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, 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 and 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. 7-23, take place in Sochi, a Russian Black Sea resort that's one of the least-known Olympic destinations in years. The indoor events will be held in ice arenas on the coast, while skiing and snowboarding are in the Caucasus Mountains 30 miles (50 kilometers) inland.
The World Cup soccer games, June 12-July 13, will be held 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: England soccer coach Roy Hodgson called it "the place ideally to avoid," while the London tabloid the Mirror called it a "crime-ridden hell-hole."
The summer of 2014 marks a century since World War I was triggered by the June 28, 1914, assassination 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 like 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 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 the downfall of communism in Eastern Europe and the Cold War. The wall, built in 1961, not only physically cut East Berlin off from the West, but also symbolized the division between Western Europe and communist-controlled Eastern bloc countries. The wall was completely torn down in 1990, but its destruction began in 1989.