Image: Prince William, Kate Middleton
Kirsty Wigglesworth  /  AP
Britain's Prince William and his fiancée, Kate Middleton, are seen at St. James's Palace in London after they announced their engagement. London sure to be crowded around April 29, 2011, for the royal event.
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updated 12/21/2010 7:54:32 PM ET 2010-12-22T00:54:32

Anniversaries, events, celebrities and the economy will influence travel in 2011, from the royal wedding in London to the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11th attacks in New York.

London is sure to be crowded for the April 29 wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. "If Charles and Diana got 600,000 people who came into London for that wedding, I could see a million for this one," said travel expert Pauline Frommer, creator of the Pauline Frommer Guides.

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New York has also turned up on hot lists for 2011, including the No. 1 city in Lonely Planet's "Best in Travel 2011" guidebook. "For all of New York, 11 September 2011 will be a defining moment," wrote the publisher's U.S. travel editor Robert Reid. A Sept. 11 memorial, with reflecting pools set above the footprints of the World Trade Center, is expected to open in time for the anniversary of the attacks.

The 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War is also being marked this year. One of the largest commemorations takes place July 21-24 in Manassas, Va., where the war's first major land battle took place. A historical re-enactment there is expected to draw as many as 15,000 participants.

Crowds are also expected to turn out for the opening in Washington D.C. of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial on the National Mall. A 28-foot-tall statue of the slain civil rights leader will be dedicated between the Jefferson and Lincoln memorials on Aug. 28, near the spot where he delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech 48 years earlier.

Several destinations are hoping that attention from celebrities will bring them more visitors in the new year. Australia spent $4 million to host Oprah Winfrey and 300 of her fans on a weeklong trip down under, but government officials say they got tourism advertising worth many millions more in return.

Alaska is hoping for a similar benefit from the TLC series "Sarah Palin's Alaska" and other cable shows showcasing the 49th state. "They have raised the profile, awareness and ultimately the interest in coming to Alaska," said Ron Peck, president of the Alaska Tourism Industry Association.

Story: Tourist industry has high hopes for 'Sarah Palin's Alaska'

Travel picking up
Overall, travel in 2010 began to slowly increase from the recessionary downturn of 2009, and many destinations are forecasting continued improvements in visitor numbers and revenues in 2011. Las Vegas was among the hardest hit by the weak economy, but visitation numbers and casino revenues were both up slightly in the last few months.

Vegas was also named the No. 1 domestic destination based on 2011 booking data reported by managers and agents from Travel Leaders, one of the top 10 travel agencies in the U.S. And in March, Vegas will get a shot of publicity among younger travelers when MTVu hosts its annual spring break party there. The hotel pools of Sin City will be a departure from more typical beach spring break destinations like Mexico, which has gotten bad publicity from drug violence, and the Florida Gulf Coast, where tourism tanked last year after the oil spill.

Whether college students will lead the way back to beaches in the Florida Panhandle in the new year remains an open question, but New Orleans is expecting more spring breakers in 2011 because Mardi Gras happens to fall during the second week of March. At the same time, the city is launching a new tourism campaign to attract more visitors ages 18-35, according to Kelly Schulz, spokeswoman for the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau.

In 2010, the biggest theme park news was the opening of a Harry Potter attraction at the Universal theme park. This year, theme park fans can look forward to the opening of Legoland Florida at the former Cypress Gardens theme park in Winter Haven, Fla. At Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., the big news for 2011 will be the debut of a new ride called "The Little Mermaid — Ariel's Undersea Adventure." Though "The Little Mermaid" movie dates to 1989, Disneyland spokeswoman Michele Himmelberg says "she's still one of the most popular princesses." Visitors will ride in a colorful clamshell through special effects designed to make you feel like you're underwater; the octopus villain Ursula will also be featured in the ride.

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Other Disney news for 2011 includes the launch of the new Disney Dream cruise ship, which begins sailings Jan. 26. The ship has a water coaster that wraps around the deck, with one loop jutting over the side of the ship above the ocean, and virtual portholes with live video feeds of the sea and sky. CruiseCritic.com editor Carolyn Spencer Brown calls it "the most anticipated new ship" of the year.

The National Park Service is expecting a slight increase in park visitors of nearly 1 percent in 2011. While park visitor numbers were down slightly in 2010 over 2009, some parks had banner years, including Yellowstone, which recorded more than 3.6 million visitors for the year before December was even over, topping the record 3.3 million who visited in 2009.

Interactive: Top travel stories of 2010 (on this page)

Travel bargains in Europe?
One of the biggest questions for 2011 is how consumers will view travel to Europe. Protests over the economic crisis there have made headlines, and air travel has been repeatedly disrupted by everything from strikes to Iceland's volcano to ice and snow in the days before Christmas. Air travel by U.S. citizens to Europe was down about 1 percent for the first six months of 2010, according to the latest available statistics from the U.S. Commerce Department.

