The Big Easy turns the Big 3-0-0 this year, and in this city where the good times roll, the parties will be epic — think citywide art shows, supersized Mardi Gras parades, and a festival of lights using landmark buildings as backdrops. Thirteen years after Hurricane Katrina, there is much to celebrate: The Central Business District, once a dead zone after dark, now crackles at all hours thanks to four new hotels (the Ace, Troubadour, Catahoula, and NOPSI), each with its own rooftop bar. The neighborhood is also home to new restaurants like Maypop — a Vietnamese-Creole joint from acclaimed chef Michael Gulotta. Another area coming to life is the three-mile riverfront, where a renovated Spanish Plaza will reopen this spring. More riverfront updates, including a new Four Seasons Hotel, will roll out in the next few years. Toast the tricentennial at the Sazerac House, a French Quarter museum dedicated to the official cocktail of New Orleans, opening later this year. —Allison Entrekin
Though decades of civil war made parts of the island unsafe, tourism is on the rise in Sri Lanka, where international visitors exceeded 2 million for the first time in 2016. The momentum is particularly strong along the south coast, which has the highest concentration of hotels and resorts after Colombo. The 172-room Amari resort recently opened on the beachfront in Galle (known for its UNESCO-protected Dutch fortress) with ocean views from every balcony. Water also plays a central role at Alila Koggala, a new luxury eco-resort with 36 suites and private villas, opening 20 minutes outside of Galle in June. The property sits on the serene shores of Lake Koggala and will feature an ayurvedic spa where treatments can be taken on a platform floating on the lake. Further along the south coast, Mirissa Beach is attracting travelers in need of a full mind-body reset. The laid-back surfer town — think Venice Beach minus the tech crowd — comes alive at night with bars and barbecue restaurants overlooking the turquoise bay; when you’re ready to turn in, there are earthy, low-key lodges peppered throughout the jungle, such as Surf & Yoga, which offers daily on-site yoga and private surf lessons. —Alex Schechter
It’s easy to see why this outcrop of land just an hour’s drive from Melbourne has long been a weekend retreat for the city’s well-heeled residents. Rolling vineyards in its interior give way to seaside villages and sandy shoreline. Travelers can swim with wild dolphins, visit wineries on horseback, or soar above the landscape in a gondola. And with a new flurry of openings, the region has begun to attract global attention. The latest addition is Point Leo Estate on the peninsula’s southernmost point. Set on 330 acres, it combines a tasting room, a 110-seat fine-dining restaurant, and a sculpture park, with more than 50 works by Australian and international artists like George Rickey and Inge King. Its arrival follows the launch of Jackalope, a seductive, art-infused boutique hotel neighboring a working winery. Elsewhere, Peninsula Hot Springs, a day spa set amid geothermal pools, is slated to unveil seven new pools and a new treatment list in 2018. —Carrie Hutchinson
Florida vacations can be anything you want them to be. Whether your idea of a great time is camping in a nature preserve, building sand castles, shopping at outlet or boutique malls, trying local cuisine at fine restaurants, tubing down rivers or riding roller coasters, tailoring a trip to your own level of adventure or relaxation is easy when you visit Florida. The state is filled with things to do, people to meet and places to explore, and each region, city and neighborhood has carved out its own identity, suiting a variety of visitors of all ages.
