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The US destinations you need to see in 2018

Lonely Planet’s travel experts have scoured the States to bring you our top 10 underrated, rejuvenated and out-of-this-world spots to visit in 2018. From natural wonders to captivating coastlines and up-and-coming cities, these destinations promise big things this year.

Inspired to hit the road?

1. California’s Redwood Coast

Lose all track of time (and cell signal) along California’s Redwood Coast. Movie buffs might recognize the region’s scene-stealing backdrops from Hollywood blockbusters like Jurassic ParkE.T. and Star Wars. But the full wonder of California’s 2000-year-old redwoods – some reaching 20 stories high – is impossible to capture on any screen. Look up at the forest canopy: that last 100ft of redwood growth marks 50 years since Redwood National Park was established in California’s tree-hugging triumph over logging. And this year, in celebration of their 100th anniversary, Save the Redwoods League are offering free entry to over 40 redwood state parks every second Saturday of each month.

In 2018, another kind of greenery has been making headlines as California introduces the state-wide legalization of marijuana. But the draws of the Redwood Coast far surpass changes in this industry, inviting travelers to achieve the ultimate California mellow with its quirky shops, brewpubs, coffee roasters and oyster happy hours.

2. Boise, Idaho

Home to a spirited arts community, an explosion of award-winning wineries and craft breweries and a socially responsible shopping district, Boise is what cool looks like before the rest of the world has figured it out. Fun festivals abound in Idaho’s capital from downtown’s Treefort Music Festival (hailed as the new alternative to SXSW) to the Boise Brew Olympics and Punk in Drublic – a beautiful marriage of punk rock and craft beer.

Being in close proximity to a wealth of natural riches, urban adventures easily transition into outdoor escapes. Meander through the Boise River Greenbelt, a 25-mile park in the heart of the city, or head into the surrounding mountains and foothills for hiking, mountain biking, skiing and river rafting.

Downtown Boise is home to award-winning restaurants, wineries and craft breweries © Boise Convention & Visitors Bureau

3. Chattanooga, Tennessee

Once little more than a pit stop between Atlanta and Nashville, the nature-centric ‘Noog has transformed itself into a bastion of elevated Southern living. Outdoor enthusiasts flock to Chattanooga for some of the best rock climbing in the country, myriad hiking and mountain biking trails and wild rides on the Ocoee River – one of America’s top spots for whitewater rafting.

Foodies, hopheads and techies aren’t far behind, either. Chattanooga’s revitalized downtown – centered on the $20-million makeover of the city’s signature train station into a multi-purpose nightlife and entertainment destination (including a world-class guitar museum) – is rife with pilgrimage-worthy New Southern cuisine, thirst-quenching breweries and techie-pleasing internet speeds. Meet the New South!

Chattanooga epitomises elevated Southern living © Chattanooga Convention & Visitors Bureau

4. Florida’s Space Coast

Space tourism is a rising star, with 2018 set to mark the launch of the world’s first lunar tourism flight from SpaceX. Don’t want to lose your life savings down a black hole? Visit the next best thing, Florida’s Space Coast: home to the Kennedy Space Center and the setting for countless iconic launches including Apollo 8 – the world’s first manned spacecraft to orbit the moon – which celebrates 50 years since blastoff in 2018.

View satellite launches from Cape Canaveral and Titusville or visit the new ATX (Astronaut Training Experience) at the Kennedy Space Center, where wannabe astronauts can go on a simulated mission to Mars. Continue your out-of-this-world adventures with a nighttime kayak in the bioluminescent waters around Merritt Island and observe nesting sea turtles on an eco-friendly tour.

First stage engines from the Saturn 5 rocket on display at the Kennedy Space Center © NaughtyNut / Shutterstock