Out with Vietnam, in with Patagonia Trends: Tired of those ho-hum places from last year's itineraries? Here are the very latest, hottest destinations all around the world.

January 25, 1998|By Gary A. Warner | Gary A. Warner,ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

Yesterday's must-see is next year's been there, done that. Last year's tourism pariah is this season's hot spot.

In the supersonically shifting world of travel, nothing is more constant than change. The new year is no exception.

Former travel destination all-stars Vietnam and Hong Kong have stumbled, while Los Angeles and Miami have rebounded on the strength of newfound chic.

When it comes time to choose a 1998 vacation, no one wants to be a travel fashion victim. No worries (as they say in Australia). Here's our highly speculative, totally subjective, don't trust-anyone-over-30 list of where to go in 1998.

San Diego

San Diego is hoping that Bret Favre or some other NFL superstar will do for the city what Bob Dole did: Put it in a national spotlight. The last time the national media descended on San Diego, for the 1996 Republican National Convention, the result was an avalanche of positive press about the sunny, cosmopolitan city with the laid-back attitude.

This year the city plays host to the Super Bowl, and unless El Nino messes things up, you can expect that the city will once again be declared a hot stop.

New York

New York City will celebrate its 100th anniversary this year. It was in 1898 that New York swallowed up Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens on its way to becoming the nation's biggest city by far. The city plans celebrations in all the boroughs this year, though the most interesting (and bittersweet) will be in Brooklyn, which would be among the nation's Top 10 largest cities if it hadn't been forced into a shotgun marriage with Manhattan.

Cabo San Lucas

Killer floods, corruption, cops as criminals, active volcanoes and a bloody massacre. Not exactly a list of attractions to lure visitors. But Mexico's political, crime, financial and weather woes seem a million miles away at Cabo San Lucas, the Baja resort that remains a top stop for sun worshipers from Southern California.

Pacific Rim

Comedian and traveler Michael Palin and best-selling travel writer Paul Theroux have both recently turned their attention to the Pacific Rim.

Hot spots along the rim include the island of Java in Indonesia and the highlands of Thailand. For the adventurous, there's Laos and Cambodia -- tomorrow's hot spots in Southeast Asia.

Patagonia

Ted Turner and Jane Fonda, Sylvester Stallone, the heir to the Benetton fortune and Queen Elizabeth II have put the spotlight on Patagonia, the remote southern end of South America straddling Chile and Argentina where, until recently, the only famous names connected with the place were explorer Charles Darwin and fugitive Nazi Martin Bormann.

The all-star crowd has bought huge tracts of land in the vast expanses of Argentina and Chile flanked by the snow-capped Andes and gorgeous Swiss-like lakes and Norwegian-like fjords. To sample the region, check out either Torres del Paine National Park in Chile or the chic ski spot of Bariloche across the mountains in Argentina.

Japan

The Winter Olympics next month in Nagano will put the media spotlight on Japan, where a resurgent dollar has made costs just ridiculous instead of insane. Look for minshukus -- B&Bs -- as one way to save money. But be prepared for Spartan conditions and hosts who likely will have only a passing grasp of English.

Scotland and Wales

Scotland and Wales have won partial self-rule from England as a first move toward possible independence. The "devolution" of the United Kingdom has put two of the oldest lands in Europe back on the front pages after an absence of about 300 years.

Scotland especially is on a hot streak, receiving exposure through the movies "Rob Roy" and "Braveheart," "Highlander" on TV, and the victory of ex-Scot Tony Blair's Labour Party in national elections.

Berlin

The ever-changing city continues its amazing metamorphosis from Cold War flash point to European capital at breakneck speed. If you want to see the Nazi or communist past, hurry -- the bulldozers are moving quickly.

Israel, Germany, California

Israel celebrates its 50th year of independence. Germany marks the 50th anniversary of the Berlin Airlift. California marks the 150th anniversary of the Gold Rush.

Los Angeles and Miami

Two cities that had their reputations plummet because of urban violence during the early 1990s have rebounded. It's the "edginess" that has helped both cities make a comeback: Chic hangouts for the rich and beautiful such as South Miami Beach and Santa Monica, along with dropping crime rates, have fueled tourism.

Where the trendies want to go

Fashion is a fickle thing, flitting from one spot to another.

For some travelers, it's not enough to know the hot country -- they must know the hottest city. Not just the hottest city, but the white-hot neighborhood of the moment.

So for us terminally out of touch nontrendoids, here's a compendium of the current hippest, hottest neighborhoods in some major cities around the globe.

L Don't dawdle -- this list will probably soon be out of date.

* Seattle

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