From first-of-its-kind museums to the world’s largest ferris wheel, the coming year is bound to be one of America’s best yet. We’ve got a slew of new attractions to choose from, including everything from the completion of the world’s largest theme park’s largest expansion ever, to state-of-the-art new art museums–and even the grand opening of the 9/11 Memorial Museum in NYC. History is being made, as you’ll want to be sure to include these attractions in your next All-American vacay, or perhaps even plan your entire vacation around visiting them. So without further ado, here’s the best of the best for 2014.
1. One World Trade Center and 9/11 Memorial Museum, New York City
This May, the subterranean 9/11 Memorial Museum will educate visitors through multimedia exhibitions and artifacts from the attacks, like the burnt-out Fire Engine 21 and, in the glassed-in entrance pavilion, two 80-foot structural columns from the towers themselves. Meanwhile, way above ground, a three-story observation and dining complex occupying floors 100–102 of One World Trade Center will give visitors a bird’s-eye view of the city and beyond. The building is opening at a cost of $3.9 billion, making it the most expensive building in the world (yet it’s also claimed to be the safest building in the world, with a waterproof firefighters’ elevator). At 1,776 feet, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere should be opened by the end of the year. The top three floors will be used for an observation deck complete with food, drinks and a small theater. The rebuilt World Trade Center complex required over 26,000 people who worked many long days and nights to fill these 16 acres with one of urban America’s best structures to date!
Video: Inside One World Trade Center
2. Delta Flight Museum, Atlanta
Set to open in summer 2014 after a $6.3 million, 12 month renovation, aviation enthusiasts shall rejoice as the Delta Flight Museum will allow you to discover the history of Delta and aviation and explore the future of flight like never before with daily tours of the facility. The museum’s opening will coincide with the 85th anniversary of Delta’s first passenger flight. It’s located adjacent to the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, which has served as the backbone of the company’s global headquarters for more than 70 years. Delta moved its headquarters from Monroe, La., to Atlanta in 1941 and began use of the hangars as the primary maintenance facility for its daily commercial flight operations. In 1990, a group of Delta retirees launched an effort to consolidate Delta memorabilia, archival collections and one of Delta’s first 1940s era Douglas DC-3 aircraft, resulting in the creation of this incredible museum, which is devoted to collecting and preserving the history and heritage of Delta Air Lines and includes artifacts from 40 airlines and interactive exhibits on the past, present and future of Delta Air Lines and air travel, rare aviation items and aircraft, the only full-motion flight simulator open to the public, and so much more!
3. National Center for Civil and Human Rights, Atlanta
Another exciting Atlanta museum will be the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, which will be located right beside the World of Coke and The Georgia Aquarium. The World of Coke actually donated the two and a half acres that is will sit on. Learn about the history of the civil rights movement and contemporary human rights movements in this highly anticipated $100 million, LEED-certified, 30,000-square-foot center set to open May 22. This is the first venue in the world of its kind. The center’s mission is to commemorate the contributions of Georgians to the struggle for African-American freedom and equality, showcasing 10,000 documents and artifacts from Dr. King. They will highlight the contributions of current and future struggles for freedom worldwide, encourage the discussion and study of human and civil rights movements domestically and abroad, and serve as a center for conflict resolution.
4. One of Atlanta’s biggest downfalls has been its transportation aspect, among its sprawling urban skyline. What better way to access the cities top attractions than with the new $100 million Atlanta Streetcar, which is set to open in May, accessing the new National Center for Civil and Human Rights, the Georgia Aquarium, World of Coca-Cola, CNN Center and the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site. This streetcar is climate controlled and covered and all rides will be free for the first three months (perfect for summer travels). After the free period, rides will just be $1.
5. Las Vegas Casino Renovations
Strip casinos that will open this year include the rebranded Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon as a completely renovated, 188 room, $185 million luxury boutique hotel that will be run by Caesars. It’s located beside the iconic Flamingo Hotel and will feature Food Network chef and Emmy winner Giada De Laurentiis, who will be opening a restaurant here, which will overlook the Bellagio Fountains from its second floor location, along with an exciting $85 million rooftop beach and nightclub! While the name is unannounced, it is likely that it will be named The Cromwell (here’s some concept art images). It’s set to open sometime this spring!
6. SLS Las Vegas, located on the site of the former Sahara, is going to undergo a $415 million renovation and reopen in fall 2014 as a 1600 room hotel, with a massive casino, four nightclubs, a 10,000-square foot branch of the famed Los Angeles clothing store Fred Segal, and restaurants including branches of The Bazaar by José Andrés, Katsuya by Starck and Umami Burger. It’s the northernmost stop for the Las Vegas Monorail, providing easy access to the other end of the strip.
7. The New York-New York hotel in Las Vegas is also undergoing a huge renovation, as they removed their signage, which had greeted visitors since they had opened back in 1997. The sign will be seen once again at the Neon Museum in downtown Las Vegas. This sign was removed to construct a new 13,000 square foot Hershey’s Chocolate World, which is set to open this spring as part of a new $100 million retail, dining, and entertainment district that is under construction between The New York-New York and the adjacent Monte Carlo resort. This will all lead into a new $350 million sports and entertainment arena that will be built behind the two resorts.
8. The Denny’s restaurant adjacent to Casino Royale on the Strip has closed for a makeover, which matters because it’s the highest-volume Denny’s in the world! The restaurant, which opened in 1966, served nearly 750,000 customers in 2013 alone and won’t reopen until 2015. “Jubilee!” will have the final performance of their show at Bally’s in its current format on Jan. 30, as the show will close for a major modernization and reopen in March 2014. “Jubilee!” is considered the last of the old-time showgirl revues.
