Find out which entertaining, informative, and provocative Travel + Leisure features caught readers’ attention in 2012—and join the conversation.
We know our readers are passionate about travel, and nothing stirred those feelings more this year than our coverage of U.S. cities.
The most-read feature ranked America's rudest cities, generating plenty of heated debate in the comments section, as did our take on the hipster hubs across the nation, and where to find the very best burgers.
Other popular features shared insider recommendations, from the best affordable beach resorts to a report on which airports are likely to provide a smooth travel experience. And it's no surprise that beautiful photos, whether of cool staircases or the world's most fascinating beaches, are transporting and can inspire that next great trip.
So, take a look back at T+L's biggest hits, and then tell us: which was your favorite, and what travel topics would you like us to tackle in 2013? —Kate Appleton
Which is worse when you’re traveling: the local driver who blithely cuts you off in traffic or the surly cabbie who gives you attitude right to your face? Such skirmishes no doubt fueled this year’s America’s rudest cities rankings, as determined by Travel + Leisure readers. Three-time-champion Los Angeles went head-to-head with classically brusque East Coast cities such as Boston and New York.
3 of 21Andrew Theodorakis / Stringer / Getty Images
No. 2 America’s Best and Worst Airports
The major American airport that delivers the most seamless experience isn’t on any coast. When we asked readers to rate America’s 22 major airports, Minneapolis (MSP) came out the winner for its shopping and dining options, the ease of check-in and security, and the friendliness typical of its city hub. Find out how other airports ranked and where you’re most likely to develop air rage.
Atlanta introduced a frightening fine on smoking in public parks (up to $1,000) earlier this year, but that didn’t stop the city from ranking near the bottom of the cleanliness category of our annual America’s Favorite Cities reader survey. Litter, smog, and rats also plague some of our nation’s cities—and T+L readers have rated the worst offenders.
Ah, hipsters. They sport vintage bowling shoes and the latest tech gear, but they also know all the best places to eat and drink—and Seattle is crawling with them. The local Churchkey Can Company produces a pilsner requiring an old-fashioned “church-key” opener to drink it. It’s one example of the taste for the retro, artsy, and ironic that boosted Seattle to the top of America’s best cities for hipsters, according to Travel + Leisure readers.
Signs can be our biggest allies; they can also lead us far astray. A sign in Scotland assures us that trespassing is acceptable—as long as you ask permission first. Humor can also come from signs that lack punctuation: “CAUTION PEDESTRIANS SLIPPERY WHEN WET.” Still others leave you scratching your head, such as a triangular sign that bears no words, but illustrates a wheelchair speeding down a hill toward the open mouth of an alligator. See for yourself in our slideshow.
7 of 21Courtesy of Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek
No. 6 World’s Best Hotels 2012
Everyone wants to know where to stay, and for 17 years running, we’ve asked T+L readers, who are passionate about travel, to vote on the hotels they love the most. The resulting properties go above and beyond. The Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul, for instance, ranked No. 24 with for its riverfront location and refined elegance. Surprising newcomers include the romantic Nayara Hotel, Spa & Gardens in Costa Rica, and Southern Ocean Lodge, Australia’s first wilderness luxury resort.
“There are two kinds of people in the world,” says chef Mario Batali, “those who are Italian, and those who wish they were Italian.” No wonder: Italian restaurants across America are raising the bar. Trattoria Lucca in Charleston, SC, showcases local seafood and homemade ricotta cavatelli and hosts a weekly prix-fix communal dinner. Even Chicago locals are ditching the deep dish for Parmesan budino and Italian eggplant. Did your favorite make our list?
Today’s culinary landscape is all about über-local ingredients and farm-to-table cooking. But America’s seafood restaurants were sourcing fish from their backyard long before it was popular. Many of the finest are down-and-dirty—where no-frills décor meets the freshest grouper, blackened, simply dressed with mayo and lettuce. Look for them in Florida’s Sarasota Bay, Maui’s northern shore, and in Atlanta.
Staircases are fundamentally a means to get from one point to another, but they become cool when form is made just as important as function. A structure in Germany’s Rhine Valley that curves and loops like a rollercoaster. Glass staircases that seem to float within Apple stores. A lavish red Art Nouveau staircase in a bookshop in Portugal. And more cool examples that provide interesting perspective on a destination.
