2023 bucket-list trips you should start planning now
Want to start planning for the year ahead? Here are more than 20 reasons to consider a once-in-a-lifetime trip in 2023.
WorldPride crosses the equator
Since its inaugural event in Rome more than two decades ago, this semiannual global celebration of LGBTIQ+ pride has never been held in the Southern Hemisphere – until 2023, when it will touch down in Sydney for 17 days of parades, parties, exhibits, immersive art installations, sporting events and more.
Key dates: Though the extravaganza runs from February 17 to March 5, things really kick off with an opening concert on February 24 starring Kylie Minogue – “not only a beloved musician and rainbow icon, but the highest selling Australian-born solo artist of all time,” per Sydney WorldPride CEO Kate Wickett. The Bondi Beach Party on March 4 is another hot ticket, with Nicole Scherzinger set to headline.
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Dominica parties hard
One of Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel picks for 2023, the Caribbean island of Dominica has a big year ahead. Its three main festivals are back in business: following successful runs in 2022, Jazz N’ Creole and Dominica’s World Creole Music Festival are returning, and Mas Domnik, aka “The Real Mas,” is back for Carnival for the first time since the pandemic.
Cape Town gets jazzy
After a spate of lockdown-induced cancellations, Cape Town International Jazz Festival will finally celebrate its 21st anniversary – only three years later than planned. South Africa’s Afro-jazz queen, Judith Sephuma, is set to perform.
Burning Man explores its animal instincts
Welcoming 75,069 participants at its peak in 2022, Nevada’s artsy, week-long Black Rock Desert gathering returns in 2023 with the theme Animalia.
“This year’s Burning Man theme will celebrate the animal world and our place in it – animals real and imagined, mythic and remembered – and explore the curious mental constructs that allow us to believe that imagined animals are real, real animals are imagined, and that somehow, despite all evidence to the contrary, mankind is somehow not part of the animal kingdom,” writes Stuart Mangrum for the blog Burning Man Journal.
Key dates: The event is scheduled for August 27 to September 4. Ticket on-sale dates have yet to be announced for 2023, but early passes have previously gone on sale in February, the main sale in late March and last-minute tickets at the beginning of August. Prior registration is required for all options.
Sporting and cultural events
Super Bowl LVII
At this point in the NFL season, the teams battling it out for Super Bowl supremacy are still to be determined – but we do know Rihanna is providing the halftime entertainment. If that’s enough to pique your interest (and how could it not be?>), tickets are still available (on the resale market, for big spenders only). And there’s plenty to do in the Phoenix metro area before and after the big game, which is taking place at State Farm Stadium Glendale, home to the Arizona Cardinals.
Key date: Super Bowl LVII will take place on Sunday, February 12.
2023 FIA Formula One World Championship
Key dates: Testing begins March 3, then the 2023 season kicks off with the Bahrain Grand Prix on March 5.
Japan has finally reopened to individual travelers, so if catching the cherry blossoms at their peak has long been on your list, now’s a great time to go. While you should check the forecast before committing to a particular region (the trees are in full bloom at staggered times across the country), Fukuoka is a safe bet for hanami (cherry-blossom viewing) in March. The biggest city on the southern island of Kyūshū, this Best in Travel pick offers fantastic food and a beautiful bounty of flowering trees.
Key dates: Because it’s a natural phenomenon, there’s no set schedule here. In 2022, the bloom began in mid-March and peaked a couple weeks later, per Kyuhoshi.com – but you’ll want to keep an eye on the forecast as the season draws closer before making any nonrefundable plans.
Eurovision Song Contest
Typically the winning country hosts the Eurovision finals the following year, but when Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra took home the coveted glass microphone in 2022, plans had to change. A twin city of Odesa, Liverpool was chosen from a shortlist of seven cities to host on behalf of the besieged Eastern European nation in 2023.
Key dates: The Eurovision semifinals are slated for May 9 and 11; the final showdown follows on May 13.
