14 Festivals and Events Worth Traveling For in 2014

January 22, 2014 by

Festivals & Events, Things to Do

Fed up with lazing on the beach or vacationing on the piste? Start planning your next trip right here as 2014 is panning out as a bumper year for travelers chasing a little more substance for their buck. There are major-league sporting events to attend all over the world and a cluster of poignant war anniversaries in Europe as well as landmark events in America.

February: Winter Olympics, Sochi, Russia

Sochi

Snowing in the Krasnava Polyana mountains near Sochi, site of the 2014 Olympics. Image courtesy of Alex Grechman on Flickr.

What with the fake snow, potentially mild temperatures and the constant underlying threat of terrorism, Russia’s 2014 Winter Olympics at Sochi on the Black Sea will certainly attract the attention of the world. These concerns may not detract some spectators from travelling to witness the thrill of high-speed competition in the newly created winter-sports paradise of Rosa Khutor 40 miles (64 km) north of Sochi, where the curling, ice hockey, speed and figure skating will take place in the innovative and brand-new Bolshoi Ice Dome.

From here, brand-new cable cars will take competitors and spectators up to 7,610 feet (2,320 m) in the Krasnava Polyana mountains where the downhill and snowboarding events will be played out on brand-new powder-perfect pistes. The cross-country races will be held in the smaller (but also brand new) resort of Gazprom Laura and the Olympic ski jump will take place in Gornaya Carusel – yes, you’ve guessed it, brand new too. For those who are not entranced by snow or skiing, Sochi itself is a buzzing city with plenty of culture to offer visitors.

March: Heineken Regatta, St Maarten, Caribbean

Sailing an America’s Cup boat in St Maarten. Image courtesy of Sasha Heseltine.

Sailing an America’s Cup boat in St Maarten. Image courtesy of Sasha Heseltine.

March brings more high-adrenaline sport but in a very different climate. The 34th Heineken Regatta takes place in St Maarten March 6th to 9th and is now the largest in the Caribbean, providing breathtakingly sharp yacht racing – over 200 boats and their party-loving crews have entered various classes for 2014 – in perfect sunny sailing conditions.

As expected of any self-respecting event in the Caribbean, the regatta is accompanied with four nights’ worth of feasting and raucous partying along with rock stars Wyclef Jean, the Black-Eyed Peas and Soca band Kes. If you want to do more than spectate, grab a rare opportunity to race an ex-America’s Cup boat aided by a professional crew. If ocean racing’s not your bag, invest in some seriously high-end shopping along Philipsburg’s Front Street or chill on some of the finest beaches in the Caribbean.

Try out a St. Maarten 12 Metre Challenge yourself!

April: Grand Prix, Shanghai, China

On the grid before the Grand Prix in Shanghai, China. Image courtesy of Dell’s Official Flickr Page on Flickr.

On the grid before the Grand Prix in Shanghai, China. Image courtesy of Dell’s Official Flickr Page on Flickr.

April sees world attention focused on the 11th Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai as the Formula 1 circus roars into town for its third race of 2014 (April 18-20). Preceded by a weekend of qualifying rounds and vying for pole position among leading teams Red Bull, Ferrari, McLaren and Mercedes, the race kicks off on Sunday 20th. If you can, get tickets for the main stand, which seats 29,000 and has views over 80% of the track. The race itself covers 190 miles (305 km) over 56 laps, all taken at speeds of up to 220 mph (350 km/h).

Although the reigning F1 champion is German Sebastian Vettel, the defending Chinese Grand Prix titleholder is Spanish driver Fernando Alonso. Glamorous Shanghai itself is an exciting city of more than 13 million people, with an enticing mixture of old and new architecture and culture; there are plenty of fashion stores, museums, fabulous restaurants and nightclubs to keep non-petrol heads entertained.

See the best of Shanghai on a tour

April: National September 11 Memorial Museum, New York, USA

At the National September 11 Memorial. Image courtesy of Beverly and Pack on Flickr.

At the National September 11 Memorial. Image courtesy of Beverly and Pack on Flickr.

Spring 2014 – final date TDB – will finally see the opening of the much-heralded museum at New York’s National September 11 Memorial, which itself opened September 11, 2011, the 10th anniversary of the tragedy. The museum’s displays will pay homage to the nearly 3,000 people who lost their lives in the Al Quaeda attacks of 9/11 with its 110,000 sq ft (10,220 sq m) of exhibition space used to commemorate the victims through personal stories, photos and artifacts; the details of what happened that day will be related chronologically; and portraits of all the victims will illustrate the enormity of the loss to human life.

Quiet galleries will allow visitors to mourn and pay their respects in privacy. Millions are expected to visit the memorial and museum over the coming years – and on a lighter note the myriad charms of New York are but a step away.

