EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

December 26, 2013

Destination 2014

The Olympics, the World Cup and commemorations of World War I, D-Day and the fall of the Berlin Wall are some of the events that will spotlight destinations like Sochi, Brazil, Sarajevo, Normandy and Berlin in 2014.

Elsewhere abroad, a potentially game-changing high-speed rail service has just launched linking Paris and Barcelona. Some travelers may now prefer the train over a plane, with the train ride cut in half to just over six hours between the two cities.

Back in the United States, St. Louis marks the 250th anniversary of its Feb. 15, 1764 founding with celebrations in February including a reenactment, parties and a music festival. Other events are planned throughout the year.

Harry Potter fans will have a new reason to visit Florida next summer when the Universal Orlando theme park opens a new area with attractions inspired by the books’ fictional scenes in Diagon Alley and London. A train called the Hogwarts Express will take visitors back and forth between the new Potter attractions — including a restaurant called the Leaky Cauldron — and Universal’s existing Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Universal also plans an 1,800-room 1960s-themed resort and eight new restaurants at the CityWalk dining area for 2014.

Nearby, Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., will open a new family coaster, the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, in the spring.

OLYMPICS AND WORLD CUP

The Winter Olympics, Feb. 7 to 23, take place in Sochi, a Russian Black Sea resort that’s one of the least-known Olympic destinations in years. The indoor events will be held in ice arenas on the coast, while skiing and snowboarding are in the Caucasus Mountains 30 miles (50 kilometers) inland. With its subtropical climate and lush greenery, the coastal area of Sochi has long been a popular destination; some elaborate worker resorts from the Stalinist era remain, and new winter resorts are under construction.

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