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The Top 5 Festivals in Nepal

What comes to your mind when you think of Nepal? If you are like most people, you probably envision beautiful scenic landscapes, sacred religious temples, and brightly colored handmade goods. Nepal is also famous for its fun and vibrant festivals. If you are thinking about visiting the country soon, you should try to experience at least one event before you hop on a flight to go back home. Just remember to run errands, stock up on groceries, and do other important tasks before the festivals start, since some of the local businesses may close during the events. Below you can find more information about the five best festivals in Nepal.

The Holi Festival – March

Holi, also known as the Festival of Colors, is considered one of the most popular festivals in Nepal and marks the arrival of spring. The week-long event is primarily celebrated in the Hindu community since it symbolizes the triumph of good over evil.
The Holi festival celebrates the death of Holika, a person who tried to kill Lord Vishnu’s loyal follower Prahlada. According to an Indian religious story called Mahabharata, Holika was the sister of King Hiranyakashipu. The king was jealous and only wanted the townspeople to worship him and not Lord Vishnu. Despite his threats and intimidation, Prahlada refused to stop worshipping Lord Vishnu. In a fit of rage, King Hiranyakashipu ordered his sister to burn Holika to death for his defiance. However, Lord Vishnu protected Prahlada and allowed him to survive the fire while Holika burned to death. Once the townspeople found out about the miraculous event, they threw water and colored powder on Prahlada to bless him and denounce evil.
To this day, crowds of people honor the memory of during Holi by splashing water and throwing colored powder everywhere to bestow blessings on each other. If you want to experience the Holi festival in person, try to wear light colored clothes so you can easily see the vibrant colors.

The Buddha Jayanti Festival – April

Both the Buddhist and Hindu community participate in the Buddha Jayanti festival. The April event is supposed to commemorate the life and death of Lord Buddha, who was born on the Western plains of Nepal in a town called Lumbini. Buddhists from all over the world come to join the procession and show their respect for Lord Buddha.
The temples and monasteries in Lumbini open their doors during the Buddha Jayanti festival so people can come inside and pray or give an offering. Many people bring flowers, scarves, and candles to place on or near different statues of Buddha. You may also be able to hear the echoes of monks chanting ceremonial prayers and beating drums while you walk through the streets. Sermons promoting world peace and compassion are also commonplace during the Buddha Jayanti festival.

The Indra Jatra Festival – September

Indra Jatra is an extravagant annual street festival that is meant to give honor and thanks to the god of rain Indra. Both Hindus and Buddhists come together to celebrate the occasion for eight days in September.
The Indra Jatra festival is usually only observed in the capital city of Kathmandu. Many people flock to the city so they can see masked performers called Lakhay tell the story of how Indra came to Earth using interpretive dance. Spectators can also enjoy a parade of chariots and dance around ceremonial poles. Every year, the Hindu priests choose one young village girl to represent the spirit of Kumari during the festival. If you’re lucky, you may be able to see her riding in one of the main chariots as the Living Goddess Kumari.

The Dashain Festival – September and October

Dashain is considered to be one of the most important and longest Hindu festivals in Nepal. The event commemorates the victory of good over evil and usually lasts around 15 days. The celebration occurs between September and October and ends on the day of the full moon.
The locals usually perform many rituals (including animal sacrifice) during the festival. If you go, you’ll probably notice the villagers building a large tent-like structure with bamboo and rope. Once the base is secure, they’ll attach a home-made swing inside of it and take turns riding it. It’s also not unusual to see hundreds of colorful kites in the sky since there are multiple kite competitions over the two weeks. If you didn’t get the opportunity to swing with the locals, you can always purchase a kite from a local vendor and enter one of the competitions if you want to participate.
A common Dashain ritual is to tidy up the house so that the goddesses will be tempted to visit and bestow prosperity and good wealth onto the family. Another is to offer several gifts like animals and other food products to the goddess Durga. It’s customary for the older generation to place a mixture of rice, yogurt, and red vermillion on the foreheads of children to give them their blessings at the end of Dashain. Overall, the annual tradition is a time for everyone to feast on delicious food, open presents and spend lots of time with loved ones.

The Tihar Festival – October and November

Another festival you should try to see while visiting Nepal is the Festival of Lights or Tihar. The Tihar festival is meant to pay homage to Yama, the God of Death and Laxmi, the Goddess of Wealth. Similar to the Indian festival of Diwali, the event is celebrated during October and November and can last up to five days. Each day has different rituals and traditions.
In contrast to the wild and colorful celebration of Holi, the Festival of Lights is a time for people to sit down and reflect on the past year and what they’d like to accomplish in the next. It also marks the end of the lunar calendar. Tihar is a time of prayer and spiritual renewal to the Nepalese community. Many families come together over the holiday to eat large meals and exchange gifts with each other. People also use decorative candles and lanterns to celebrate the occasion since it serves as a visual symbol of how the light will always triumph over the darkness. If you look up into the sky, you may also be able to see colorful lanterns and fireworks that are supposed to help usher in a prosperous and healthy new year.
This list of popular festivals merely scratches the surface of what Nepal has to offer. There are a variety of national and regional festivals every month dedicated to different deities and special occasions that you can explore during your time there.

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3 Unique Festivals to See in France

When thinking of a journey to France, many travelers daydream of sipping wine under the Eiffel Tower, cruising in a boat along the French Riviera, or maybe touring some of the most enchanting castles in Europe. But there are also plenty of other reasons to set one’s sights on France. Several people visited to experience the riveting collection of festivals each that celebrate many french traditions. From mega art extravaganzas and world-class carnivals to music festivals you’ll have to see to believe, France is loaded with celebrations you will never forget.

Festival d’Avignon

Travelers can have breakfast in Paris, coffee in Lyon, and still be ready to hop right into the fun of Festival d’Avignon by lunchtime. This french festival is less than three hours by rail from Paris and only an hour south of Lyon. The gorgeous medieval city of Avignon is easily one of the best destinations in France. It is especially alive for three weeks in July during one of the oldest and respected arts festivals in the country. Since its birth back in the late-1940s, the festival has blossomed into a sprawling, multifaceted event. It features an astonishing range of different artistic expressions that appeals to several different appetites.

Theater and More

At the center of the festival, visitors turn up for plays and other live shows at the immense stone courtyard of the Palais de Papes. The Palais is the city’s iconic palace. It was the home of the Pope back in the 14th century and remains one of the city’s main attractions. Theater was one of the essential art forms in France during the festival’s conception. Different varieties of shows can be seen at dozens of different venues around Avignon during the festival. You’re likely to find more household names performing at the bigger events at the festival. However, actors from local theaters and independent artists perform on the streets.
Theater is not the only attraction at the festival either. There are plenty of musical and dance performances, art displays and film screenings. Despite its enormous size, however, Festival d’Avignon is actually easy to navigate for visitors. Most festivalgoers can walk to nearly all of the different performances spread around the city’s center. Festival producers also recommend the self-service bikes (vélopops), that will quickly get you from venue to venue. If you need a break from the festival, there are plenty of options to escape for the afternoon. You can take a day trip to the scenic village of Cabrières-d’Avignon to catch the stunning purple fields of lavender just before the close of the season.

