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Top Destinations for 2012

Top Destinations for 2012
Advertisements for pop stars and politicians
in the Gemmayze neighborhood in
east Beirut.

This time every year, Frommer's editors, authors, and experts from around the world finally settle on a list of our top destinations after months of bickering among ourselves. Choosing was harder than ever this year, so we ended up expanding our picks to include selections that offered something special for particular types of travelers.


For the third year in a row, we reached out to readers to find out where they wanted to be in the coming year. After thousands of nominations and thousands of votes, you made your choice known.


To explain to you why we chose what, we went to our experts in the field: authors and editors who live in the destinations or who travel there on the regular. We think the best people to share about a city or a region are those who can't stay away from them for too long.


Beirut, Lebanon


You just can't keep a good city down. Or, in Beirut's case, a turbulent past of decades of civil war hasn't taken the sheen off its glossy, cosmopolitan swagger. Lebanon's capital is far from your "regular" Middle Eastern city: Nestled on the Mediterranean coast, Beirut is an enticing combination of French designer boutiques in rebuilt Downtown, chi-chi private beach clubs where bling is king, cutting-edge galleries in converted warehouses and magnificent third-century mosaics in the National Museum.


In Beirut, you're never far away from a ski slope (Faraya, 45 minutes away), cedar plantation (an hour) and ancient Roman Temple (Byblos is an hour by bus).


Curacao
Underwater adventures in Curacao.
Courtesy Curacao Tourist Board

Curacao


Curacao is not your quintessential Caribbean island. Sure, it has curvaceous white beaches, cerulean seas, and a coral reef brimming with exotically hued marine life. But Curacao offers even more, with one of the region's most cosmopolitan cultures and a standout capital in Willemstad, a child's paintbox of giddy Caribbean colors and gabled colonial architecture.


Celebrating its first year of independence after the dismantling of the Netherland Antilles in 2010, Curacao still has the feel of "Holland in the Tropics," with the flavors of both Europe and the West Indies on bold display. Take a trolley train tour along the pastel-hued streets of Willemstad. The city's restored historic center reflects the island's past as a global trading powerhouse, and its World Heritage Site architecture is a melting pot of European colonial styles.


Fukuoka, Japan
The main fountain and stage at Fukuoka, Japan's Town Canal City.
Marco Garcia

Fukuoka, Japan


Fukuoka may not be on the international radar, but it has been in the spotlight as a model green city even before the March earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown brought energy-conserving measures throughout Japan.


Located on the island of Kyushu 550 miles west of Tokyo, Fukuoka offers a vibrant, user-friendly city offering expansive city parks, museums like the Hakata Machiya Folk Museum, shopping and dining complexes such as Canal City Hakata, a lively fish market, and spirited Fukuoka Softbank Hawks baseball games. Nearby are the renowned Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine, Kyushu National Museum, and Space World theme park. After hours, the most colorful place to unwind is a river island packed with food stalls.


Ghana
View of fishing boats from Cape Coast Castle in Cape Coast, Ghana.
Frommers.com Community

Ghana


Ghana provides a perfect introduction to African travel. True, this small and amiable West African nation lacks the big name draws associated with the continent's top safari destinations. But for anybody seeking a holistic experience that embraces traditional and contemporary cultures as well as beaches and safaris, Ghana's microcosmic travel circuit is the perfect African primer.


Where Ghana really stands out -- and the reason it has become so popular with backpackers and volunteers -- is its suitability to unpackaged travel. You could spend months, even years, exploring this safe and affordable Anglophone country, traveling as whim dictates, and still find yourself confronted with something different and special on a daily basis.


Girona, Spain
The colorful medieval façades on the Riu Onyar in Girona.
Sergi Camara

Girona, Spain


Exuberant Barcelona has long hogged the limelight, but its little sister Girona is stepping out from the wings. This diminutive city in northern Catalonia packs a cultural punch that is the envy of many a larger destination, with a superb dining scene to match. Girona's historic quarter, a secretive jumble of medieval mansions and courtyards crowned by a magnificent cathedral, is piled up on the eastern bank of the River Ter. To the west of the river, elegant avenues laid out during the 19th century are lined with smart boutiques and cafés. The lofty peaks of the Pyrenees form a violet smudge on the horizon and the rugged coves of the Costa Brava are just a short drive away.


Kansas City, Missouri
Claes Oldenburg sculpture on the lawn of the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City.
Frommers.com Community

Kansas City, Missouri


When Kansas City's Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts opened in September 2011, the new building was immediately hailed as an architectural icon. But it was no surprise to those in the know when Kansas City unveiled yet another world-class cultural attraction. The National World War I Museum -- the only such museum in the nation -- opened its doors in 2006.


And let's not forget Kansas City barbecue. Dig into the slow-cooked briskets and burnt ends at Arthur Bryant's, Gates or a dozen other joints across town and judge for yourself which is best. After all, they say Kansas City has barbecue down to an art.


Hanalei Beach, Kauai
Surfer at Kauai's Hanalei Bay beach.
Frommers.com Community

Hanalei Beach, Kauai


Hollywood could not have designed a more perfect beach: Nestled along the romantic North Shore of Kauai, Hanalei Bay is a two-mile-long half-moon of golden sand with a dramatic backdrop of craggy volcanic cliffs laced with thousand-foot waterfalls.


The clear turquoise waters sport vibrant coral reefs, where rainbow-colored fish swarm and snorkelers and divers are in heaven. During the summer months, the waters in Hanalei Bay relax with the sunny weather and become so placid the entire bay resembles a giant swimming pool, where swimmers, fishermen, canoe paddlers, and kayakers flock. In the winter, large oceanic waves churn up the waters into sets of big waves, drawing board surfers and windsurfers to the thundering breakers.


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