Tour New York’s top attractions with our Viator VIP: Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty and 9/11 Memorial

June: 70th anniversary, D-Day, Normandy, France

WWII veterans at the D-Day celebrations, Utah Beach 2012. Image courtesy of Archangel 12 on Flickr.

WWII veterans at the D-Day celebrations, Utah Beach 2012. Image courtesy of Archangel 12 on Flickr.

Allied political leaders and WWII veterans will pour into northern France over the summer (June 5 to August 21) to mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day, Operation Overlord and the Battle of Normandy; there is an extra poignancy to this anniversary as it will be the last major one in which veterans will play a part. Sword Beach is to be the venue for the celebrations of D-Day on June 6 and the entire event program is designed to pay tribute to the bravery of the many nations who took part in the liberation of Normandy from Germany.

Festivities include firework extravaganzas, memorial services, military parades and big-band concerts; a new wave of invaders – this time they come in peace – in their hundreds of thousands are anticipated to take part in the commemoration activities and to tour the somber battlefields, the raft of new war museums, the landing beaches and war cemeteries of Normandy.

Visit the sites on a Normandy Battlefields Tour

June: 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil

Ipanema Beach, Rio – almost as tempting as World Cup soccer. Image courtesy of Kind Man on Flickr.

Ipanema Beach, Rio – almost as tempting as World Cup soccer. Image courtesy of Kind Man on Flickr.

Brazil will dominate TV screens across the world from June 12 to July 13 as it gears up to the 20th soccer World Cup, when a total of 64 matches will be played in 12 cities across the country – including amazing Rio with its ‘Christ the Redeemer’ statue and famous beach beauties, São Paolo, Brasilia, Natal and even Manaus in the depths of the Amazon rainforest. Spain is the defending world champion but at the moment the sensible money is on either Brazil or Argentina to triumph in 2014.

In readiness for receiving nearly two million footie fans, Brazil has constructed new hotels and campsites in all host cities, updated transport systems and built several futuristic new stadiums. Whether your team wins or not, the whole month is likely to be party time, with bars, restaurants and nightclubs staying open and celebrating late into the night; if Brazil wins expect the mother of all street parties. Soccer supporters heading for matches in Manaus should build in some free time to explore the world’s largest unspoiled tropical rainforest. And if you miss Brazil this time around, it’ll be playing center stage again in 2016 for the Olympic Games.

See a different side of Brazil with an Amazon Rainforest Survival Tour from Manaus

July: Tour de France, Yorkshire, UK

Cycling in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales, host of the first two stages of the Tour de France 2014. Image courtesy of Tejvan on Flickr.

Cycling in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales, host of the first two stages of the Tour de France 2014. Image courtesy of Tejvan on Flickr.

In a spectacular double whammy in the tourism stakes, the UK’s northern county of Yorkshire has fast become one of the foremost go-to places in the world. It’s also where the Tour de France will stage its Grand Départ following Sir Bradley Wiggins’s win in 2012. The world’s most famous cycle race will start off from Leeds on Saturday July 4 and will take in two stages through Harrogate and the challenging Dales, giving the dramatic countryside a chance to shine on the world stage in front of millions of visitors and many more millions of TV viewers. And while the scenery in God’s own country is truly divine, you’ll find the beer’s not bad either.

July: Commonwealth Games, Glasgow, Scotland

 The award-winning Riverside Museum in Glasgow, a city revitalized for the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Image courtesy of Ronnie Macdonald on Flickr.

The award-winning Riverside Museum in Glasgow, a city revitalized for the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Image courtesy of Ronnie Macdonald on Flickr.

Anyone who still regards Glasgow as a mess of decaying shipyards and rundown slums should head for the 2014 Commonwealth Games – they’ll soon discover that Scotland’s biggest city has been transformed. Glasgow’s rejuvenation was kick-started when the city was awarded European City of Culture status in 1990 – and with the advent of Zaha Hadid’s award-winning Riverside Museum, the SSE Hydro, other new sports venues, upgraded transport links, and a multi-million pound facelift that has seen the abandoned docks regenerated, Glasgow is truly on the up and up.

For 12 days beginning July 23, the 20th Commonwealth Games will infiltrate the city; 15 venues from Ibrox Stadium (rugby) and Hampden Park (athletics) to the newly named Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome (cycling) and the futuristic Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre Precinct will host the sporting action. And it’s all too easy to escape into an amazing Scottish landscape of lochs and mountains just a stone’s throw from the city center.

Visit the city’s top sights on a Glasgow City Hop-On Hop-Off Tour

August: 70th Anniversary, Warsaw Uprising, Poland

Monument to the Warsaw Uprising in 1944. Image courtesy of Do Not Lick on Flickr.