A century ago, Shanghai was China’s star city, a cosmopolitan center of art, technology, and finance. Today, it’s reclaiming that mantle, parlaying the economic boom that began in the 1990s into a world-class array of cultural and culinary attractions. On the West Bund riverfront, Tank Shanghai will transform disused oil tanks into a sprawling arts complex with a gallery, an education center, and parks when it’s completed later this year. Farther north, the Norman Foster and Thomas Heatherwick–designed Fosun Foundation, with its façade of shifting bronze cylinders, began hosting performances and art shows last fall. The North Bund is being redeveloped with a park linking it to a new lifestyle development that’s anchored by the city’s first W Hotel. In the residential Minhang district, Cordis debuted in May, and Amanyangyun will open nearby after relocating Ming and Qing dynasty buildings, as well as 10,000 ancient camphor trees, from Jiangxi province. More luxury stays are still to come in 2018, including the Middle House, the Bulgari, and the Edition. —Samantha Culp
Although the former Soviet republic might seem remote, Uzbekistan once sat at the very center of the world. In the first millennium, no traveler could pass from Asia to Europe without stopping in the Silk Road strongholds of Bukhara and Samarkand, and as a result these cities evolved into rich cultural centers. For intrepid travelers, today’s Uzbekistan is a promised land: a Muslim-majority nation that’s both safe and affordable, with few tourists and an abundance of well-preserved mosques and harems. And since the death of authoritarian president Islam Karimov last year, the new regime has taken steps toward reform that have given both Uzbeks and the international community reason for optimism. Improving relations with Iran could soon bring a rail link to the Persian Gulf, and in 2016, the Afrosiyob high-speed-train line began connecting the country’s major cities. Meanwhile, Uzbekistan should benefit from the so-called Iron Silk Road, or Trans-Asian Railway — a Chinese-funded network of routes knitting together Beijing and Europe — once a segment connecting the country through Kyrgyzstan is completed. Book a customized journey with Exeter International, which specializes in the region. —Heidi Mitchell
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A picture-perfect trio of islands lapped by turquoise waters, the Maltese archipelago has all the charm of nearby Sicily with far fewer tourists. Valletta, the tiny nation’s capital and a UNESCO World Heritage site, feels like something plucked straight from Westeros. The historic walled city dates back to 1565, and has a vibe that’s Mediterranean with a North African twist. This underrated destination is finally stepping into the global limelight as a 2018 European Capital of Culture. To celebrate the occasion, the city has planned more than 140 projects and 400 events throughout the year. The festivities begin on January 20, with contemporary dance, a choral symphony, and acrobatic performances across the city’s four main squares. Should you miss the grand opening, swing by in February for Carnival, or in June for the Malta International Arts Festival and the Valletta Film Festival. —Diana Hubbell
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Often overlooked in favor of more-developed, splashier neighbors like Hvar or Brač, Šolta’s under-the-radar nature has proved a boon: The stony islet has become synonymous with pristine nature (pebbly beaches, turquoise waters, lush greenery), medieval villages, winemaking (try the indigenous Dobričić variety), and family-run olive oil purveyors like Olynthia, a fourth-generation producer. After watching the sun set at Maslinica bay, check out the island’s peppering of stylish beach clubs, seaside bars, and open-air restaurants — then drop your bags at the Heritage Hotel Martinis-Marchi, built inside an 18th-century Venetian fort-castle and ideally situated for those who want to explore Šolta’s ancient villages and crystal-clear bays. —Kate Springer
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That network can island off from the larger grid and run on its own, at least for a limited time, if there is a blackout. — David Roberts, Vox, "Clean energy technologies threaten to overwhelm the grid. Here’s how it can adapt.," 30 Nov. 2018 The 21 percent that nest on the Kerguelen Islands in the Indian Ocean and the Falkland and Tierra del Fuego islands close to South America would find their nesting grounds altered and would have to travel farther to find food and so might relocate. — Karen Weintraub, New York Times, "King Penguins Are Endangered by Warmer Seas," 26 Feb. 2018 In the offshore world, wealthy people and corporations use the banking systems of low-tax countries, often island nations in the Caribbean, to shield their assets from taxing authorities in their home countries. — David Heinzmann, chicagotribune.com, "Tribune exclusive: Pritzker's secret offshore holdings