Happy 2013, everyone! It’s still early in the year, but I am looking forward to numerous travel adventures to near and faraway places in winter, spring, summer and fall. And I’m glad you all will be making these journeys with me! But before we get started on this year, let’s take a quick glance back at 2012 to highlight the best of the best.

2012 PROCLAIMED “YEAR OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN HERITAGE TOURISM”

You might remember that Black Meetings & Tourism magazine, in collaboration with Travel Professionals of Color, proclaimed 2012 “The Year of African-American Heritage Tourism,” noting numerous destinations, organizations and others making significant and heartfelt efforts to highlight heritage and cultural travel that appeals to a wide variety of ethnicities and cultures. Among them were the annual African Diaspora Heritage Trail Conference and efforts by destinations like Miami, St. Martin, Philadelphia, Birmingham, the Dominican Republic and Columbia, S.C., Toronto and Windsor, Canada, Ghana and South Africa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Buffalo and Detroit.

Along the “where to go in 2012” theme, Fodor’s, one of the world’s premier travel resources (books and on the web), put out their “21 Best Places to Go in 2012” guide (look for something possibly along these lines in 2013), while the Daily Meal, an “All Things Food and Drink” in-depth resource, released their “101 Best Hotel Restaurants Around the World.” Of the list they said they “did not discriminate on location; no island, nation, or province was off the table,” and their globetrotting list spans six continents, over 40 countries and nations, and more than 80 cities. Likewise, Lonely Planet, which for the past 30 years has created and published some of the most respected travel guides for those desiring to explore the globe, released a “Top Destinations” list for the U.S.

ESCAPE THE WINTER COLD AND HEAD FOR THE BEACH

Winter snowbirds united in their thoughts of sun-drenched beaches to warm your mind, body and soul with mentions of the Caravelle Resort in Myrtle Beach, S.C.; the Occidental Grand Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic; in Panama City Beach, Fla., at the Grand Panama Beach Resort; at the all-inclusive Melia Cabo Real Resort in Los Cabos, Mexico; on the Big Island in Hawaii at the Puako Bed & Breakfast; at the Bellavista Bed & Breakfast in St. Thomas, USVI; in Gulf Shores, Ala., at the Gulf Shores Plantation; and at Sandy Lane in Barbados.

EVANSVILLE, INDIANA

Situated along a scenic bend of the Ohio River in southwestern Indiana, Evansville is a boutique city with a great deal to offer. Our explorations revealed that the metro area has a lot to offer those interested in African-American sites and attractions, including the Evansville African American Museum, set inside Lincoln Gardens, a former federal housing project originally built in 1938 and the cultural hub of the Evansville Black community; and Lyles Station Historic School & Museum, listed on the National Register of Historic Places “as a rare surviving manifestation of Indiana’s rural African-American heritage.”

UNIVERSAL CITY, LOS ANGELES

Exploring the magic of Hollywood is a vibrant, energizing, over-the-top experience undeniably befitting the lofty worldwide reputation L.A. has as the entertainment capital of the world at Universal Studios Hollywood. We checked out many of the great rides (“Revenge of the Mummy” and “Jurassic Park: The Ride” were awesome!), explored the gamut of food and shopping options (even an All You Can Eat Pass, if desired) and found plenty of stores to satisfy your movie and specialty collectibles, clothing, toy, film and camera supplies and other needs. We also embarked upon the world-famous Universal Studios Tour, billed as Hollywood’s most famous back lot in the world’s largest working movie studio. And who could forget our home away from home at the Sheraton Universal Hotel, a Los Angeles landmark known as the “Hotel of the Stars”?

THE YEAR OF ALABAMA FOOD

Each year, the state of Alabama sets its sights on a particular aspect of the state, and in 2012, it was to celebrate The Year of Alabama Food. We enjoyed amazing culinary adventures in Huntsville at Cotton Row, Blue Plate Cafe, 1892 East Restaurant and Tavern and Rosie’s Mexican Cantina; in Decatur at Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Que, one of the most famous barbecue restaurants in the country; and in Birmingham at Rib-It-Up, Bottega, Highlands Bar and Grill and Hot and Hot Fish Club. And who could forget our luxurious stay at the Renaissance Birmingham Ross Bridge Golf Resort & Spa, one of the states premier resorts. To learn more about all the wonderful eateries the state has to offer, check out their brochure, 100 Places to Eat in Alabama Before You Die.

CELEBRATING THE CIVIL WAR SESQUICENTENNIAL

2012 was a historic year, as it was the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, which pitted free states against slave states, the Union versus the Confederate Army from 1861-1865.

African-Americans made significant contributions to the war efforts. Some of their most noteworthy battle efforts included New Market Heights (Virginia), Port Hudson (Louisiana), Fort Wagner (South Carolina) and Honey Springs (Oklahoma). A great deal more about Black Civil War soldiers can be found at the African American Civil War Memorial in Washington, D.C., whose mission is “to preserve and tell the stories of the United States Colored Troops and African-American involvement in the American Civil War,” which they accomplish through a variety of exhibits, online forums, programming, special projects and events and more. To learn more, check out the National Park Service’s Civil War-themed web page at www.nps.gov/civilwar.

This was only the beginning of our 2012 adventures, but alas, 2013 is calling so let’s get ready for another spectacular year of travel!

Lysa Allman-Baldwin writes for numerous online and print publications, including as the cultural travel writer for www.Examiner.com and as a senior travel writer for SoulOfAmerica.com, an Afrocentric travel website. Lysa can be reached at lallmanbaldwin@kc.rr.com.