Poised to claim their time in the spotlight, destinations around the world are taking center stage with big festivals or anniversaries, massive new developments, or just particularly good deals. If you're looking to be where the action is in 2010, consider a trip to:
Been waiting for the right time to visit Germany? Then dust off your passport and practice your "Guten Tag!" 2010 stands out as a year chock-full of memorable, unique, and rare events. And increased air service from the U.S. puts it all closer.
For something a little different, how about coal mining complexes turned art and cultural centers? That's what you'll find in the Ruhr, a region once known primarily for coal and steel, which has transformed itself and earned the European Capital of Culture designation for 2010. The 53 cities comprising the region will host more than 300 projects and 2,500 events during the year. The extravaganzas include "!Sing," a day of song with 65,000 performers; the "Still Life A40," during which a 60-kilometer long banqueting table will be set up along a closed highway and the public invited; and "ExtraShift," an art and performance festival in 40 venues on June 19.
Once a decade for the last 375 years, villagers in the Bavarian town of Oberammergau put on a play re-enacting the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. The five-hour Passion Play has a cast of more than 2,000 villagers, and attracts an audience from around the world. Tickets to the play, which will be staged 102 times between May and October, are already sold out, but a number of tour operators are still offering accommodations-and-tickets packages.
More anniversaries and festivals round out Germany's 2010 offerings. September marks the 200th anniversary of Oktoberfest in Munich. Leipzig and other cities will celebrate the 200th birthday of composer Robert Schumann (this website is in German only) with concerts. And Nuremburg's Railway Year (in German only), complete with train-themed art, a locomotive parade, and special exhibitions, will honor the 175th anniversary of the country's first train.
Germany will be easier to get to in 2010. Starting on March 27, Continental will begin daily nonstop service between Newark and Munich. And in May, Air Berlin, Germany's second largest airline, will begin nonstop service between San Francisco and Dusseldorf.
Worried about the cost of a Germany vacation? The German National Tourist Board offers tips for keeping costs down on accommodations, transportation, and more.
Santa Fe's vibrant art community and stunning scenery aren't a limited-time offer. But a 400th anniversary comes along only once. As the city kicks festivities into high gear, visitors will find more ways to experience the beauty, history, and traveler appeal that has earned Santa Fe recent top honors from Conde Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, and Forbes Traveler.
Santa Fe celebrates its place as the nation's oldest capital with an arts and lecture series featuring everything from history talks to colorful storytelling by Santa Fe locals. And a free outdoor movie series on Friday and Saturday nights is sure to keep weekends lively all summer long. In July, a dinner at Las Golondrinas living history museum will showcase a traditional menu, and the year of celebration will end with a gala ball on New Year's Eve, 2010.
Hotels are making it easier to participate with discounts and specials. For instance, at the Inn and Spa at Loretto, the Santa Fe 400 Package offers winter guests two nights' accommodations, a $40 dining credit, and a $40 spa credit for $400. SantaFe400th.com lists more anniversary specials and package discounts.
Travelers have more options to reach Santa Fe, with new American Eagle service from Los Angeles, and increased service from Dallas/Ft. Worth as well.
Is Singapore the next Las Vegas or Dubai? New mega-resorts, iconic buildings, and over-the-top entertainment are shaking up the destination's staid reputation. And in 2010, Singapore will host the first Youth Olympic Games.
Three massive projects are set to open in 2010. A major Las Vegas developer has reached a golden finger across the Pacific to create the Marina Bay Sands, the first casino and resort in Singapore. The resort, set to open this winter, includes three hotel towers topped by a "sky park" with gardens, 360-degree views, restaurants, and a swimming pool. The resort will also house a museum, whose architecture was inspired by the shape of a lotus blossom, as well as a mall with shops, restaurants, cafes, and an indoor canal.
Across from the Marina Bay Sands, big things are afoot at the Fullerton Heritage Complex, a massive waterfront dining, entertainment, and hotel development. In early 2010, the new boutique Fullerton Bay Hotel will join the refurbished luxury Fullerton Hotel in offering waterfront accommodations close to downtown.
Also opening early in 2010 is Resorts World at Sentosa, a family-centric destination island with a Universal Studios theme park and the world's largest oceanarium. Hotels on the island will include a Hard Rock Hotel and the Michael-Graves' designed Hotel Michael.
An entire island of entertainment won't be the only thing to draw families to Singapore this year. In August, the destination will host the first Youth Olympic Games, drawing young athletes from around the world to compete in 26 events, including track, gymnastics, and swimming. Nearly 400,000 tickets, priced to be affordable, will go on sale in March. Each ticket includes a free day of travel on Singapore's public transportation system.
Visitors looking to stopover in Singapore this winter can check out Singapore Air's Stopover special, which includes accommodations and dining discounts, plus attraction and transportation passes.
