Where the Action is in 2012: Ten Handpicked Travel Hotspots
Chic nomads always go where the action is, so we've put together our list of 10 handpicked travel hotspots for 2012. From design shows to local festivals to the Olympic games, we've got them all covered. Happy trails, nomads!
Where: London, UK
What: Summer Olympics 2012
When To Go: July 27- August 12
This one's kind of a no-brainer, but our list of hotspots for 2012 would be incomplete without mentioning the Summer Olympics in London this year. The city's poured millions into getting ready for the event, including the construction of a brand new stadium by noted sports architecture firm Populous. But it's not like you need an excuse to visit the historic and fascinating city of London; as Samuel Johnson once wrote, "When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life."
Special nomad tip: Every hotel room in the city has probably been booked by now, so seek alternate lodgings in the form of modern vacation rentals or backyard campgrounds.
Where: Lviv, Ukraine
What: Beer Feast/Euro 2012
When to Go: June 10-12
The Ukraine is emerging from many decades in the shadow of Russia and expects a sharp increase in tourism in 2012 due to the UEFA European Football Championship (known colloquially as Euro 2012). Picturesque, historic Lviv is a city in the Western Ukraine that's been called the "little Paris" of the country because of the European influences that have shaped its unique culture. The Lviv city center is a UNESCO Heritage Site. Along with hosting a few Euro 2012 soccer matches, Lviv is throwing an international beer fest with vendors from all over Europe, special exhibits, theatrical performances, and tasting sessions for beer enthusiasts.
Special nomad tip: The Ukraine is well-known to be the home of some of the most attractive women in the world. Just saying.
Where: San Francisco
What: The Golden Gate Festival
When To Go: May 26-27
The justly adored and famed Golden Gate Bridge is celebrating 75 years of connecting the gorgeous city of San Francisco to the beautiful environs of Marin County with a 2-day festival held right in the city. Live music performances, movie screenings, bike rides, photo exhibitions, and organized tours are all on the schedule for the fest, which will be held along the San Francisco waterfront, stretching from Pier 39 to Fort Point. Check out more at the Golden Gate Festival's website.
Special nomad tip: Consider staying in the East Bay (we recommend the Berkeley hills) and BARTing into San Francisco to cut down on inevitable parking hassles/tickets.
Where: Belfast, Northern Ireland
What: The Titanic Experience
When To Go: From April 2012 onwards
This Northern Irish city will be catering to the Titanic historians from March 31st onwards with the opening of the Titanic Experience, a brand new educational center and museum dedicated to the ill-fated ocean liner that was built in Belfast. The museum is contained in an architecturally stunning building constructed on the banks of the River Lagan, where the Titanic first set sail. Visitors to the Titanic Experience will get a cohesive experience encompassing the historical and narratives that have sprung up around this storied ship, as well as the chance to see the Titanic as it is now thanks to a state-of-the-art Ocean Exploration Center.
Where: Venlo, Netherlands
What: Floriade 2012
When To Go: April 5th-October 7th
Floriade is a very cool international gardening and horticulture festival that only happens once every ten years. 2012 is one of those years! This year's Floriade has the theme "Be part of the theatre in nature; get closer to the quality of life." Organizers are busy setting up tons of wonderful events that will appeal to adults and children alike, including live music and performances, film screenings, light shows, and acrobatic displays; and, of course, miles and miles of beautiful flowers. The center of Floriade will be the Floriade Harvest Show, a mix of dance, music, and theater performed by artists from Africa and Latin America, that will run Tuesday through Sunday throughout the duration of the festival. Floriade 2012 is not to be missed by anyone who just wants to stop and smell the flowers.
Special Nomad Tip: Try and visit from mid-June to August, when you'll be able to enjoy the balmy summer night by visiting the pavilions, shops, and stalls on the Boulevard or hanging out at the Floriade Beach Club. Don't worry about missing any of the action at the Olympics or Euro 2012: the club plans on televising all of the matches.
