Events and festivals in United StatesHead West for the world’s best festivals
From time-honoured traditions to the downright weird and wacky, the USA hosts an eclectic array of events and festivals every year. From spotting tomorrow’s celebrities at South by Southwest, to getting a peak of an internationally acclaimed groundhog, there’s something to suit almost every taste and interest! Bring the family and enjoy a Louisiana Mardi Gras, or grab your survivalist kit and take your friends to Burning Man. Intrigued? You should be! Whether you’re headed for the States on a last minute holiday, or you have a specific event you’ve always dreamed of, you need only head west for some of the world’s best festivals.
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Top events and festivals in the USA
South by Southwest
South by Southwest isn’t one festival, but three, comprising film, music and interactive events in Austin, Texas every year. Held in March since 1987, it lasts for around ten days, and the South by Southwest (or SXSW) music festival is now one of the largest of its kind in the US. A truly huge event, it sees around 2,000 performers play 90 venues over the duration, with international and national bands of all genres taking to the stage. The aim of all three festivals is to feature the very best music and film: both tourists and top scouts come from all over the world, not only to have fun, but to find and experience the ‘next big thing’.
French for ‘Fat Tuesday’, Mardi Gras is celebrated around the world, but its festivities are undoubtedly best experienced in Louisiana. Every Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, Louisianan locals and tourists take to the streets for a day of all-round fun and celebration. In New Orleans, around 60 parades take place during the two weeks preceding Mardi Gras, with towns like Madisonville putting on huge and elaborate boat displays, and Lafayette offering a range of family activities. Wherever you choose to spend Mardi Gras, make sure to look out for ‘throws’: coloured beads and toys that float riders toss to the crowd.
We all know the film ‘Groundhog Day’, but what do we know about the actual event? Celebrated since 1886 on the 2nd of February every year, Groundhog Day takes place in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. It may be a somewhat of a mouthful, but this sleepy, all-American town receives its weather forecast from an internationally acclaimed expert: Phil, the local groundhog. On the morning of the event, Phil tentatively leaves his burrow on Gobbler’s Knob, so predicting the weather for the remainder of winter. If he sees his shadow, there will be a further six weeks of winter; if not, then spring has arrived early!
When celebrating the nation’s birthday on the 4th of July, there’s surely nowhere better to be than the capital, Washington DC. With an enormous parade comprising over 100 marching units, who make their way down Constitution Avenue at midday, it’s a spectacular sight to behold. Following the parade, various music groups entertain spectators until the evening, including the National Symphony Orchestra and a selection of guest stars. As the sky grows dark, hordes of locals and tourists make their way to the National Mall, from which they can view the beautiful fireworks display dominating the already impressive skyline.
Burning Man is one of the world’s biggest and best counterculture festivals, held every year in the Black Rock Desert, Nevada. Taking place in September, it sees around 40,000 attendees head to Black Rock City - an otherwise nonexistent settlement, created purely for this spectacular event. Dedicated to radical self-expression, Burning Man also sees attendees express themselves in a variety of ways, be it through their clothing (or lack of it!) and art practices. With commerce banned and only gift economy as a means of acquiring the essentials, Burning Man is a truly unique festival, but not one for the faint-hearted!