Samantha’s Top Travel Destinations for 2017

Every travel-related media outlet likes to put out their list of the coming year’s trendy destinations. That’s fine, but I prefer to take a different route. Travel is a deeply personal experience, and who cares what’s “cool” this year if in your heart, you really want to go somewhere else?

With that in mind, here’s my top travel destinations for 2017.

Michigan’s Gold Coast

In 2016, my husband and I took our twins on an epic California road trip. A few toddler meltdowns aside, we loved piling into the minivan and traveling at our own pace. Next year, I hope to take our adventures to the great lakes, starting in Chicago. After a day hitting up the Shed or Museum of Science and Industry, we’ll head toward St. Joseph, Michigan—aka the Riviera of the Midwest. We’d spend the day overlooking the deep blue of Lake Michigan while playing on Silver Beach.

Next stop? Holland. No, not the country, the town, which features charming windmills, fields of tulips (seasonally, of course!), the Big Red Lighthouse and a quaint downtown.

Our next destination is Traverse City. So much to do here that I suspect we’d stay a few days. I’d love to take the kids to the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes, the five local lighthouses (did I mention I have a thing for lighthouses?), and explore many great restaurants. From breakfast at the Grand Traverse Pie Company to Cuban cuisine at Frida Batidos…and maybe a stop for mom and dad at Tandem Ciders, there’s no shortage of good eats!

We’d end the vacation at Mackinac Island, one of my favorite destinations in the states. In fact, I have a whole post about it here. Fudge, charming shops and no cars. Heaven!

Aarhus, Denmark

Never heard of it? You will! This city, located on the Jutland peninsula’s east coast, has been named the 2017 European Capital of Culture. The town offers a few incredible museums, but the most intriguing is the Old Town, an open-air town museum located in the Aarhus Botanical Gardens. Open since 1914, it’s the world’s first open-air museum of its kind. The museum is a collection of 75 historical buildings brought in from all over Denmark, then assembled into a small town. Some of the structures date back to 1550! Most buildings are open for visitors, with many rooms decorated in the original historical style.

On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, you’ll find Dokk1, a public space overlooking the waterfront. It’s the perfect place to try on that enviable Scandanavian quality of life. This ultra-modern building houses a public library, business center, café and more. There’s incredible playgrounds for kids—one featuring a towering bear slide that even adults will want to try out!

If you’re a food lover, you probably know Denmark has become a top culinary destination. Aarhus offers lots of incredible dining, including many Michelin-starred restaurants like Substans, a fine-dining destination restaurant specializing in local, fresh Scandinavian cuisine. Restaurant Pondus is also a local favorite—a little more rustic and less expensive, but equally delicious. You’ll find great coffee shops and bakeries scattered around town, too!

Ottawa, Canada

Canada is celebrating its sesquicentennial (that’s 150 years as a confederation!), so there are a lot of great events planned. That makes 2017 the perfect time to finally visit Banff, eat your way through Montreal or plan a ski or hiking trip in Whistler.

Something that may not be on your radar is Ottawa, the capital city. From an epic New Year’s Eve party to concerts and the 105th Grey Cup (that’s the Canadian Football League’s biggest match of the year), they’re pulling all the stops to celebrate this big birthday. Check out a list of events here.


No, not the Dominican Republic. I’m talking Dominica, a small Caribbean island that’s big on adventure. Situated between the islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique, this island nation doesn’t offer a lot of those white sandy beaches the Caribbean is known for, which has kept big resorts away. If you’re the type of traveler who hears that and swoons, I say start packing!

The mountainous island features natural hot springs and tropical rainforests that have a pre-historic feel. Check out Morne Trois Pitons National Park, home to the volcanically heated, steam-covered Boiling Lake. Swim through the Titou Gorge– a series of natural rooms and ponds formed by high cliff walls, canopied by trees. Incredible!

Porto, Portugal

Somehow Porto is still an under-the-radar old world European city. That’s great news for travelers who love history, charm and great food of Europe without the crowds. I enjoy seeing places by foot, especially if I’m rewarded with a great view. There’s plenty of ways to make this happen in Porto, most notably from atop the Clérigos Tower, a Baroque church built between 1732 – 1750 (though the tower wasn’t completed until 1763). The climb will bring you 250 feet above the city, making for an incredible vista.

Other Porto must-dos include strolling through Foz du Douro—a fancy seaside neighborhood with lots of cafes, shops and beautiful ocean views; marveling at the Dom Luís I Bridge, a double-decked, 146–foot high bridge designed by Gustave Eiffel that spans the Douro River; and getting lost in the Ribiera district, a picturesque neighborhood that dates back to medieval times. Of course, not trip to Porto is complete without a little port wine. There’s plenty of places to drink it, but try Caves Ferreira for wine tasting with a history lesson.

What’s on your travel wish list for 2017? Share in the comments!

Travel Channel's Samantha Brown shares her top travel destinations for 2017.

Photos: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4

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