Where: Orleans, France
What: Joan of Arc Festival
When To Go: May 1-8
Forget your local Renaissance Faire and get medieval in Orleans in 2012. Every year the city of Orleans commemorates the liberation of Orleans from British forces by Joan of Arc, the peasant girl turned divine warrior and patron saint of France, by throwing a huge festival that recreates the time period of Joan's life. During the first week of May, visitors to Orleans can take in the sights and smells of an authentic medieval marketplace, root for their own knight in several jousting matches, check out battle reenactments, enjoy the antics of clowns and jugglers, and experience a nightly light show. This festival has been going on for over 500 years, so it's safe to assume the people of Orleans know how to get down.
Special Nomad Tip: Orleans is located on the eastern side of the Loire Valley, an area of France that is full of beautiful chateaus built by the French nobility over the centuries. Only a short distance from Orleans is Chateau Sully-sur-Loire, a 14th century castle once visited by Joan of Arc herself.
Where: Helsinki, Finland
What: World Design Capital 2012
When To Go: All year
Scandinavia has been enjoying a reputation for high-class fashion and cutting edge food in recent years. Now Helsinki, the capital city of Finland, has been named World Design Capital for 2012. The city is celebrating its designation with a year-round series of events focusing on the integration of design and community as reflected in the open spaces of Helsinki. Don't look for light shows and beach clubs here; instead, explore the many art exhibits and sign up for seminars that will introduce you to the clean lines and eco-friendly methods of contemporary Finnish design.
Special Nomad Tip: After getting your fill of modern design in Helsinki, head over to Porvoo, a well-preserved and picturesque medieval town on Porvoo River just 50 kilometers east of the capital (go in the cooler months to avoid crowds).
Where: Austin, Texas
What: South by Southwest Music Festival
When to Go: March 9th-18th
The capital city of Texas calls itself the "Live Music Capital of the World" and this is definitely true during South by Southwest, Austin's annual music and film festival. Thousands of people descend upon the city to feast on authentic Tex-Mex food, attend workshops, network with fellow music lovers, and rock out to a huge assortment of bands playing in multiple genres who take up residence daily and nightly in the many venues, bars, and clubs of downtown Austin.
Special Nomad Tip: It's impossible to park or drive in downtown Austin during the festival, so locals advise that visitors look for hotels that are located along the along the Night Bus route. Almost all the buses run until 3am, giving you plenty of time to party down Texas-style.
Where: Havana, Cuba
What: 11th Havana Biennial
When to Go: May 11th – June 11th
Once completely off-limits to Americans, the Obama administration has opened up travel routes to Cuba making it easier than ever to finally enjoy the sultry, sexy city of Havana. Of course there are still some restrictions, the main one being a ban on trips made for leisure purposes. But don't let that stop you! Head over to Havana in the month of May to participate in the 11th Havana Biennial, a month-long conference that will bring over 100 Cuban artists and historians to Havana for an exploration of art and culture. Apply for your credential here.
Special Nomad Tip: Did you know hitch-hiking is not only legal in Cuba, it's the law! (Due to the fact that most people on the island don't own cars.) In fact, government vehicles are obliged to pick up hitchers and there can be consequences if they fail to do so. There are official hitch-hiker stopping points outside of all the major towns and cities. However, always be careful when hitch-hiking and NEVER do it alone. But if you can manage it, hitch-hiking is by far the best and most economical way to get around Cuba.
Where: Puebla, Mexico
What: International Mole Festival
When to Go: May 2nd-3rd
The colonial mountain city of Puebla has been an up and coming destination for many years now, with the San Francisco Chronicle calling it one of the safest places for tourists in Mexico and Lonely Planet giving the city a coveted spot on their "must-go" list for 2012. Foodies should mark off two dates in early May to attend the 2-day International Mole Festival, during which chefs from all over Mexico and indeed the world will gather to celebrating the iconic (and delicious) Mole Poblano, Puebla's contribution to world cusine.
Special Nomad Tip: While you're in town, why not just stay a few extra days and join in celebrating the 150th anniversary of Cinco de Mayo, the day the Poblanos held off French forces despite being vastly outnumbered. No spring-break style celebrations here: the day will be marked with a large parade marshalled by President of Mexico Felipe Calderón and featuring over 50 decorated floats from all over the country.