Mardi Gras in New Orleans was only a week ago, but it has me on a festival research binge. I just reflected on my Octoberfest experience in Munich, and it – along with the recent trip to Mardi Gras – has me thinking of all the other festivals or events around the world that I want to add to the bucket list. My next festival is Coachella Music Festival only a few short months away, but until then, here is my list of 10 more festivals / events I want to experience in my lifetime.
My TOP 10 more must-experience festivals / events around the world!
#10.) Bay to Breakers
Where: San Francisco, California
When: Third Sunday of May
What: Think college + Mardi Gras + Halloween: a drinking mini marathon. My Norcal friends are very familiar with this famous footrace, but I have yet to witness or experience it in action. The name comes from the fact that the run starts from the brink of the bay to the Great Highway where breakers crash onto Ocean Beach. Essentially, it is a little over a 7-mile run. What makes it so special? There are house parties that line the streets and people running in varying degrees of nudity or costumes that contribute to one of the world’s largest footraces. What started about a century ago in the early 1900s to lift spirits after an earthquake has officially turned into NorCal’s most debaucherous annual event. While some come for a serious run, others come to party with drinks in hand. There is even a Bay to Breakers Beer Stop Map.
#9.) Glastonbury Festival (also known as Glastonbury or Glasto)
Where: Pilton, Somerset, England
When: last weekend in June, 3 days
What: Think of it as Coachella, but on a significantly grander scale. Not only is it the largest music and performing arts festival in the world – with over 175,000 attendees per day – it is by far the most diverse festival. It highlights close to 1000 contemporary acts and also includes comedy, dance, circus, cabaret, and more. While one could feasibly tour all of what Coachella’s different areas have to offer in a weekend, Glastonbury is known for being so extensive, you are bound to miss something. With more than 20 areas (this doesn’t even include the stage areas!), there is tons to see at this weekend affair. I am stoked to be going to my first Coachella this April, but I am anxiously waiting an opportunity to experience the grandest musical festival in the world.
#8.) Las Falles
Where: Valencia, Spain
When: March 15-19
What: Las Fallas comes from the Valencia word torch, ‘the fires’, and this event is definitely a pyromaniac’s wet dream. The lights turn out and all that is left is a sky in flames. Each day leading up to the final day, brass bands line the streets and lead a procession presenting various fallers (puppets and artistic monuments). A mascletà, or grand fireworks display, also happens everyday leading up to La Cremà. La Cremà is the final night of Las Falles where falles are burned in massive displays. This is more than a Macy’s day parade of floats. This is over a week long event that quite literally goes up in flames.
#7.) Carnevale di Venezia
Where: Venice, Italy
When: 2 weeks before Ash Wednesday ending on Shrove Tuesday (Fat Tuesday)
What: The Carnival in Venice is likely the second or third most known Carnival after Rio de Janeiro and Trinidad and Tobago . One reason I was definitely disappointed I did not extend my semester abroad in Padova to a year was missing out on Carnival in Venice. It is a fairly classy affair with grand balls and dances, along with the parades and unique costumes. Unlike Mardi Gras in New Orleans, the elaborate Venetian masks are a staple. Dating back to the 14th century, the masks represent the the citizens’ desire for equal treatment despite economic inequalities. People gather into the tiny narrow streets of the sinking city and tour the squares filled with street performers and artists. The masked extravaganza is something I hope to witness one day along the tiny streets and beautiful canals of Venezia. Looking at Phantom of the Opera attire for days at a time in the infamous Piazza San Marco? Sign me up.
#6.) Full Moon Party
Where: Ko Pha Ngan, Thailand
When: Monthly, during the full moon
What: What originally started as a small gathering of less than 50 people in the 80s, quickly grew to the ultimate party destination whilst in Southeast Asia. This is on every backpacker’s itinerary when in Thailand. Every full moon, this backpacker island is swarmed with over 20,000 party goers even during low season. The party goes until the sunrises and the bars on the beach play a huge range of music from reggae and house to R&B. Oh yeah, there are also drunk tourists who skip fire ropes. I’m almost positive that doesn’t end well for everyone, but it would be fun to watch.
#5.) La Tomantina
Where: Buñol (Valencia region), Spain
When: Last Wednesday in August
What: This is not your typical all night, weekend, or week long festival. In fact, this event is only an hour. Think of it as your typical cafeteria fight. The main differences being that it is outside, and it involves over 150,000 tomatoes. That’s right, tomatoes. La Tomantina means, you guessed it, the tomato. The event started over 50 years ago when a group of men wanted something to throw something during a parade and the nearest thing was a tomato stand. Each year, the tradition to recall the hilarious and fun memory grew. It gets weirder. The event begins at 10am. Whilst singing, dancing, and cheering, the crowd is doused with water from hoses as they watch participants climb up a greasy pole to drop ham off of it. I thought the palo jabón would have something symbolic, but it is quite literally a greased up pole with ham on top of it. Once the ham is dropped, the massive tomato fight begins for the next hour. Never had a food fight in school? Well, here’s your chance at the world’s largest food fight.
#4.) Lantern Festival
Where: Taipei, Taiwan
When: Last day of the lunisolar Chinese New Year
What: There are lantern festivals held in many countries during this time of year including Malaysia, Vietnam, and Singapore. I read conflicting reports on what is the grandest of the festivals, but I don’t think it matters. To experience the festival from any part of the world would be a sight to see. The pictures speak for themselves.
#3.) Holi Festival (also known as the Festival of Colors)
Where: Northern India
When: Last full moon of Phalguna (February/March)
What: The Holi Festival is a two day Hindu spring festival marked by bonfires on the first night and bright colors the second day. All around the region, people bring out the elementary school child within and splash colored flour and water over everybody in sight. There are many mythological and cultural significances allied with this festival and the stories that inspired it. The main societal significance, however, is the bringing together of all different kinds of people for a completely joyous celebration. I would be scared about destroying my camera in this colorful celebration, but I’m positive the photos would turn out amazing.
Where: All over Thailand (most famous in Chiang Mai)
When: April 13-15
What: The Thai New Year is celebrated during the hottest time in Thailand. What is the best thing to do when it is scorching hot and humid? Water fight. This is likely the world’s largest water fight that is participated by everyone from children to the grandparents. People douse strangers with water guns and can even throw buckets of water at passing bicyclists or tuk-tuks. This is the one festival Richard is looking forward to even more than I am.
#1.) Rio Carnival
Where: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
When: The week leading up to Fat Tuesday
What: This is the biggest Carnival celebration in the world and it is on the top of my list of must-sees in my lifetime. The street carnival is magnificent with ginormous floats and traditional Brazilian attire. This is the biggest dance party in the world headed by iconic samba dancers. The samba schools create the floats in the parades and compete with rival schools, which is the climax of the entire Carnival. Even those who are not competing take part in dancing throughout the streets. Nonstop music and dancing overflows the city during Carnival. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of it all?
Did I miss any? Have you gone to any of these or would do you want to?
You might also be interested in:
10 for Tuesday: Tips for Mardi Gras, New Orleans
“Beads Just Fell From the Sky and Clobbered My Face”: Mardi Gras, New Orleans
No Accommodation? No Problem. Oktoberfest in Munich.