revealed in Chicago duck boat land deal," 14 Mar. 2018 Critics have said the exemption allowed UBS Group AG to sell funds to island residents that later suffered big losses, wiping out many clients’ life savings. — Ryan Tracy, WSJ, "Lawmakers Expand Scope of Senate Bank-Deregulation Bill," 7 Mar. 2018 To find out why, researchers set out cameras to record clownfish behaviors near North Solitary and Lord Howe islands along Australia’s east coast. — Jennifer Leman, Science | AAAS, "Why some clownfish are boring," 14 Dec. 2017 Authorities were letting residents and business owners to return to Upper Keys islands close to the mainland Tuesday morning, but people from the Lower Keys faced a longer wait. — Jennifer Kay And Doug Ferguson, chicagotribune.com, "Florida makes slow moves toward recovery after Hurricane Irma," 12 Sep. 2017 Dr Toomey’s findings stem from his analysis of sediment cores collected near the Dry Tortugas, islands off Florida’s coast. — The Economist, "PalaeoclimatologyTraces of old hurricanes show how hard climate science is," 19 Oct. 2017 The island was largely spared the widespread damage caused by Hurricane Irma on the chain's St. Thomas and St. John islands just two weeks ago. — Carlisle Jno Baptiste And Danica Coto, chicagotribune.com, "Hurricane Maria aims at Puerto Rico after slamming Dominica," 19 Sep. 2017
The Greek highway system has seen several recent upgrades, with a new route making the 2,000-year-old olive trees and lesser-visited ruins of the Peloponnese, the country’s southernmost swathe of mainland, more accessible. Completed in late 2016, the new A71 highway from Lefktro to Sparta shaves off two hours of driving time from Athens, and has also connected the Lefktro region to nearby Kalamata Airport, about 90 minutes away. Meanwhile, ports have been expanded at Gytheio and Katakolon — the latter a stopping point for the Viking Star, which launched in 2014. Farming is still integral to the region, and agritourism resorts like Eumelia constantly refresh their food and wellness-themed workshops, in addition to serving local dishes like maniatiki pasta with dry mizithra cheese, and moustokouloura, or cookies made with grape molasses. Goddesses seeking more temple-like accommodations should head to Porto Heli, on the eastern side of the Peloponnese, where everyone is talking about Amanzoe’s new Villa 31, a serene space with grandstand views of the surrounding coastline that contains a unique installation by light artist James Turrell. —Adam Harney Graham
With its recent 150th anniversary celebration, pop-culture cred (Drake, Ryan Gosling, and Justin Bieber have Canadian roots), and charismatic prime minister, the Great White North has finally begun to receive the international recognition it deserves — and Toronto has been preening itself for this lead role. Luxe properties and forward-thinking restaurants have been popping up across the city: there’s Queen Street’s historic Broadview Hotel, which reopened in the burgeoning East End with guest-room details like vinyl turntables and burgundy velvet drapes, and the stylish Bisha Hotel downtown, where the likes of Lenny Kravitz and celebrity chef Akira Back have lent their design and culinary expertise. In stereotypically modest Canadian fashion, Brothers Food + Wine — one of the city’s most exciting new openings — is housed inside a tiny, nondescript space just above the Bay Street subway station, but dazzles with seasonal dishes like crispy steelhead trout with braised gem lettuce and yogurt-and-caper sauce. Next up: in Spring 2018, the Museum of Contemporary Art will move into a century-old former factory in the Junction Triangle. —Jennifer Salerno
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This year is San Antonio’s 300th anniversary, and the city is marking the occasion with events, activities, and new infrastructure. Ahead of the festivities, there’s been a flurry of development: In the past few months, the botanical gardens completed an expansion; the city’s first food hall, the Bottling Department, debuted at the Pearl; and San Antonio’s iconic passenger barges got an upgrade, with colorful electric models replacing the old gas-fueled boats. In January, the city will unveil Confluence Park, an expanse of trails and science-focused education facilities near the convergence of San Pedro Creek and the San Antonio River. A commemorative week is planned for early May, with celebrations at each of San Antonio’s five missions and the dedication of San Pedro Creek Culture Park, a once-unremarkable drainage ditch that’s been transformed into a waterfront promenade with public art and performance spaces. Ruby City, a new David Adjaye–designed art center that will house more than 800 pieces from the Linda Pace Foundation Collection, is expected to be completed at the end of 2018. And boutique stays still in the works — including a Thompson Hotel and the third location of the Saint Hotel — hint that San Antonio’s heyday is just beginning. —Devorah Lev-Tov