Fete de la Musique

There are a handful of great Parisian festivals worth considering, including Paris Quartier d’été, Rock en Seine and Bastille Day. But you’ll also have a hard time topping the Fete de la Musique. This street-music festival that brings about 100,000 patrons to the streets and buildings of Paris on the summer solstice. What started as a small street-based festival in 1982 has grown into a phenomenon. It takes over not only the streets but public gardens, courtyards, and even some museums and churches. In short, there’s simply no containing musical expression, and all styles and genres of music are welcome.
Although the festival is mainly celebrated throughout France, similar events have popped up in other countries as well. However, Paris remains the place to be if you love vivacious music festivals. Designed to be an extremely inclusive experience, Fete de la Musique also encourages musicians of all different experience levels. This makes it a hot spot for undiscovered talent. Amateur musicians will often find a crowd and break out into spontaneous performances. Whether you come to captivate those around you or to be captivated, the Fete de la Musique is a place that inspires musicians and spectators alike.
If you miss the Fete de la Musique but are still hoping for a festival experience, try the Paris Quartier d’été. During the summer, it showcases a terrific range of art forms and is another excellent chance to see Paris from a fresh perspective.

Carnival de Nice

The Nice Carnival has existed since around the 1290s. Each year, the beautiful city of Nice into astonishing displays of extravagant parades. The carnival is a testament to the artistic soul at the heart of the city and an excellent excuse to see one of the gems of the French Riviera. Taking place from mid-February to the early part of March. The carnival includes a renowned flower parade, various light parades, and a very popular parade dedicated to the main theme of the carnival.
Many of the top parades also take place right within the parameters of the Place Masséna. Place Masséna is Nice’s famous city square that hosts a variety of different public events during the year. Jaw-dropping artistry and intricate floats dominate the carnival. Each year the goal is to top the spectacle of the previous year. Throughout the two weeks of the carnival, the city of Nice carries a party atmosphere. There is an influx of both locals and visitors pouring in from all over for the main events.
If you need a breather from the crowds, there are a variety of different beaches to visit and seaside walks like the Promenade des Anglais. Although you won’t see too many brave swimmers in the water in late-February, the city’s temperate climate still make the beaches extremely inviting. With centuries-old traditions and endlessly clever slate of rolling artworks The Nice Carnival is a must see.

Other terrific festivals worth considering

If you want to be entertained, France is sure to have a festival that’s up your alley. World-famous events like the Cannes International Film Festival are well worth the effort and certainly live up to the hype. However, there are many other ways to delve into the festival circuit. Anyone looking to dive headfirst into a terrific French tradition, the Bastille Day celebrations on July 14 are an amazing display of cultural pride. While the summer is full of great festivals throughout France, winter stands out. Winter festivals in France like Lyon’s Festival of Lights in December and a major carnival in Menton in February are also great celebrations to experience.
Choosing the right festival can be the perfect way to upgrade your French vacation and allow you to stray away from the guidebook. The biggest problem you’re likely to have is that you’re going to want to come back again next year.

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Insiders Guide to Festivals in the United Kingdom

If you’re heading to the U.K., check out the lineup of festivals around the British Isles. The country offers numerous festivals for every interest and age. Check out a few of these festivals that often fly beneath the tourist radar.

Soul Circus

The Cotswolds, U.K.

This yoga and wellness festival int he U.K. will leave you feeling healthier and more relaxed than when you arrived. Experienced yoga and wellness instructors offer 20 classes a day in three different “experience tents.” The atmosphere is somewhere in between a DJ yoga rave and a mindful meditation. Spa tents revive both body and spirit. Music plays all day and far into the night by buskers and bands and a DJ late night party in the woods.
Organic food and drinks from home-grown sustainable sources put the “w” in wellness, and guests can attend workshops on healthy cooking. Inspirational talks from life coaches are on the agenda as well as soaking in hot tubs. Many people put up tents or tipis for total immersion. After such a rejuvenating weekend, even traffic can feel tranquil.

Robin Hood Festival

Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire

Taking places during the first week of August, this annual festival has grown into a pop-up 13th Century village with a square half-mile of woods full of stalls and attractions. Armor-clad knights hold frequent energetic jousts. Vicious fights erupt between Robin Hood and the Sheriff’s men. Children join impromptu, theatrical re-enactments of the Robin Hood story dressed as the mythical hero or Maid Marian in garlands of flowers. Archery lessons, pony rides, and discovery trails are the most popular attractions.
Jugglers, buffoons, and minstrels mingle with the crowds. There are exhibitions of falconry and alchemy. Magicians, storytellers, puppeteers, and musicians weave the wonder of a bygone time in and around the shade of The Major Oak, an 800-year-old tree. This festival celebrates Merrie Olde England without the Medieval scourges of plague and serfdom for a lighthearted immersion into a fanciful storied time.

Hampton Court Palace Festival

London, U.K. 

Big name acts perform at the annual summer music festival on the grounds of Henry VIII’s magnificent Tudor palace and world famous, extensive gardens. The intimate, open-air auditorium seats 3,000. Pre-concert festival picnics are elegant four-course seasonal meals including a cheese course and wine that attendees can enjoy at their leisure on the palace grounds.
You can reserve a gazebo and enjoy the luxury of a lake view and dedicated waitstaff. The exclusive and unforgettable VIP package includes dining in royal splendor inside the castle. Private dining apartments can be arranged. The VIP experience ends with champagne at a post-concert castle gathering that allows an inside look at King Henry’s public and private spaces.


Henham Park– Southwold, Suffix

Four days of music, art, theater, and unexpected experiences define this family-friendly festival. Each year in mid-July, people ditch the city to rent tents (some luxury) or pods and enjoy a multi-day get-away in the woods. Special areas and activities are set aside for kids and teens. Sheep are dyed funky colors, and surprising sights abound.
SOLAS is the hearth of Latitude for relaxation, yoga, and eclectic art immersed in a pine forest and serenaded by emerging U.K. and Irish talent from troubadours, ambient electro, folk music, and dark pop. Ambient soundscapes accompany slow-motion visuals. Spa treatments and workshops are set up to enhance wellness and wisdom.
This U.K. festival offers a large variety of entertainment in music arenas, film, theater, and dance arenas, a comedy arena, and more venues scattered around the park. Established talent join emerging performers for an eclectic variety of acts.
You can enjoy a game of croquet or sip Prosecco in a forest bar, swim in the lake and listen to live music all day. Late night dancing in the woods is an ethereal experience. You never know what’s around the corner in The Faraway Forest, but expect theatre performances, interactive art, and a visually stunning walk through a world of woodland imagination.
More than 80 of the U.K.’s finest street food vendors bring a world of tastes to the festival including modern Greek cuisine, wood-fired pizza, Himalayan soul food, Indonesian charcoal barbecue, and Portuguese prego along with the more traditional burgers and wings.
This festival offers maximum fun with minimal festival distress. You won’t get lost, wonder what to do with the kids, or have to leave any night but the last.

