Top festivals around the world number in the thousands, and celebrate just about everything. There are art festivals and religious festivals, summer festivals and wine festivals, Easter festivals and Christmas festivals. Some festivals celebrate beer, and some festivals celebrate food. There are also festivals that seem to be about little other than partying. Pick just about any theme, and it is quite likely that one of the best festivals in the world honors it.
One of the main threads running through the fabric of almost all festivals is music in one form or another. Top festivals featuring music include long-running classical series like the Salzburg Festival in Austria that celebrates the music of Mozart and the Bayreuth Festival in Germany that showcases the monumental opera works of Richard Wagner. You can also head to Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, in August for the Edinburgh festival season, which includes one of the oldest music festivals in the world as well as just about every other kind of festival within a three-week period.
During the latter part of the twentieth century, many of the world's largest music festivals have been patterned more or less along the lines of 1969's Woodstock. Today's iconic examples include the Glastonbury Festival (pictured) held in England in June, Lollapalooza held in Chicago in August, and SXSW (South By Southwest) held in Austin, Texas in March.
If music is the food for the soul, then food festivals fuel the soul's senses. Almost all of the world's top festivals feature food in one form or another. Blues and jazz festivals in the southern United States epitomize this, especially those held in the Mississippi Delta region, and especially those in New Orleans. Among the best festivals in the world for gourmet food are the prestigious Food and Wine Magazine Classic held in Aspen, Colorado and the South Beach Wine and Food Festival (SOBE) held in Miami.
If you're going to eat, you need to drink. Beer is one of the oldest and most popular of all beverages, and the penultimate of beer festivals is the Munich, Germany Oktoberfest. Held during both September and October, this is one of the top festivals in the world. With the growing popularity of boutique microbreweries in the United States in the last few decades, you will find excellent beer festivals in places as wide-ranging as Seattle and Boston.
The world's top festivals for partying are found in Rio de Janeiro and New Orleans. Both of the huge festivals in these cities have their roots in indulgences of the flesh prior to Easter religious observances, but they are today known primarily for fun, parties, drinking, and more fun. These two party festivals are Mardi Gras in New Orleans (head for Bourbon Street and the French Quarter) and Carnival in Rio (head for the iconic beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana). At either festival, you will experience colorful parades with fabulous floats, and elaborately costumed dancers. Rio de Janeiro's festival will showcase the sassy samba music of Brazil; in New Orleans, you will hear strains of the jazz and blues that are the city's trademark. These are two of the best festivals in the world of any kind, and the partying lasts for several weeks in each city.
Cinema's top festivals will be found primarily in the United States and Europe, although there are excellent ones elsewhere in the world. Head to the sparkling beaches of the French Riviera for the jewel in the crown of all film festivals, the glittering Cannes Film Festival.
This only scratches the surface of the top festivals that are held around the world every year. The world's largest and most devout religious festivals will be found in Haridwar, India when hundreds of thousands of Hindus gather to bathe in the sacred Ganges River and in Saudi Arabia when hundreds of thousands of devout Muslims make the pilgrimage to Mecca called the hajj. Or you can head to Black Rock, Nevada for the hard-to-categorize Burning Man Festival or to Venice, Italy for the Carnival that is undoubtedly the precursor of both the New Orleans and Rio festivals.