Old Port is home to cobblestone streets, 19th-century brick buildings and some of Portland’s best bars and restaurants. (Suzanne Van Atten for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
The Old Port district is everything you could ever want in a New England port town: cobblestone streets, 19th-century brick buildings and historic wharves on the harbor. It’s also home to some of the city’s best restaurants and bars. Highlights include Duckfat Frites Shack ($5-$11, 43 Washington Ave., 207-200-2505, duckfatfriteshack.com), a convivial, casual place offering wings, poutine, craft sodas, duck fat milkshakes and Belgian frites served with an array of dipping sauces. There’s also a small but selective choice of micro brews. And although currently closed while it revamps its menu and space, Portland Hunt & Alpine Club ($10-$12, 75 Market St., 207-747-4754, huntandalpineclub.com) reopens this spring. Named one of the best cocktail bars in America in 2019 by Thrillist and a two-time James Beard Award semifinalist for Outstanding Bar Program, this is the place to enjoy fresh, creative cocktails by some of the best mixologists around.
Playa Ocean Park is where the locals go to the beach in San Juan, Puerto Rico. (Suzanne Van Atten for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Flight time: 3.5 hours
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Despite a series of natural disasters and economic struggles in recent years, Puerto Rico’s tourism industry is back in full swing and boasting several new hotels, including Palacio Provincial ($219 and up, Calle Cristo esq. Calle San Francisco, Old San Juan, 787-425-0164, palacioprovincial.com), an elegant 43-room luxury hotel in a 19th-century Colonial building with a rooftop bar and swimming pool.
Forgo the seaside resorts where tourists flock, and visit the beach where the locals go at Playa Ocean Park (free, Calle General Patton, Ocean Park). Be sure to bring some cash so you can rent a lounge chair and buy snow cones, empanadas and ice cream from roving vendors. On the way there, stop at Kasalta Bakery ($12-$25, 1966 Calle McLeary, 787-727-7340) to pick up Cuban sandwiches and pastries for a picnic lunch.
Street mural by Dominican artist Angurria in the Santurce neighborhood of San Juan, Puerto Rico. (Suzanne Van Atten for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Santurce es Ley (facebook.com/santurceesley) is a grassroots arts initiative that has produced an incredible display of street murals over the years by artists from around the globe in Santurce, a working-class neighborhood and arts district. Spend a couple of hours strolling along Calle Serra from Avenida Juan Ponce de Leon to Avenida Las Palmas. When the sun goes down, hit lively, casual Esquina Watusi ($1-$8, 801 Calle Cerra, 787-388-7434) to hang out on the street corner drinking Medalla beer and people watching.
For a unique fine dining experience, Cocina Abierta ($16-$39, 58 Calle Caribe, Condado, 787-946-1333, cocinaabierta.net) serves seasonal small plates that combine Puerto Rican cuisine with global flavors, such as mofongo (mashed plantain) with Peking duck.
Vintage neon signs light up the night at the Neon Museum in Las Vegas. (Suzanne Van Atten for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Flight time: 4.5 hours
Newly opened in late 2020, Circa Resort & Casino ($119 and up, 8 Fremont St., 702-247-2258, circalasvegas.com) is the first new resort in downtown Las Vegas and the city’s first resort built from the ground up in 40 years. Catering to adults only, the 44-story resort boasts 777 guest rooms, ranging from two-bedroom suites to bunkbed suites for large groups. Attractions include Swim Stadium, a swim amphitheater with six pools, swim-up bars and a 40-foot HD screen for broadcasting sports events, and Circa Sports, a dedicated space for sports betting where you can watch 19 sporting events at once.
Because you can never see enough neon in Vegas, pay a nighttime visit to the Neon Museum (admission $16, guided tours $24, 770 Las Vegas Blvd. N., 702-387-6366, neonmuseum.org), where vintage neon signs go to die. You can visit during the day, but go at night when the signs are lit up. Advance reservations required.
After 16 years of operation, celebrity chef Bobby Flay’s celebrated restaurant Mesa Grill at Caesars Palace has closed. In its place, Flay is preparing to debut his Mediterranean seafood restaurant Amalfi (3570 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 866-227-5938, caesars.com) this spring. Meanwhile, tried-and-true Momofuku ($14-$78, 3708 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 877-893-2001, cosmopolitanlasvegas.com) serves a delectable menu of dishes combining Korean and Japanese flavors created by celebrity chef David Chang.
