6 places to visit in 2021

Oh, the places we’ll go when the pandemic passes

As we bid farewell to 2020, or more to the point, boot it out the door with a swift kick in the pants, many travelers homebound by the Coronavirus pandemic are hoping for better days ahead. With a vaccine on the horizon, would-be tourists are mentally dusting off their suitcases and dreaming of trips they’ll take. Here are few getaways to consider in 2021.

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

Townsend, Tennessee

Camping is the perfect socially distanced getaway, and Little Arrow Outdoor Resort on the banks of Little River is making it more inviting than ever — even for those who aren’t normally outdoorsy types. Nestled at the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the scenic, 56-acre property that opened two years ago is undergoing a renovation and expansion that will give campers the option of enjoying the mountain wilderness however they choose, whether they want to rough it like old-time mountaineers or embrace it with modern luxuries.

When complete in May, guests can choose from 90 RV spots, two vintage Airstreams, 17 tiny houses and 10 glamping tents, among other accommodations. Is it still camping if you stay in a vacation home? That’s debatable, but three of the property’s four houses are also undergoing extensive upgrades.

The property is a quiet alternative to touristy, traffic-choked Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, and those traveling with four-legged companions will appreciate the spacious dog park. Pet sitting services are available, a necessity for those spending the day at the national park where dogs are not allowed.

Attractions include hiking trails, a new zero-entry pool and tubing excursions on Little River.

(Little Arrow Outdoor Resort, $52-$500. 118 Stables Drive, Townsend, Tennessee. 865-448-6363, www.camplittlearrow.com)

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

Hot Springs, Arkansas

While most of the country is contemplating how Santa will deliver presents during COVID-19, Garvan Woodland Gardens in Hot Springs, Arkansas, is preparing for the 20th annual Tulip Extravaganza in March. Planting has begun at the 210-acre botanical garden on the shores of Lake Hamilton.

“We plant over 160,000 tulip bulbs from Holland along our trails and throughout the garden for a spectacular welcome to spring,” said spokesperson Julia Mann. “Tulips, both rare and ordinary, join our flowering Japanese cherry trees for postcard-worthy views.”

After tip-toeing through the tulips, Mann recommends visitors stop in at Anthony Chapel, a serene oasis she says “brings peace to the soul.” Because it’s constructed of glass walls and has a soaring vaulted glass ceiling, it seamlessly blends into the forest and offers dynamic views of the changing seasons.

Also noteworthy is the Bob and Sunny Evans Tree House in the Evans Children’s Adventure Garden. No kid ever had a $1 million architectural wonder like this in their backyard. The boomerang-shaped, four-story treehouse nestled in the pines is appealing to nature lovers of all ages.

(Garvan Woodland Gardens, $15. 550 Arkridge Road, Hot Springs, Arkansas. 501-262-9300, www.garvangardens.org)

Credit: Wesley K.H. Teo

Credit: Wesley K.H. Teo

Louisville, Kentucky

Kentucky breeds some of the fastest racehorses on the planet and produces most of the world’s bourbon, but experiencing the best of the Bluegrass State’s two most famous industries means traveling between Louisville, Lexington and Bardstown. At least, it did until the recent opening of Hermitage Farm, the 683-acre agritourism attraction on the outskirts of Louisville owned by Steve Wilson and Laura Lee Brown, the husband-and-wife team that founded the art-centric 21C Museum Hotels. Now, visitors can get their horses and bourbon all in one place, with a side of contemporary art.

A thoroughbred tour ($20) is a good place to start. Observe glistening chestnut mares nurture playful colts that could Run for the Roses in the Kentucky Derby one day.

Bourbon enthusiasts wet their whistle at the Hayloft event space above Barn8 restaurant. Novices generally go for the $25 bourbon tasting while connoisseurs kick it up a notch with the $50 VIP Bourbon Tasting Experience that offers a customized flight of five rare, expensive bourbons. Peruse the Bourbon Library for vintage options or rare bottles. Virtually every bourbon on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail is within reach.

The 1,500-foot-long Art Walk is a nod to the owners’ passion for contemporary art. Curated by artist Ricardo Rivera, the sound and light installations transform the beauty of the natural landscape.

(Hermitage Farm, 10500 W. Highway 42, Goshen, Kentucky. 502-398-9289, www.hermitagefarm.com)

Marathon, Florida

At Isla Bella Beach Resort, a new 24-acre luxury property in the middle of the Florida Keys, guests arrive through welcoming golden gates and drive along a road flanked by towering palms until stark white buildings reminiscent of Greek Isles architecture come into view. Here visitors can take a dip in the resort’s five pools, practice yoga on a pristine beach and sail out on fishing and snorkeling excursions.

But the resort’s crown jewel is Isla Bella Spa, a 4,000-square-foot palace of pampering that offers both traditional and unconventional treatments. For something out of the ordinary, book the 90-minute Bella Native Medicine massage ($270) that draws on ancient Eastern healing practices to induce deeper relaxation. The therapist sets the tone by striking Himalayan singing bowls that reverberate with a melodious ringing. Thai compress balls are applied to tense muscles to reduce inflammation and boost energy. That’s followed by a combination of Thai stretching techniques and Swedish massage for total body balance. During the pandemic, the spa operates at 50 percent capacity and follows COVID-19 safety protocols.

Wrap up the perfect day with a sunset cruise on a tiki boat, a floating thatched-roof hut that offers panoramic views of the Atlantic.

(Bella Beach Resort, rooms $239-$1,200. 1 Knights Key Blvd. MM 47, Marathon, Florida. 305-481-9451, www.islabellabeachresort.com)

Credit: Wesley K.H. Teo

Credit: Wesley K.H. Teo

Nashville, Tennessee

You could call them “unsung heroes.” The musicians honored at the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville represent a variety of musical styles from rock to Motown, and, of course, country, but what they have in common is dwelling in the shadows while the stars they play for bask in the limelight.

For example, from the 1950s through the ’70s, a small group of musicians known as the A Team played on roughly 90 percent of the recordings made in Nashville, helping craft a sound that skyrocketed many artists to the top of the charts. The museum gives session players and touring musicians the recognition they deserve.

“These musicians may be relatively unknown to the general public, but to the singers they played for, they are superstars,” museum founder Joe Chambers said.

Fans learn who played on their favorite songs, and in some cases, see the instruments used on the recordings.

(Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum, $15-$25. 401 Gay St., Nashville, Tennessee. 615-244-3263, www.musicianshalloffame.com)

Orlando, Florida

Did you know a group of flamingos is called a flamboyance? Visitors learn that and more at the Flamingo Mingle, a new one-hour animal encounter at Discovery Cove, SeaWorld Orlando’s all-inclusive day resort.

Stroll through a manmade tropical paradise with these bubble gum-colored birds known for their honking, goose-like calls, snaky necks and ridiculously long legs. Participants feed the colorful creatures and wade with them into cool reef waters as an animal care specialist answers questions and shares fun facts.

After you’ve mingled, swim with dolphins in Dolphin Lagoon, snorkel with rays and thousands of tropical fish in Grand Reef and hand-feed birds in the Explorer’s Aviary. When you need a break, float aimlessly down Wind-Away River.

The park limits the number of guests, so there are never lines for activities.

(Discovery Cove, $149, including food and beverages. Flamingo Mingle $59, limited to eight people. 6000 Discovery Cove Way, Orlando, Florida. 407-513-4600, www.discoverycove.com)