For those who still don’t know, the Sirens of TI also closed forever, as I wrote an entire article about this and the 21st century transformation of Las Vegas, which can be seen here.
9. Universal Studios Florida: Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley
Harry Potter fans and theme parks lovers combined are super excited about the highly anticipated Diagon Alley “London” inspired addition, set to open in June 2014 at Universal Studios Florida. Along with a number of shops and eateries, it will also include the opening of a train ride that takes visitors between the two theme parks, and a new ride, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, which is designed to take patrons through the vaults of the famous Goblin bank. The expansion is built on the site of the former Jaws ride. The original Hogsmeade first phase of The Wizarding World opened back in 2010 at the adjacent Islands of Adventure theme park. There are plans to develop a similar attraction at the Universal Studios Hollywood location, which is set to open in 2016.
Video: What To Expect From Universal’s Diagon Alley
10. Completion of the New Fantasyland at The Magic Kingdom
Set to open in February 2014 is The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at The Magic Kingdom theme park, which is said to be a mostly outdoor ride with a fairly mild experience, with excitement levels somewhere between Big Thunder Mountain and Goofy’s Barnstormer. This will be the final element of the newly expanded Fantasyland (which nearly doubled the size of this land) in the world’s most visited theme park’s largest expansion ever!
11. The Broad, Los Angeles
LA art enthusiasts shall leap for joy with the upcoming grand opening of the new Broad art museum in late 2014. Billionaire art collectors Eli and Edythe Broad’s $395 million museum will feature a futuristic facade, with its white honeycomb-like shell designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, is a standout, while two floors of gallery space will be home to nearly 2,000 works by the likes of Cindy Sherman, Jasper John, and Barbara Kruger. No need to worry about parking, as a 366-space-below-ground parking garage will be in place for easy access to the museum’s grounds. Admission will be free for all, so you have no reason not check the place out. Seeing the architectural wonder that the museum is housed in is a good enough reason to see the museum in and of itself!
12. College Football Hall of Fame, Atlanta
Set to open in fall 2014 adjacent to the Centennial Olympic Park, college football fans can celebrate their favorite teams every day of the week, rather than just on football Saturday. The $67 million, 95,000-square-foot facility will recognize the game’s top players and coaches and give the non-fan a first-class entertainment experience. This hall of fame was formerly located in South Bend, Indiana and closed in December 2012.
13. High Roller, Las Vegas
Come March, visitors to The Quad Resort and Casino (formerly the Imperial Palace) can view Vegas in all its flashy glory from atop the world’s tallest Ferris wheel–at least until the 630-foot New York Wheel starts soaring over Staten Island in 2016. (Although with 1,500 LED lights covering the outside, the High Roller will probably still be the glitziest.) Also rather intriguing is the new 175-foot wheel in Maryland’s National Harbor, which is set to debut in May and overlook the US capital. As for Vegas, the $550 million wheel with 28 glass pods can each hold up to 40 passengers for a 30-minute rotation. Forget the Stratosphere, this’ll be my new hangout!
14. High Line Phase 3, New York City
The High Line was founded in 1999 and is a public park that’s built on an historic freight line that’s elevated above the streets of Manhattan. While earlier stages of NYC’s now-iconic elevated railway turned linear park continue to mature–and draw more than 3 million visitors a year–its last stage is a grand finale of horticultural wow, with a bowl-like area called The Spur (10th Avenue at 30th Street) containing dense layers of woodland and seating. The majority of the final section, which circles the Hudson Rail Yards, will be opening in late 2014 and will complete the 1.45-mile skyway connecting the Meatpacking District to Hell’s Kitchen.
15. Aspen Art Museum, Aspen
Since first opening in 1979, this contemporary art museum in Aspen, Colorado has been a favorite among tourists and local art enthusiasts alike. The museum is being completely rebuilt, decked out with woven wooden screen and holding 12,500 square feet of exhibition space over four levels–three times more than the current museum–plus a public rooftop that includes a café and bar, outdoor screening space, and a sculpture garden. The new museum is set to open on August 9, 2014. Inaugural exhibitions include an exploration of work by Yves Klein and David Hammons, and admission is always free.
16. Ponce City Market, Atlanta
Set to open in fall 2014 as Atlanta’s largest adaptive reuse project to date, just off the BeltLine–Atlanta’s network of trails and parks that follow former rail lines–a $250 million redevelopment is turning a massive Sears, Roebuck & Co. into a multiuse beacon of regenerative cool. Openings this fall will include a Central Food Hall modeled after NYC’s Chelsea Market, retail, and an expansive rooftop garden, with mini-golf come spring 2015, as well as offices and residences.
17. Goliath Roller Coaster, Six Flags Great America, Chicago
Roller-coaster enthusiasts can hardly wait for the grand opening of Six Flag Chicago’s aptly named Goliath. Leave it to coaster nerds to debate whether it qualifies as a true wooden ride (it has a steel super-structure) and instead know this: with an insanely sheer 85-degree drop from 180 feet, top speeds of 72 miles per hour, and a few inversions, it’s going to be one super scary, record-breaking ride when it debuts this spring.
18. Pérez Art Museum, Miami
The three-level, $131 million state of the art building took 28 months to build. Notable features include 200,000 square feet of program space, floor-to-ceiling hurricane resistant windows, and views of both the downtown skyline and Key Biscayne. Verde, the museum’s restaurant by Steven Starr, will offer seasonal dishes, craft cocktails, and quick bites like pastries and sandwiches. Designed by Herzog & de Meuron, the venue was inspired by Stiltsville–the atmospheric collection of shacks off the coast of Key Biscayne.
Are there any major attractions that we left off? What new attraction are you looking most forward to seeing opening in the coming years? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!