How We Put Together the 52 Places List

Vierwaldstättersee, Switzerland, which takes the No. 5 spot on our 52 Places to Go list.

For the 13th year, the Travel section presents its annual 52 Places to Go issue. You will likely have some questions: How did the No. 1 spot get there? What’s the deal with those looped videos in the online version? And why is my favorite spot not on the list? Here are some frequently asked questions about how we chose our 52 Places to Go in 2018.

What made New Orleans the top choice?

In a year that seemed particularly traumatic for many around the world, we look to a place where centuries of trauma have yielded something magical. New Orleans is unlike any other city in the world, largely thanks to its ability to synthesize that history — and the myriad populations that participated in it — into a place full of joy and wonder. New Orleans is also turning 300 this year, so there’s no better time to celebrate that history, whether it be through anniversary events, food, music, art or simply wandering this amazing city.

What is special about the list online?

Last year’s list featured about a dozen 360 videos. This year, you’ll find a series of short, looped videos shot by photographers in places as disparate as Cambodia, Germany and Japan. We also had our staff photographer Josh Haner head to New Orleans to capture video shot with a camera attached to what is called a gimbal, which steadies the image, as well as a drone camera, which he flew over the city.

“There’s a certain elation that overtakes you when walking with a second line” — a traditional type of brass band parade — “in New Orleans,” Mr. Haner said. “I found myself dancing while filming and was grateful for the gimbal so my bouncing wasn’t too noticeable.”

The drone presented its own challenges. “Trying to find a location free from people to fly a drone over in Louisiana is difficult,” he said, “but if you wake up in time for sunrise over the French Quarter, the streets are largely empty — a rare quiet walking below the lush balconies and colorful facades of this historic district.”

What else are you doing this year that’s special?

For the first time, we’ve hired a 52 Places Traveler, who will go to each and every place on the list in the coming year. She is Jada Yuan, who comes to us from New York magazine and you can read more about her here. She heads to New Orleans first, and then … well, everywhere.

How do you start the process of selecting the list?

We ask our regular contributors, many of whom live overseas or roam the globe, for ideas. We get hundreds of them and pare things down from there.

What are you looking for in those ideas?

First, why now? That is, why is this the year to go to a particular place? We also aim for a geographic and thematic diversity. And we look for a mix of destinations both well-known and off the beaten path. (That means we often exclude the very obvious spots; even though cities like London, Paris and Tokyo are always exciting, they didn’t make this year’s list.)

How do you narrow it down to the final list?

A marathon-length meeting, in which we discuss each idea. We get pretty punchy toward the end but are always happy with the final list.

My favorite destination didn’t make the list. Why not?

The 52 places we select are, of course, just the start. There are thousands of wonderful destinations to consider. Use the #52Places2018 hashtag on Instagram to suggest yours.

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