Van Gogh’s Cypresses at the Met, and The Lion King on Broadway. Enter the Statue of Liberty, skate at Rockefeller Center, and walk the High Line and Brooklyn Bridge. Gape up at 1,776-foot One World Trade Center and then down from its lofty Observatory.

But the most memorable things here will be the less-planned stuff: The loud-talking couple sitting next to you at Katz’s deli (who bear no resemblance to Harry or Sally); the impromptu Sunday afternoon jazz concert at some hole-in-the-wall basement bar in Greenwich Village (called Smalls), starring half the audience arriving with their horns. The cabbie relaying his life story while whisking you to the Islanders game at the new UBS Arena (which, by the way, is just as fun and a fraction of the price of shelling out for the Rangers at MSG).
When it’s cold and dreary everywhere else, virtually any traveler type is a perfect match for Oahu, Hawaii. But if we had to target a specific personality-pleasing feature here beyond the towering high-rises of Honolulu, the giant views of Diamond Head, and the huge historic sites of Pearl Harbor, it would be those monstrous waves and their fearless riders tearing it up on the island’s legendary North Shore.

Home of Waimea Bay, Sunset Beach, and one of the world’s most fearsome breaks – the Banzai Pipeline – the North Shore is the winter home of competitive surfing’s biggest events, including the year’s first two competitions of the World Surf League’s 2024 Championship Tour: Pipe Pro (Jan. 29-Feb. 10) at Banzai Pipeline, Ehukai Beach Park; Hurley Pro at Sunset Beach (Feb. 12-23). Also happening on the North Shore this winter, for just the 11th time in 30 years, is the elite Eddie Big Wave Invitational (Dec.14, 2023-March 12, 2024) at Waimea Bay.

Witnessing the world’s best surfers riding 30-foot giants on the right day is plenty breathtaking from the safety of sand. If it inspires you, there are tamer places on this storied stretch of coast to try your feet on a board — in addition to other relaxing North Shore activities, like shark diving and heli tours. While this area draws some of Hawaii’s largest crowds during winter’s WSL contest windows, the North Shore is dotted with a range of laid-back, Airbnb-rich communities that are about as timeless and old-school as Waikiki isn’t.
Jordan Rane is an award-winning travel writer. His work has appeared in Men’s Journal, CNN Travel and the Los Angeles Times.