Twelfth Night

Bankside–London, Epiphany

This raucous Twelfth Night Celebration aspires to be biblical but has many pagan, pre-Christian elements. At London’s Bankside near the Globe Theater, the Holly Man, covered in fresh holly, glides along the Thames in a small decorated boat before joining crowds for toasts with mulled wine. Festivities incorporate a re-enactment of the story of St. George and the Dragon. Some revelers are costumed. Two audience members who find a bean in their Twelfth Night cake are crowned King Bean and Queen Pea. Revelers march on to the George Inn on Borough High Street for more dancing, mulled wine, the Kissing Wishing Tree, and storytelling. This coaching inn is one of London’s oldest pubs and can hold a large crowd. The George is famous for being the only galleried coaching inn still standing in London.

The Padstow ‘Obby ‘Oss

Padstow, Cornwall

Reputed to be the oldest dance festival in the U.K., the Padstow ‘Obby ‘Oss (Hobby Horse) sees thousands of people converge upon this small Cornish town, many with hobby horses of all types. The festival, celebrated each May Day, celebrates Celtic horse-worship, a pagan fertility parade. The festival was even used as a warning to would-be invaders of the portside fishing village.
Townsfolk decorate the village in greenery and erect a Maypole. Dance troupes parade down the streets, each led by an ‘Oss, a dancer costumed as a horse. “Oss’s” capture young women and conceal them in black capes, thought to be a pagan fertility rite. Another ‘Oss represents peace, and they duke it out. Traditional music is heard all day. Costumed troupes cavort around town before retiring to their stables — two local pubs — to be joined by townsfolk and visitors for a festive night. Revelers return to the town center to dance around the maypole at midnight.
The U.K. offers a multitude of music festivals all summer, but other seasons are festive as well. Be sure to check out the festivals happening during Christmas and Easter!

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Top 8 Summer Music Festivals in the World

A music festival is a timeless way to see new places, spend time with your favorite people, and hear some great live music. A good festival, of course, is more than the sum of its parts. It’s a chaotic meshing of sounds, socializing, food, unique fashion statements, creative art forms, and merchandise. Ever since Woodstock, music festivals have become a rite of passage for young people and, increasingly, people of all ages. Best of all, there are amazing festivals in all corners of the globe. Let’s look at some of the top summer music festivals in the world.

1. Lollapalooza

Grant Park, Chicago, USA

Right in the heart of downtown, Chicago, Lollapalooza is an amazing festival that’s been running since 1991. It features eight stages and more than 170 bands, covering a wide range of styles. A festival in an urban setting can either be a perk or a drawback, depending on your point of view. On the one hand, you don’t have to drive into the wilderness and set up your campsite. You have all the city amenities within walking distance. Chicago is famous for its great food (especially pizza), bars, museums, and impressive skyline. On the other hand, escaping civilization is one of the features that draws you to festivals, you have plenty of other choices.
In addition to music, Lollapalooza has a mini-festival for kids, an art market, and plenty of merch. You can buy 4-day tickets for the entire festival or single-day tickets. There are also hotel packages. Children under 10 with an adult are admitted free (up to two kids per adult).

2. FYF Fest

Los Angeles, CA, USA

This annual 3-day festival is held at Exposition Park in Los Angeles. FYF Fest has been popular on the West Coast since 2004 and is known for its edgy atmosphere and diverse selection of music, including pop, rock, rap, electronic, hip-hop, and indie. It’s a good festival choice for those with eclectic tastes.

3. Tomorrowland

Boom, Belgium

Tomorrowland is a two-weekend festival that combines electronic music and the arts with a vision for a more peaceful and environmentally sustainable future. This festival began in 2005 and attracts an enthusiastic audience from all over the world. In some ways reminiscent of Burning Man in the U.S., Tomorrowland is full of futuristic visions, art installations, and its own “city,” DreamVille.
There are several options for accommodations, from As with most festivals, there are many tiers for ticket prices, depending on when you buy tickets, what you want to experience, and how long you stay. There are quite a few creative options, at various prices for lodging, including simple tents, tiny home-like structures to luxury “mansions.”

4. Hideout

Zrce Beach, Croatia

Hideout is a good choice if you want to get an early start to celebrating the summer. Set in a remote and pristine location on the Adriatic Sea with a view of mountains, this festival is famous for its boat rides, beach parties, and a wide selection of electronic music. As the name suggests, Hideout is a place where you can escape the everyday rut and experience an idyllic world for a few days.
This is also a great festival for adventurous travelers who enjoy water sports such as jet skiing, boating, and quad biking. Festival goers have a chance to island hop and explore beautiful Plitvice Lakes National Park.

5. Electric Zoo

 New York City, USA

Electric Zoo is an end-of-summer Labor Day festival held at Randall’s Island Park, a 480-acre urban park on the border of Brooklyn, Queens, and The Bronx. Established in 2009, Electric Zoo has been held all over the world. The original location, however, is New York. The 2018 theme is The 6th Boro, which reveals the ambitious attempt to make the festival a permanent part of the New York City (which has five official boroughs or counties) cultural scene.
Their past lineup included DJ Snake, Above & Beyond, Galantis, and Sasha & John Digweed. Check the website for early bird tickets.

6. Wireless Festival

London, UK

If you want to visit London this summer, you may want to schedule your trip to coincide with this festival, held at Finsbury Park. Now in its 13th year, Wireless has become one of the most popular music festivals in the UK. Since Wireless is an urban festival, you have to find your own accommodations. London, however, is an easy city to navigate. If you don’t want to spring for a costly hotel, there are plenty of hostels and reasonable Airbnb options.

7. Arise

 Loveland, Colorado, USA

The Arise Music Festival, approaching its 6th year, is a diverse event held at Sunset Ranch, a 350-acre organic farm in a scenic valley. In addition to music, Arise gives participants the chance to explore a variety of classes, workshops, and art installations. Many attendees are active in political and environmental causes. One of the requirements is that you “leave no trace” –i.e. clean up and leave the grounds as you found them.
Tickets for the 3-day festival include camping. Car camping is another option. There are also camping upgrades available if you want additional amenities.

8. Montreux Jazz Festival

Montreux, Switzerland

The Montreux Jazz Festival, founded in 1967, is one of the most glamorous and popular jazz festivals in the world. The program typically includes rock, soul, and blues musicians as well as jazz greats. On the scenic shores of Lake Geneva, the setting is perfect for relaxation and boat rides as well as great music, parties, and socializing.
Montreux has a variety of venues to enjoy music and special events, such as the Auditorium Stravinski, known for its outstanding acoustics and the Montreux Jazz Club, where you can enjoy intimate performances by contemporary artists. Visit the website to find out program details. Past participants have included B.B. King, David Bowie, Prince, Leonard Cohen, Radiohead, and scores of other household names as well as new performers.
You can buy an all-music pass or attend one of the festival’s many free events such as jam sessions, concerts, and film screenings.

Music Festivals Make the Summer More Fun

A music festival can be the highlight of summer vacation. If it’s close to home, it can make for an awesome road trip. The above are some of the most exciting summer festivals in the world. Some festivals don’t announce their lineups until fairly late in the season. However, keep in mind that tickets often sell out fast. So, if you want to attend one of these festivals, it’s best to buy your tickets early!

