LOS ANGELES -- Here, in alphabetical order, are 10 places I'd like to see in 2013. Several are cities, one is a state, three are entire nations, and all have interesting things happening in the weeks and months ahead. Will I get to them all? Probably not.
But if I did, in alphabetical order, come December, I'd be able to swagger into some stylish Seoul watering hole, possibly limping slightly from a sled-dog mishap under the northern lights, but gamely standing rounds and spinning yarns of Ecuadorian trainspotting and what I learned from the re-enactors at Gettysburg, Pa. Would you listen?
Didn't think so. It's better if you see for yourself.
For reasons having to do with solar wind, oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen (details at www.gi.alaska.edu/AuroraForecast), the aurora borealis is supposed to be especially vivid in northern skies for the next few winters. Unfortunately, the skies are impossible to predict precisely, but Fairbanks is the favored starting point for many a northern lights itinerary. In fact, the Fairbanks tourism people (www.explorefairbanks.com) claim that if you stay three nights, you will have an 80 percent chance of seeing the northern lights.
If you wait until summer, forget about the aurora and the ice art. But don't worry. Two hours' drive from Fairbanks looms Mount McKinley, 20,320-foot-high star of Denali National Park.
The scenic canals, widely available marijuana and legal red-light district get a lot of ink, but the best thing about Amsterdam may be its museums, and this is a great year for those.
The Rijksmuseum Amsterdam (www.rijksmuseum.nl), home to masterpieces by Rembrandt, Vermeer and many others, is to reopen April 13, ending years of renovation. The Stedelijk Museum (www.stedelijk.nl), a world-class collection of contemporary art and design, reopened in September after a big upgrade and expansion. The Van Gogh Museum (www.vangoghmuseum.nl), which has sent much of its collection to the Hermitage Amsterdam through April 25, is to reopen in May.
The Rijksmuseum, Stedelijk Museum and the Van Gogh Museum are all in the city's Oud Zuid district, which also includes the upscale shopping street Pieter Cornelisz Hooftstraat. Meanwhile, the Anne Frank Museum (www.annefrank.org/) continues to tell the singular story of the Frank family's persecution, resilience and death under the Nazis.
It's a college town, music town, river town and tech town, in constant renewal. The 296-room Hyatt Place Downtown (www.hyattplaceaustin.com) is due to open in April. In summer, expect the opening of the 123-room Lone Star Court (www.valenciagroup.com/lone-star-court.htm), designed to suggest a 1940s roadside motor court, at the Domain mall in northwestern Austin.
Meanwhile, the high-end Travaasa (www.travaasa.com/austin) spa and resort, which opened in 2011 about 30 minutes outside town, has 70 guest rooms that overlook the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve. Rates start at about $275 a day. The seven-room Heywood Hotel (www.heywoodhotel.com), a "nonhosted" boutique property that opened in December 2011 in eastern Austin, is aimed at guests who want stylish design but don't need staffers on-site between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. (Rates typically are $200 to $300 a night, children discouraged.)
For dinner, you might try Barley Swine (www.barleyswine.com), which opened in late 2010, emphasizes locally sourced ingredients and made GQ's list of best new American restaurants in 2012. For movies, there's Violet Crown Cinema (www.violetcrowncinema.com), a four-screen downtown art house (opened 2011) that mixes big movies such as "Zero Dark Thirty" with documentaries, foreign works and independent films; there's also a bar and cafe.
Before you book anything, consider the South by Southwest conferences and festivals (www.sxsw.com), almost universally known as SXSW, which run March 8-17 and boost hotel demand in a big way. Oh, and for a rainy day, bear in mind that the LBJ Presidential Library (www.lbjlibrary.org) reopened Dec. 22 after a yearlong renovation. (It's also charging admission, $8 for adults, for the first time in 41 years.) More citywide info at www.austintexas.org.
No, you can't take a train to the Galapagos. But for several years now, management at Tren Ecuador (www.trenecuador.com) has been working to restore the country's railroad connection between Quito and Guayaquil to the south.
Many segments along the verdant, Andes-adjacent route are already open: You can make an eight-hour round trip between Quito and Machachi, an eight-hour round trip between Quito and Boliche or a 10-hour round trip between Quito and Latacunga that's known as the Avenida de los Volcanes, because trains roll past Cotopaxi National Park (and its active volcano).
Some stations have added lodgings, museums and, of course, arts and crafts marketplaces. A complete Quito-Guayaquil passage may be possible by the end of the year. A luxury cruise train is expected to make four-day round trips between the cities, with upscale lodgings, at an introductory price of just less than $1,000 a person (assuming two per room). Sadly, travelers won't have a chance to ride on the roof, a notable feature of Ecuadorian train travel for decades. But this marks a big change since the country's rail system began to deteriorate in the 1970s.