The year ahead: Where to go in 2016

Tallinn, Estonia (photo by Dennis Lennox).

By Dennis Lennox

For the last week or two it seems like just about everyone published their must-visit places of 2016.

While some of the recommendations are quite good, others have been nothing more than unreported listicles aimed at getting you to click the computer mouse or tap the screen.

My recommendations are different. They’re based on my own experiences flying 125,000-plus miles and spending some 200 nights on the road last year alone.

Here are the top three places to go in 2016:

Old Town in Tallinn, Estonia (photo by Dennis Lennox).

3. Tallinn, Estonia

Estonia’s capital city may be one of the smallest capitals in Europe, but Tallinn has plenty to offer.

Despite having been occupied by the Soviet Union, Tallinn and, frankly, Estonia writ large feels more like the West — especially nearby Finland — than Russia.

Tallinn’s rich history is on full display in the picture-perfect, UNESCO World Heritage-listed Old Town, which is encircled by a medieval wall dating to the 14th century. At the heart of Old Town is the 13th century Tallinna raekoda, or Tallinn Town Hall, which dates to when the city was part of the Hanseatic League.

Beyond Tallinn’s fairy tale charm one also finds a modern, fast-growing city with a strong economy rooted in the tech sector (think Skype).

2. Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Many of the people I encounter while traveling abroad tell me they want to go to New York City or Los Angeles.

The Milwaukee Art Museum’s Quadracci Pavilion, designed by the architect Santiago Calatrava, overlooks Lake Michigan (photo by Dennis Lennox).

I understand the appeal of visiting L.A. and N.Y. — both are disproportionately featured in American television and movies, which for many are their only exposure to the United States. Still, there’s so much to do, see and experience between the two coasts. After all, this is where the vast majority of Americans actually live.

Now Milwaukee might not be the first place you think of visiting, but it should be.

It’s an all-American city that has moved beyond the stereotype as a place to get a good beer.

Milwaukee (population 595,000) is big enough to have fine specimens of architecture ranging from late 19th century edifices built from the city’s distinctive cream-colored bricks to the recently renovated Art Museum designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava — a postmodern interpretation of a Gothic cathedral.

You’ll also find a well-established foodie culture that’s best experienced during warmer months of the year, when farm-to-table restaurants in the Walker’s Point neighboorhood benefit from Wisconsin’s bountiful agricultural harvests. Milwaukee’s Public Market is another great place for casual eating and people-watching.

Of course, no visit to Milwaukee is complete without visiting Renaissance Books — a destination in and of itself for bibliophiles — inside General Mitchell International Airport.

York, England (photo by Dennis Lennox).

1. York, England

York, England’s unofficial second city, was once a Roman outpost. In fact, it’s here where Constantine the Great, who ushered in the transition from paganism to Christianity, was proclaimed Roman emperor in the year 306.

York is also a good alternative to London, especially for those looking for a better value and less crowds. Plus, it has the same quintessential English experiences and then some.

One of my favorite experiences is walking the narrow cobblestone lanes past the timber-framed buildings of the Shambles. Then there are the quaint street names — Goodramgate being a good example — rooted in the Norse language of the Vikings who inhabited York during the 9th and 10th centuries.

The big draw here is York Minster, one of the great Gothic cathedrals in all of Christendom. There are also several well-preserved churches with noteworthy examples of medieval stained glass windows. All Saints Church, North Street has York’s finest collection of stained glass, including original 14th century windows.

Other sights include Clifford’s Tower, where in 1190 some 150 Jewish inhabitants chose to kill themselves in the Tower rather than renounce their faith at the hands of an anti-Semitic mob. And if you don’t mind walking then a stroll along the city’s old fortified walls is a great way to see York.

Be sure to purchase the York Pass, which combines admission to more than 30 attractions. It is more than worth the charge of £48 (about $70 at the time of writing) for two days usage.

I recommend staying in the four-poster bedroom at Guy Fawkes Inn, a 13-room B&B above one of those classic English pubs. A stone’s throw from the Minster, it’s where the notorious Guy Fawkes was born in 1570.

Follow @dennislennox on Instagram and Twitter.

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