For the 13th year, the New York Times has put out its list of 52 Places to visit in the new year.
It's quite an honor, considering this is an international list, including such far-flung locales as Colombia ("With the war over, the entire country is opening up") and Vierwaldstaettersee, Switzerland, which has ladybug-themed hiking trails and yodel and alphorn concerts.
We join a generous handful of American cities that put is in prestigious company. Baltimore is No. 15. A stunning photo shows its glistening waterfront. Cincinnati is No. 8, its photo showing its newly renovated classical music hall.
The coveted No. 1 ranking goes to New Orleans. OK, that's inevitable. They're tough competition. We had to bow to them years ago, remember, when they took top prize as the nation's fattest city, and we had to settle for second place.
As you ponder the logic of the list, dozens of locales make it because they have something new, usually a museum. Others have initiatives the Times admires. Kigali, Rwanda, "clean and sustainable," has just banned plastic bags, helping to earn it the No. 31 slot. Germany's western states "Teutonic tolerance and technology."
By the time you've scanned the list into the 30s, you're getting impatient. When is the list going to get to us?
Belgrade, Serbia, is No. 32. It's described as "Europe's gritty party town, as vibrant as ever," and you see a mirror ball and people dancing. Our World's Largest Disco could eat that party. Iceland and its luxury lodgings are at 34. Haven't we heard enough about Iceland? And furthermore we have ice. A lot of places are on the list because they are Unesco World Heritage Sites. We should have one of those. Then maybe --
At No. 37.
"A Rust Belt City has a Renaissance." There's a picture few will recognize, of two staircases of the Hotel Henry. The text, by Dave Seminara, reads:
"Once disparaged for its declining population, harsh winters and failing sports teams, Buffalo is making a big comeback in large part by repurposing its historic buildings and long-dormant grain silos. Downtown Buffalo now buzzes with life thanks in part to the ever-expanding Canalside entertainment and recreation complex and a host of new dining and drinking establishments.
"In 2017, three new brewpubs and two new luxury hotels, the Hotel Henry and the Curtiss Hotel, opened in previously vacant landmark buildings and industrial spaces. This year, a new, 43,000-square- foot, $27 million children’s museum will open downtown, and major renovations at two Frank Lloyd Wright designed homes, Graycliff and the Darwin Martin House, will be complete."
It's nice to see our town described so glowingly, not just listed because somebody knew somebody. And there is more good news: For the first time, the paper has hired a 52 Places Traveler. Her name is Jada Yuan, she is a former writer for New York magazine, and she will be going to every place on the list, starting with New Orleans. She'll be on Twitter and Instagram, so we can track her and predict her arrival.
We can greet her at the airport. Buy her a beer. Take her to see Shark Girl.
We might not be No. 1 now, but give it time.