NEW YORK – The Olympics, the World Cup and commemorations of World War I, D-Day and the fall of the Berlin Wall are some of the events that will spotlight destinations like Sochi, Brazil, Sarajevo, Normandy and Berlin in 2014.
Elsewhere abroad, a potentially game-changing high-speed rail service has just launched linking Paris and Barcelona. Some travelers may now prefer the train over a plane, with the train ride cut in half to just over six hours between the two cities.
Back in the U.S., St. Louis marks the 250th anniversary of its Feb. 15, 1764, founding with celebrations in February including a re-enactment, parties and a music festival. Other events are planned throughout the year.
Harry Potter fans will have a new reason to visit Florida next summer when the Universal Orlando theme park opens a new area with attractions inspired by the books’ fictional scenes in Diagon Alley and London. A train called the Hogwarts Express will take visitors back and forth between the new Potter attractions – including a restaurant called the Leaky Cauldron – and Universal’s existing Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Universal also plans an 1,800-room 1960s-themed resort and eight new restaurants at the CityWalk dining area for 2014.
Nearby, Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., will open a new family coaster, the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, in the spring.
Olympics and World Cup
The Winter Olympics, Feb. 7 to 23, take place in Sochi, a Russian Black Sea resort that’s one of the least-known Olympic destinations in years. The indoor events will take place in ice arenas on the coast, while skiing and snowboarding are in the Caucasus Mountains 30 miles inland. With its subtropical climate and lush greenery, the coastal area of Sochi has long been a popular destination; some elaborate worker resorts from the Stalinist era remain, and new winter resorts are under construction.
The World Cup soccer games, June 12 to July 13, will take place in 12 cities in Brazil: Belo Horizonte, Brasilia, Cuaiaba, Curitiba, Fortaleza, Manaus, Natal, Porto Alegre, Recife, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador and Sao Paulo. The most exotic destination, Manaus, a steamy city in the Amazon jungle, may also be the most controversial.
The summer of 2014 marks a century since World War I was triggered by the assassination June 28, 1914, of the Austrian archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, now the capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Events are planned across Europe to commemorate the centenary – www.1914.org – and some U.S. tour operators such as Road Scholar are offering itineraries visiting places connected to the war. Famous battlefields include Verdun, France; Gallipoli, Turkey; and Western Belgium, where red poppies still bloom in Flanders Fields, a battlefield immortalized in the famous poem: In Flanders Fields the poppies blow/Between the crosses, row on row.
June 6 is the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the Allied invasion of Normandy, France, which marked a turning point in defeating Hitler in World War II.
Nov. 9 will mark 25 years since the Berlin Wall was breached, a powerful moment in ending communism in Eastern Europe and the Cold War. The wall was completely torn down in 1990, but its destruction began in 1989. Events and exhibits are planned to mark the 25th anniversary, including an installation of illuminated balloons on a 7.5-mile path where the city was once divided.
Homecoming, Vermeer and hobbits
Scotland hosts its year-long Homecoming, inviting emigres and their descendants to return for clan gatherings and other events, including a re-enactment of the Battle of Bannockburn, an important victory 700 years ago in the Wars of Scottish Independence. The Homecoming takes place every four years.
In Holland, the Mauritshuis museum reopens in June in The Hague. This small but important museum, housed in a 17th-century palace, is home to Vermeer’s masterpiece, Girl with a Pearl Earring.
New Zealand is hoping for an increase in visitors inspired by the second movie in the Hobbit trilogy. Tourism connected to The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films has become a big business in New Zealand, where the movies were filmed.