From Nov. 15 to Dec. 21, 1864, Maj. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman defied conventional military wisdom to lead Union troops on a devastating march from Atlanta (which they leveled and torched) to the Georgia coast 250 miles east. Somehow Sherman took Savannah without damaging its elegant buildings. So why not, 150 years later, take a peaceful trip to Savannah and environs? Among the many commemorative events across Georgia, Savannah-adjacent Ft. McAllister Historic Park will host a “winter muster” Dec. 13 and a daylong re-enactment Dec. 14. Don’t miss the Savannah Historic District, a grid of gracious public squares and private homes laid out in 1733.
Pictured: Forsyth Park in Savannah’s historic district.(Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
Often overlooked by rookies in Europe, Belgium this summer will be the somber host of many World War I centennial commemorations. Much of the action will be at Ypres, about 75 miles west of Brussels, where half a million soldiers died and poet John McCrae wrote “In Flanders fields the poppies blow/Between the crosses, row on row ….” A century later, the city of 35,000 expects half a million visitors. Most will head for the In Flanders Fields Museum (pictured), renovated and reopened in June 2012 in a 13th century building. Also, at 8 nightly a bugle or trumpet plays the “Last Post” at the city’s Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing, a ritual since the 1920s. A Flanders website tracks events at http://www.lat.ms/1acSODF. (Flanders Field Museum)
On Nov. 9, thousands will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall with “a border made of light” — 7 miles of the wall’s footprint festooned with illuminated balloons. Because the wall cut Berlin in half from 1961 to 1989, the city developed more cultural institutions than most other cities — two zoos, along with powerhouse museums such as the Pergamon (archaeology) and the New National Gallery (20th century art). In June and July, the German Historical Museum will host a special exhibition on World War I. From September through January 2015, the Martin-Gropius-Bau museum will host a major exhibition on “The World of the Vikings.”
Pictured: Potsdamer Platz in 2009, where segments of the Berlin Wall and informational panels traced the wall’s line.(Richard Derk / Los Angeles Times)
From June 12 through July 13, FIFA World Cup soccer takes over the country. Unless you’re crazy for it, don’t go then. But before or after, you may find an exhilarating country made slightly tidier and safer (www.visitbrasil.com), from the jaw-dropping geography of Rio de Janeiro to colonial Ouro Preto. Rio’s beachside Copacabana Palace Hotel (born in 1923) got a big revamp in 2012. Affordable lodgings such as Z.bra Hostel and Leblon Spot can be found in the trendy Leblon neighborhood. Slums and crime will remain, but with the Olympics set for 2016, authorities intend a major cleanup. In November, police and Navy commandos apparently restored the rule of law in the city’s largest slum, Rocinha, after 30 years of drug-gang rule.
Pictured: The Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro.(Dado Galdieri / Bloomberg)
These are big years for Brooklyn — a surge in restaurants, galleries, shops, hotels and gentrification anxiety unlike the borough has ever seen. Roam 585-acre Prospect Park (www.prospectpark.org), home to the Prospect Park Zoo. Gallery hop in the former factories of “Dumbo” (Down under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass). Try Bargemusic (www.bargemusic.org), a floating venue for classical music, or breakfast in Williamsburg’s farm-to-table Egg (www.eggrestaurant.com). Sleep in the 70-room Wythe Hotel (www.wythehotel.com; opened 2012) or the 64-room King & Grove Williamsburg (www.kingandgrove.com; opened 2013). Miss Manhattan? Walk a mile across the Brooklyn Bridge (pictured). (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
If your mental China map holds only Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai, add Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province. Once there, join throngs on all-pedestrian Jinli Ancient Street. Spy on senior citizens doing tai chi in People’s Park. Sip tea while watching Sichuan Opera. Taste spicy Sichuan dishes, and don’t miss the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding (researchers and cubs pictured in 2013). There, for $330, you can don a plastic smock and hold/hug a young panda while it licks a honey-dipped bamboo stalk. Be warned that air quality is iffy. Be glad that in June, United Airlines plans to start nonstop service between Chengdu and San Francisco. (STR / AFP / Getty Images)
