World's Coolest New Tourist Attractions 2011
Everyone wants to know where to go next, so we’ve unearthed the coolest new hot spots.
As you snorkel past coral reefs and angelfish in the warm, shallow waters of the Caribbean Sea, you suddenly come across an eerily beautiful tableau: hundreds of life-size human sculptures. No, this isn’t loot from some sunken pirate ship. It’s the world’s largest underwater museum.
This ingenious twist on Cancún’s popular dive tourism shows that tourism sights get bolder and more innovative each year, often thanks to the involvement of big-name architects, artists, and designers. As destinations vie to create their own “Bilbao Effect,” tourists are getting savvier about what to see and what to skip. It takes more than tall buildings and new museums to titillate today’s tourist.
Take 11 11 Lincoln Road, for example. The word “garage” doesn’t begin to do it justice. Dreamt up by Swiss starchitects Herzog & de Meuron, it’s better described as a modernist, open-air “parking sculpture.” The eye-catching mixed-use venue has become Miami’s it-spot for dinner parties and events while its hip shops, restaurants, and public art lure daytime crowds.
Another traditional, everyday space—the plaza—has been radically made over in Seville. Architect Jürgen Mayer’s trippy, fantastical design for the Plaza de la Encarnacíon looks like something out of Alice in Wonderland. The undulating blonde timber structures have a honeycomb roof that shelters a marketplace, bars, and archaeological exhibits. It gives both locals and tourists a new reason to explore Seville’s medieval center and corresponds to a greater design awareness.
“More and more nondesigners are scoping out architectural destinations,” says Ben Prosky, assistant dean of communications at Harvard Graduate School of Design and co-founder of Architizer.com, a Facebook of sorts for architects. “We see this played out every day on Architizer—architects post their buildings on their profiles, and visitors to the website scan these profiles to look for unusual buildings or installations that they might not otherwise find in a guidebook.”
Even as the Web has increased the visibility of these cool new sights, there’s still no substitute for seeing the real thing in person. Let us point the way.
Capital Gate, Abu Dhabi
Dubai typically hogs the limelight with its ambitious projects, but now Abu Dhabi is defying gravity with this glassy 35-story landmark—the world’s furthest-leaning man-made tower. The glinting 18-degree tilt (four times more than that of Pisa’s leaning tower) catches your eye among the city’s jumble of skyscrapers and cranes. You can’t miss it on the drive to the Grand Mosque, but to get a peek inside, book a stay at the Hyatt Hotel slated to open in mid-to-late 2011.
Cheetah Hunt Roller Coaster, BuschGardens, Tampa, FL
Theme parks invested heavily in new attractions during the recession’s staycation trend, and 2011 sees fruits of those efforts. No new ride has more daredevil spirit than the Cheetah Hunt: a multilaunch coaster that jettisons riders from 0 to 60 mph, corkscrews up 100 feet into a skyscraping figure eight, narrowly grazing over the cable lines for the Skyride, and clips a waterfall before plummet-torqueing into a trench in the park’s Serengeti area. Can we do it again, please?
Metropol Parasol, Seville, Spain
If you want to know what Alice felt like in Wonderland, head to Seville, where a trippy new pavilion has sprung up in the Plaza de la Encarnacíon. Undulating blonde timber structures with a honeycomb roof make up the world’s largest wooden building, known by locals as “Setas de la Encarnación,” or the Mushrooms of Incarnation. It’s home to an archaeological museum, a farmers’ market, and an elevated plaza with bars and restaurants.
11 11 Lincoln Road Parking Garage,Miami
Car culture gets the starchitect treatment at this garage. The modernist open-air structure designed by Swiss firm Herzog & de Meuron opened in 2010 and has become a hot spot for events, while hip shops and restaurants like Danny Meyer’s Shake Shack draw daytime crowds. Developer Robert Wennett refers to the trapezoidal house of cards as a “parking sculpture,” complete with an adjacent water garden and a Dan Graham–designed glass pavilion. The mixed-use venue was a winner of the 2011 T+L Design Awards.
