Pouring over maps trying to decide where to travel in 2013? There’s nothing wrong with spinning the globe and seeing where your finger lands. But for a trip that will be truly rich and rewarding, we’ve chosen a handful of destinations particularly appealing to travelers in the coming year. From historical anniversaries to pop culture Meccas, these cities and sites are where it’s happening in 2013.
Not only is Marseille re-emerging as a world-renowned cultural center, but the city and its surrounding region have been designated the European Capital of Culture in 2013. All throughout the Provence region, visitors will participate in a veritable feast of cultural events and displays, including dance, music, theatre, literature cinema and more. Events and exhibitions are scheduled throughout the year, and a number of cultural facilities (museums, galleries, concert halls) will make their grand opening. For tickets and schedules, visit the official Marseille-Provence 2013 website.
Feeling patriotic? Or maybe Daniel Day Lewis’s stellar performance in Lincoln has you thirsty for more Civil War history? If ever there was a year to visit Gettysburg, 2013 is it. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg–the turning point of the American Civil War. After a series of Confederate victories, the Union delivered a crippling blow to the South in July 1863 with its victory at Gettysburg. The battle left 22,000 dead and wounded (the city itself had a population of only 2,400). In addition to the regular battlefield tours and museum exhibitions, Gettysburg will be offering a number of special events in honor of the anniversary. Check out the full schedule here!
With its overabundance of natural treasures, New Zealand is always an alluring travel destination. But in 2013, a few things are happening that make it even more desirable. In March, Hawaiian Airlines will add flights from Hawaii to New Zealand. Then in April, Air New Zealand is offering flights to and from San Francisco. Also, the New Zealand dollar is still struggling at a value of 83.18 US cents, meaning your money will carry more weight in Kiwi country. More importantly, the New Zealand tourism industry is hoping the release of The Hobbit will spark a resurgence in Lord of the Rings fanaticism and boost tourism. See where they filmed it all on your own Middle Earth adventure! Fun fact: In 2004, 6% of visitors to New Zealand cited Lord of the Rings as a primary motivating factor for making the trip.
Denali National Park, Alaska
Denali is without a doubt one of the grandest, most sublime national parks in the United States. Its 6 million acres of wilderness boast breathtaking views of alpine tundra and undisturbed wildlife. The park and preserve contains Mount McKinley (North America’s tallest peak) and has ample opportunities for skiing, mushing, cycling, hiking, fishing, camping, backpacking and much, much more. Why visit in 2013? Squidoo lists Denali as one of the top 10 places to see before it disappears. Montana State University students conducted a study that found climate change could increase vegetation fires at high altitudes, putting Denali and its resident Kodiak bears at risk. Hopefully such tragedy will not come to pass, but see Denali now just in case!
Seoul, South Korea
Dress fancy and dance cheesy in the home of K-Pop sensation Psy. The Korean pop star made headlines when his “Gangnam Style” music video set a new record for YouTube clicks, accumulating over one billion views. If you haven’t seen the video, you might be confused about how to use the Internet. From an American perspective, the video is, shall we say, peculiar. In an ouch-my-stomach-hurts-from-laughing kind of way. Since the song dropped in July 2012, South Korea has seen a 9% increase in visitors. Coincidence? Probably not. The song takes its name from the Gangnam-Gu neighborhood, an affluent district in Seoul. Tour the city, go shopping, eat a pizza topped with fried shrimp and, of course, hit the dance floor galloping on your invisible steed!
Puerto Iguazú, Argentina
After a worldwide vote, Puerto Iguazú, Argentina just became the official home of one of the new seven wonders of nature. Congrats guys! If you’re looking for a concentrated dose of natural splendor or maybe just a really rad profile pic, Iguazú Falls is a sight to behold. The Falls are located on the border between Argentina and Brazil on the Iguazú River. Depending on the water levels, there can be anywhere between 150 and 300 separate waterfalls. The larger falls reach heights in excess of 250 feet. The city of Puerto Iguazú has a ton to offer as well–restaurants, hotels, hostels, spas and more. Iguazú Falls makes for both a satisfying singular destination and a great addition to any South American voyage.
New Orleans, Louisiana
Why is New Orleans the place to be in 2013? I’m told something called the “Super Bowl” is taking place in said city. I’m not sure what exactly a “Super Bowl” is, but I’m guessing it’s some sort of sportsball event. Bowling? Regardless, the city is getting all dolled up for the big day. The Mercedes-Benz Superdome recently underwent an $85 million renovation. The Joy Theater just reopened for the first time since Hurricane Katrina, and the Saenger Theater is also undergoing a massive renovation. If you can make it down for the massive sportsball game, it should be a pretty grand time. If not, make sure to visit for Mardi Gras or the annual Jazz Fest!
The U.S. Tour Operators Association declared Myanmar, formally known as Burma, the world’s #1 “emerging destination.” After the tourism boycott was lifted in 2011, arrivals in Myanmar shot up 30%. President Obama’s November visit may have also increased intrigue amongst travelers. Be warned: Myanmar is far from stable. Civil War has plagued the country for over half a century. Recent democratic reforms bode well for the country’s future, but strife remains between the government and a number of rebelling factions. But hey. If you want to be on the cutting edge of what’s hot and new in travel, go for it. There’s exquisite food, breathtaking nature and religious sites galore. You can probably see it all without encountering a single child soldier or act of genocide…
One of the great North American cities, Toronto has new reasons to visit every day. With 30,000 homes built in the last year and an explosion of New York City exports, it continues to grow at a pace that is both rapid and exciting. Fox News lists Toronto as a top budget destination for 2013 because, unlike the rest of the world, hotel prices did not increase in the first half of 2012. What’s there to do in Toronto besides plummet down Niagara in a barrel? Eat, of course. Check out the world-famous St. Lawrence food market or any number of restaurants in Chinatown, Little Italy, Little India, Little Portugal, Little Jamaica or Koreatown. If you’re into nature, the Toronto Islands are perfect for birding, hiking and cycling. There’s a nude beach, too, if that’s your scene.
Great Bear Rainforest, Canada
We conclude our list with another majestic yet fragile natural setting. The Great Bear Rainforest on the coast of British Columbia is a 250-mile stretch of land harboring lush, untamed vegetation and a thriving wildlife population. Wolves, minks, grizzlies and Kermode spirit bears call the rainforest home. (Kermode bears, or “spirit bears,” are a variety of black bear, 10% of which 10% have gorgeous cream-colored coats.) A glorious, almost surreal place to get in touch with nature, the rainforest offers both bear-watching and whale-watching opportunities. As with Denali, the Great Bear Rainforest risks disappearing. At the end of 2013, a decision will be reached about whether oil pipelines will be built across some of the world’s largest salmon-producing watersheds. Such a project could potentially cause irreparable harm to the ecosystem. Visit this year before construction begins!
What are your travel plans for 2013? Let us know in the comments below!