The key ingredients of a beach vacation are simple: sun, sand, surf. It certainly isn’t about watching your bank account wash out to sea. So, we’ve rounded up our favorite affordable beach resorts worldwide, with starting nightly rates between $50 and $250. Options are as varied as Auberge Carnish, a modern cottage on the Scottish coast, India’s hippie-chic Amarya Shamiyana, and a rustic surfing retreat in Panama.
12 of 21Courtesy of Little Palm Island Resort & Spa
No. 11 World’s Top Hotels
Every year. T+L readers vote on thousands of hotels based on rooms, location, service, food, and value. In 2012, the winners present a mix of remote escapes and city hotels. The number of high-scorers in Africa increased this year, with nine in the top 25, including Singita Grumeti Reserves in Tanzania. Meanwhile, California has the largest percentage of T+L 500 hotels in the U.S., with 37 winners.
What’s worse: layer upon bulky layer of long underwear and puffy coats? Or flashy, barely-there outfits? Locals in Anchorage strut the former, earning them the honor of No. 1 worst-dressed city in America, according to T+L readers. These Alaskans “aren’t alarmed when a person wearing a ski mask enters a room.” Baltimore, however, can’t blame icy temperatures for its No. 3 spot. Even Dallas, known for its upscale shopping, ranked as the No. 6 least-stylish city.
Can just traveling to a city make you better looking? Some claim the sand, surf, and sunshine in California will have your skin glowing. Headed to a chilly city instead? Minneapolis, Nashville, and Kansas City nonetheless all scored high in beauty and friendliness, while charming accents also put Phoenix and Seattle at the top of the list, according to T+L readers. See where your hometown ranks.
What makes a hotel not just recommendable, but groundbreaking? Consider Tierra Patagonia, which rises from a glacier-scape on the edge of Torres del Paine National Park. Rooms are stocked with hand-woven throws and wool-upholstered armchairs. Closer to home, we love the Washington School House in Park City, UT, for its French and Swedish antiques and easy access to the ski slopes, as well as Florida’s St. Regis Bal Harbour—part of a $700 million development on Miami Beach.
Good news: there are still undiscovered beaches out there—blissful hideaways where tourism hasn’t yet eclipsed the local culture. T+L went scouting and turned up everything from a quaint fishing village in Portugal to world-class surfing waves in Todos Santos, Mexico. The marine life around Ibo Island in Mozambique is ideal for divers, while hikers can wander ancient ruins in Cirali on the Turkish Mediterranean.
Once the ultimate cheap comfort food, the burger is becoming a gourmet indulgence. According to T+L readers, Los Angeles is the current reigning champ, and it has a storied burger pedigree, having launched both the first McDonald’s and the In-N-Out Burger in the 1940’s. Minneapolis/St. Paul is famous for the Juicy Lucy, a burger with cheese cooked inside the patty. While some cities keep it simple (Dick’s Drive-In in Seattle serves an old-school $1.50 burger), others like Philadelphia’s Hickory Lane American Bistro are getting creative.
A memorable meal is guaranteed at each of these restaurants in New York, a more interesting, varied, and exciting dining destination than it was even a few years ago. Serious food no longer means starched white tablecloths. There’s a new breed of quirky, market-driven joints where the music is loud and the tables are packed tight. We’re also awash in one-off spots that give the star treatment to cult foods like meatballs, artisanal donuts, and a Neapolitan fried pizza.
Most of us would relish a day at any beach. But there’s a certain thrill in sinking your toes into sand at a different shore. Travelers hike along sea cliffs to reach the deep olive green sand at Hawaii’s Papakolea Beach. African penguins take over the rocks at Boulders Beach in Cape Town. At Siesta Beach in Sarasota, FL the sand is so pure it squeaks like powdered sugar when you walk on it.
University designs are deeply tied to a nation’s history and identity, and it feels fitting that a campus should reflect dignity and grandeur. At Trinity College in Dublin, cobblestoned paths wind among elegant 18th- and 19th-century stone buildings. Meanwhile, students at Peking University in Beijing enter campus through an ornately painted gate guarded by stone lions.
Mixing celebrities and hotels makes for glamour, buzz, and a whole lot of chaos. So what does it take to get banned these days? “Creepy” behavior got John Travolta forbidden from the spa at New York’s Peninsula. Even being a hotel heiress won’t help you—Paris Hilton was banned from the Wynn in Las Vegas after her arrest for cocaine possession. But if you really want to get rowdy, the Hard Rock Hotel in Vegas embraces debauchery.