If everything goes according to plan, 2021 will be the year we all get back on our feet, enjoy life again, and discover new experiences. With COVID-19 vaccines being distributed throughout the world, millions will be eager to travel on a safer level and explore exciting destinations. So we’ve put together a list of must-see, bucket-list events around the world. Most are scheduled for the latter half of the year when the effects of the vaccines should be more apparent. Despite the optimism, nothing is set in stone, so check for any potential postponements or cancellations before finalizing plans.
What’s more American than a summertime celebration in the Midwest? Summerfest is an annual tradition in Milwaukee, featuring a series of outdoor concerts by the water at Lake Michigan. Headliners for 2021 include Luke Bryan, Halsey, Justin Beiber, Guns n’ Roses, and more. Tickets to any of those shows at the American Family Insurance Amphitheater include entry to the festival with food vendors, activities, and music on 12 smaller stages. Otherwise, festival-only general admission begins at $23 for a single-day pass. Organizers are changing up the format for 2021, hosting the event over three consecutive weekends between June 24 and July 10.
The oldest and most prestigious professional tennis tournament in the world returns to the All England Club June 28-July 11, providing a great excuse to plan a summer London vacation. Wimbledon is the only Grand Slam tournament played on grass courts and comes with stately regal pageantry. Don’t be surprised to see royals in attendance, especially during the biggest matchups under the retracting roof of the 15,000-seat Centre Court. Defending champions Novak Djokovic and Simona Halep are expected to compete along with the top-ranked players in the world. Even if you can’t score a ticket, have fun at one of the countless Wimbledon viewing parties held around London. It’s truly one of the best times to visit the city.
Running of the Bulls
We’ve all seen videos of people running with bulls through the streets of Pamplona — and sometimes getting gored in the process. It may look crazy, but you don’t have to put your life at risk to enjoy the thrill of Spain’s most famous annual tradition. The running of the bulls is just one part of the weeklong San Fermin Festival, which takes place July 6-14. The first two days are the busiest with an opening ceremony and rocket launch. But no matter when you attend, expect lots of singing, dancing, and sangria. Many tours offer balcony seating to overlook the chaos of the morning bull runs.
Electric Love Festival
Electronic dance music fans know all about the Electric Love Festival, which draws more than 100,000 people to the Salzburgring race track near the historic town of Salzburg. The lineup has yet to be fully announced for 2021 (which is scheduled July 8-10), but big names like Steve Aoki, Kygo, and Armin Van Buuren are already confirmed. (Organizers indicate they’re hoping to resurrect the complete lineup for the 2020 edition of the festival, which was canceled due to the pandemic.) While visiting, take the opportunity to explore Salzburg, which is on the German border and decorated with beautifully preserved Old World architecture. It’s also the birthplace of Mozart with a museum and other sites dedicated to his legacy.
Reading Music Festival
Europe is known for its large-scale outdoor live music events, but the Reading Music Festival is one of the most famous and historic, hosting buzzworthy performances from the likes of Nirvana and the Stone Roses over the years. After a hiatus in 2020, the three-day event returns August 27-29 with Post Malone, Liam Gallagher of Oasis, and British rapper Stormzy among the headliners. In a unique twist, the same lineup plays the Leeds Music Festival (about 200 miles north) the same weekend, but with performers swapping days. Most out-of-town visitors will prefer Reading, due to its proximity to London.
Hermanus Whale Festival
Cape Town, South Africa
September is the best time of the year for whale watching off the Cape Whale Coast of South Africa. Enjoy the spectacle to the fullest with the Hermanus Whale Festival, which is expected to return in 2021 with tours, an eco-friendly expo, and more. The fishing village of Hermanus is just southeast of Cape Town and comes alive for the family-friendly event as more than 100,000 people gather on land and boats to watch southern right whales swim the warm waters of Africa after migrating from Antarctica. You may even see dolphins and other marine life as well.
Life is Beautiful
Las Vegas, Nevada
The biggest music event of the year in Las Vegas is the Electric Daisy Carnival, which traditionally takes place in late spring. A safer bet in the gambling mecca is Life is Beautiful, scheduled later in the year September 17-19. The event runs three days with a diverse lineup of music acts, art installations, food tents, guest speakers, and other experiential attractions. The outdoor festival takes over several blocks of Downtown Las Vegas, close to the neon lights of Fremont Street.
There are countless Oktoberfest celebrations all over the world, but nothing beats the original in Munich. If the coronavirus is under control, millions will visit during the event on September 18-October 3. Oktoberfest is the world’s largest volksfest, which celebrates Bavarian culture with traditional German food, a carnival atmosphere, and what feels like endless servings of beer. Get lost visiting Munich’s famous breweries and beer gardens, including the historic Hofbrauhaus beer hall.
Key West, Florida
Unless a major tropical storm is coming through, there’s never a bad time to visit Key West. But you may want to set your sights on Fantasy Fest, an annual street party scheduled October 22-31 in Florida’s southernmost key. Think of it as 10 straight days of costumes, parades, and drinking leading up to Halloween. In your downtime, enjoy some sunbathing on the beach, take part in a boat tour, and explore the former home of Ernest Hemingway.
Full Moon Party
Koh Pha Nagan, Thailand
If you’re looking for flexibility when traveling in 2021, put a Full Moon Party on your bucket list of travel experiences. The all-night celebration takes place on Haad Rin Beach on Koh PhaNgan Island in the Gulf of Thailand during full moons (generally once a month), Christmas Day, and New Year’s Eve. The parties began in the ’80s with a small group of friends and expanded dramatically over the years, now welcoming thousands of tourists to enjoy food, drinks, and electronic dance music. Thailand is expected to be behind most Western nations in receiving widespread vaccine dosages, so your best opportunity to experience a Full Moon Party will likely be later in the year.