In July, Usher begins a residency at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace ($237 and up, 888-729-4718, ticketsales.com).
Muir Woods, home of a redwood forest, is 16 miles north of San Francisco. (Suzanne Van Atten for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Flight time: 5.5 hours
After you’ve hit all the usual tourist sights, seek out some of the city’s quirkier attractions like Musée Mécanique (Pier 45, Fisherman’s Wharf, 415-346-2000, museemecanique.com), a warehouse filled with 300 vintage coin-operated arcade games and pinball machines dating back to the early 1900s. This is a hands-on experience, so hit the change machine for some coins and play until your thumbs give out. Temporarily closed during the pandemic, the museum is planning to reopen as soon as the mayor gives the OK.
Head to Chinatown and visit the Fortune Cookie Factory (free, 56 Ross Alley, 415-806-8243, goldengatefortunecookies.com), a small commercial kitchen that has been producing fortune cookies on a fascinating Rube Goldberg-style contraption since 1962. Visitors are welcome to watch the process and sample a cookie warm from the oven. A variety of fortune cookies, including flavored and chocolate-dipped options, are available for purchase.
The Fortune Cookie Factory is in San Francisco’s Chinatown. (Suzanne Van Atten for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Rent a car and drive across the Golden Gate Bridge to Muir Woods National Monument ($15, reservations required, 1 Muir Woods Road, Mill Valley, 800-410-2419, nps.gov/muwo). Part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, this majestic land features 240 acres of old-growth redwood forest and 6 miles of hiking trails.
Dine on Dungeness crab at Fog Harbor Fish House ($20-$64, Pier 39, 415-421-2442, fogharbor.com). Chefs prepare it a number of ways, from ceviche and crab cocktail to salads and roasted whole. With its location on the water, you can’t beat the view. For outstanding Italian food, the Italian Homemade Company ($10-$13, 716 Columbus Ave., North Beach, 415-712-8874, italianhomemade.com) is a fast-casual and always crowded spot where the pasta is made on-site. Mix and match your choice of pasta and sauce, or go for a flatbread sandwich or lasagna.
Murals contribute to the festive atmosphere of Barranco, Lima’s bohemian art district. (Suzanne Van Atten for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Flight time: 6.5 hours
Lima is a foodie lover’s paradise, starting with the ubiquitous street vendors selling anticuchos (grilled beef heart kebabs), rice pudding and picarones (squash fritters drizzled with a sticky syrup). For dining in, start with ocean fresh ceviche at Barra Mar ($3-$12, Av. Mariscal La Mar 309, 51 1 715-2972, facebook.com/BarraMarPeru), a casual spot in the upscale Miraflores neighborhood.
For a one-of-a-kind dining experience, unusual ingredients meet molecular gastronomy at Central (prix fixe menus $104 and up, Av. Pedro de Osma 301, Barranco, 51 1 242-8515, centralrestaurante.com.pe), considered one of the world’s best restaurants for its inventive tasting menus of dishes inspired by various regions of Peru presented in creative ways. You may not recognize anything you eat, but it will be beautiful to look at and complex in flavor and texture.
Huaca Pucllana ruins date back to 400 A.D. (Suzanne Van Atten for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Huaca Pucllana Restaurant ($10-$18, Gen. Borgono Cdra 8, Huaca Pucllana, Miraflores, 51 1 445-4042, resthuacapucllana.com) is a unique dining experience for different reasons. The lovely, Colonial-style restaurant serves expertly prepared traditional Peruvian dishes such as lomo saltado and scallops in Parmesan. What makes it special, though, is a large outdoor dining area overlooking Huaca Pucllana, the ruins of an adobe ceremonial site dating back to 400 A.D. that is still undergoing excavation. It is especially beautiful when illuminated at night.
When the sun goes down, take in the nightlife in the neighborhood of Barranco, a lively, bohemian enclave chock full of interesting restaurants, bars, galleries and boutiques. Be sure to have a cocktail and tapas at the venerable La Noche ($3-$7, Sanchez Carrion 199, Barranco, 51 1 247-1012, lanoche.com.pe), a romantic multilevel bar with endless rooms, balconies and cozy nooks that attracts an arty crowd.