We see dazzling skyscraper debuts, earthshaking sports events, and royal coronations in your future. We're not psychic. But we can predict where packs of travelers might be heading to next: extraordinary cities and countries set to shine in the coming year. The following places all have something really special happening in 2014—whether it's a momentous anniversary, an acclaimed event, or just one really big, marvelous party. Here are 10 destinations that are taking center stage in 2014.
Mark your calendars: On April 26, 2014, the whole of the Netherlands will be celebrating King's Day. The springtime holiday is normally called Queen's Day, but in 2014—for the first time since 1890—the country will crown a male monarch: King Willem-Alexander. (King's Day will take place annually on Willem-Alexander's birthday, April 27, but since the holiday isn't celebrated on a Sunday, the festivities in 2014 will happen on April 26.)
What does it mean? Parties! It's a public holiday typically teeming with brightly decorated canal boats, outdoor dance parties, and live music. Check out 2013's Queen's Day roster here, and expect bigger and more raucous happenings during next year's historic celebration.
When Dubai does something, it brings the wow factor. And because the Emirates' government is offering financial incentives for hotel developers to build new properties through 2017, travelers can expect a deluge of dazzling, fresh hotels in the Middle Eastern metropolis. A handful of luxury properties—the kind of places that wind up on travelers' bucket lists next to national parks and world-class cities—are opening. The spectacular Anantara Dubai The Palm Resort & Spa, which has overwater bungalows with glass floors through which guests can view ocean life, just opened its doors on Palm Jumeirah. Next year, the 101-floor Dream Dubai hotel will make its skyscraping debut too. While the hotel won't be quite as lofty as the Burj Khalifa, it will certainly top the short list of the world's tallest hotels. Other properties hitting the market next year include the Sofitel Dubai Downtown and the extravagant Palazzo Versace.
More Americans are traveling to Cuba now than they have in years, thanks to the eased travel restrictions enacted by the Obama administration in 2011. This year, flights from Key West to Havana resumed service for the first time since the 1960s. (A small Miami-based charter company is making the 45-minute hop between the islands.) And because Trinidad turns 500 years old next year, we expect even more travelers to get in line for government approval and visit the island nation. Trinidad, a World Heritage site that UNESCO calls "an outstanding example of a colonial city," will host a variety of festivals and local music performances in celebration of the city's founding by Spanish conquistadors in 1514.
New York, New York
One World Trade Center (formerly known as the Freedom Tower), which stands where the original World Trade Center buildings once soared, is expected to open in early 2014. It's already been declared the tallest building in the country. If you want to get a first look at the ultramodern, symbolic structure, 2014 is the time to go. An accompanying 9/11 museum, which is also scheduled to open to the public next year, will feature exhibits such as a "Wall of Faces" of the thousands of victims of the September 11 attacks and the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, as well as an original wall from the World Trade Center buildings that survived the devastation.
On a less somber note, Super Bowl XLVIII is coming to New Jersey's MetLife stadium in February, and even those who don't have tickets can join in on the fun. A whirlwind of Super Bowl activities are slated to happen in the Big Apple, from an open-air toboggan ride on Broadway to a Bowl-themed gospel concert.
Is New Zealand one of the best biking destinations on the planet? We'll let you decide. The brand-new and ever-expanding New Zealand Cycle Trail is an extensive 1,553-mile-long network of biking routes that snakes through lush rainforests, past placid glacial-fed lakes, and alongside old railway lines once traversed by gold rush-era miners. The New Zealand government invested $50 million to build this large-scale system of 23 cycling trails slated for completion by the end of this year. Although it's not entirely finished (22 of the 23 planned trails are open as of this printing), the attraction already has people talking: The New Zealand Cycle Trail received an Honorable Mention at the International Trails Symposium this past spring.
Shakespeare enthusiasts, England is your oyster next year. It's the 450th anniversary of the great poet and playwright's year of birth, and all over the country there will be a profusion of Shakespeare-themed adventures and events. The epicenter of the festivities is Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare's birthplace. The town launched a celebratory website, Happy Birthday Shakespeare, and will host special events (most of which have yet to be announced) on April 26 and 27.
Need another excuse to cross the pond? The 2014 Tour de France begins in Yorkshire, England, on July 5. The route will start in Leeds and pass through the English countryside, Cambridge, and London before continuing on to France. For details on the best spots to view this portion of the world-class cycling event, visit the official site for the Tour de France Grand Depart 2014.
Brazil, of course, made it onto this list because of the 2014 World Cup. How could we not include this South American nation, when much of the world's eyes will be on Brazil this spring and summer? Even if you didn't grab tickets to the games, you'll find much to do beyond the usual in the country's 12 host cities. Pick your destination based on your interests, advises the Mirror Online. Whether taking in Rio's nightlife (which will reach insane heights during the World Cup travel crush) or hitting the beach in Recife, there's an endless array of activities to accompany your dose of world-class footballing.
Next year will be a big one in Scotland. Travelers can revel in the XX Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, and even non-sporty types can get in on the action: A yearlong cultural program featuring special arts projects, outdoor film screenings, and live music will augment the Commonwealth Games experience. The Ryder Cup is the second sporting event that will make 2014 a banner year for Scotland. In September, the prestigious golf tournament will come to The Gleneagles Hotel in Auchterarder.
Believe it or not, there's more: 2014 is the year of Homecoming Scotland, a heritage and cultural celebration. Along with offering a packed schedule of special events, Homecoming is extending an "open invitation" to people with Scottish heritage to get in touch with their roots via clan gatherings and ancestry research. (There are roughly 50 million people around the world who claim Scottish ancestry. Are you one of them?)
The Olympic torch blasted into space earlier this month, in transit to the International Space Station. Russian astronauts took the flame for a space walk before flying it back to Earth for the Torch Relay. You'll need a visa to visit Russia, and event tickets (sold by CoSport) can be hard to come by. But in comparison to the torch's epic journey, a trip to Russia to partake in the upcoming Winter Olympics might not seem so daunting. We recommend purchasing a package from a tour provider such as Sports Traveler to make things a little easier.
The Sochi Games are not without controversy, which may well affect your decision to visit. Numerous human rights violations, such as a new anti-gay law that permits the Russian government to arrest gay or pro-gay foreigners, are associated with the preparations for the Olympics. Some LGBTQ-rights groups, such as RUSA LGBT, are calling for a boycott of the event. Read more on Human Rights Watch.
Next year—August 2014, specifically—will mark the centennial anniversary of the beginning of World War I. Accordingly, more than 2 million travelers are expected to head to Belgium's many World War I sites in the next few years; some of the country's more prominent sites include Fort de Loncin, destroyed in 1914 and now a museum, and the Museum of Military History in Mons.
History buffs may also want to explore the new Bastogne War Museum in the Luxembourg province, which opens in 2014 and commemorates World War II.
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This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title Destinations to Watch in 2014.