Travellers, lace up your walking shoes! There's plenty to see and do this year. Notable celebrations, openings and special events are scheduled for the months ahead. For example, you can explore your roots in Ireland; see the space shuttle Atlantis up close in its new home in Florida; enjoy hundreds of special events in the two cities designated as Europe's culture capitals for 2013 (Marseille, France, and Kosice, Slovakia); have a fairytale-like experience in Germany during a Grimm Brothers anniversary, or snorkel among statues in Grenada.
GRIMM IS IN
Fans of Grimm -- the popular fantasy-cop TV show with modern-day heroes and villains inspired by Grimm's fairytales -- won't want to miss major celebrations marking the 200th anniversary of the world-famous Children's and Household Tales by the Brothers Grimm.
These will take place throughout the year across Germany with special fairytale events, open-air festivals, exhibits and performances. The highlight will be Expedition Grimm, a large state exhibition in Hesse, where the brothers are from. Running April 27 to Sept. 8 in the town of Kassel, Expedition Grimm will explore the far-reaching impact and captivating lives of authors/brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. It will also include valuable manuscripts, personal mementos and works by another equally successful brother, painter Ludwig Emil Grimm.
Visitors can also drive the 600-km-long German Fairytale Route that links important places in the lives of the famous brothers; see a puppet festival in Steinau, where the Grimm boys grew up; or attend the Brothers Grimm Fairytale Festival from May 1-July 1. For event listings, check grimm2013.de. For travel information, visit the German National Tourist Board at germany.travel.
Could you be distantly related to famous Irishmen Liam Neeson or Pierce Brosnan? Tourism Ireland, along with ancestry.ca, is calling the 70 million people worldwide who claim Irish heritage -- including about 5 million Canadians -- home to the Emerald Isle to discover their roots. Oh, and the rest of humanity is invited, too. Described as the most ambitious tourism initiative ever undertaken by the country, The Gathering Ireland 2013 is an open invitation to the world to visit for a unique celebration of all things Irish. The "people's party" will be celebrated across the country with clan gatherings, festivals, special sporting events, music and concerts. Those wondering if they may have Irish roots can check ancestry.ca and sign up for a free 14-day trial. See thegatheringireland.com.
An event-filled year is planned in Marseille and Kosice as the two cities celebrate their shared designation as European Capitals of Culture in 2013.
Marseille's year in the spotlight coincides with the recent transformation of its waterfront and old port area. Crammed with historic attractions and museums, Marseille will come to life with special events including a tango festival, a huge summer art show (Le Reve de Couleur) and the month-long Festival of Marseille (June 9-July 6). More than 400 events covering music, dance, theatre, painting, sculpture, contemporary art, architecture, circus arts, cuisine and digital arts will
fill the streets of France's second largest city and spill into across the countryside of Provence. In addition, a new Museum of Civilizations from Europe and the Mediterranean (MuCEM) will open in June. See marseille-tourisme.com or mp2013.fr.
Kosice, an attractive city of 240,000 in eastern Slovakia, is also hoping to attract visitors with special events ranging from a "Use the City Festival" in May, which will showcase public art by Slovak and foreign artists, to "Convergences," an international chamber music festival in June. Worth a visit anytime, Kosice is home to the largest number of protected historical monuments in Slovakia. The city boasts a beautiful old town square, the 14th-century Gothic St. Elisabeth Cathedral, a neo-baroque state theatre, and several good museums. See kosice2013.sk/en.
ATLANTIS COMES HOME
Officials at Florida's Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex predict tourists will be "awed" and "inspired" when they see the space shuttle Atlantis on permanent display for the first time in July. The retired orbiter, will be the centerpiece of a $100-million exhibit that includes a full-size upright replica external tank and two solid rocket-boosters at the entrance, 60 interactive exhibits about the shuttle program, and the orbiter itself -- with its payload bay doors open and Canadarm (robotic arm) extended. The six-storey exhibit is being built adjacent to the existing Shuttle Launch Experience, in a building that is described as a work of art. Contact 877-313-2610 or KennedySpaceCenter.com.
BELOW THE SEA
A large underwater sculpture park in Grenada, which was damaged in a hurricane eight years ago, has been replaced to the delight of divers and snorkellers
who enjoyed the original Vicissitudes -- or Circle of Children, as the work was known locally. The 28 new statues of children, created by Jason de Caires Taylor, the same artist who created the originals, were installed recently in water ranging from 3-metres to 8-metres deep. Over time, the new statues will become part of the underwater environment as they are covered by coral and soft sponges, and attract new marine life to the area. For more, check grenadagrenadines.com.