  1. Most popular

But Europe's weak economy could result in travel bargains, especially in countries like Portugal, Spain and Greece, according to John Clifford of InternationalTravelManagement.com and a San Diego-based travel company called Luxury Travel Consultancy. "I think smart consumers this coming year are going to say, 'Hey, this is a great deal,'" he said.

Back home, however, the improving economy is likely to mean higher prices in hotels. "We believe rates will go up," said Scott Berman, hospitality and leisure leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers. He said "corporate America is traveling again," and the demand for group travel is picking up too, which means increased demand for hotels and fewer bargains for leisure travelers, especially in cities where tourism has been relatively strong, like New York, Miami and San Francisco. Those vacationing during peak times — like when school is out — will have a harder time finding deals.

"By no means does that mean there isn't an opportunity for deals, but in order to take advantage of that opportunity, you have to be flexible," Berman said.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Timeline: Top travel stories of 2010

From a volcano that disrupted air travel across Europe to Steve Slater's infamous exit on a JetBlue emergency chute, here's a look at the top travel stories of the year.

Photos: London calling

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  1. A view from the top in London

    London is home to the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, which will be held July 27 to Aug. 12, 2012. Visitors will be able to see all this wolrd-class city has to offer in the summertime - -everything from plays in Shakespeare's Globe Theater to bird's-eye views of the city on the London Eye. Pictured here, a passenger travels on the London Eye observation wheel which stands 135 meters high and is the tallest such wheel in Europe, on Oct. 22, 2010 in London. (Oli Scarff / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Millennium Bridge

    Pedestrians cross the Millennium Bridge, spanning the River Thames in London, on Feb. 15, 2012. (Stefan Wermuth / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Double-decker bus

    A double-decker bus travels through Piccadilly Circus on March 19, 2012 in London. (Oli Scarff / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Buckingham Palace

    At the end of The Mall is Victoria Memorial and Buckingham Palace, where Her Majesty The Queen resides. (George Rose / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Great Court

    Visitors walk in the Great Court of the British Museum on Feb. 22, 2011 in London. (Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Treetop walkway

    A woman walks across the new Rhizotron and Xstrata Treetop walkway, with a view of the Temperate House behind, at Kew Gardens in London on May 22, 2008. The 18-meter high structure gives visitors the opportunity to view the tree canopy at Kew. (Luke MacGregor / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. St. Paul's Cathedral

    Tourists look towards St. Paul's Cathedral while riding on an open-top bus through central London on April 15, 2012. Despite a short-term tourism boom at the time of the Olympics, economists are warning that it won't be enough to prevent a sharp slowdown in the economy this year. (Leon Neal / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Inside St. Paul's Cathedral

    A verger pauses to look at one of the statues in St. Paul's Cathedral after its recent major restoration, in London on June 16, 2011. The St. Paul's Cathedral program of cleaning and repair cost 40 million pounds, has taken 15 years and is the first time in its history that the building has been comprehensively restored inside and out, it was reported on the Cathedral website. (Paul Hackett / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Oxford Circus

    Traffic at the Oxford Circus junction at the intersection of Oxford Street and Regent Street on May 1, 2012 in London. (Oli Scarff / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Trafalgar Square

    Tourists enjoy the sunshine in front of the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square on March 28, 2012 in London. (Matthew Lloyd / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. The Tower of London

    The Tower of London is a historic castle that early in its history served as a royal residence. It's probably most well-known for its use as a place of imprisonment. King Henry VIII executed two of his wives there, and before she became queen, Elizabeth I was held captive there by her half-sister, Queen Mary I. (Scott Barbour / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. River Thames

    An aerial view of the River Thames in London, with the Shard at left and Tower Bridge in the foreground, on September 5, 2011 in London. (Tom Shaw / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Tate Modern

    Visitors to Tate Modern walk through sunlight shining through the windows, in London on July 30, 2009. (Andrew Winning / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Walking across the bridge

    People cross the Millennium Bridge in wet weather in front of the newly-restored St. Paul's Cathedral on June 16, 2011 in London. A prominent feature in the London skyline and one of the world's most beautiful buildings, St. Paul's Cathedral was designed by Sir Christopher Wren in the 17th Century, and is celebrating its 300th anniversary with the completion of a 40 million pound restoration project. (Matthew Lloyd / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Graffiti art

    A woman walks past an ornately-painted building in the Shoreditch area of London on Jan. 14, 2012. Ornate graffiti appears on many buildings and structures in areas of the east London borough of Shoreditch. (Andrew Winning / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Time for soccer

    People play soccer during a warm autumn weather spell on Hampstead Heath, with the City of London in the background, on Oct. 29, 2009. (Jas Lehal / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Fish and chips

