Welcome to The Check-In, your weekend guide to all things travel.
France on track to become the most visited country by 2025
The siren song of Brie and champagne is strong. New data released this week by GlobalData says France is set to become the world's most visited country by 2025, with 93.7 million people visiting annually. This will be a return to form, as France held the title pre-pandemic, before being overtaken by Spain in 2021. It also makes sense, seeing as Paris is hosting the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
"Visitation to France and Spain will remain strong in the years to come, with festivals, culture, and gastronomy being a big pull for tourists," Hannah Free, a travel and tourism analyst at GlobalData, said in a statement.
GlobalData expects the number of international arrivals to France will rise at a compound annual growth rate of 12.1 percent between 2022 and 2025. The country is especially popular with British, German, and Belgian tourists, and high-speed trains are one reason why it's so easy for those travelers to get to Paris and other major cities in France.
All aboard! Take a retro ride on the rails in New York
The glamorous days of train travel are back. Hudson River Rail Excursions, operated by the United Railroad Historical Society of NJ, offers day trips along the route the 20th Century Limited streamliner used to take when it traveled from New York City to Chicago between 1902 and 1967. The journey begins at Pennsylvania Station in Manhattan, where riders will board one of two historic trains — the Hickory Creek, which is luxury class and was once the most exclusive car on the 20th Century Limited, or the Tavern-Lounge No. 43, which is lounge class. Bound for Albany, guests will enjoy lunch and drinks in their cars, as well as gorgeous views of the Hudson River from the picture windows.
There are 48 trips scheduled, with dates in February, April, May, September, October, and November. Tickets are now on sale: $149 for the Tavern-Lounge No. 43 and $349 for the Hickory Creek.
From Bonnaroo to Shaky Knees, how to prep for festival season
One way to make it through these dreary winter days is to dream of the spring and the music festivals it will bring. The thrill of listening to your favorite bands perform live can't be beat, but it can be overwhelming planning for these multi-day events. Here are a few planning tips.
Once you've purchased your tickets, figure out how you're going to get there. If it's too far to drive, book your flight and hotel as soon as possible — with tens of thousands of people flocking to an area, rooms are going to fast. Be sure to book directly through the hotel, as you'll get the best deals this way and if you need to make changes to your reservations, it's so much easier to call the front desk instead of dealing with a third party.
When it's time to start packing, look up your festival's rules and see what is and isn't allowed on the grounds — some might let people bring in their own water bottles, while others won't. During the day, sunscreen is important (don't forget to reapply!), as are lip balm and sunglasses. You'll be taking lots of videos and photos, so bring an external phone charger, and in case things get a little too loud, ear plugs will come in handy. Bring your smallest wallet (and throw some cash in there alongside a credit card to be safe), and don't use a heavy shoulder bag or tote — go with a belt bag, crossbody, or fanny pack that makes it easier to move around and won't weigh you down.
Clothing wise, aim for comfort — you can still look fashionable in sneakers. You will be walking a lot and dancing a lot and may need to run between stages to catch performances, and your feet will thank you if you stick to shoes that have cushioning and aren't slippery. Dress in layers, because even if it's hot in the day, once the sun goes down, the temperatures will follow.
By this point, you're familiar with the lineup, but check and see if the set times have been released. Often times at a huge festival, there will be overlap between bands that you really wanted to see, and it's good to know what you want to prioritize beforehand. Several festivals have apps you can download, which have maps showing the different stages, as well as the food and drink vendors.
Once you're finally at the venue, make sure to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate — you've spent a lot of money to get here, and getting sick from not drinking enough water isn't on the agenda. If you've come with a group, agree on a place to meet if you get split up, and make note of the exit gates and medical tent. Be aware of your surroundings, and if you feel the crowd around you getting dense, move away to an area with more space.
Music festivals aren't only a fabulous way to listen to your favorite bands and discover new ones, but are also a great way to see other parts of the country. Here are just some of the festivals happening in the U.S. over the next few months:
Coachella, April 14-16 and April 21-23, Indio, California. The lineup includes Frank Ocean, Bad Bunny, Gorillaz, The Chemical Brothers, Blondie, Rosalía, Charli XCX, Björk, and Calvin Harris.
Stagecoach, April 28-30, Indio, California. The lineup includes Luke Bryan, ZZ Top, Kane Brown, Melissa Etheridge, Bryan Adams, Chris Stapleton, and Brooks & Dunn.
Shaky Knees, May 5-7, Atlanta. The lineup includes The Killers, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Placebo, Digible Planets, Muse, The Mars Volta, The Flaming Lips, and The Lumineers.
Just Like Heaven, May 13, Pasadena, California. The lineup includes Yeah Yeah Yeahs, MGMT, Hot Chip, The Faint, Empire of the Sun, and Future Islands.
Sick New World, May 13, Las Vegas. The lineup includes System of a Down, Korn, Deftones, Incubus, Evanescence, Papa Roach, and Stabbing Westward.
Boston Calling, May 26-28, Boston. The lineup includes Foo Fighters, Alanis Morissette, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The National, The Lumineers, Paramore, Queens of the Stone Age, and The Flaming Lips.
Governors Ball, June 9-11, New York City. The lineup includes Lizzo, Lil Uzi Vert, Haim, Odesza, Kendrick Lamar, Lil Nas X, Girl in Red, and Lil Baby.
Bonnaroo, June 15-18, Manchester, Tennessee. The lineup includes Kendrick Lamar, Foo Fighters, Lil Nas X, My Morning Jacket, Sheryl Crow, and Jenny Lewis.
Plan accordingly: Upcoming events to add to your calendar
The Lunar New Year — it's the Year of the Rabbit! — begins on Sunday, and there are events planned around the United States to celebrate. In New York City, the festivities begin with the 25th Annual Lunar New Year Firecracker Ceremony and Cultural Festival at Sara D. Roosevelt Park. During the Lunar New Year, firecrackers are set off to scare away evil spirits, and hundreds of thousands will explode at this event. The party continues on Feb. 12, when the 25th Annual Lunar New Year Parade will wind its way through Manhattan's Chinatown, featuring lion and dragon dancers, floats, and live entertainment.
Houston will mark Lunar New Year Jan. 28-29 at the Viet Hoa Center, with music, martial arts demonstrations, lion and dragon dances, fireworks, and red envelope ceremonies. In Seattle, the Lunar New Year celebration is set for Feb. 4, and during the Food Walk through Chinatown, visitors can sample the delectable offerings at local restaurants — visit at least five and you'll be entered to win a basket with treats from neighborhood establishments. Gong Xi Fa Cai!