Lake Atitlán, Guatemala
You could easily mistake Lake Atitlán for one of Northern Italy’s celebrity-laden, postcard-famous lakes. Without overselling, it’s flat-out gorgeous — ringed with mountains, wildflowers, cheerful villages, and three volcanoes on the misty horizon. The major difference will be your credit card bill at the end.
This is more than just a weekend trip to tack onto your Antigua itinerary. There’s more than a dozen lakeside towns to check out, and cheap boats to ferry you around — from well-developed cities ideal for shopping (Panajachel) to tranquil hippie retreats (San Marcos), cheap backpacker havens with great bars (San Pedro) and tiny indigenous villages (Santa Cruz). Go hiking. Go kayaking. Just chill.
Unlike other Central American countries, Guatemala’s ancient Mayan culture remains intact; you’ll see women and children in colorful, hand-made, traditional dress. In San Juan, visit a women’s weaving collective. In Panajachel, try a ceramics workshop or a Mayan cooking class. Because Guatemala borders Mexico and shares Mayan heritage, you’ll recognize and devour traditional eats: hand-formed tortillas, tamales, guacamole, black beans, plantains, horchata, and hearty stews.
It’s shocking that just a few years ago, this crater lake was an ecological disaster, choked with trash and smelly algae. In 2016, the mayor of San Pedro issued Guatemala’s first-ever ban on single-use plastics. Following a massive cleanup, the lake has gloriously rebounded and set an example for the country: Guatemala will phase out single-use plastics in the next two years. — Maridel Reyes
If you think Milwaukee is an odd choice to host this year’s high-stakes Democratic National Convention, you don’t know Milwaukee. This Midwestern metropolis has all the big city attractions you’d want — trendy food halls, distinctive neighborhoods, a Calatrava-designed art museum — in a smaller, friendlier, cheaper package than nearby Chicago. And while you’ll want to avoid actually visiting during the DNC in mid-July, you can take advantage of a city hellbent on putting its best foot forward with new hotels and a revitalized Downtown.
A long heritage of working class, immigrant culture is important to Milwaukeeans, which is why quirky local flair like a Friday fish fry, bowling alleys in taverns, and frozen custard stands are points of pride. You can get amazing beer, cheese, and bratwursts pretty much everywhere, but the food and drinking scene is also growing up and out of old stereotypes. In 2019, Milwaukee had five James Beard Award-nominated chefs, restaurants, and bars. Many, like the swanky but welcoming Bryant’s Cocktail Lounge, combine history and whimsy into a nostalgic experience that’s quintessentially local.
Arts and culture are thriving, too, with public murals popping up all over, America’s Black Holocaust Museum recently reopening, and the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra soon moving to a renovated new home. Stay tuned for this year’s Summerfest lineup; the 11-day, 10-stage lakefront music fest is one of the largest in the world. They don’t call Milwaukee the City of Festivals for nothing. — Lacey Muszynski
In a few years, you won’t be able to talk about sustainable cities without first mentioning Singapore. Modern, diverse, and efficient, this urbanized island imports 90% of its produce and much of its water. Meaning, conservation is not an abstract — it’s existential.
Everywhere you look, Singapore is sprinting toward sustainability, be it small-scale (rooftop farming, hotels with zero carbon footprint, food waste inventively repurposed in cocktail bars) or massive, eye-popping statements. Giant, solar-powered “SuperTrees” provide energy for a futuristic urban greenspace, and the world’s largest indoor waterfall runs on recycled rainwater.
Even Singapore’s famed street-food culture is grappling with change, as an older generation of hawkers wonders how their traditions will survive in the economy of the future — reason to survey Singapore’s unmatched culinary variety now, while current form still holds. Most Singaporeans eat out daily, and it’s less than $5 for bowls of curry-scented laksa, or broth-poached chicken and garlicky rice. Find that back-alley oyster omelette that is not only perfectly crispy, but also tells the story of the Southeast Asian diaspora in one bite. Or ‘gram a caviar-spiked short-rib while sipping a painstakingly made martini. The city offers it all — plus a morning obsession with espresso pulls and the city’s signature kopi coffee.
English-speaking, easily navigable, and smack in the middle of Southeast Asia, Singapore also boasts one of the world’s coolest airports, making it an ideal jumping off point for anywhere from Thailand to southern India to Taiwan. — Hillary Eaton