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The Winter Events and Festivals Worth a Trip to Miami

Everyone knows Miami has enough gorgeous beaches and places of leisure to make it the perfect escape – especially if you’re looking to trade in wintry landscapes for the Floridian sunshine. But there’s more going on in Miami than sipping Mai Tais and gazing at legendary sunsets. With a flurry of festivals of all sizes and a diverse culture that gives Miami its character, choosing just one event to attend might be the most challenging part of planning a Miami getaway. Consider these winter festivals and events in Miami that act as the perfect complement to days spent soaking up the sun in South Beach.

 Art and Culture Festivals

Art Deco Weekend

The art scene in Miami really gets kicked up a notch after the new year, with a variety of energetic festivals taking center stage. At the renowned Art Deco Weekend in mid-January every year, locals and visitors experience a host of live events and shows spanning the posh Ocean Drive shopping district – all with the backdrop of the color-infused, vintage Miami architecture. Jazz demos, retro fashion shows, swanky soirees, classic car shows, and much more fill in the schedule of one of Miami’s longest-running festivals, as this one has been steadily building since it got started back in the mid-1970s.
Patrons are also only steps from some of Florida’s most famous beaches, making it easy to slip in a beach picnic or an ocean dip before heading to the next event. Both an educational outreach program and an event aimed at preserving the famous Art Deco architecture of the area, the Art Deco Weekend is one of the few winter festivals that can truly claim to have something for everyone.

Beaux Arts Festival

Not to be outdone, the Beaux Arts Festival on the University of Miami campus has also emerged as one of the must-see winter events in Miami for art lovers, drawing in artists from all over the world to participate. Designed in the 1950s to introduce young artists to the public, this festival has grown into a widespread celebration of inspiration and artistry. It is complete with a prestigious student showcase that is one of the leading competitions of its kind.
Guests peruse long lines of tents featuring local and international artists and participate in art workshops that are ideal for both families and couples alike. One of the centerpieces of the event, the Beaux Arts Ball, is a radiant costume party that keeps it fun with themes ranging from James Bond to Noah’s Ark.

South Miami Rotary Arts Festival

Also showcasing many of the best local artists in Miami, the South Miami Rotary Arts Festival in late-February is another great option for art aficionados of all experience levels. Held for more than 30 years, this festival takes over the area of South Miami on Sunset Drive (downtown Miami), proudly showing off a spread of artwork, live music, beer gardens, and more in front of the area’s many historic buildings and fine restaurants.

World-class Food Fests and Growing Beer Demos

Imagine tasting the creations of some of the world’s best chefs with your bare feet in the sands of Miami Beach. Held every February, the South Beach Wine and Food Festival brings in acclaimed chefs from all over the world to showcase a spectacular variety of cuisine. Sponsored by The Food Network, the renowned festival is not only a place to taste some of the most delicious flavors your tongue will ever meet, but it’s also a great place to learn the culinary arts no matter your cooking skill (or lack thereof).
Seminars, special dinners, and a variety of live events are spread out throughout five days, catering to both romantic couples and families. With its stunning backdrop overlooking the ocean, high likelihood of celebrity sightings, and new events that are always popping up on the schedule, the festival is easily one of the highlights every winter in Miami.
Another winter favorite, the Miami Beer Festival takes over Marlins Park one night every January, showing off a whirlwind of nectars from breweries around South Florida and beyond. Focusing on craft beers, this festival comes with live music and a line of the best food trucks in Miami, creating an unbelievable atmosphere right on the home field of Major League Baseball’s Miami Marlins. For a youthful, energetic experience that shows off some of the best tastes of Miami, the up-and-coming Miami Beer Festival is always a good option.
Also, consider:
Near the beginning of March, the Miami Whiskey Mash celebrates the art of whiskey with flavors from all over the world, from Scotland and Ireland to the very best Japanese and American styles. A mellow infusion of jazz is the music of choice in a low-key event that has taken off in only a handful of years since its inception. Meanwhile, the International Chocolate Festival is a celebration of the cacao plant guaranteed to enliven your test buds. Held at the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, the chocolate fest features a series of lively demos from experts to go with some of the most mouth-watering chocolates you’ll ever find.

Boating and Heritage festivals

As one of the very best cities for boating in the U.S., Miami is a wonderland for boating enthusiasts and the natural home for an enormous boat festival that takes over the waters in mid-February. Held at the Miami Marine Stadium Park and Basin, the Miami International Boat Show is where you can find any power boat imaginable, from slick and fast to the perfect vessels for a plodding pleasure cruise along the Biscayne Bay. Complete with delectable foods from local vendors and instructional seminars, the boat show is where you can check out some of the best boats in the world, learn a thing or two about the ins and outs of boating, or simply sip cocktails at the water’s edge overlooking the bay.
Another key event held at the Miami Marine Stadium Park and Basin along with nearby Miamarina, the Strictly Sail Miami Boat Show is dedicated to celebrating the art of sailing. Also held in February, the show boasts top-of-the-line catamarans and a wide range of cutting-edge sailing gear, making it a must for anyone who loves to sail – or simply would love to get into it someday.

Redland Heritage Festival and Craft Fair

While sailing is a tradition that goes back a very long time in Miami, visitors also get a chance to see the roots of the region up close and personal at the Redland Heritage Festival and Craft Fair. A family-friendly event that has all kinds of events for kids of different ages, the festival is the perfect escape from the hustle-bustle of Miami and shows the pristine subtropical landscape of South Florida in vivid detail. Held at the rural Fruit and Spice Park about 20 minutes from downtown Miami, the Redland Heritage Festival has events like Everglades wildlife shows, pony rides, petting zoos, and more to keep you occupied as you wander the sprawling botanical garden. The park itself is also a sight to see on its own, as it has a staggering collection of fruit and spice trees brought over from Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean.
Although there are plenty of big events and festivals that take place every winter in Miami, don’t forget to keep an eye out for smaller fests that might give you a terrific close-up of the local culture. Neighborhoods like Little Havana, the Design District, Coconut Grove, and Coral Gables are constantly hosting fun local events that remind everyone Miami is more than just an assortment of immaculate beaches. With its outstanding winter weather and a vast collection of annual events and festivals, Miami has more than enough to keep you occupied both day and night whatever your interests happen to be.

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Traveler’s Guide to Mexico’s Top Festivals

Mexico’s lively festival calendar offers something for everyone. From celebrating the solstice, the dearly departed, donkeys, saints, and radishes. The festival season is perfect for those who seek to explore the culture behind Mexico’s stunning beaches, mysterious ruins, and enchanting forests. Here are a few can’t miss festivals in Mexico.