Despite U.S. restrictions that go back more than 50 years, U.S. visits are increasing, thanks to a 2011 move by the Obama administration to allow more people-to-people trips. Besides people, those trips might include music, Hemingway haunts and the Pinar del Río province, where tobacco for Cuban cigars is grown. Tour operators with U.S. approval include Insight Cuba (www.insightcuba.com); Smithsonian Journeys (www.smithsonianjourneys.org); Elderhostel’s Road Scholar (www.roadscholar.org); Distant Horizons (www.distant-horizons.com); and the Grand Circle Foundation (www.grandcirclefoundation.org). (Amanda Jones / For The Times)
Unless you’re allergic to ocean breezes, this is a safe bet. Sample the resort-adjacent golden sands of Wailea, the wind-raked whitecaps at Paia (where wind surfers congregate) and the sunrise on the rim of Haleakala (pictured), more than 10,000 feet up. Hotel-wise, the Andaz Maui at Wailea opened in September on Mokapu Beach (www.maui.andaz.hyatt.com, 297 rooms). Lumeria (www.lumeriamaui.com), a 6-acre 1909 estate that’s been recast as a 24-room hotel (with yoga and meditation offerings), opened in 2012. (Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)
The Panama Canal turns 100 on Aug. 15. After a decade of construction, the Frank Gehry-designed BioMuseo (pictured) is expected to begin a soft opening in February. In Panama City’s Casco Viejo neighborhood, the 50-room American Trade Hotel (www.acehotel.com) opened in late 2013 in a converted 1917 department store. The Tantalo Hotel (www.tantalohotel.com) opened in 2012 with a rooftop bar. The Waldorf Astoria Panama (www.waldorfastoriapanama.com) opened in 2013. Out in the countryside, the tour company Backroads (www.backroads.com) is offering its first Panamanian walking and hiking trip. (AFP / Getty Images)
If you believe in boycotting countries, Russia’s legislation on what it calls gay propaganda may keep you away. If you don’t, you might think about St. Petersburg (www.saint-petersburg.com/essentials/) in summer. It’s got the Hermitage Museum (pictured), celebrating its 250th anniversary with a host of special events in its 10 buildings. There’s the vitality of Nevsky Prospect, the main drag laid out by Peter the Great in the 18th century, not to mention the Summer Palace and St. Isaac’s Cathedral. From mid-June through early July, the city stages White Nights to revel in its long-lasting northerly daylight. Expect to see a lot of flowers on the city’s many World War II memorials: Jan. 27 marks the 70th anniversary of the lifting of the Siege of Leningrad, a 900-day ordeal that killed more than 1 million civilians, many as a result of starvation. (Sovfoto / UIG via Getty Images)
Forget the great beaches and bad mayors. Just on the basis of its skill in recycling public buildings, San Diego deserves a look. Balboa Park’s best-loved buildings (www.balboapark.org) were born as temporary structures for expositions in 1915 and 1935. Liberty Station (www.libertystation.com), a 360-acre area where the Navy used to train sailors, is now a haven of parkland, housing, retail and charity space. (In May, it added a big Stone Brewing World Bistro, http://www.stonelibertystation.com). Since November, the former police station has been doing business as an upscale mall, the Headquarters at Seaport District (www.theheadquarters.com).
Pictured: The Botanical Building at Balboa Park.(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)
From April 16 through May 11, the city of Perth (much older than the one in Australia) hosts Europe’s largest brass band festival. Beginning June 28, the National Trust for Scotland will stage a three-day “brutally realistic” re-enactment of the 700-year-old Battle of Bannockburn, when Robert the Bruce trounced the English. From July 23 to Aug. 3, Glasgow hosts the Commonwealth Games, a sporting hullabaloo that includes rugby, badminton, squash and more. In late September, Gleneagles Hotel (pictured) in Perthshire will host the Ryder Cup golf matches. On Sept. 18, Scots vote in a referendum on independence from the United Kingdom. (David Cannon / Getty Images)
Serious troubles with crime and public health remain, but South Africa’s natural wonders and human history are staggering. Start with Cape Town’s waterfront and Table Mountain (pictured). At Cape Point, near Africa’s southernmost tip, keep an eye out for larcenous baboons. See the wine country (www.wineroute.co.za) around Stellenbosch and the beasts of Kruger National Park. See not only Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela spent most of his 27 years in prison, but also the remarkable Apartheid Museum in Soweto.
(Hoberman Collection / UIG / Getty Images)
Old Faithful (pictured). Bears, bison, elk, rivers, pools, waterfalls, rainbows. This was the country’s first national park (1872), and you should get there while the kids are still kids. Leave a couple of days for Grand Teton National Park, just south, maybe a day for nearby Cody, Wyo., where there’s a rodeo every night in summer. (Richard Derk / Los Angeles Times)