Arrange your 2014 travel calendar early. Julietta Jameson explores what's worth the trip, from musicals to marathons.
Always fancied a holiday to the Black Sea? Love winter sports? How about a trip that encompasses both, plus a visit to Moscow? Next year is a Winter Olympics year. Russia is hosting the games for the first time, so combining the world's best competitive ice and snow sports with an exploration of the Black Sea area in which they will be held and Russia's exotic capital is a standout travel opportunity.
In fact, 2014 is a spectacular year to combine sightseeing with events. The world calendar boasts three huge sporting occasions, a monumental historical centenary and some fabulous cultural premieres. It's all taking place far and wide: from Russia to Brazil; Scotland to Melbourne.
Fans from around the world are set to converge for each, partaking of a travel style that's become hugely popular - event tourism.
Individuals, friends, families, club members and whole associations - even loose, ragtag bunches like English cricket's Barmy Army - will follow their passion to its assigned epicentre for the year, then make a holiday of it.
"Travelling to special events is definitely rising in popularity as Australians seek out once-in-a-lifetime experiences," says Expedia Australia marketing executive Louise Crompton, adding that plenty of planning is key to making it a success.
"My tip for travellers planning to attend major events is to book transport and accommodation early as prices tend to fluctuate greatly in the lead-up to major events and availability can be limited. I'd also recommend comparing hotels before booking and ensuring you have transport to and from venues covered."
When the main event is over, make sure you've scheduled plenty of time to explore the region.
February 7-23, Sochi, Russia
The vibe: The celebrity Black seaside hang Sochi is the scene for Russia's first Winter Olympics. Australia is expected to send its biggest Winter Olympics team (more than 50 athletes) and expectations of success are high. After the disappointment of the Summer Olympics, that's an alluring prospect.
So too, the location. Greater Sochi combines Black Sea coastline with the mountainous World Heritage Sochi National Park. So although it's Russia's biggest summer sea resort, snow, and hopefully plenty of it, is expected at nearby alpine resort Krasnaya Polyana where the Olympic events will take place.
Add on The Russian capital, Moscow, is a mere two hours and 20 minutes away by plane. Sure, February is deep winter and boy, does Moscow have a winter, but the dark days and icy temperatures mean far fewer tourists and a chance to experience that fantasy place of fur hats, and ruddy cheeks you've seen in movies like Anna Karenina or Doctor Zhivago. If it gets too cold there's always indoors - the Kremlin, Moscow Museum and Pushkin Museum of Fine
Arts are just for starters.
Perfect timing - February 24-March 2 marks Maslenitsa, or Pancake Week, a festival that celebrates the passing of winter (temperatures are still around the minus 10 degrees mark). The Paralympics are in Sochi from March 7-16.
PREMIERE OF ALADDIN THE MUSICAL
March 20, New York City, United States
The vibe: Disney Theatrical Productions, which produced the stage musical hits The Lion King and Mary Poppins, has a much-anticipated newbie heading for Broadway - a show based on the 1992 animated film Aladdin.
The musical will open on Broadway at the New Amsterdam Theatre. Alan Menken, who composed the score for the movie, has written new songs for the show. Tony Award-winner Casey Nicholaw is directing and choreographing. The show, which producers are promising is a "theatrical experience beyond anything you've ever dreamed", opened for its settling-in run in Canada on November 1.
Add on: Make a trip of it with the Disney-obsessed kids and head over to Florida for a stay at Walt Disney World, the most visited attraction in the world. The huge complex is comprised of nine separate parks, including Magic Kingdom and Disney's Animal Kingdom parks, two water parks and the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. The range of onsite accommodation options includes 24 themed resorts.
iD DUNEDIN FASHION WEEK
March 30 - April 6, Dunedin, New Zealand
The vibe: Beautiful and quaint Dunedin on New Zealand's South Island has become a hub of creativity and design, with iD Dunedin Fashion Week a wonderful time to experience that side of the city.
Next year marks the 15th anniversary of the event and organisers are promising "prestigious overseas guests, retrospective celebrations, and the 10th anniversary of the iD International Emerging Designer Awards".
The festival features the southern hemisphere's longest catwalk, along the platform at Dunedin's historic railway station.
The iD International Emerging Designer Awards feature entries from some of the world's most prominent fashion schools.