Day of the Dead, Mexico City 

Taking place from October 31st to November 2nd, this 4,000 year-old-tradition unfolds over three days in an explosion of color and noise. The theme is death, but the deceased are joyfully remembered in colorful parties and parades. Families build altars in homes and cemeteries that they cover with candles and gifts to welcome spirits back to the realm of the living. This Mexican festival spills into streets and public squares at all hours. Skeleton costumes are part of the fun. Revelers wear shells and noisemakers to rouse the dead and keep them involved in the party.
Mexico City’s Day of the Dead Parade includes 700 costumed performers who parade through the city on floats featuring giant skulls and elaborately decorated altars. Many onlookers wear macabre costumes. Cemeteries are “party central” with lots of food, music, and informal celebrations. The states of Michoacan, Chiapas, and Oaxaca are known to have the most elaborate displays and celebrations, but for the best parade, head to Mexico City.

Night of the Radishes, Oaxaca

This Mexican festival goes back more than 100 years and was inspired by radishes carved by food vendors to attract customers at the Christmas market. Today, the radishes are grown in a special field and fertilized to an inedible degree, so they grow large enough for creative carvings. Some are two feet long. Carvings range from Egyptian gods and scenes of daily life in Oaxaca to wildlife, architectural, and religious themes. The art lasts for just a few hours as radishes wilt. Artisans and amateurs compete for the cash prize and visitors enjoy fireworks, parades, and craft booths. During the festival, carts sell buñuelos (fried pastries coated with syrup) and esquites (grilled Mexican street corn mixed with a spicy mixture.

Fiesta de Santa Cecilia, Mexico City

St. Cecilia, the patron saint of music, is celebrated in Mexico City’s famed mariachi square each year. Mariachis and regional musicians gather in Plaza Garibaldi for a tribute concert. Dressed in the traditional black and white clothing and huge sombreros, the mariachi play violins, guitars, and trumpets. Many statues of the saint are on parade. An open-air party with enthusiastic dancing, drinking, and singing is part of the fun. Street vendors line the streets selling religious items, artisanal bread, desserts, and snacks. Organizers offer game opportunities to festival goers. While St. Cecilia is celebrated all over Mexico, the event in Mexico City is said to be the largest, loudest, and most colorful.

La Morisma, Zacatecas

In the colonial section of town, 2,000 participants re-enact battles between the Christians and the Moors in old Spain in 1571 while roving bands of musicians spur them on. In late august, people dress in brightly colored uniforms with swords and scimitars. Warriors from the pages of European history clog the streets to battle to a Christian victory. The climactic moment is the execution of the Moorish king. The Moors never win. The battle is preceded by a colorful, boisterous parade of about 10,000 residents of the barrio of Bracho.
The festival includes religious processions, secular parades, fireworks, and living history tableaux that help to tell the story. The roots of the festival are in medieval Spain, and the celebration originated in Zacatecas, Mexico, in the early 17th Century.
Zacatecas is a UNESCO world heritage site with vibrant street life and music year-round, world-class museums, and historic churches. A cable car swings up a cliff for stunning, unobstructed views of the city and its surroundings. Some people come for the view and stay for the festival. It is an hour from Mexico City by plane.

Donkey Festival, Otumba

Where else but in Otumba, a major center for the donkey trade during Spanish Colonial times. Once a small, local celebration, it now attracts more than 40,000 visitors on May 1st eager to see donkey races, donkey dancing, the Donkey Queen, and donkey shaped hot air balloons. Games of polo are played on donkeys. The costume festival is one of the most anticipated events, and townsfolk dress up their donkeys for prizes. A recent winner dressed up as Donald Trump. There are fireworks displays and burrito booths, a craft fair and contest, folk dancing, and playful socializing. Pulque, an agave-based drink, is consumed in large quantities making even the most humble citizen a vocal proponent of the virtues of this humble beast of burden.

Solstice and Equinox Celebrations, Chichen Itza

The Mayan marked the longest and shortest days of the year plus the spring and autumn equinoxes in the well preserved Chichen Itza complex. During the solstices, two sides of the Temple of Kukulcan are illuminated and two sides are fully shaded. From the sky, the temple pyramid appears to split in two
On the spring and fall equinoxes, the sun shines on the western side of the El Castillo pyramid’s stairway forming seven triangles that create a 120-foot long snake-like shadow. It creeps downwards until it joins the huge rattlesnake head at the bottom of the stairway. Thousands of spectators from around the world, both religious and pagan, gather to witness these ethereal spectacles, the most popular being the spring equinox.

Judas Burning, Holy Saturday, Mexico City

On Holy Saturday, people Burn effigies of Judas, the man who betrayed Christ. This festival originated in Spain, but soon became popular in Mexico. The effigies grew larger, then they were stuffed with firecrackers, and soon the burnings became too dangerous. Laws were passed to limit the demonstrations to safer dimensions. Effigies of Judas became effigies of unpopular politicians and government officials. Today, most of the burnings are sponsored by artisans and local governments who do not want the tradition to be legislated away. The Santa Rosa Xochiac section of Mexico City is the best place to witness exploding Judases, both historical and contemporary, in a party-like atmosphere where adults cheer and children scamper after body parts. The entire community participates in crafting the giant figures.
No matter which Mexican festivals you choose, you will gain insight into another culture as well as having fun and participating in an awesome experience. Food is usually an integral part of the festival. For as you will often hear in Mexico: Barriga llena, corazón contento, meaning,  full belly, happy heart.

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6 Spectacular American Cities to Spend the Holidays

The enchanting sights, sounds, and aromatic smells of the holiday season come alive at these six cities across the United States that provide you with a fun and fabulous wintertime adventure that you’re sure to remember for a lifetime. Take a look at the breathtaking displays, spectacular shopping, and unique cultural events that make these locations a mecca for those who love to experience the season’s best celebrations.

‘Christmas town USA’: Best City for Holiday Lights

McAdenville, North Carolina epitomizes the giving spirit of the holidays with its spectacular month-long holiday lights display that showcases 160 festive homes, a fabulous downtown commons display, 265 evergreens featuring 500,000 lights, and spectacular lakeside scenery surrounded by beautifully-brightened spruce trees. The entire month-long extravaganza is free to the public, and the official lighting ceremony takes place on November 30th. The town is lit up every Monday through Friday from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. and weekends from 5:30 to 11:00 p.m. through December 26th.
This small village just outside of Charlotte doesn’t stop there. Townsfolk also gifts the first 1,000 visitors to the Annual Christmas Town Festival with free cider and kettle corn to help usher in some holiday cheer. This fun family event takes place on December 13th and features a charming holiday parade, a stopover by Santa, a traditional yule log ceremony, and musical entertainment that captures the magic of the season.

New York City, New York: Best Center for Magical Ice Skating

New York’s Rockefeller Square is a cultural icon that stays true to its reputation for excellence with a whole host of holiday activities for yuletide-lovers who are both young and young-at-heart. The lighting of the iconic 75-foot tree takes place on the evening of November 28th and brightens the square every evening through January 7th with its 30,000 lights and Swarovski crystal star. The gigantic live spruce overlooks an intimate ice rink that gives skaters the impression of sliding through a mythical urban landscape dotted with giant forests, celebrated artwork, and twinkling lights. Visitors can also enjoy magical horse and buggy rides that take you on a tour of the area’s most famous attractions, such as Radio City Music Hall. Here you can enjoy all the pomp and spectacle of the Radio City Rockette’s Christmas Spectacular. 

