Top 28 destinations for 2020: Urban

We recently announced our Top 28 destinations for 2020 zeroing in on unique destinations with intriguing sites and experiences. Our list breaks down into four categories, both domestic and international, with the complete list here.

We’ve already shared our Newsworthy Destinations and our picks for Nature & Culture.

This week we’re sharing Urban Destinations. Each of these cities has something unique to offer—and some may not be on your radar … yet! Here’s why they made our list.

Copenhagen, Denmark

The residents of Copenhagen exude an effortless level of cool. Perhaps it has something to do with the city topping the world livability lists year after year. The Danish capital represents one of the world’s greenest, cleanest and most sustainable urban centers. Sitting on the coast islands of Zealand and Amager, the city’s historic center is home to the royal family’s Amalienborg Palace where a ceremonial changing of the guards happens each day at noon. Historic architecture enthusiasts will delight in Frederiksstaden—an 18th-century rococo district. Outside the city center, Copenhagen presents a mixture of intriguing neighborhoods from the posh Frederiksberg to the gritty industrial Refshaleøen.

Founded in 1843, the Tivoli Gardens continue to be a highlight in the city. Outfitted with exotic architecture and lush landscaping, the historic gardens have served as inspiration to fairytale writer, Hans Christian Anderson and the chief “Imagineer,” Walt Disney. Don’t miss the chance to ride the wooden roller coaster. Dating back to 1914, it’s one of only seven roller coasters in the world with a brakeman onboard.

Cycling reigns supreme here. Whether commuting to and from work, ferrying the kids to daycare or running errands, an estimated 50% of Copenhagen locals utilize pedal-power for convenience and to support green initiatives. For the diehard cyclist, it’s possible to be pedaled to your final resting place via a bicycle-powered hearse!  www.visitcopenhagen.com

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Situated at the conflux of the Ohio, Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers, this city of bridges knows a thing or two about reinvention. Once a steel-producing powerhouse and a solid notch on the country’s rust belt, Pittsburgh suffered greatly when the steel industry collapsed. But you can’t keep a good city down and Pittsburgh is back and better than ever.

Cultural offerings include the outstanding Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh. This collection of four includes the Carnegie Museum of Art, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Carnegie Science Center and The Andy Warhol Museum.

Did you know Heinz ketchup and pickles were invented in Pittsburgh? Learn all about them and more of the city’s fascinating history at the Heinz History Museum. Crowned by a giant Heinz Ketchup bottle, the museum also includes a replica of the set of Mr. Rogers—everyone’s favorite neighbor and a Pittsburgh treasure.

Stepping into the spotlight in recent years, Pittsburg’s foodie scene presents dining options ranging from James Beard-nominated chefs and restaurants to the country’s first restaurant incubator, Smallman Galley, where aspiring chefs showcase their culinary skills.

Speaking of reinventions, a former Roman Catholic church found new life as Church Brew Works. The altar now sports gleaming steel and copper tanks shining brightly against a celestial blue backdrop. Inside the tanks, an assortment of craft brews gives beer lovers a reason to sing praises. Hallelujah! www.visitpittsburgh.com

Tucson, Arizona

Perpetually sunny, surrounded by five mountain ranges and bordered by two halves of the Sonoran Desert, Tucson won the location lottery. Throw in epic sunsets painting the sky brilliant hues of purple, orange and pink giving way to night skies filled with millions of twinkling stars and you’ve found the recipe for paradise in the American Southwest.

Speaking of recipes, Tucson’s rich culinary heritage spans 4,000 years encompassing Native American and Mexican agricultural traditions. Keeping those traditions alive, local chefs and mixologists create recipes using indigenous ingredients such as cholla bud, prickly-pear syrup, white Senora wheat and mesquite flour. These practices earned Tucson the designation as the United States’ first UNESCO City of Gastronomy in 2015.

An art-centric city with nature at its doorstep, Tucson brings a little bit of everything to the table. From colorful murals decorating downtown buildings to fine art galleries, Tucson’s art scene continues to thrive. For a truly unique art experience, check out Solar Culture. Located in a historic Art Deco warehouse, gallery walls are covered with works from emerging artists in innumerable styles exhibiting a smorgasbord of creativity. Eclectic music concerts and a BYOB policy complement the experience.

For hikers, a network of trails extends from the city through the surrounding desert and mountains with something for every ability. Tumamoc Hill offers hiking right in the heart of Tucson on the University of Arizona campus. A three-mile paved loop, the trail yields panoramic views of Tucson and the surrounding mountains. Hiking after dark is permitted making this a favorite for stargazing. www.visittucson.org

Salt Lake City

Landing at Salt Lake City International airport puts you within an hour’s drive to ten ski resorts. But that’s not all. Situated between the Wasatch and Oquirrh Mountains, downtown Salt Lake City brings an intrigue all its own. Most widely known as the epicenter of the Mormon church, the Temple remains the city’s most visited site. Dominating the cityscape with six granite spires crowning its top and artistic symbolism in carved statues, hand-painted murals, and ornamental stones laced throughout, the Temple is worth a look no matter your religious (or non-religious) leanings.

As the home of the Mormon church, Utah’s relationship with alcohol through the years has been complicated. But famously strict liquor laws have loosened up and things are changing. With brewpubs, whiskey bars and even speakeasies in the mix, the Salt Lake City’s downtown drinking and dining scene is overhauling the dynamics of the city.