Add on: Just outside Dunedin is the Otago Peninsula, a majestic coastline backed by wonderfully preserved historic houses.
Hire a car and drive through Otago, one of the world's finest wine regions and home to some spectacular pinot noir. The Central Otago route to Queenstown is ever-changing, with gorgeous natural scenery and historic towns.
MARATHON DE PARIS
April 6, Paris, France
The vibe: Travelling to actually participate in sporting events (as distinct from spectate) is huge business. And marathon runners make up a large segment of it. The appeal of running the streets of somewhere foreign, exotic and even iconic is in the "been there, done that" factor as much as anything, but when it comes to a run with spectacular scenery, the Paris marathon is one of the best.
The course skirts the banks of the Seine and takes up to 40,000 participants past some of the city's greatest attractions such as Notre Dame Cathedral and the Eiffel Tower. It finishes near the Arc de Triomphe. There's even free red wine and cheese for runners along the way.
Add on: You've rushed past all those beautiful monuments, now take some time to appreciate them. And if you're still champing at the bit for a challenge, the London-Paris Bike Ride is on later in the month.
COACHELLA VALLEY MUSIC AND ARTS FESTIVAL
April 11-13, April 18-20, Indio, California, United States
The vibe: A modern-day Woodstock in the Colorado Desert, California, just east of Palm Springs, Coachella attracts some of the best music artists from every genre and generation and has an amazing atmosphere of bonhomie. So good is it, that Paul McCartney has attended as a punter every year since he performed at the festival in 2009.
As the venerable Beatle has a new album out this year, there are strong rumours he'll perform again. Other big names with new albums imminent which would warrant a Coachella slot include Coldplay and Arcade Fire.
Look out for cool celebs in the crowd: past Coachella attendees include Emma Roberts, Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart.
Accommodation options range from glamping in safari tents to car camping. Otherwise, Coachella puts together packages with local hotels.
Add on: Go on a musical pilgrimage in LA. Hit the Sunset Strip, Whiskey-a-Go-Go, Viper Room and House of Blues, plus the Andaz West Hollywood, formerly Hyatt House, aka Riot House, where Led Zeppelin famously tossed a TV from a high-rise room into the swimming pool.
OPENING OF THE NATIONAL SEPTEMBER 11 MEMORIAL MUSEUM
Northern spring (March-May - a final opening date is yet to be announced), New York City, United States
The vibe: Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan, the spot where the World Trade Centre Twin Towers once stood, has served as a pilgrimage point for those seeking to honour the deaths of those killed in the 9/11 attacks and to reconcile their feelings about the awful event witnessed by an estimated third of the world's population.
Come mid-2014, there will be a new, poignant institution in that place, the National September 11 Memorial Museum.
A huge proportion of the place is dedicated to the memory of the nearly 3000 people who died at the site. It will display some of their possessions as well as recorded messages about them from family and friends. "Families have come to us with so many powerful objects because this is ultimately the place where the full story of 9/11 will be told permanently," Cliff Chanin, who is in charge of education at the new museum, told US media.
Add on: New York City is one of the greatest metropolises on earth. From the Statue of Liberty downtown to Central Park uptown, you can spend a week in the city and still miss plenty. Make a list of its greatest hits: the statue, the park, Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, Rockefeller Centre, museums, galleries and iconic restaurants and just go for it.
LES MISERABLES PREMIERE
June, Melbourne, Victoria
The vibe: Cameron Mackintosh's blockbuster musical Les Miserables, based on the Victor Hugo novel, first came to Australia in 1987, making stars of Marina Prior and Anthony Warlow. In its 30-odd year history, the show has played to more than 65 million people in 42 countries and the film version of 2012 only increased its appeal.
It's coming back to Australia, for a Melbourne production featuring new staging, scenery and orchestrations.
A relatively unknown cast is by the by - the show is the star and the theatre it's being staged in, the gorgeous Her Majesty's, is pretty stellar as well. For musical theatre fans, it's a must-see. Even for those with a passing interest in popular culture, such a touchstone of entertainment history is worth the visit.
Add on: Winter in Melbourne usually means one thing: footy. Catch an AFL match at the game's spiritual home, the MCG, or if the weather's a bit much, under the roof at "the dome", Etihad Stadium. Book a destination-style dining experience at the likes of Vue de Monde or Attica and hire a car for a jaunt down the Great Ocean Road. Even in inclemency, the spectacular southern coastline exudes rugged beauty.