Branson, Missouri: Best Place to Catch the Polar Express Train

Best known as the Live Music Capital of the World, this quaint mountain town of about 10,000 people sits against the spectacular backdrop of the pine-covered Ozark Mountains. Every holiday season it lights up the region with a wide array of events that have collectively come to be known as the Ozark Mountain Christmas Festival. By far the unique and eagerly anticipated of these experiences is the Branson Scenic Railway’s Polar Express Ride that showcases the natural wonders along the area’s snow-capped peaks. Just outside the train’s windows visitors can witness amazing scenes recreated from the enchanting film ‘The Polar Express.’
For more great seasonal entertainment, check out the city’s world-renowned live holiday shows featuring many talented musical legends. You can also enjoy some antique and holiday gift shopping in the historic downtown district, or take a driving tour of the holiday lights at the Promised Land Zoo and Gift of Lights Trail. The fun-filled Silver Dollar City Amusement Park’s Old Time Christmas festival runs from November 3rd through December 30th. It has an astounding 6.5 million sparkling lights–and some of the season’s best children’s plays and sing-a-longs.

Frankenmuth, Michigan: Best Town for an Authentic European Christkindlmarkt

Popularly known as “Little Bavaria” because of its historic German heritage, this town of 5,000 residents in central Michigan boasts 2 million annual visitors, a breathtaking Christmas Lane filled with 100,000 lights, and the quaint Old Christmas Station Restaurant that sits on sight of a former 1920’s train station. Perhaps its most beloved tradition is the European-style ‘Christkindlmarkt‘ featuring mouthwatering delights such as their fresh, locally sourced apple cider, open-fire roasted chestnuts, and delectable holiday pastries.
This enticing European-style market isn’t the only big draw for holiday lovers. Frankenmuth holds bragging rights to the world’s largest store dedicated exclusively to all things Christmas. The family owned and operated Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland was opened in 1945 and features 100,000 twinkling lights, 2.2 acres of indoor displays, 27 acres of outdoor landscapes, and 50,000 unique gifts and trims. It even has a replica of Salzburg, Austria’s Silent Night Memorial Chapel complete with a breathtaking walking path and quaint educational signposts. For dedicated Christmas fans who like to start the season early and extend the holiday spirit into the warmer months, you’re in luck. The store is open 365 days a year!

Taos, New Mexico: Best Locale to Experience Cultural Unity

This vibrant desert city offers a unique holiday experience that blends different cultural practices to showcase a beautiful pageantry of unity. On Christmas Eve, the Christian and Native American communities come together at the 1,000-year-old Taos Pueblos adobe settlement for the Procession of the Virgin. This unique event is open to the public and includes the lighting of ‘farolitos’ or paper lanterns, massive bonfires that are part of a blended Catholic and Native ceremony, and celebratory gunfire salutes along the parade route at this UNESCO World Heritage site.
Within the architecturally unique city limits, you’ll find a vibrant artistic community that plays host to the annual Yuletide Arts and Crafts Fair from November 23rd through the 25th. There is also a one-of-a-kind ‘pop-up, pop-down’ Taos Folk Store which appears at the Stables Gallery every November 25th through December 24th, and includes an incredible array of locally crafted items, from jewelry and journals to tea sets and totem poles. Here you’ll find unforgettable gifts for even the most discerning people on your holiday list, and beautiful items for yourself as well!

Lihue, Kauai, Hawaii: Best City for an Eco-Holiday in Paradise

The small island hamlet of Lihue hosts an awe-inspiring December-long Festival of Lights that takes place at the Historic 1913 County Building located on Hawaii’s ‘Garden Isle.’ Its grand scope belies its humble beginnings as a recycling project by a local artist who decided to turn other people’s trash into gifted treasures at her home, which came to be known as ‘The Christmas House.’
In 1997 her treasured creations came into the hands of her niece, also an artist, who chose to donate them to the county. The mayor asked her to create a fun-filled holiday display from them that has since transformed into a colorful celebration which draws international visitors and community members alike. Here you’ll find magical indoor and outdoor light displays, interactive installations featuring out-of-this-world artist-designed recyclables, and fun photos with Santa set against a panorama of eco-inspired design.
If you’re ready to raise a glass of cheer to a new adventure filled with time-honored traditions, head on out to one of these lively yuletide destinations this holiday season!

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Traveler’s Guide to the Best Southern Festivals in America

Seafood boils, barbecue, jazz and blues, gumbo cook-offs and hillbilly hoopla thrill ears and tickle taste buds in America’s southern states. Here are a few Southern festivals to experience with the whole family.

Mardi Gras

Lake Charles, Lousiana

Everyone has heard of the traditional southern festival Mardi Gras in New Orleans. However, it has a reputation for being too crowded, crazy, and not always kid-friendly. For an alternative, drive over the Calcasieu River High Bridge to Lake Charles to take in the Mardi Gras parades and pageantry that look like they were transported from New Orleans to a more family-friendly location.
With more than 50 krewes, Lake Charles is second in the state for parade size. It has a rich tradition of krewes outdoing each other with royal courts, costumes, and floats. On Saturday, the Gumbo Cook-off showcases each krewe’s cherished gumbo recipe. This is followed by the Royal Krewe of Barkus parade with a hundred pups and dogs, some in carts, decorated and costumed, and competing for the Top Dog prize.
On Sunday, the Blue Dog Cafe serves up a brunch feast with live jazz. The Children’s Parade then begins at 3 p.m. with more than 50 floats, some elaborately decorated, others spruced up trucking rigs, showering children of all ages with coins, beads, stuffed animals, and other toys.
Monday’s Royal Gala is the only public access Mardi Gras gala in the U.S. For a five-dollar ticket anyone can see the spectacle of each krewe’s elaborately costumed royal court before they go on parade the next day. More families than dedicated party drinkers line the streets for the magnificent Mardi Gras parade.

Memphis in May International Festival

Memphis, Tennessee 

Memphis in May is a southern festival you cannot miss. Memphis, known as Home of the Blues and the Birthplace of Rock ‘n Roll, celebrates music and food all month long. The major events include the following:

  • The Beal Street Music Festival is a rain or shine, four-stage event featuring more than 60 top musical acts. With music booming on-stage, beating in bars, and the sweet sounds of sax on street corners, it is a total immersion experience into American music. In homage to the city’s Blues heritage, the festival has a two-thousand seat blues tent for touring and emerging artists and an outdoor performance area that presents the sounds of today’s Delta.
  • The World Champion Barbecue Cooking Contest brings 230 pitmasters and their teams from more than 25 states and several foreign countries to smoke the town and tantalize taste buds from a park that runs along the Mississippi River.
  • The Great America River Run includes a half marathon and a 5K. The half marathon races, walks, jogs, and sprints along the river while 5K runners dash through the city. A massive post-race party includes food, drinks, and Memphis’ legendary music and barbecue.

