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From Malta to Minneapolis, a look at where to go in 2018

| Friday, Jan. 26, 2018, 8:57 p.m.
Valletta, Malta,  was declared one of two European Capitals of Culture for 2018, kicking off with an island-wide Maltese Festa Jan. 14-21. The other European Capital of Culture is the Dutch city of Leeuwarden, the capital of Friesland.
Valletta, Malta, was declared one of two European Capitals of Culture for 2018, kicking off with an island-wide Maltese Festa Jan. 14-21. The other European Capital of Culture is the Dutch city of Leeuwarden, the capital of Friesland.
A general view of St George's Chapel within the walls of of Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England. U.S. visitation to the United Kingdom has been booming and is expected to stay strong in 2018 thanks to the upcoming royal wedding of Prince Harry to American actress Meghan Markle at Windsor Castle, pilgrimages by U.S. fans of the Netflix series 'The Crown,' and the continued strength of the U.S. dollar against the pound.
A general view of St George's Chapel within the walls of of Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England. U.S. visitation to the United Kingdom has been booming and is expected to stay strong in 2018 thanks to the upcoming royal wedding of Prince Harry to American actress Meghan Markle at Windsor Castle, pilgrimages by U.S. fans of the Netflix series 'The Crown,' and the continued strength of the U.S. dollar against the pound.
John Potter, a member of the San Antonio Living History Association, patrols the Alamo in San Antonio, during a pre-dawn memorial ceremony to remember the 1836 Battle of the Alamo and those who fell on both sides. San Antonio marks its tricentennial in 2018.
John Potter, a member of the San Antonio Living History Association, patrols the Alamo in San Antonio, during a pre-dawn memorial ceremony to remember the 1836 Battle of the Alamo and those who fell on both sides. San Antonio marks its tricentennial in 2018.
Street lights illuminates a jogger around Lake Harriet in a Minneapolis heavy snow storm. Thousands of Super Bowl fans will be in Minneapolis for the Feb. 4 NFL game. The stadium has a state of the art roof but locals are using the slogan 'Bold North' to encourage visitors to embrace winter with outdoor activities.
Street lights illuminates a jogger around Lake Harriet in a Minneapolis heavy snow storm. Thousands of Super Bowl fans will be in Minneapolis for the Feb. 4 NFL game. The stadium has a state of the art roof but locals are using the slogan 'Bold North' to encourage visitors to embrace winter with outdoor activities.
This is one of the 12th century churches carved from stone in Lalibela, Ethiopia. The architectural marvels are one of the country's most magical attractions, miracles of engineering built 8,000 feet above sea level, each carved in one piece directly from soft volcanic rock.
This is one of the 12th century churches carved from stone in Lalibela, Ethiopia. The architectural marvels are one of the country's most magical attractions, miracles of engineering built 8,000 feet above sea level, each carved in one piece directly from soft volcanic rock.
Visitors wearing a traditional Japanese summer kimono or 'yukata' stroll through a temple in Tokyo. U.S. visitors to Japan increased 10 percent January through October 2017 compared to the same period in 2016, and the upward trend is expected to continue through 2018 as Japan heads toward the 2020 Summer Olympics.
Visitors wearing a traditional Japanese summer kimono or 'yukata' stroll through a temple in Tokyo. U.S. visitors to Japan increased 10 percent January through October 2017 compared to the same period in 2016, and the upward trend is expected to continue through 2018 as Japan heads toward the 2020 Summer Olympics.

From Malta to Minneapolis, here's a look at some destinations around the world that will be making news in 2018. They include designated culture capitals, places hosting sporting events and even a couple of cities — San Antonio, Texas, and New Orleans — celebrating their 300th birthdays.

Sports

Minneapolis hosts the Super Bowl on Feb. 4. The city is encouraging visitors to embrace winter with 10 days of “Bold North” events and activities leading up to the big game. On the other side of the world, the snowy mountains of Pyeongchang, South Korea, host the Winter Olympic Games, Feb. 9-25.

Eleven cities in Russia — including Moscow and Sochi — host the FIFA World Cup, June 14-July 15. The dates coincide with St. Petersburg's “white nights,” the summer solstice season when city skies never get completely dark. FIFA reports strong ticket sales from the United States even though the U.S. national team failed to qualify for the games. Host cities include lesser-known gems like Nizhny Novgorod and Kazan, while Yekaterinburg is a good jumping-off point for an adventure in Siberia.

Tricentennials

Two American cities mark tricentennials in 2018. San Antonio plans a commemoration week in May, a “Summer of Spain” marketplace highlighting Spanish food, art and culture, Day of the Dead events Oct. 29-30 and a Witte Museum exhibition about the city's frontier history under the flags of many countries. The exhibit will include the keys to the Alamo and Davy Crockett's fiddle.

In New Orleans, tricentennial events include the Prospect.4 art exhibition, which is already underway; a blow-out Mardi Gras, Feb. 13, with the Krewe of Rex procession themed on New Orleans' history; various spring festivals; Luna Fete next December; and a New Orleans Museum of Art exhibition showcasing works by Raphael, Titian, Rembrandt and others from the Duke of Orleans' collection.

Culture and design capitals

Despite the recent car bomb murder of an investigative journalist in Malta, the island is on many “where to go” lists for 2018. Its capital, Valletta, is one of Europe's 2018 capitals of culture and a UNESCO World Heritage Site with 7,000 years of history. Attractions include festivals, nightlife, ancient stone architecture, a rollicking Carnival in February and other festivals, plus World War II history, including scuba diving to wartime wrecks.

The other European capital of culture for 2018 is Leeuwarden in the Netherlands' province of Friesland. Cultural extravaganzas include an Aug. 31-Sept. 1 event expanding an annual marathon across 23 villages with music, art, theater and unusual pop-up hotels.

From England to Ethopia

Elsewhere around the world, destinations on the travel industry's radar for 2018 range from England to Ethiopia.

England is suddenly a pop culture darling. Fans of the Netflix series “The Crown” can visit one of Queen Elizabeth's favorite places, Sandringham House, April-November, while those intrigued by the May 2018 wedding of American actress Meghan Markle to Prince Harry can tour their wedding site, Windsor Castle. Oscar-watchers interested in “The Darkest Hour,” starring Gary Oldman as Prime Minister Winston Churchill during World War II, should visit the Churchill War Rooms museum in London. Also to keep in mind: The Lake District was just named a UNESCO World Heritage site. Visits by Americans to England were up 31 percent January-June 2017 compared with the same period in 2016, thanks in part to the U.S. dollar's strength against the British pound.

Concerns about terror attacks and unrest have dampened travel to Egypt, Turkey and other destinations in North Africa and the Middle East. But that's prompted interest in places in the region that are perceived as safe and just as compelling culturally, including Morocco and Jordan. In Africa, Ethiopia also popped up on a couple of where-to-go lists. Its magical attractions include the churches in Lalibela, carved from soft stone and dating to the 12th century.

Asia

U.S. visitors to Japan increased 10 percent January-October 2017 compared with the same period in 2016, and the upward trend is expected to continue as Japan pushes tourism ahead of the 2020 Summer Olympics. Where-to-go lists are highlighting not just Tokyo but also places like Sapporo and the Kii Peninsula, honored as a UNESCO World Heritage site for its pilgrimage routes and sacred mountains.

Beth Harpaz is the Associated Press travel writer.

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