Orbit Tower, London
Imagine the Eiffel Tower on acid or a roller coaster that’s survived a hurricane. These are the kinds of images that London’s twisted, blood-red, 377-foot-high sculpture brings to mind. Artists Anish Kapoor and Cecil Balmond collaborated on the controversial skyline addition, which is being designed for the 2012 Summer Olympics. The tubular steel tower will feature a platform nested at the midway point and become London’s latest must-see attraction when completed in December 2011.
Cancún’s Underwater Museum,Mexico
The world’s largest underwater museum opened three miles offshore in November 2010 with hundreds of sunken life-size human figures. Artist Jason deCaires Taylor used pH-neutral concrete to create these sculptures, which double as a home for peacock flounder, white telestra coral, and other aquatic life that have becoming increasingly threatened by the 750,000-plus annual divers who visit the National Marine Park’s coral reefs.
Brooklyn Bridge Park, New York City
There’s a new reward for walking across the Brooklyn Bridge: this necklace of six leafy plots that stretches along the waterfront between the neighborhoods of DUMBO and Cobble Hill. The initial two segments opened in spring 2010 and were heralded as Mayor Bloomberg’s most important legacy by the New York Times architecture critic. An expansion of Pier 6 debuts this summer along with a restored 1920s carousel in a pavilion designed by Jean Nouvel. Time your visit to catch the sunset over the Statue of Liberty, then linger to witness Manhattan light up at night.
NanjingSifang Art Museum, Nanjing, China
Not many people are familiar with Nanjing, whose population of 7.7 million somehow ranks as “small” by Chinese city terms. But that’s beginning to change as the local art scene outpaces that of Beijing and Shanghai and welcomes a high-profile museum of contemporary architecture. Several years in the making, the Nanjing Sifang Art Museum rises from the quiet, shaggy hills of the Jiangsu like a postmodern Star Wars vehicle. U.S. architect Steven Holl collaborated with international architects on the abstract, stilt-supported design and factored in eco-friendly features like a green roof and a geothermal heating and cooling system.
In a year of Asian hotel one-upmanship, Hong Kong emerged a quiet victor with its cloud-grazing Ritz-Carlton on the upper 16 floors of the 118-story International Commerce Centre (the world’s eighth tallest building). The heavenly property is fitted with crystal fire pits, sun-dappled pools, and a chocolate library. After all, it’s one thing to jostle with tourists for a view from a sky-high building—it’s quite another to wake up in a 600-thread-count, down-feathered bed at 1,600 feet in the world’s highest hotel.
Strings Bridge, Jerusalem, Israel
In an ancient, tradition-bound city famous for its Wailing Wall, Temple Mount, and Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Strings Bridge provides a much-needed jolt of modernism—and a chance to relieve traffic congestion. Santiago Calatrava’s bridge will be used for Jerusalem’s light rail, which has overcome construction delays and some opposition to finally open in Summer 2011. Made of gleaming Jerusalem-stone and glass, the bridge resembles the shape of a set of chords, inspired by King David’s harp.
Times have been rough for Iceland, where the economy imploded and Eyjafjallajökull volcano exploded. But from the ashes of ruin comes the magnificent 1,800-seat Harpa Concert Hall. The postmodern venue is a luminous and kaleidoscopic glass-and-steel cage designed by artist Olafur Eliasson and Copenhagen-based Henning Larsen Architects. The inaugural season kicks off in May and includes performances by Cyndi Lauper, Jamie Cullum, and emerging Icelandic musicians like Ólöf Arnalds (Múm) and Skúli Sverrisson.
Riverside Museum, Glasgow, Scotland
It won’t open until June 2011, but already this transport museum on the site of an old shipyard has been nicknamed the “Steel Tsunami.” Credit goes to Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid, who gave the exterior her signature futuristic look: a glass façade, a zigzag-shaped roof. The interior is a soaring space big enough for historic trams and trains. Exhibitions also include three re-created Glasgow shopping streets, dating from 1890–1930, and the Tall Ship, which is berthed in the harbor alongside the gleaming new structure.
EdgeWalk at the CN Tower, Toronto
Move over, Spider Man: skyscraper scaling is the domain of non-superhuman beings now. In August 2011, Toronto celebrates the 35th birthday of the city's CN Tower with EdgeWalk, a new program that invites visitors to undertake a death-defying course in acrobatics by stepping out onto the narrow five-foot ledge that rings the iconic 116-story tower's circular pod—there's an overhead safety harness, but no railing. Guides will encourage pushing your personal limits to really experience the vertiginous 30-minute rush, which promises to thrill even the most blasé of tourists.
