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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In 1998, the Travelers Group merged with Citicorp to form Citigroup. However, the synergies between the banking and insurance arms of the company did not work as well as planned, so Citigroup spun off Travelers Property and Casualty into a subsidiary company in 2002, although it kept the red umbrella logo. Three years later, Citigroup sold Travelers Life & Annuity to MetLife. In 2003, Travelers bought renewal rights for Royal & SunAlliance Personal Insurance and Commercial businesses.
Once a sleepy second fiddle to Southern culinary powerhouses like Charleston and Nashville, Greenville is stepping into the limelight with hot new restaurants. The town will soon be home to an outpost of Sean Brock's heirloom-crop-focused Husk and a food-centric market hall called the Commons. Other recent additions include modern Italian spot Jianna from Michael Kramer (the opening executive chef of McCrady's in Charleston, pre-Brock) and the moody speakeasy lounge Vault & Vator. It's an impressive collection of quality restaurants for a city of just over 67,000.
For proof of Abu Dhabi’s burgeoning status as the cultural capital of the Middle East, look no further than Saadiyat Cultural District, which is quickly becoming a treasure trove of world-class art and groundbreaking architecture. The multibillion-dollar initiative has already resulted in one major project, the Jean Nouvel-designed Louvre Abu Dhabi, which opened in November. Though its construction was controversial, the museum has quickly become the premier creative beacon in the Emirates. Work is under way nearby on the Zayed National Museum, by Norman Foster; the Abu Dhabi Performing Arts Centre, by Zaha Hadid Architects; and the Frank Gehry-designed Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, which when completed will be the largest Guggenheim museum in the world. The city’s hotel-building campaign is also in full swing: this year Marriott debuted a 400-room hotel in the Al Forsan sports center, and next year will see the opening of the Abu Dhabi Edition and Saadiyat Rotana Resort & Villas. —Dylan Essertier
Rising above its associations with the annual hot-air-balloon festival, Albuquerque will this year set out to prove itself as a fully-fledged destination. The Sawmill District, just north of the historic Old Town, is being revived as a creative center, anchored by the arrival of the Hotel Chaco. The design of this boutique property, which opened in April, is inspired by the state’s indigenous culture, with handmade Navajo wool textiles and pueblo-inspired motifs. Come spring, downtown ABQ will also see the arrival of a new entertainment hub: the $40 million One Central, which will have a sleek bowling lounge, as well as upscale stores and restaurants. And just outside town, visitors will soon be able to experience the striking Sandia Mountains in a nail-biting new way. The proposed Mountain Coaster, an alpine sled-style ride that plunges riders down the mountainside in a total vertical drop of 380 feet, is due to open this fall. Getting to Albuquerque is becoming even easier, thanks to new nonstop flights from major U.S. cities via Southwest, United, and Alaska Airlines. —Melanie Lieberman
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Leaf-peeping and a thriving farm-to-table food scene (the country’s first CSA sprouted here) lure out-of-towners to the bucolic far western corner of Massachusetts. But the arts have long been their own major draw: Tanglewood, the Clark Art Institute, and the Williamstown Theatre Festival all call the area home, as does MASS MoCA, a popular modern art destination housed in a circa-1800s textile mill in North Adams.
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