National Shrimp Festival

Gulf Shores, Alabama

More than 250,000 seafood lovers converge on this gulf-side town in mid-October to sample shrimp and other seafood cooked every which way and served by restaurants and vendors on the Food Board Walk. At this southern festival you can see and sample the wares of 300 exhibitors offering everything from edibles to arts and crafts. Continuous music features major national recording acts as well as all the local favorites. The Children’s Activity Village lets kids turn their creative talents loose, and a sand castle competition is enjoyed by everyone on the beach. The event includes a 10K run/walk and a golf tournament.

Hillbilly Days

Pikeville, Kentucky

Highlighting Appalachian culture and all things hillbilly, this unique southern festival in mid-April includes hillbilly music, local food, a cornhole tournament, quilt show, and shenanigans. Parade jalopies and trucks look like they drove out of the Dust Bowl or a movie set for the Grapes of Wrath. Beauty queen contestants vie for the most tattered overalls and bushiest mustaches. Missing teeth get extra points.
More than 300 vendors man booths throughout the city showcasing their products and homemade items. This is your chance to sink your teeth into a deep-fried Twinkie and place your bet on an authentic pig drop. Carnival rides, games, and dancing to live music performed on three stages add to the energetic vibe of this celebration of an iconic American culture. Be sure to dress down– way down. Find your hillbilly name here. The funds raised support Shriners Children’s Hospital.

Lowcountry Oyster Festival

Charleston, South Carolina

Shuck ’em and suck ’em in January at the world’s largest oyster festival for your personal pleasure or in competition to see who can shuck and eat the most oysters. The event is held at the Boone Plantation, just outside of Charleston and presented by the Charleston Restaurant Association. It attracts thousands of visitors from all over the world who consume 80,000 pounds of oysters. The event includes live music, a food court showcasing local favorites, as well as a children’s area.
The plantation dates back to 1743, and the massive live oaks dripping with moss were planted about that time. The estate is one of America’s oldest working farms. Visit the plantation mansion and walk through the nine original slave cabins for new insights into Black history.

Atlanta Dogwood Festival

Atlanta, Georgia

In April, celebrate spring in Piedmont Park while the trees are in bloom and stirring their sweetness in the air. Enjoy art and craft exhibits, carnival rides, and plenty of food vendors serving tastes of the South. Local chefs offer samples and breweries offer sips and swigs so people can vote for their favorites. The International Stage hosts 300 amateur and professional performers. They will demonstrate music, martial arts, drumming and more from 20 countries and cultures, including Arabian and Far Eastern. Booths provide additional information about the various countries and some hands-on opportunities.
Each region of the U.S. has a distinct flavor to it, and so do their festivals. In the South, tea is sweet, seafood is prized, gumbo recipes are family treasures, and barbecue is a major food group. Southern hospitality is known worldwide, so expected to be greeted enthusiastically when you visit for a southern festival.

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An Insider’s Guide to The Most Fascinating Festivals in Italy

Tourists come from all over the world to celebrate Carnavale in Venice and to watch Siena’s famous horse race, the Palio. Italy’s lesser-known festivals offer unique experiences of the essence of Italy. They range from the unconventional to the sublime. Here are some Italian festivals you will never forget.

Opera Extraordinaire

The Puccini Festival is a festival in Italy that takes place in July and August attracts 40,000 music lovers to the open air theater in Torre del Lago. The theater is on the lake that inspired much of the maestro’s music and near the Villa Mausoleum where Giacomo Puccini lived and worked. Each year, several of Puccini’s operas are performed by world-renowned opera singers and conductors. An extraordinary experience is arriving at the theater by boat across the lake, imagining the composer’s ears tuned to the lap of water, the birdsong, and the rushing wind.
Torre del Lago is less than three miles from the magnificent beaches of Viareggio on the Tuscan Riviera and 11 miles from Lucca, Puccini’s boyhood home. Lucca is a walkable city surrounded by medieval walls that celebrates its famous native son with daily concerts in an ancient, deconsecrated church. His home, now a museum, houses a piano Puccini played when he was a boy. On display is Turandot’s elaborate, original costume. Manuscripts, letters, opera scores, and other memorabilia are stored in archival drawers, and walls are covered with paintings of ancestors and photographs. On one wall, the Puccini family tree shows they were a musical family back to the 1700s.

Happy Birthday to Rome

Rome’s Birthday (Natale di Roma), April 21, is a city-wide party and exhibition celebrating the founding of Rome by Romulus in 753 B.C. Fireworks explode over the Tiber River, the city twinkles with torches and colorful lights, museums are free, and restaurants outdo themselves with Roman feasts. This Italian festival also includes a costumed procession, involving more than 2,000 gladiators, legislators, vestal virgins, and priestesses, starts and finishes at the Circus Maximus. Historical reenactments, including gladiator, fights can be seen in every ancient piazza.
Reserve a table at Spirito Di Vino for ancient Roman dishes made with fresh ingredients and served in an ancient Roman building. A favorite is pork shoulder prepared according to the recipe of Gaius Matius who was a friend and cook of Julius Caesar. To walk on a Roman street, ask to visit their wine cellar.

An Epic Food Fight

Ivrea in the Piedmont region of northwestern Italy is known for what may be Italy’s largest food fight, The Battle of the Oranges. In the three days leading up to Fat Tuesday, townsfolk dressed in medieval battle attire reenact the 12th-Century rebellion with citrus fruit instead of weapons. Participants of nine squads run through the streets hurling oranges or tossing fruit from “battle busses.” Each year, 500,000 pounds of oranges are splattered all over town. After the three days of carnage, one of the generals ends the war. A massive funeral for the slain is held on Fat Tuesday.
Spectators can wear a red hat to mark themselves as a bystander and noncombatant or stay safe from flying pulp by sheltering behind the nets that protect Ivrea’s buildings. Dessert lovers do not leave town without sampling the famed Cake 900, a chocolate cream sponge cake.
Surprisingly, Ivrea is a UNESCO World Heritage site, but not for its ancient history. The city was developed in the 20th-Century as a testing ground for Olivetti, the manufacturer of typewriters, mechanical calculators and office computers. UNESCO describes the city as “a model social project” expressing “a modern vision of the relationship between industrial production and architecture.”
Industrial advances have not erased Ivrea’s ancient piazzas and its skyline of stone towers and red-tiled roofs. The castle dates back to 1395 and has four stone towers and a large courtyard. It was used as a defensive post, a royal residence, and finally a prison until it was renovated in 1970 to host exhibitions and performances. The cathedral that dates back to the 4th Century A.D. is built on ruins of a Roman temple. Parts of the original structure survive, including the crypt. The church maintains most of its 12th Century Romanesque appearance.

Snake Handlers’ Parade

The small medieval town of Cocullo in the Abruzzo Mountains has an annual centuries-old festival celebrating St. Dominic whom locals believe protect them from wild animals and physical ailments. This Italian festival held in May is not for the faint of heart. It involves snake handlers competing from March to be named for catching the most serpents. Some snakes measure more than six feet long. They are kept alive and their fangs removed.
On May 1, following an early morning Mass in the town’s small church, locals ring a small bell using their own teeth to protect them against toothaches for the following year. Soil is blessed to be spread over fields as a supernatural pesticide and fertilizer. The wooden statue of Saint Domenico is taken out of the small church, and the snake hunters drape their snakes over the statue and his jewel-encrusted gold frame. The statue is paraded through the streets with the snakes writhing all over it in a procession that includes a brass band, clergy, and laypeople in traditional dress.
The few restaurants in Cocullo are booked by locals far in advance of the festival, but food vendors abound to feed the hoards of visitors. There are no reports of death by snakebite.

