If you’re excited to get more out of your next vacation than just relaxation or sightseeing, why not time it around one of the many amazing festivals which take place across the globe? At Enchanting Travels, we’re all about championing cultural experiences that let you delve a little bit deeper into the identity of a destination. As well as allowing you to connect on a more meaningful level, attending a festival is the ultimate immersive travel experience that will have you celebrating with locals who you may otherwise never meet.
North America is inundated with incredible vacation spots perfect for those who don’t want to travel too far. What’s more, it’s home to various festivals to suit everyone’s tastes, from avid music fans to people who love winter activities. Not sure where to begin? Our experts have put together a list of some of the top festivals in the USA, Canada and Mexico to give you some inspiration.
Top Festivals in the USA
In addition to its scenic countryside and gorgeous coastlines, the USA is known for its cultural diversity. The wide range of different cultures coming together makes for some fascinating festivals. Why not plan to attend some of these?
JazzFest, New Orleans
New Orleans is a city that needs no introduction! History is on every corner in its colorful French Quarter, while the entire metropolis is known for its melting pot of cultures.
While many choose to visit in early spring to attend the legendary Mardi Gras, the New Orleans’ JazzFest is equally atmospheric and easily one of the top festivals in the USA for music lovers. Held in May each year, it celebrates the city’s links to jazz with a huge line-up of performances. JazzFest has been hosted at the Fair Grounds Race Course on Gentilly Boulevard since 1972, with tickets giving you access to 14+ tents featuring live music from both jazz legends and new talent.
Merrie Monarch Festival, Hawaii
This singular festival takes place in the town of Hilo in tropical Hawaii just after Easter and it’s been going since 1963. The week-long event honors King Kalakaua (nicknamed the ‘Merrie Monarch’), a local ruler who lived during the late 1800s. He loved dancing and music and is celebrated for restoring much of the nation’s culture back to the islands, including hula dance.
You’ll find the Merrie Monarch Festival program is packed with hula performances, cultural workshops, art exhibitions, craft markets, and a lively parade.
Lummi Stommish Water Festival, Bellingham
After you’ve enjoyed panoramic views from the Space Needle and shopped for local delicacies at the huge Pike Place Market, why not head north of Seattle to the Lummi Stommish Water Festival? It’s one of the many Powwows – festivals celebrating Native American culture – hosted across the USA.
Lummi Stommish Water Festival is held just outside of Bellingham, Washington, every June and offers visitors a more intimate experience of a Powwow. It gets its name from the local Lummi Reservation and pays tribute to their history and ways of life. Available activities include fun canoe races, delicious food tastings (including fresh salmon and crabs), traditional games, and a parade to honor Lummi war veterans.
Top Festivals in Canada
Venture further north and you’ll have the chance to not only explore some amazing landscapes but also attend some of the top festivals in Canada.
Celebration of Light, Vancouver
If you love fireworks, Vancouver’s Celebration of Light is for you. Those visiting the city in the summer might have the chance to witness this spectacular event which is famed for being the largest fireworks competition on the planet!
Hosted over three nights in July or August, you’ll see the night’s sky fantastically lit up. There’s also a range of street food and live music concerts to enjoy. English Bay Beach in the West End is the best spot for unrivaled views of the fireworks. You could also book a boat cruise in the harbor and enjoy the pyrotechnics from the water itself.
Quebec Winter Carnival, Quebec
Vacationing in Canada during the winter? Venture to Quebec and get ready to immerse yourself in a real-life Winter Wonderland at the Quebec Winter Carnival. In addition to being the largest winter festival on Earth, Quebec’s carnival is also one of the longest-running, with the event going as far back as the 1890s. It’s in late January, giving you something to look forward to after the festive season is over. Those lucky enough to attend will get to enjoy night parades, tasty food stalls, ice sculptures, and a thrilling canoe race where competitors have to cut their way through the ice of the frozen Saint Lawrence River! Keep an eye out for Bonhomme, too – he’s the Quebec Winter Carnival’s cheerful snowman mascot.
Montreal First Peoples’, Montreal
Another wonderful event in Canada that celebrates the region’s aboriginal people is the Montreal First Peoples’ festival. The festival has been held in Montreal’s Downtown district for more than 30 years and offers up a huge mix of art, film, history and cultural activities which commemorate Canada’s first people. There are various events to look forward to throughout August, including film screenings, workshops, talks, and concerts.
Top Festivals in Mexico
Just a short flight south of the USA, it’s no surprise that Mexico is such a popular pick for sunshine and culture. Make your vacation more memorable by planning it around the following festivals.
Dia de Muertos, Mexico City
The ultimate festival in Mexico, Dia de Muertos is on many people’s bucket lists. More commonly known as the ‘Day of the Dead’ it takes place on November 1 (also known as All Saints Day). The festival honors the Mexican people’s long tradition of celebrating death rather than mourning it. While festivities are held across the country, Mexico City is particularly well-known for its costumed parades and lively street parties. Certain Dia de Muertos’ events can get very busy, although it is possible to steer clear of the crowds and get involved by indulging in pan de Muertos (Day of the Dead bread) or admiring the ofrendas (remembrance alters) displayed in the city’s biggest squares.
Cervantino Festival, Guanajuato
This Mexican festival has a long history and is a must-see for fans of literature and art. It takes place every fall in Guanajuato, a beautiful and laidback city in the heart of Mexico. Cervantino Festival (also known as El Cervantino) first started out in the 1970s when locals would put on plays (known as entremeses) by Miguel de Cervantes – the well-known Spanish author of Don Quixote. El Cervantino has evolved since then and is now one of the biggest international celebrations of art and culture in Latin America. Numerous activities and events take place across the city during the festival, from classical music concerts, film screenings, and book readings to acrobatic shows, folk dancing, and, of course, performances of some of Miguel de Cervantes’ best-known works.
Those intrigued to know more about the indigenous cultures of Mexico will be in their element at Oaxaca’s annual Guelaguetza festival. Hosted in Oaxaca’s UNESCO World Heritage city center in July, this Zapotec and Mixtec folk festival is a kaleidoscope of color thanks to vibrant traditional costumes. Many locals from the city and surrounding countryside dress up to take part in a series of energetic traditional dances. One of the most unusual of these is called the Turkey Dance where men dressed as birds stuffed in baskets pretend to fight among each other! After every dance, the dancers throw gifts at the crowd, from small local handicrafts to fresh fruits.
Feeling festive? Talk to our destination experts about the best ways to experience these wonderful events as part of your North American journey.
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