Popular travel experts share where to go in 2011

Everyone has their lists for the New Year, and Lonely Planet is no exception.
The organization that brings you fabulous photo books and travel guides has complied the “10 Best Places to Go in the US for 2011.”
Who decides which cities are worthy of the list?
“It works something like the Olympic judges scoring the gymnastics,” explained LP’s travel editor, Robert Reid, speaking from his New York City office. “We surveyed the comments from about 250 authors about what’s new, different or relevant (in the cities they write about).”
Then the staff in LP’s Oakland office voted — and that means everyone.
“It’s unlike a lot of places,” Reid explained. “Even people in finance are travelers.” LP also has offices in London and Sydney, but this vote belonged exclusively to Oakland.
If you look at a U.S. map, you’ll see that most of the favorite cities are in the West or on the East Coast — except for Austin, Texas, that is. Some might be surprised by that choice, but Reid defends the pick.
“Texas is overrated by Texans and underrated by everyone else,” he explained. “Austin needs no introduction… but West Texas is very underrated. You can make a loop west and south and take in San Antonio and… if you drive maybe six hours west, you can visit Big Bend National Park. It’s the size of Rhode Island and has huge boulders. Native Americans believe that when the creator of the earth was finished, he dropped the rocks there. And I’m a fan of Fort Worth — where West Texas begins — the Chisholm Trail. It’s held on to an element of western heritage that feels real.”
With discretionary income down because of the economy, “I know people are a bit gun-shy (about spending),” Reid said. “But I think travel is making a comeback. However, people still want a good value. I like to suggest that people go someplace they haven’t been before. I think visiting new places extends life.”
Here are LP’s best-places picks for 2011, in no particular order of preference:
— Southern Utah: It’s all about other-worldly Zion and Bryce national parks.
— New Orleans: Post-Katrina N’awlins has its party clothes on again, and will be celebrating Tennessee Williams’ 100th birthday, among other anniversaries.
— New York City: Come for the opening of the National September 11 Memorial, and to see the new Brooklyn Bridge Park and Coney Island’s $30 million makeover
— Austin and West Texas: See above.
— Savannah: Marks the 150th anniversary of the Civil War and pays homage to General Sherman, who spared it because of its beauty on his March to the Sea.
— Denver: Celebrates the 150th anniversary of the Colorado Territory. The mountains, two hours west, are great for skiing, hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding.
— Northern California: Think Big Sur; San Francisco; Monterey/Carmel; Napa/Sonoma; Mount Shasta; and Yosemite.
— Grand Canyon National Park: If you haven’t seen it, put it on your bucket list. Each rim is a different experience.
— Palm Springs: It offers outdoor adventures, hiking, spas, art galleries, excellent eating and an abundance of mid-century architecture. Not into rock climbing? Watch at popular climbing areas near well traveled roads in nearby Joshua Tree National Park.
— Hawaii: The islands are affordable when compared to other South Pacific destinations, and there’s lots more than just baking in the sun: hiking, diving, snorkeling, dining and visiting historical sites.
Great gadgets for gadabouts
We like to travel with our electronic gadgets, but sometimes it puts the little wonders in harm’s way. One company, bioserie, has a solution: lightweight, durable and environmentally gentle protective cases. They are small but perform a big job — that of keeping the iPhone, iPad, iPod Nano and iPod Touch clean and safe. The bioserie cases are made entirely from “bioplastics” — organic, plant-based renewable materials that contain no petrochemicals and have a low production carbon footprint. The cases come in five colors and retail for $35. Visit bioserie.com.
From my desk to yours, best wishes for happy trails in 2011.

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