FIFA WORLD CUP
June 12-July 13, Brazil -culminating in the final game on July 13 in Rio
The vibe: Rio de Janeiro is an inconvenient 13 hours behind Australian Eastern. Aussie sports lovers know what that means: sleepless nights in front of the TV as they camp out, hyped up on caffeine, determined to catch the marquee games of the soccer World Cup when it's played in a number of Brazilian cities, including Rio, for a month in mid-2014.
The more savvy will travel to the time zone to see the games live.
The 20th World Cup will see the beautiful game played in front of the world's most beautiful people, the Brazilians - and in one of the world's most beautiful cities, Rio de Janeiro.
Add on: A place of stunning beaches, backed by deep green jungle and misty peaks on one hand, sizzling hot metropolitan life and cultural depth on the other, it's readymade for a multi-faceted holiday away from the sporting arenas.
Don't miss Ipanema Beach, but if you want to venture farther, visit Sao Paulo and Salvador, both spectacular cities. At World Heritage Iguacu Falls on the Brazil/Argentina border, you'll encounter monkeys, butterflies and maybe see a jaguar.
July 23-August 3, Glasgow, Scotland
The vibe: If WADA and Jamaican sporting authorities can solve the problem of the Caribbean country's compliance issues in time, the man widely regarded as the fastest dude ever to pull on Lycra, Usain Bolt, will be setting the Queen's sporting carnival alight.
Even if they don't, the Commonwealth Games presents a terrific opportunity for athletics fans to see their other heroes
perform. There's less ticket pressure than at the Olympics and a more relaxed vibe.
Add on: Glasgow is a modern city with fabulous shopping, nightlife and culture. It's also old, with an intact medieval core and a ripper of a castle and cathedral.
An excellent cultural festival will run concurrent with the Commonwealth Games.
Beautiful Edinburgh is only an hour away. What's more, the famous Edinburgh International Festival, the largest arts event of its kind in the world, starts only five days after the games finish, while the military tattoo is on from August 1-23. The Fringe Festival coincides as well.
CENTENARY OF THE FIRST WORLD WAR
From August 4, London, England
The vibe: The £50 million ($84 million) plan to mark the centenary of the First World War, with a theme of reconciliation, will include a candle-lit vigil in Westminster Abbey and a concerted effort to educate children about how the war shaped not just modern history, but present-day life.
The Imperial War Museum in London will reopen in mid-2014 after the £35 million refurbishment of the World War I galleries. The National Portrait Gallery will have a special exhibition opening in February and there'll be lectures and other events all over Britain.
But August 4, being the day hostilities broke out, will be a key day of commemoration. Keep an eye out for announcements.
Add on: August is high summer in Britain. Take advantage of the weather and head into the countryside areas, such as the Cotswolds. Or stick with the World War I theme and visit such military landmarks as Cardiff Castle's
Museum of the Welsh Soldier.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Julietta Jameson would rather be in Rome but home town Melbourne is a happy compromise. A gypsy at heart, she loves hotels, train stations, airports and road trips (and inspiring others to love them, too).
EVENTS AROUND AUSTRALIA, 2014
MONA Foma, Jan 15-19
Kick off the year at the 5th annual festival, featuring Sun Ra Arkestra, Mick Harvey Does Serge Gainsbourg, the Orb, Matmos, John Grant, Pixar in Concert with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra and more. See Mofo.net.au.
HBF Rottnest Channel Swim, February 22
The 19.7-kilometre swim attracts seriously gutsy swimmers; see rottnestchannelswim.com.au.
White Night, February 22-23
A dusk-till-dawn festival that transforms the city via more than 80 free events "celebrating music, food, film, art and light". See whitenightmelbourne.com.au.
Power of the Past, March 1-2
This event at Mount Barker Oval bills itself as the largest annual display of historic and classic cars, trucks and motorbikes. It's free - hosted by the Adelaide Hills Motor Restorers Club, ahmrc.org.
Strictly Ballroom the Musical, March
The team behind thepopular 1992 movie, including Baz Luhrmann, Catherine Martin and Craig Pearce, bring the classic to the Lyric Theatre; strictlyballroomthemusical.com.
American Ballet at QPAC, August 28-September 7
The American Ballet Theatre visits Brisbane for an exclusive season at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre; qpac.com.au/americanballettheatre.