England is preparing to take a great big bow on the world stage in 2012 as it hosts the Summer Olympic Games, celebrates the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, and, just for good measure, throws in a bevy of additional attraction openings and festivities.
The Olympics kick off on July 27 and run, jump, and flip their way through August 12. While London is the hub of Olympic events, it's certainly not the only place to catch the fever. Soccer, sailing, mountain biking, and canoeing are among the events taking place beyond the capital. HomeAway.co.uk has a handy Olympics venues guide with vacation-rental listings in Olympic venues outside of London.
The celebrations begin well in advance of the Summer Games, though. The Queen's Diamond Jubilee Weekend takes place between June 2 and 5 and marks her 60th year as monarch. Events include the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant, a procession of 1,000 boats on June 3; and a formal carriage procession through London on June 5. And cities around England, as well as the world, will be celebrating Charles Dickens' 200th birthday. Events include festivals, traditional pantomimes, walking tours, and even a quiz night at the Barbican Library in London.
Soccer fans have more than the Summer Games to look forward to with the opening of the National Football Museum in Manchester, which promises visitors the "greatest collection of football memorabilia ever assembled." Preston Guild Week, which happens only once every 20 years, is England's oldest festival, dating back to 1179. In 2012, it will be celebrated in Lancashire with processions, ceremonies, and performances over 10 days in August and September.