We’re big fans of Outside Magazine: gorgeous photography and chock full of inspiring adventures. So when we heard they announced the best tour operators and destinations, we were all ears. From the most beautiful beaches to the best deals, the 50 winners of the 2014 Outside Magazine Travel Awards are….
Just a few samples of domestic champs and a bit about why they’re the magazine’s travel picks for 2014:
Blue Ridge Mountains: The swath of 6,000-foot peaks in the Carolinas have winding roads, great food, and incredible views. Stay in Travelers Rest, South Carolina, at George Hincapie’s Hotel Domestique—a European-style hotel with on-site bike service and GPS units programmed with Hincapie’s favorite area rides—and pedal north through the mountains to Asheville’s Thirsty Monk (hundreds of the best beers in the country) or south to Greenville gastropub The Owl.
Southern Louisiana: For a DIY gourmand’s ramble, there’s no place better than Louisiana. Start at Lake Charles, about 250 miles west of New Orleans, and piece together stops along the Seafood Sensation route, a collection of nine Cajun restaurants and seafood shacks (visitlakecharles.org). Big Lake Guide Services rents homes on the shores of Calcasieu Lake (from $225; biglakeguideservice.com), where you can cast for redfish and then blacken it on the grill.
Santa Fe, New Mexico: The high desert around Santa Fe is braided with warm arroyos and alpine trails just beyond its downtown adobes. Crash at the historic Inn of the Five Graces (fivegraces.com) and walk around the corner to the Pink Adobe for margaritas (thepinkadobe.com).
Yellowstone and Bozeman, Montana: Southwest Montana has plenty of kid-friendly activities—and almost all of them are within a short drive of great lodges. Stay at the 12-room Gallatin River Lodge (from $300; grlodge.com), where families can take free fly-casting clinics or mountain bike eight gentle miles through Sourdough Canyon. After that, head to Yellowstone National Park, where kids can become junior rangers while learning about geysers and wolves on ranger-led hikes.
Squam Lake, New Hampshire: Nothing spells summer like a quiet cabin on a lake, and for that sort of leisure, it’s hard to beat 6,791-acre Squam. Base yourself at one of the 60 rustic cottages at century-old Rockywold Deephaven Camps, which offers family-style meals served in a post-and-beam dining hall, tennis on clay courts, and kayak, canoe, Sunfish, and rowboat rentals (from $3,160 per week; rdcsquam.com).
And a sample of international winners:
Flanders and Wallonia, Belgium: Most European tours focus on Italy’s Chianti or France’s Beaujolais. That leaves Europe’s beer capital—not to mention Belgian meals like wild boar and venison for dinner, croquettes for lunch, and, of course, a waffle or eight at breakfast—for the rest of us. Ciclismo Classico takes you past World War II sites, moody castles, and the canals of Bruges, with plenty of stops at places like Orval Abbey, one of just ten Trappist breweries left in the world ($4,495; ciclismoclassico.com).
Grand St. Bernard Pass, Switzerland: Switzerland is a great place for the whole family, because it’s easy to get around and the food is awesome. Wilderness Travel has a ten-day trip that crosses over the Grand St. Bernard Pass. Plus, the distances are short-leg appropriate: you’ll walk no more than five hours a day, and there’s a shuttle option if that’s still too much for the kids (or Mom and Dad). From $5,895; wildernesstravel.com.
South Water Caye, Belize: There are hundreds of beautiful cayes along Belize’s Caribbean coast. Our favorite is South Water Caye east of Dangriga. You can paddle the shoreline, snorkel at night, and, if you’re lucky, find whale sharks off a nearby atoll to dive with. The Pelican Beach Resort is one of just three on the island and has eight sandy cottages, four kayaks, and a sister property on the mainland—which makes transfers easy (from $369; pelican beachbelize.com).
Dolomites, Italy: You’ll find 10,000-foot spires, rollicking trails, supreme landscapes, and cushy huts, while cruising through the high alpine valleys of Fanes Natural Park. Stay in places like the Ghernacia Hut, which serves hot homemade tortes.
The complete list of the Outside Magazine Travel Awards will be featured in the April issue of OUTSIDE, available now on newsstands. Or check it out online as it’s divvied into nifty categories such as Best Bike Trip, Best Foodie Destination and Best River Trip.
Photos courtesy of Outside Magazine.