2010 is set to be a banner year in Tampa. The city will see the opening of a new theme park (no, not The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, that's Orlando), art museum, and children's museum, providing visitors with plenty of new reasons beyond the beach to pay a visit.
Can you tell me how to get, how to get to Sesame Street? Sure. This spring, Busch Gardens will open the Sesame Street Safari of Fun, a playland packed with rides, shows, and other amusements, including the "Air Grover" junior roller coaster and the watery "Oscar's Swamp Stomp."
The fall 2010 opening of the Glazer Children's Museum provides another reason to bring the kids to Tampa. The 53,000-square-foot museum will be a place for children to learn, create, and play. Kids can follow the journey of a water drop from a climbing structure, pilot a plane, or dress up like firefighters and put out imaginary fires.
On February 6, the Tampa Museum of Art will open a new facility in downtown Tampa. In its new digs, the museum will continue to host traveling exhibitions in addition to adding to its permanent collections of classical and contemporary art.
Tampa is well-connected to the rest of the U.S., and with air service from low-cost carriers including AirTran, JetBlue, and Southwest, airfares tend to stay competitively priced.
It's no secret that Iceland is a great deal right now. Iceland's currency still hasn't recovered from the economic crisis, and that means a very favorable exchange rate for visitors looking to soak in the Blue Lagoon, hike glaciers, and dance all night. With 10,000 waterfalls, geo-thermal pools galore, and a nightlife and music scene that draws crowds from around the world, there are plenty of ways to stretch each dollar.
While most destinations saw fewer visitors last year, Iceland actually welcomed more than in years past. Lonely Planet just named Iceland a top-value pick for 2010, and Travel + Leisure called it one of the world's sexiest affordable destinations.
It used to be that if you wanted to go to Iceland, your choices were to fly Icelandair or swim. But that will change in 2010, when Icelandic low-cost carrier Iceland Express debuts seasonal service between New York, Reykjavik, and about two dozen European cities in June. When we compared fares, we found Iceland Express prices that undercut established carrier Icelandair's. With two carriers to choose from, we're hoping to see a summer travel fare war fit for the Viking ancestors of Iceland.
With the H1N1 virus and drug-related violence in its Northern cities, Mexico tourism had a rough 2009. But a big anniversary, a strong dollar, and some of the most affordable hotel rates in years promise a brighter 2010 for travelers to Acapulco, Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, and other popular spots in Mexico.
This coming year, Mexico will celebrate 200 years of independence. To mark the occasion, Mexico will debut six history routes that follow three military campaigns of the Independence movement and three of the Mexican Revolution. Even if you're not tracing a route, you can still keep an eye out for the "Mexico is My Museum" signs that will identify important points along the routes. A toll-free number will even offer a short informational message about the location.
If you're considering Mexico in the New Year and want to save, let the deals guide your planning. Hotels and resorts around the country are promoting discounts, specially priced packages, and extra amenities thrown in to sweeten the offerings. And package providers like Pleasant Holidays have low rates on air-and-hotel packages plus additional perks such as free car rentals and activity discounts. In recent months, Mexico has been a favorite among airlines promoting frequent flyer award destinations, a trend likely continue well into 2010.
The exchange rate still provides more chances to stretch vacation dollars, and should allow vacationers to do more with their money at least through the first half of the year, and possibly longer.
More destinations to watch in 2010
- Hawaii: A bevy of new routes from Alaska (Sacramento and San Jose to Hawaii in March), Continental (Orange County to Honolulu starting March 7), and US Airways (Charlotte to Honolulu starting December 17, 2009) put Hawaii within reach of more travelers. Plus, Norwegian Cruise Line will add two more Hawaii cruises this spring.
- Istanbul, Turkey: Istanbul celebrates its heritage and vitality as a 2010 European Capital of Culture. Throughout 2010, the city will feature music, literature, theater, traditional arts, and more.
- Vancouver: Vancouver is mere months away from welcoming the world to the XXI Olympic Winter Games. For the rest of the year, take advantage of tourism infrastructure improvements without battling Olympic crowds.
- Ft. Lauderdale: Both JetBlue and Virgin America have just started service between San Francisco and Ft. Lauderdale, making it easier to get to from the West Coast. Nearby Miami will host the Pro Bowl in January, and the Super Bowl in February, making Ft. Lauderdale a hot spot for sports fans around the country. Ft. Lauderdale is also the new home of the world's largest (for now) cruise ship, Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas.
- Capetown, South Africa: Another hot destination for sports enthusiasts in 2010, Cape Town will host the FIFA World Cup beginning in June.
- Colombia: With Spirit increasing service to Colombia, and more low-cost carrier service from JetBlue, this up-and-coming destination is easier to get to than ever before.
- Cuba: Will 2010 be the year the U.S. eases its travel ban on Cuba? It's certainly a destination to watch this coming year.