"Rhythms of Life" Sculpture, Kenya
Aussie sculptor/artist Andrew Rogers has constructed 47 stone sculptures (geoglyphs) in 14 countries on all seven continents for his ongoing "Rhythms of Life" series. This involves corralling boulders, marble, and stones into gigantic iconic shapes of animals, runic characters, or quasi-cryptic symbols, often visible from space. (It's more likely you'll view them from about 5,000 feet in a hot-air balloon or on Google Earth.) For his latest geoglyph, Rogers employed 1,300 local Masai at Camp ya Kanzi in the volcanic Chyulu Hills, located in eastern Kenya. The community chose the two projects—a colossal lion's paw and a shield—as a nod to environmental conservation and the preservation of their traditional lifestyle.
Curaçao, one of the world’s newest countries, is now making waves for creating the world's first mini-submarine for tourists. The Substation excursion takes you 1,000 feet below the crystalline Caribbean Sea at Bapor Kibra, where you can view coral, shipwrecks, and if lucky, pods of dolphins, at a visibility of 300 feet. The hour-long excursion isn't cheap ($650), but after all, you're truly experiencing life under the sea—not an animatronics ride like the Little Mermaid one slated to open at Walt Disney World.
Museo Soumaya, Mexico City
The richest man in the world, Carlos Slim, has moved 66,000 pieces of his personal art collection into a brilliant new museum designed by his architect son-in-law Fernando Romero and named for Slim's beloved late wife. Though Mexico City's art scene has exploded with contemporary works stealing the stage, until now the country lacked a catalogue of art history's masters. This collection fills that gap with works by Picasso, da Vinci, van Gogh, and El Greco, as well as homegrown artists like Diego Rivera. It caters to a broad audience by keeping admission free.
Sofitel Vienna Stephansdom
This 182-room hotel on the banks of the Danube Canal could have simply relied on its appealing views of St. Stephen's Cathedral, the Prater Ferris Wheel, and the leafy Vienna woods. But instead, a talented trio conspired to make the hotel look equally impressive. Architect Jean Nouvel designed the structure's floating roof and slanted glass walls, while contemporary Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist projected permanent interior art installations onto the ceilings. No design hotel would be complete these days without a green angle; here landscape architect Patrick Blanc cultivated an extensive and lush "living wall" draped with 20,000 plant species.
Witch Monument, Vardø, Norway
Norway wasn't always known for its peace politics. In the 16th and 17th centuries, 135 "witches" were indicted and 91 were burned (many of them indigenous Sami) in Vardø, the easternmost town of Norway. Today the victims are being memorialized as part of an ongoing $400 million architecture and design development project along Norway's 18 designated National Tourist Routes, which includes roadside lookouts and new design hotels. This particular monument—designed by artist Louise Bourgeois and Pritzker Prize-winning Swiss architect Peter Zumthor—is a chair enveloped in flames and enclosed in a 125-meter-high building, with a window built for each victim of the witch hunt. Norway's Queen Sonja is scheduled to unveil the monument in summer 2011.
ArtScience Museum, Singapore
Singapore has gone on a recent building spree, rolling out a casino, a river safari, rooftop sky-parks, lush beer gardens, eco hotels, and even a floating Louis Vuitton Island. Even so, Marina Bay Sands' ArtScience Museum, which opened in February 2011, stands out among all the glitz and hype. Designed by Moshe Safdie to illustrate the symbiotic relationship of art, science, and technology, the lotus-shaped museum has a roof that transforms rainwater into a central atrium waterfall and pond, plus 50,000 square feet of glimmering gallery space for exhibits like "Leonardo da Vinci's Flying Machine" that attempt to bridge art and science.