Monument to the Warsaw Uprising in 1944. Image courtesy of Do Not Lick on Flickr.

The Polish resistance movement’s heroic last stand against the retreating Germans in 1944 saw the capital city held under siege by Nazi soldiers for 63 days while the advancing Soviet troops conveniently ‘looked the other way’ instead of coming to Warsaw’s rescue. During the insurgency more than 200,000 Poles, mainly civilians, were killed and the city razed. The 70th anniversary will be soberly celebrated on August 1 in Warsaw with the release of the riveting movie Warsaw Rising, patched together from authentic black-and-white footage of the rebellion, and the open-air screening on August 1 of Polish director Jan Komasa’s City 44 about the uprising.

On the same day a special ceremony at the award-wining Warsaw Rising Museum commemorates the dead, the city comes to a halt at 5pm for a minute’s silence – led by Polish President Komorowski – and a flame is lit at the Kopiec Powstania Warszawskiego Memorial and left burning for 63 days. Attending the memorial events also gives the chance to explore this under-rated city, with its elegant heart, Baroque palaces, and beautifully reconstructed Old Town – the original of which was incidentally also a victim of WWII.

August: 100th Anniversary, Panama Canal, Panama

The Frank Gehry-designed Biodoversity Museum, built as part of the celebrations for the centenary of the Panama Canal. Image courtesy of Patrick Denker.

The Frank Gehry-designed Biodoversity Museum, built as part of the celebrations for the centenary of the Panama Canal. Image courtesy of Patrick Denker.

Central America takes a turn in the world spotlight on August 14th as the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Panama Canal is celebrated; this awesome feat of early 20th-century engineering connects 144 sailing and cargo routes, 1,700 ports and 160 countries, handles five per cent of the world’s shipping cargo movements, employs more than 10,000 Panamanians and brings billions of dollars into the country annually. It’s small wonder that billions more have been spent on upgrading the canal, widening the locks and shipping lanes, and enlarging the ports.

In addition to the revitalization of Panama City’s old quarter of Casco Viejo and the upgrading of its many galleries and museums, 2013 saw the opening of the somewhat haphazard-looking Biodiversity Museum designed by Frank Gehry close to the newly expanded canal. If you’re there on the day, the whole of Panama City will be celebrating with music and dancing, street festivals and special cruises up and down the canal, while nightfall will bring a spectacular light and sound display over the Gulf of Mexico.

Learn more about the Canal and the city on a Panama City and Canal Sightseeing Tour

November: 25th Anniversary, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Germany

The Berlin Wall by the Brandenburg Gate in 1987, two years before it came down. Image courtesy of Hunter-Desportes on Flickr.

The Berlin Wall by the Brandenburg Gate in 1987, two years before it came down. Image courtesy of Hunter-Desportes on Flickr.

Marking the most significant event in Europe’s recent history, November 9 sees the anniversary of the collapse of Communism as symbolized by the peaceful tearing down of Berlin’s infamous wall in 1989. Built in 1961 during the Cold War –fundamentally to put a halt to the stream of 2.5 million poverty-stricken East Germans who had already escaped to the West – the wall stretched across the city, separating east from west, families from relatives, and capitalism from communism.

To commemorate the wall coming down, a unified Berlin will recreate its passage across the city with millions of floodlit white balloons; key sites such as Checkpoint Charlie and Invalidenstrasse will all be illuminated as well as the Berlin Wall Memorial on Bernauerstrasse, where a section of the wall has been turned into a thought-provoking outdoor museum. If you’re travelling to Berlin to join in the celebrations, take the chance to visit the innovative Cold War-related sights at BlackBox Cold War and the Assisi Panorama at Checkpoint Charlie.

Learn more about the history of Berlin on a Cold War Walking Tour of Berlin

All year:  Centenary of WW1

Grave of an unknown soldier from WWI. Image courtesy of R/DV/RS.

Grave of an unknown soldier from WWI. Image courtesy of R/DV/RS.

And finally, one of the most monumental centenaries ever and one that looks set to continue for four years; the year 2014 will see the whole world come together to commemorate the senseless loss of life in the 1914-18 Great War – the war that was supposed to end all wars, the war in which nearly 37 million people lost their lives. The first soldier killed was in Liège on August 4, 1914, and Belgium will lead the way in remembering the outbreak of war.

Numerous exhibitions and commemorative events are planned all over the battlefields of Flanders in northern Belgium and there will be remembrance services at the Somme in France on July 1, plus commemorative services and events throughout the year in both the UK and the US as well as major war-related exhibitions at many museums in Australia and New Zealand.

Take a tour of Flanders’ WWI sites on a Viator Exclusive: Private World War I Battlefields Tour of Flanders from Brussels

– Sasha Heseltine

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