Coronation of Charles and Camilla
This spring, King Charles III and the Queen Consort Camilla will be crowned at Westminster Abbey, continuing 900 years of tradition. Unless you’re an A-lister, the ceremony isn’t open to the public, though traditionally there’s been a procession through the streets of London afterward. Reports indicate that given the current economic climate this will likely be a more modest affair than Elizabeth II’s back in ’53. Still, expect rates on accommodations to soar and availability to be minimal around coronation weekend.
Key dates: The coronation is scheduled for May 6.
FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023
If it felt weird to watch the World Cup ahead of the winter holidays rather than over the summer, not to worry – the international soccer competition returns to its usual season in 2023, when women’s teams from 32 countries take the pitch in Australia and New Zealand.
Key dates: The group stage begins July 20 and the round of 16 starts August 5. The quarterfinals take place on August 11 and 12 and the semis on August 15 and 16. The third-place game will be held on August 19 and the final on August 20.
Rugby World Cup 2023
South Africa will defend its title, Portugal will play its first match on this stage in 16 years and Chile will join the fray for the first time ever when the Rugby World Cup comes to France. The pool matches will be played at stadiums across the country, from Paris to Marseille and Lyon to Lille – on the off chance you need an excuse for a road trip.
Key dates: The opening match kicks off September 8, the quarterfinals are October 14 and 15 and the semis are October 20 and 21. The bronze final is October 27, and the final is October 28.
International African American Museum
Covering almost 150,000 sq ft of exhibition, learning and interpretive space on the site of a notorious former slave-trading port, the Henry Cobb–designed IAAM has nine galleries with exhibitions delving into the horrors of slavery and the African diaspora’s contributions to US history, among other themes. There’s also a memorial garden, an infinity reflection pool and a Center for Family History that will serve as a much-needed resource for African American genealogy.
“Charleston takes its history seriously, and in many ways, history is a main reason people visit this city,” chief curator Joy Bivins told Lonely Planet in 2020. “I think the museum will offer proper respect and homage to the Africans and their descendants who were so influential in building this city. And it will help connect Charlestonians to a global story and explore their place within the larger African Diaspora.”
Key date: The IAAM is scheduled to open January 21.
Grand Egyptian Museum
After years of delays (both COVID-related and not) Giza’s long-awaited Grand Egyptian Museum finally looks set to open. The showstopping US$1.1 billion, 484,000-sq-ft facility has “jutting, prowlike lines [that] resemble an enormous ship run aground in the desert,” National Geographic reported in October, housing 12 exhibition halls and 100,000 artifacts, including more than 5000 burial treasures from the tomb of Tutankhamun – on display together here for the first time ever.
Key dates: Doors should be opening any day now. As of mid-December, the GEM had hosted a limited number of private events and group visits, with a trial phase for public visits due to be announced “soon,” per the museum’s Instagram.
Robot Science Museum
Back in 2019, Istanbul- and Seoul-based Melike Altınışık Architects won a design competition for a new Seoul museum dedicated to robotics – to be built by them, too. The RSM was slated to open in late 2022 in Chang-dong’s “New Economic Center,” and while updates haven’t been forthcoming, we’re hopeful this is the year.
Key dates: TBA.
After four years at its temporary home in Beyoğlu, Turkey’s first museum of contemporary art is set to reopen at its original location in Karaköy, in stunning new digs designed by architectural maestro Renzo Piano. The five-floor, 15,000-sq-m (161,459-sq-ft) space will include an outdoor cafe and sculpture garden, a below-ground cinema and a rooftop deck – not to mention permanent and temporary galleries boasting 3300 sq m (35,521 sq ft) of exhibition space.
Key dates: Preparations for the move are ongoing, per the Istanbul Modern, and an opening date has yet to be announced. Check the museum’s social channels and website for further announcements and details.
