Festivals take place around the world as crowds gather to mark important occasions, have some fun, taste good food, and make new memories. Whether you're designing a whole vacation around the best festivals or you happen to stumble upon one, don't miss the opportunity to join in the fun. Festivals can range in size from huge affairs such as the Munich Oktoberfest or Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta to small regional events such as state fairs or local Renaissance fairs.
Many festivals are wrapped around certain themes—for instance, food festivals celebrate the local delicacy or music festivals honor a certain genre or style. But even if the festival has a singular theme, there's still something for everyone to enjoy. The schedule of events often includes happenings that festival-goers of every age will enjoy, including good food, live entertainment, and plenty of fun to be had.
Some of America's best festivals are film festivals. Not just following in the footsteps of Cannes and the Toronto Film Festival, American festivals have their own style. The Sundance Film Festival, held every winter at a Utah ski town, has become one of the premier places to celebrate independent cinema, drawing movie makers and movie fans. In sunny Orlando, the Florida Film Festival showcases the best in American and foreign cinema every April.
State fairs are as iconic as apple pie and baseball, and many award blue ribbons for the best locally baked apple pie. The California State Fair has been going strong for 150 years; the packed schedule of events includes agricultural contents and big-name concerts. Guests also enjoy Midway games, rides, and even a water park. The Alaska State Fair adds rodeos to the mix. It's held at the height of summer when the days are long and sunny and the produce is coming into season.
Renaissance fairs, another popular entry on the festival scene, create worlds filled with imagination, music, and magic, and are largely held in America. The springtime Arizona Renaissance Festival brings the world of fairies, lords, and ladies to life, along with a dash of inspiration and meals fit for a king. The Kansas City Renaissance Festival hosts theme weekends in September and October, bringing pirates, zombies, and others to the fairgrounds to one of the best festivals in the region.
Some of the top world festivals unfold in Canada. Winnipeg, Manitoba hosts Folklorama, a summertime celebration of culture, food, travel, and anything else that makes life special. This celebration of diversity has grown into the longest running multicultural festival in the world. As it unfolds, the festival includes live music, dance presentations, and so much more—all presented in themed pavilions.
Canada also hosts one of the world's finest jazz festivals: the Festival International de Jazz de Montreal, held in June and July. For more than 30 years, musicians have come from around the world to jam and even more music fans have come to experience one of the best festivals for jazz.
Toronto has a number of top festivals within its city limits. These include the iconic Toronto Film Festival, the Caribbean-themed Caribana, and the Toronto Jazz Festival.
Wherever you choose to travel, you'll find some truly fantastic festivals to enjoy. With such a long history and so many diverse cultures, the best festivals in Europe showcase variety. Vienna hosts the Salzburg Festival centering on Mozart’s music, Pukkelpop in Belgium, and the hugely famous Tour de France draws massive crowds each year. In the Netherlands, the tulip harvest is colorful occasion to celebrate. From March to May, the world-famous Keukenhof Gardens hosts the Spring Flower Show, while the Bloemencorso, a 25-mile flower parade happens in April.
In the spring, Venice hosts a giant Carnevale celebration, while Monaco hosts its Grand Prix auto race. By harvest time, cities around Europe celebrate good wine and good fine. And at the end of the year, nothing is more magical than the Christmas celebrations in and around the Alps.
Image: Lollapalooza / Matt Ellis