The Antilia Tower, Mumbai
Not since Hearst's San Simeon and Louis XIV's Versailles has a single-family home generated so much global curiosity and scorn. Businessman Mukesh Ambani commissioned the billion-dollar, 27-story tower for himself, his wife, three kids, mother, and 600 staff. It's got all the necessities: 400,000 square feet of living space, a parking garage for 168 vehicles, nine elevators, a health spa, a yoga studio, a 50-person theater, swimming pools. When it's really hot, the ice room's snow flurries are a superior way to cool down. One potential redeeming antidote to all that mind-boggling excess is the three floors of hanging gardens, which makes this the largest and tallest "living wall" in the world—and a green mini-lung for polluted, slum-filled Mumbai.
The Dalí Museum, St. Petersburg, FL
The latest art buzz out of Florida isn't from Miami. In January 2011, 96 works by surrealist Salvador Dalí found a new home in this appropriately extraterrestrial-like building with a "melting geodesic" dome. The building has bright galleries, a concrete helix staircase, and a coquina grotto draped with bromeliads—almost enough eye candy to distract you from the collection. Major Dalí works are set off by a few fun, lesser-known works like Lobster Telephone and Basket of Bread and screenings of surrealist films by Dalí and Buñuel. It's an easy way to add a splash of culture to your beach getaway.
The Domus Romane, Rome
There's always more to dig up in the Eternal City. Excavations in Piazza Venezia (a modern traffic hub) revealed a few second-century villas decorated with intricate mosaics, fountains, and frescoes in 2007. The ancient ruins opened to the public in October 2010, and multimedia tours in English have recently been added. Look for the preserved bathing complex and its mostly intact plumbing, and a colorful mosaic made of nearly 100,000 stone tiles.
Toro Verde, Orocovis, Puerto Rico
By now, zipline courses have become so ubiquitous that your first instinct might be to roll your eyes at another opening. But Puerto Rico's new nature park, about an hour outside San Juan, injects some needed audacious thrills into the eco-adventure genre. The cloud forest park was designed by Costa Ricans, who admit it's better than any in their own country. One reason? La Bestia, a two-minute face-down zipline that glides you across a misty 4,745-feet-long, 853-feet-high rainforest valley.
Royal Shakespeare Company Theatre, Stratford-on-Avon, England
Hamlet, Macbeth, Puck, and Juliet have a mod new $185 million crib in Stratford-on-Avon, where the Royal Shakespeare Company's round theater opened in April 2011—nicely timed to its 50th-anniversary season. The gem is the 1,040-seat, thrust-stage Royal Shakespeare Theatre, which includes four bars, a riverside café, and a rooftop restaurant; a new 118-foot-high tower offers panoramic views of Warwickshire and the three adjacent counties. The inaugural season features new productions of Macbeth, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and The Merchant of Venice, starring Patrick Stewart as Shylock.
Im Viadukt, Zurich
The Swiss famously love their cheese and chocolate, but also love making old things new again. Enter Zurich's Im Viadukt, a former 1894 railroad embankment built of stone mason arches that's been converted into a series of shops, galleries, and boutiques capped by a fantastic food market. The urban renewal project is located in scruffy Kreis 5, part of the evolving Zurich West area near iconic Freitag Tower. The Viadukt's markhalle, which opened in September 2010, is the highlight and a food forager's paradise, offering obscure, locally made artisanal Swiss products like smoked barley whiskey from Elfingen, raw-milk butter, and Ticinese popcorn—often doled out in generous free samples.
Fogo Island Arts Corporation, Fogo Island, Newfoundland
This sleepy, secluded fishing community off the northeast coast of Newfoundland is suddenly becoming a cultural destination, thanks to a series of modernist art studios on stilts. These studios, converted from rugged saltbox houses and churches overlooking the Atlantic, are welcoming artists and writers as part of an international residency program—as well as tourists for tours. A mod 29-room hotel is slated to open in 2012 and will add to the island's appeal.
Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial, Washington, D.C.
President Obama is invited to speak at the August 2011 dedication of D.C.'s first nonpresidential memorial, which occupies several acres of the Tidal Basin. Visitors approach the site through a narrow channel of boulders called the Mountain of Despair, which opens to a larger plaza, meant to suggest the difficult challenge of civil rights. Inside the plaza, a crescent-shaped inscription wall is emblazoned with MLK's iconic sermons and writings. The Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation has been the driving force behind the project for 15-plus years and enlisted architects from McKissack & McKissack, an African American, female-owned firm.