Venice’s Marriage to the Sea

On the last weekend in May, Venice celebrates its nautical prowess and closeness to the sea with processions of boats from St. Mark’s Square to the Port of St. Nicolo. The “wedding” ceremony dates back to the 1100s when a splendidly attired doge would ride an elaborately decorated boat and throw a wedding ring into the sea. The tradition continues with the mayor of Venice tossing the ring with these Latin words: Desponsamus te, mare, in signum veri perpetuique domini (We wed thee, sea, as a sign of true and everlasting domination).
In this Festa della Sensa teams of boats compete in river races, and thousands line the waterways jousting for a good view of the regattas and processions of boats and characters in historical costumes. The Festa culminates at the church of St. Nicolò, and a market of traditional foods and crafts is held in the nearby square.
Italy is known for its exuberant festivals, and one of the lesser-known Italian festivals could be the highlight of your European adventure.

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An Insider’s Guide to Festivals in Germany

You haven’t truly experienced Germany until you’ve taken part in its festivals. While generally known as a reserved culture, its citizens come together annually to celebrate anything from Christmas to midsummer.
Almost every city, town, and county has its own festivals to take part in. Still, over the years, a few of them have won national and international renown. Today, millions of locals listen to classical or rock music, enjoy breathtaking fireworks, or take in the next great movie.
From books to beer, this country knows how to both party and celebrate the arts. Consider this your insider’s guide to festivals in Germany.

1) The Free-Flowing Excess of Oktoberfest

You know Oktoberfest because of its beer, beer tents, and pretzels. And yes, that’s undoubtedly what drives more than 6 million visitors to this festival every year. But what you might not know is that it’s more than just a giant beer celebration.
Germany’s largest Volksfest also boasts parades, open air concerts, and even amusement park rides. Think of it as the world’s largest county fair – with some beer sprinkled in. It’s an unforgettable experience, whether you visit for just a day or make a whole week out of it.

2) The Festive Cheer of Christmas Markets

In a way, the second most famous festivals in Germany are the polar opposite of the first. Where Oktoberfest is a constant party, Christmas markets are solemn, reflective, and calm. Of course, that doesn’t make them any less fun or exciting.
During the holiday season, every town and city has one. Here, you can find countless arts and craft booths, along with good food that represents local specialties. But don’t worry: you will always find booths with the trademark Glühwein, hot mulled wine that keeps you warm.
The first Christmas market was held in 1384. Today, some of Germany’s most famous markets, like the one surrounding the Cologne Cathedral, have thousands of booths and attract millions of visitors each year. If you’re in Germany through the holidays, visiting one near you is an essential tradition.

3) The Astounding Beauty of Rhine in Flames

The Rhine, Europe’s second largest and perhaps its most famous river, is magical enough in its own right. Now, imagine a giant light show that takes place during specific days each summer and just happens to be in its most famous and most picturesque stretch. That’s the Rhine in Flames, a combination between firework displays, Bengal lights, and illuminated steamboats.
Describing it in words is difficult. Even pictures don’t do it justice. Once you see the first fireworks over one of the countless castles along the romantic Rhine, either from a lit boat or the shore, time almost seems to stand still. Don’t make the mistake of trying to capture it with your phone. Instead, soak it in, knowing that you might not ever see this spectacle of a light show again.

4) The Sheer Power of Rock am Ring

As much as Germany is known for its traditions, music festivals also occupy a central place in its cultural playbook. Wacken is the world’s largest metal festival. Flash is among the biggest hip-hop festivals. And yet, none of them are quite as famous or memorable than Rock am Ring.
Held at the famous Nurburgring race track, this music extravaganza combines with the nearby Rock im Park to attract more than 150,000 spectators and music fans from around the world each year. Since U2 and Joe Cocker inaugurated the festival in 1985, headliners have included most of the worlds’ most famous rock bands. Come for the music, stay for the unforgettable atmosphere.

5) The Curious Celebration of Karneval

Yes, Germany has a carnival. No, it’s nothing like the one in Brazil you’re probably think of. Instead, think about the largest 4th of July parades in the U.S., combined with the dress up play and less-than-serious attitude of Halloween. Sprinkle in a bit of Mardi Gras. Then, magnify the result by ten.
By all measures, Karneval (celebrated in the Western cities of Germany) is over the top. That doesn’t make it any less fun. The alcohol flows freely, the jokes are unabashedly political, and the humor gets cruder as the nights go on. Above all, it’s a giant party where the so stereotypical German studiousness sheds for a day and it’s more fun-loving aspects come out.

6) The Memorable Films of the Berlinale

You’ve heard about Cannes. The International Berlin Film Festival might not quite be able to hold up to its most famous counterpart, but it certainly comes close. Every year in February, some of the world’s most famous actors and directors meet to screen, watch, and discuss new films from around the world.
It’s the perfect festival for movie lovers. Tickets to individual films or some of the festival’s most popular events are available for the general public, but sell out quickly. In return, you get to see anything from arthouse films to future blockbusters.

7) The Classic Embrace of the Bayreuther Festspiele

Bayreuth is just the city where it takes place. You might know this event under its more popular (though technically inaccurate) name: the Wagner Festival. Richard Wagner is one of Germany’s most famous classical composers, responsible for operas like the Nibelungenlied and Tristan and Isolde.
Every year, the city of Bayreuth celebrates its most famous son. Wagner himself began to hold his operas as part of a larger event in the 19th century, and residents have carried on that tradition. During a presentation of his music, you begin to realize just how closely Germany is connected with its classical music history.

8) The Countless Pages of the Frankfurt Book Fair

We’re talking about nothing less than the largest book fair in the world. And, like many of the other festivals on this list, its origins reach back far. The first fair occurred in Frankfurt, Main in 1454, in the immediate aftermath of local blacksmith Johannes Gutenberg inventing the printing press.
Today, more than 7,000 exhibitors from more than 100 countries showcase more than 400,000 books, reviewed and (hopefully) purchased by more than 300,000 visitors. Prizes like best book of the year and oddest title of the year predict bestsellers and turn unknown authors into a household name.

Make a Festival Attendance Part of your Next Germany Trip

German culture is as complex as it is profound. You cannot explain the mindset of a German or what it means to be German in one sentence. And yet, through these and many other festivals, you begin to understand their origins, priorities, and passions.
Yes, that means free-flowing beer and parties. But it also means an understanding of history and a thirst for arts and culture. Making a festival attendance part of your next Germany trip means dipping into this deep, complex, and sometimes even contradictory culture. Whether you see fireworks above ancient castles or just want to rock out at a race track, you will find an event that matches your interests and passion as well.