We’re rolling into 2021 with a whole lot of optimism. Here’s hoping this year, thanks to the vaccine rollout, we’ll finally be able to start traveling again—and that we’ll dust off our passports and get to reschedule those ambitious 2020 trips we had to cancel.
It’ll be some time before we get there, though, so like last year our upcoming plans are hyper-local, as we do everything we can to reduce the virus’s continuing spread. But staying close to home doesn’t have to mean shutting off a sense of adventure: We’re taking great drives, plotting out epic meals, and finding slices of our favorite travel destinations right where we live (we’re also continuing to support our favorite local businesses, as they need us more than ever).
To make sure your well of pandemic-era things to do never runs dry, we’re continuing to share our favorite weekend finds, from our various home bases throughout the U.S. We’ll be updating this story regularly with new weekend activities, so keep checking back for new tips near you.
All products featured in this story are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Fancy takeout in Fort Lauderdale
It’s been a time of reinvention for many fine dining establishments—the silver lining being easier access to top-notch chefs. That includes Miami chef Michelle Bernstein, who opened a ghost kitchen in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, at the end of last year, taking orders for delivery. My family and I jumped on the chance to order from her menu of best hits—and enjoy it from home. The pop-up, called Michy B’s, is said to be moving to Miami next; if you are within the delivery radius, don’t skip the Juicy Lucia (a burger made with brisket and churrasco, plus manchego and American cheese, pickled jalapeños, and caramelized onions). The empanadas are great too, as were the cauliflower nachos, croquetas, and her Ridiculously Creamy Bread Pudding, which absolutely lives up to its name. —Madison Flager, commerce editor
Indie bookstore hopping in Dallas
Over the course of last year on the Women Who Travel podcast, Lale and I heard from Cafe Con Libros’s Kalima DeSuze and Books Are Magic’s Emma Straub about how much independent bookstores need our continued support. I’m spending the winter in Dallas, so I had to stop by my two hometown favorites to stock up on winter reads. First up was Interabang Books, which used to be right around the corner from my parents’ house until it took a near direct hit from a tornado last year. Since then, the store has permanently relocated a short drive away, and is still filled with a great selection, the same helpful staff, and pointed book recommendations. It remains my go-to for bestsellers. Next stop was Wild Detectives, in Dallas’s Bishop Arts district, which is a coffee shop, bookshop, bar, theater combo with a highly curated selection of new releases and classics, records, and art. It’s where I go to snag unexpected hits, and a place I tend to linger for hours (in non-pandemic times). If you’re looking to pick up your own stack (or some gifts) and are located elsewhere in the U.S., check out this list of Black-owned bookstores or use Bookshop.org’s independent bookstore finder to locate a brick-and-mortar indie bookstore near you. —Meredith Carey, associate editor
Snowshoeing and gyros in rural Minnesota
My first outdoor adventure of the new year took me to Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge in Zimmerman, Minnesota, about an hour north of the Twin Cities. The mixed-habitat refuge boasts more than 30,000 acres of tall grass prairie, wetlands, oak savannah, and oak forest—all of which take on an otherworldly quality when blanketed in fresh snow. My partner and I strapped on our snowshoes and went clomping along the Blue Hill Trail, a 5.1-mile path with gentle hills and storybook canopies. It was 22 degrees and wildlife was scarce, but folks who are luckier—or simply more observant—have spotted beavers, foxes, river otters, bald eagles, sandhill cranes, and hairy woodpeckers around these parts, which have been designated an Important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society. On the drive back to the Twin Cities, we stopped at the family-owned Jawad Grill in Blaine for takeout. The no-frills eatery may share a roof with a gas station, laundromat, and tattoo parlor, but chef Atieh’s king-sized gyros are the stuff of legend. If this is a taste of what’s to come in 2021, I’m all in. —Ashlea Halpern, contributing editor
Yurt dining in the West Village
Back in November, Resy announced a partnership with American Express and several restaurants around the country to offer private, quasi-outdoor dining experiences throughout the winter in yurts (the yurts themselves are enclosed on three sides, but are limited to your party of four or less). I hit up the yurt village at Gabriel Stulman’s Fairfax in New York for a delightful, extended lunch of crispy artichokes, gnocchi, and an old fashioned, zhuzhed up for the cold weather with Cherry Heering and maple syrup. Chairs made cozy with sheepskin rugs and evergreen branches over the tables completed this little escape. —Noah Kaufman, city guides editor
Visiting Peru by way of Jersey
When we published our 50 States, 50 Cuisines project last year, I knew I’d be visiting Paterson, New Jersey, for Peruvian food. I finally made the day trip over from Brooklyn, which turned into hours of zigzagging down Market Street, eating everything we could find. We stopped at La Tia Delia (the aji de gallina, a creamy shredded chicken dish, and picante de mariscos, a mix of seafood in a spicy sauce, were highlights; they offer takeout); Los Inmortales (a shop with imported spices and fresh desserts, like chocolate-dipped marshmallow fluff known as beso de moza); and even grabbed syrup-covered picarones, doughnuts made of squash and sweet potato, that were fried fresh on the street. We walked it off beside the Paterson Great Falls. —Megan Spurrell, associate editor
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