Catch the Yosemite firefall
Between mid- and late February, when the conditions are just right, Yosemite National Park’s Horsetail Fall glows electric-orange at sunset, giving the illusion of a plummeting flume of fire. In recent years, it’s become a can’t-miss event. (Blame social media.)
Key dates: Though it’s impossible to predict the exact dates the phenomenon will occur, it almost always happens in February. If your schedule’s flexible, check it out during the week; you’ll need a reservation on the weekends of February 10 to 12, February 17 to 19 and February 24 to 26.
See the northern lights
Though the next solar maximum isn’t expected until 2025, the sun’s activity ramps up as the maximum grows closer, making 2023 as good a time as any to go looking for the aurora borealis. Head north: you’ll have the best odds in Iceland, Norway and Greenland, as well as towns like Fairbanks, Alaska, and Churchill, Canada.
Key dates: The best time to see the northern lights varies by location. They’ve been spotted as early as August and as late as December, though the solar action typically peaks between March and November.
Make a reservation at a US national park
Many of the USA’s national parks had timed-entry requirements during and in the aftermath of the pandemic, the majority of which have begun to ease. Yosemite announced in September that it was rolling back the reservation system for guests in summer 2023, while other parks still require permits year-round for certain activities, including viewing the sunrise at Haleakalā National Park and climbing Angels Landing at Zion National Park.
Key dates: Currently, most national parks have yet to announce whether or not reservations will be required during peak season (usually mid-May to mid-September) – so one park in particular is on your bucket list, keep checking for news. Of course, permits are still required to camp in the national parks, with most reservations opening up a few months in advance; specifics vary from park to park.
Hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
One of Peru’s most iconic treks, the 24-mile (39km) Inca Trail reopened to hikers in 2022. At first it wasn’t as busy as it had been before the pandemic, but things have since picked up.
Only 500 people are allowed on the Inca Trail per day, and only 4000 or so can enter Machu Picchu, so get your trip on the books as soon as possible to get your first choice of dates (and to have time to train for the challenging climb).
Key dates: High season is between June and September, so book well in advance if you’re considering a trip then. Be sure to pick a reputable operator, as there were reports of overbooking last summer.
Schedule a safari
Whether your dream trip has you following the Great Migration in Kenya or Botswana, Zambia or Namibia, there’s a safari experience that’s right for you. Deciding on a destination is half the battle; once you’ve worked that out, it’ll be much easier to determine the best time to go.
Key dates: In general, aim to book your safari between June and September, but look into the specifics before booking any nonrefundable fares. Remember that some countries have stellar wildlife watching year-round (or at least as late as October and November).
Take the wheel on Going-to-the-Sun Road
You’ll be limited to 40mph at lower elevations and 25mph at alpine heights, but no matter – the thrill of driving Glacier National Park’s Going-to-the-Sun Rd doesn’t involve high speeds. It’s all about the scenery: winding through 50 miles of natural splendor, this is one of the most spectacular stretches of pavement in the country.
Vehicle reservations were required between late May and mid-September in 2022, but the situation is still TBD for 2023, so keep an eye on the park’s official site for news and updates.
Key dates: While the low-elevation sections of the road remain open year-round, the more treacherous parts remain closed until the weather cooperates. Usually it’s fully open by early July, though in 2022 late winter weather pushed things back to July 13.
Watch the solar eclipse
Don’t look directly into the sun if you’re out and about in the Western Hemisphere this fall, when an annular solar eclipse is set to leave parts of North, Central and South America in shadow.
According to NASA, the eclipse “will begin in the United States, traveling from the coast of Oregon to the Texas Gulf Coast. Weather permitting, the annular eclipse will be visible in Oregon, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, and Texas, as well as some parts of California, Idaho, Colorado, and Arizona. [It] will continue on to Central America, passing over Mexico, Belize, Honduras, and Panama. In South America, the eclipse will travel through Colombia before ending off the coast of Natal, Brazil, in the Atlantic Ocean.”
Key date: October 14