Credit: Thrillist Travel 1/18/2019
The process of choosing just 19 places to visit in 2019 was long, arduous, fraught with infighting -- nah, just kidding, we had a great time. But by necessity, a list so limited overlooks some truly remarkable corners of this big ‘ole world of ours. As we Sophie’s Choice’d one destination after another, we kept coming across cities in our own backyard that made surprisingly compelling cases for a visit.
Sure, they lack the daydreamy wanderlust of brand names like New Zealand and Morocco, but a handful of American cities have been quietly upping their games, making 2019 the year to visit. Think new entertainment districts and thriving old neighborhoods, renewed support for the arts and more beds for travelers. Yes, food scenes will flourish and breweries will boom, but it’s all the more impressive when a city manages to stick to its roots and dig its heels ever-deeper into whatever it does best -- be it bourbon or cattle or fresh veggies or just general weirdness. So by all means, head to Uzbekistan if the spirit moves you. If not, here are eight American destinations proving you don’t have to stray far to find the next cool thing.
Revitalized neighborhoods are attracting younger crowds with plenty of whiskey and artsy music fests
Would you go to Louisville to drink bourbon, eat beignets, and play bocce ball inside a Methodist church-turned-Cajun restaurant? Go ahead and nod emphatically. ChurchKey is just one of many surprises Derby City has in store this year. Credit Louisville’s rise to the ongoing revitalization of old neighborhoods that fell through the cracks of suburbanization: Butchertown and Germantown are attracting millennials like flies with craftsman shotgun homes, ample backyards, and taverns on every corner. On the east end of Market Street, “NuLu” (because every city needs a SoHo, right?) is now the hot ‘hood for its proximity to Downtown, home to a fully revamped Whiskey Row. A fire in 2015 delayed the restoration of a key stretch of Main Street, but Louisville has enough moxie and cast iron bracing to persevere. Today, you’ll find a stretch of eight distilleries on the strip that are easily crawlable -- or trolly-able, should you inevitably go overboard “sampling” craft bourbon.
The latest season of Top Chef is set in Louisville and feasting on a riverboat on Lake Cumberland looks like a thin slice of heaven. The city’s restaurant diversity extends well beyond the hot brown nowadays, with new additions like gothic Italian castle Grassa Gramma and zen vegetarian-friendly outpost Naive. And speaking of Top Chef, former contestant Ed Lee’s latest concept Whiskey Dry has opened as an approachable landing spot for his signature burgers with a progressive assortment of 200+ whiskeys.
In case you’re already penciling Derby 2019 to make your vacation plans, think hard about whether you’d rather save the $1,000 hotel fares and, instead, hit Churchill Downs. September is sure to be prime visiting time with consecutive music festival weekends -- Louder than Life (Metal), Hometown Rising (Country), and Bourbon & Beyond (everything else) -- and it just-sohappens to be National Bourbon Heritage Month. -- Sean Cooley