The New Year heralds a fresh batch of hot destinations for 2008. This year, major festivities put three cities in the spotlight, while serious tourism infrastructure building secures other hot spots top billing. Plus, find out more destinations to keep on your radar in 2008.
The city once known primarily as the birthplace of the Beatles has come into its own as a European city packed with sophisticated cultural pursuits and rich history. Liverpool has been preparing for its time in the spotlight since it was named a European Capital of Culture for 2008 five years ago. The highly coveted Capital of Culture designation earns cities the chance to feature and expand their thriving art and cultural offerings, and gives visitors an entire year of special events and festivals to enjoy.
Even without the year-long celebration in 2008, Liverpool's arts offerings impress. The city already boasts eight world-class museums (including its own Tate Museum), a major arts festival, a center for arts and creative technology, and a serious dedication to community art.
But in 2008, after years of sprucing up the city and improving its tourist and leisure infrastructure, the spirit of art will truly take center stage. Over 350 visual and performing arts, sporting, and heritage events are planned during Liverpool's year as a Capital of Culture. Best of all, the majority of events are free. Combine that with Liverpool's relatively affordable hotels and restaurants, and you've got a destination ready to give London a run for its money.
You should book ahead during major events to ensure availability. VisitLiverpool.com keeps track of special offers from hotels.
In 2008, Quebec City will celebrate its 400th anniversary with a year of festivals and events. It's already clear that the city knows how to throw a party—you don't have to look farther than the wildly popular annual winter Carnaval de Quebec (running from February 1 to 17), to know that for sure. With a whole year of celebrations, Quebec City promises to be an exciting destination in every season in 2008.
The anniversary kicks off on New Year's Eve with a giant party. Throughout the year you'll find events such as interactive art tours and exhibitions, performances, and in the French Canadian spirit, a unique show by Cirque de Soleil. The MonQuebec2008.com calendar details more events.
The party will change the very landscape of the city as well. Long-neglected banks of the Saint-Charles River have been restored and trails have been added so the public can better enjoy the river. New public spaces are in the works, including a museum opening as an anniversary gift to the residents of and visitors to Quebec City.
Be sure to book well ahead for the New Year's kickoff celebration, Winter Carnaval, and the official commemorations in early July. Accommodations prices may rise a bit during those times, but there's a city-wide effort to keep prices reasonable. The Quebec City Tourism site lists current accommodations packages available through city hotels.
If you host the world's premier sporting event, it's safe to say you're going to have a big year. The countdown has begun to the August 2008 Summer Olympics and Beijing is kicking preparations into high gear. The city is expecting three million spectators during the event. And, even if you're not coming for the Olympics, you can benefit from the expanded infrastructure.
You don't have too look far to find improvements geared towards making the city more visitor friendly. Beijing's new airport terminal, slated to be among the world's largest, will open before the summer games. A profusion of new hotels, including openings from Best Western, Marriott, and Accor, give Western visitors more familiar accommodations choices.
United launched a new Washington, D.C., to Beijing route earlier this year. You'll find more flight options to China too. U.S. airlines American, Delta, and United are all busy forging partnerships with airlines in China to expand their route networks, which has the benefit of giving U.S.-based passengers easier booking and more mile-earning options. And 2007's U.S.-China open skies agreement means the route options between the two countries will continue to increase in the coming years.
Colonial cities and legendary towns make up the Querétaro region of central Mexico. Wander through history in Santiago de Querétaro, where adjoining districts of Baroque monuments and indigenous neighborhoods illustrate the peaceful coexistence of cultures that has defined the town for the last four hundred years. In nearby Bernal, the towering rock monolith, which many say imparts a mystic energy, has inspired the official "magical town" designation. Vineyards, markets, hot spring spas, and archeological sites are among the regions other charms.
In 2008, the region will be easier to reach from U.S. departure points than ever before. And in a time when exchange rates in Europe and Canada aren't doing Americans any favors, Mexico still offers good value.
Proximity to Mexico City and new service to the region itself puts Querétaro's myriad charms within reach like never before. Mexico City is a two-hour drive from Querétaro, and recently inaugurated service on Aeromexico from Seattle and Mexicana from Portland, Oregon, makes Mexico City a convenient arrival city for more visitors.
Plus, flying directly to Querétaro will be a whole lot easier in 2008 when Delta starts service from Atlanta in January, and low-cost carrier vivaaerobus kicks off a new route from Austin in March.
If you've always thought of India as a destination reserved for backpackers, spiritual seekers, and guided tour-goers, 2008 is a good year to rethink that assumption. Tourism infrastructure growth is on par with China's rapid expansion, and is turning the country into a destination that's more accessible to a wider range of travelers.
New air service is making India easier to reach from the U.S. Continental, which started service between New York and Delhi back in 2005, has just added New York-Mumbai service to its schedule. Air India also recently started a New York-Mumbai route, the first of a series of planned non-stop routes between the U.S. and India. And, India's Jet Airways has just added a daily New York-Delhi route (via Brussels) as well.
Not only is it easier to get to India, but once you arrive you'll find more familiar choices. Hotel giants such as Accor, Hilton, Marriott, and Wyndham are constructing new hotels around the country as fast as they can, and budget-focused chains Choice and easyHotel are also expanding with dozens more hotels opening in 2008 and beyond.
More destinations to watch in 2008
Here are some more destinations featuring a stand-out reason to visit in 2008:
•St. Maarten:A new airport terminal and new air service put the part-Dutch, part-French, all-Caribbean island of St. Maarten on the list of destinations to watch in 2008. JetBlue will begin flights between New York and the destination dubbed "the culinary capital of the Caribbean" in mid-January.
•Stavanger, Norway:Europe's other 2008 Capital of Culture celebrates its designation with dance and acrobatic ski performances, open-air fairy-tale theater, and contemporary folk art exhibitions, among other events.
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