One of the most intriguing, Bodega & The Rest brings two distinct experiences to the table. Upstairs, the cozy shop-like Bodega focuses on beer and tacos. But downstairs you’ll find the rest of the story. The Rest—a speakeasy entered with a key via an unmarked door—serves Prohibition-era cocktails along with an eclectic menu.

Crafting award-wining beers since 1989, Squatters Pub Brewery also offers a tasty menu. Wash down your meatloaf with a Polygamy Porter! Keeping alive the spirit of the once illicit Whiskey Street (now Main Street), Whiskey Street Cocktails & Dining brings locals and visitors together at its 72-foot-long cherry wood bar. With a collection of more than 2,200 spirits, 400 of which are whiskeys, that chill from the snowy slopes will be gone in no time. www.visitsaltlake.com

San Francisco

From the sea lions barking at Fisherman’s Wharf to the spooky aura of Alcatraz, to the city’s diverse neighborhoods, San Francisco never disappoints. A city of icons, visitors return time and time again to see the often fog-shrouded Golden Gate Bridge, conquer a drive down crooked Lombard Street and catch a ride on the landmark cable cars.

In 2020, one of the city’s most beloved icons celebrates its 150th anniversary. In 1870 Master Gardener John McLaren and Park Engineer William Hammond Hall transformed a windswept expanse of sand dunes into Golden Gate Park. Occupying 1,017 acres, the park is an urban oasis with lush gardens, playgrounds, ten lakes, picnic groves and trails ideal for walking, running and cycling. Cultural offerings within include the California Academy of Sciences, the De Young Museum, the Japanese Tea Garden, the Conservatory of Flowers, the National AIDS Memorial Grove and the San Francisco Botanical Garden.

Paradise for foodies, the 2019 Michelin Guide for the Bay Area confirmed the city as the fine dining capital of the country with a total of 80 stars among 58 venues. For more budget-friendly meals, consult the Bib Gourmand list. This guide “highlights restaurants that serve high-quality meals which includes two courses and a glass of wine or dessert for $40 or less.” With 68 on the list, you’re certain to find something to satisfy your appetite. www.sftravel.com

Toronto, Canada

While the iconic CN Tower dominates the cityscape, Toronto’s distinctive multi-cultural neighborhoods tell the real story of this thriving cosmopolitan metropolis. Unofficially dubbed the “city of neighborhoods,” there’s literally something for everyone. Here’s a sampling of some of the most intriguing.

Synonymous with prestige and fashion, the posh Yorkville area attracts trendsetters from everyday Canadians to international celebrities. Along with designer shops, you’ll find the Gardiner Museum, the Bata Shoe Museum and the Royal Ontario Museum—one of the largest in North America.

Creatives occupy the reinvented West Queen West neighborhood. Home to design houses, boutique hotels, eclectic shops and over 300 galleries, creativity abounds. Indie stores like A Different Booklist which specializes in multicultural books can be found in The Annex. Home to North America’s largest documentary film festival, you can catch a film at Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema year-round.

Toronto’s first-named neighborhood, Old Town, brings the past and present together. Home to the 215-year-old St. Lawrence Market, Old Town has been a gathering place for centuries. One of the top markets in the world, St. Lawrence offers an astounding array of international gourmet treats alongside locally grown produce. A 2-day event held every August, the Feast of St. Lawrence celebrates the foodie side of Toronto while raising funds for a local food charity. An art lover’s paradise, the Grange Park neighborhood is home to the Art Gallery of Ontario which houses more than 95,000 pieces from around the world. Pack your walking shoes for Toronto, you’ll have plenty to explore! www.seetorontonow.com

Utrecht, The Netherlands

Well-known for its multichromatic tulips, iconic windmills and delicious Gouda cheese, The Netherlands attracts tourists from all over the world. Amsterdam, The Hague and Delft with its iconic blue earthenware draw the visitors. One city that might not be on your radar is Utrecht. A half-hour scenic train ride from Amsterdam, Utrecht provides a charming experience.

From organ grinders to accordions to string quartets, music permeates the city on virtually every corner. Amplifying that love, Holland’s largest music venue, the TivoliVrendenburg, houses five concert halls accommodating a plethora of genres from chamber music to large-scale pop productions.

Utrecht’s most famous landmark, the 14th-century bell tower, Domtoren (Dom Tower), stands as a silent witness to the city’s past and a testament to its survival. A climb up the 465 steps to the top is rewarded with panoramic views stretching all the way to Amsterdam on a clear day. A stroll through the city center yields eye-catching contemporary structures interspersed with ancient historic houses dating to the early Middle Ages. Bicycles are everywhere in the car free city center with locals rigging some incredibly creative wagons to tow their children, groceries and even home improvement supplies.

Built in the 12th-century as a medieval harbor, the wharves at the central canal, Oudegracht, provide a glimpse into the engineering prowess of period merchants. Cleverly taking advantage of the difference in levels between the canals with their mooring stages and the street with its houses a few feet higher up, merchants built tunnels from the quay to the cellars. Today, those tunnels have been converted into shops, restaurants and galleries. Nowhere else in the world can you dine and shop beside a canal in a medieval harbor! www.visit-utrecht.com

More to Come…

Next week our Top 28 Destinations for 2020 will feature the new Rising Stars. Stay tuned for the scoop.

This article first appeared on Travel Squire.