Beth J. Harpaz
Rio and Cuba. The Pope's Year of Mercy and artist Christo's walk on water. Philadelphia, Cleveland and the next U.S. president. Super Bowl in California and the Indy 500 at 100. A centennial for America's National Park Service, 400 years since Shakespeare died and 500 years of pure German beer.
These are among the places and events driving travel in 2016.
RIO AND THE OLYMPICS: Rio de Janeiro hosts the Summer Olympics, Aug. 5-21.
SUPER BOWL 50: America's most important football game takes place Feb. 7 at the San Francisco 49ers' stadium in Santa Clara, California. San Francisco hosts a free public fan village, Super Bowl City, and other pre-game events beginning Jan. 30.
PHILADELPHIA AND CLEVELAND: Democrats choose their presidential candidate at a convention in Philadelphia on July 25-28. Republicans choose their candidate in Cleveland on July 18-21.
CUBA MANIA: Cuban tourism will likely keep booming after a year in which visits by Americans rose more than 50 per cent and travel from elsewhere surged, too.
ROME'S YEAR OF MERCY AND CHRISTO'S WALK ON WATER: Up to 10 million pilgrims may visit Rome during Pope Francis' Holy Year of Mercy, which began Dec. 8 and runs through November 2016. Events include the September canonization of Mother Teresa. And in northern Italy, fans of Christo will walk on water thanks to his "Floating Piers" project on Lake Iseo in Lombardy, June 18-July 3, weather permitting. The 3-kilometre (2-mile) walkway will consist of floating cubes covered in shimmering yellow fabric. Lakeside mountains will offer a bird's-eye view.
NATIONAL PARKS: The National Park Service turns 100 on Aug. 25. A campaign called "Find Your Park" is designed to inspire a new generation to visit. Individual parks marking centennials include Acadia in Maine, established as a national monument July 8, 1916; Lassen Volcanic National Park in California; and in Hawaii, Volcanoes and Haleakala parks, originally part of Hawaii National Park.
SHAKESPEARE: Seems like only yesterday that William Shakespeare died, but it was 400 years ago, on April 23, 1616. His birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon, and many other places around England plan tours, performances, festivals and exhibitions.
GERMANY AND BEER: Happy Oktoberfest! Germany celebrates 500 years since the Reinheitsgebot was signed into law on April 23, 1516, guaranteeing beer purity by specifying its ingredients.
NEW MUSEUMS: The National Museum of African American History and Culture opens fall 2016 on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., part of the Smithsonian Institution. Objects range from slave shackles to Louis Armstrong's trumpet to a segregation-era railcar.
The Met Breuer, a modern and contemporary art space for the Metropolitan Museum, opens March 18 in New York City. The landmark building designed by Marcel Breuer on Madison Avenue and 75th Street formerly housed the Whitney Museum, which moved downtown.
The Louvre Abu Dhabi is supposed to open in late 2016, but the project has been repeatedly delayed and plagued by controversies over the treatment of workers.
INDY 500 AT 100: The Indy 500, one of the most famous car races in the world, celebrates its centennial May 29 in Indianapolis. A citywide celebration with parties, concerts and more is planned. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is also undergoing a $100 million renovation.
GLACIERS AND NORTHERN LIGHTS: Northern lights and other magical winter experiences are drawing more tourists in the coldest, darkest months of the year to places like Alaska, Iceland and Norway. Norway has also seen more tourists from fans of the movie "Frozen."
Glaciers around the world have become must-sees, too, as some tourists worry that glaciers may disappear due to climate change. Glacier National Park in Montana has been experiencing record tourism, including over 2.5 million visitors in 2015.
SAFARIS: The new year may also be a big one for trips to see Africa's wildlife. Botswana marks its 50th anniversary of independence, and South Africa and East Africa — especially Tanzania and Zimbabwe, which are offering new safari options — are on several travel industry lists for top destinations in 2016.
THEME PARKS: Shanghai Disney Resort opens in China in spring 2016 with the tallest, grandest castle of any Disney park. Other Disney news: a new "Frozen" boat ride at Epcot; a new "Frozen" stage show at Disney California Adventure; new "Star Wars" experiences at Disney parks on both coasts; and at Disney's Animal Kingdom in Florida, night tours and a "Rivers of Light" nighttime illumination show.
Universal Hollywood in Los Angeles opens its own Wizarding World of Harry Potter on April 7. Universal Orlando Resort in Florida expects a summer opening for Skull Island: Reign of Kong, themed on King Kong.
AND DON'T FORGET:
—A massive Noah's Ark attraction opens in northern Kentucky in July.
—Las Vegas gets two major debuts in April: The Park, an outdoor area with restaurants, entertainment and more, and the Arena, a concert venue with performances scheduled by George Strait, Janet Jackson and Garth Brooks.
—Australia is turning up on many travel industry lists of top places to go in 2016. The island of Tasmania in particular — known for wildlife and scenery — is seeing record numbers of visitors.
—The strong U.S. dollar is expected to drive more travel abroad by Americans.