    Chelsea soccer fans eat fish and chips outside The Cafe Fish Bar in west London on May 13, 2012. Deep-fried fish in a crispy batter, with fat golden chips, is still as popular as ever with the British public, ranked alongside roast beef and Yorkshire pudding and chicken tikka masala as the nation's favorite dish. (Eddie Keogh / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Shopping spree

    Selfridges department store is illuminated on Oxford Street on December 5, 2011 in London. (Oli Scarff / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Royal Albert Hall and Albert Memorial

    An aerial view of the Royal Albert Hall and Albert Memorial on July 26, 2011 in London. (Tom Shaw / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Shakespeare's Globe Theater

    Actors Dominic Rowan and Miranda Raison perform as Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn in Shakepeare's "Henry VIII" at the Globe Theatre in London on July 6, 2010. William Shakespeare's Globe Theater, on the south bank of the River Thames, burned to the ground during the staging of a play about Henry VIII in 1613 and was rebuilt in the late 1990s. (Luke MacGregor / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Westminster Abbey

    A view of Westminster Abbey on Nov. 19, 2010 in London. (Dan Kitwood / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. The Shard

    The Shard towers over St. Thomas Street, on July 5, 2012 in London. A new addition to the London skyline, It is the European Union's tallest building. (Peter MacDiarmid / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Borough Market

    A woman walks through Borough Market in London on Dec. 9, 2011. (Luke MacGregor / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Houses of Parliament

    A car travels along Westminster Bridge past the Houses of Parliament on March 27, 2012 in London. (Oli Scarff / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. A classic pub

    Patrons drink at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese pub in London, on Dec. 19, 2011. This is one of London's oldest pubs and one of Charles Dickens' favorites, alluded to in "A Tale of Two Cities." (Finbarr O'Reilly / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. London's West End

    Cars travel at night, along Shaftesbury Avenue past West End theatres, on March 29, 2012 in London. The city's West End is synonymous with theater productions, containing over forty venues showing plays, musicals and operas. The theaters typically play host to over 14 million spectators that view over 18,000 performances each year. (Oli Scarff / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. The 'Gherkin'

    The Swiss Re tower or 'Gherkin' is pictured in the City of London on August 12, 2010. (Leon Neal / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. A day in the park

    Visitors enjoy summer sunshine as they row boats on the Serpentine in Hyde Park. One of King Henry VIII's former hunting grounds, the 350-acre park in the middle of London features more than 4,000 trees, a lake and a meadow. (Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. Bouquets of flowers

    A woman carries sunflowers at the Columbia Road flower market in East London as summer weather hit the United Kingdom on May 24, 2009. (Leon Neal / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. Street art

    A woman walks past street art by Banksy on Pollard Street on Nov. 1, 2007 in London. Recent works of art by Banksy have been bought for hundreds of thousands of pounds by celebrities such as Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. The Tower Hamlets Council recently said that they had a duty to remove all graffiti in the area, including anything done by Banksy. However, the public in Bristol recently voted over 90 percent in favor of keeping a piece of graffiti art by Banksy as it was deemed so popular. (Chris Jackson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. A tribute to a princess

    The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain in Hyde Park opened on July 6, 2004, in London. The fountain was designed by American Kathryn Gustafson as a tribute to the former princess, who died in a car crash in 1997. (Scott Barbour / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. A famous crossing

    Tourists pose for a photograph on the pedestrian crossing at Abbey Road in St. John's Wood, North London on Dec. 22, 2010. The crossing, sited outside Abbey Road Studios in North London and made famous by The Beatles, was designated a site of national importance by the British government. (Andrew Winning / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. Brick Lane

    Signs for businesses on Brick Lane, which is synonymous with curry restaurants, on March 16, 2011 in London, England. (Oli Scarff / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. The heart of London

    Summer crowds gather in Trafalgar Square in front of the National Gallery. At the center of Trafalgar Square is Nelson's Column, which commemorates the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar. (George Rose / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  35. A cultural center

    A view down Camden High Street on March 31, 2012 in London. Camden in North London has been one of the city's cultural centers since the 1960s, and is home to the famous Camden Market. The borough is rich in musical heritage with a variety of theatres, art galleries and world famous musical and comedy venues. (Dan Kitwood / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  36. Official timekeeper

    The historic Royal Observatory, Greenwich, is the home of Greenwich Mean Time and the Prime Meridian of the world, making it the official starting point for each new day and year. (Visit London) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image: London 2012 - Famous Landmarks Of Iconic London
    Oli Scarff / Getty Images
    Above: Slideshow (36) London calling
  2. Image: The Dean of Westminster Abbey, John Hall, walks through Westminster Abbey, in central
    Toby Melville / Reuters
    Slideshow (15) Westminster Abbey: 1,000 years of history
  3. Image: Image: A full moon rises over New York City above 42nd Street, as seen across the Hudson River in Weehawken, New Jersey
    Gary Hershorn / Reuters
    Slideshow (19) The Big Apple

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