Sunday, February 27, 2011

Fabulous Festival Destinations

Some of the best trips are the ones that include celebrating with the locals, and one of the best ways to do that is to plan your trip to coincide with that destination's key festival or parties. Where to go and what to celebrate, you ask? Here are a few recommendations for some of the most unique, most traditional, zaniest and most indulgent festivals we found.

Trinidad Carnival (March)

  • Trinidad is located in southeastern region of the Caribbean and considered the ‘cultural capital of the Caribbean,’ home to the world famous Carnival and is birthplace of the steel pan drum
  • One of the most explosive, colorful and culturally diverse pre-Lenten celebrations in the world, Trinidad Carnival.
  • With a mix of pulsating rhythms and jubilant participants, the festival is known for bringing people together for a celebration infused by rich traditions, calypso and cuisine.
  • Trinidad’s Carnival is not a typical join in, sing, dance and are completely immersed in the festivities.
  • Other countries host their own Carnival celebration each year, but Trinidad unique components, such as Panorama, Kings and Queens Costume Competition, Kiddies Carnival, and Masquerade Band of the Year, make it stand out from the rest.
  • I’ve heard from Carnival goers that it makes Mardi Gras in New Orleans look tame.

Montreal - Circus Arts Festival (July)
If you ever thought about running away and joining the circus, you will find your opportunity in Montreal at the Circus Arts Festival in July. Home of Cirque du Soleil and the National Circus School, the festival-loving Montreal dominates the modern-day circus world as top performers from around the globe convene in the city to display their mind-bending contortions, flips, juggling, balancing, clowning, flying and other physical feats! The city becomes a mecca of tents and offers thrilling performances everywhere from the Big Top to the streets.
  • What’s great about Montréal? A taste of Europe (think France) that is close to home. Offering great history, culture, cuisine, (even Underground shopping) in just a 2.5 hour direct flight from Florida.
  • Each season, Tourisme Montréal offers a Sweet Deal with 50% off hotel nights at over 20 participating hotels. The Winter Sweet Deal is on now, with rates starting at just $115 for the first night and 50% off the second (through May 31). The Summer Sweet Deal will follow with 50% off the third night’s stay.
  • While in Montréal for the Circus Arts Festival, you might want to also check out the following new attractions: Indiana Jones and the Adventure of Archaeology: The Exhibit and The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk

Iowa State Fair - Des Moines, Iowa (August)
Featured in the New York Times’ "1000 Places to See Before You Die" as one of the world's must-see events, and named the #2 choice for summer fun in America by USA Weekend, the internationally-acclaimed Iowa State Fair annually attracts more than a million fun-lovers from around the world.
Special features include one of the world's largest livestock shows, the country's largest state fair foods department (approx. 900 classes), the state's largest arts show, hundreds of competitive events and wacky contests; 600 plus exhibitors and concessionaires selling quality and tasty treats, and 160 rolling acres of campgrounds. President Obama and his family enjoyed their visit to the Iowa State Fair.

Eurochocolate - Perugia, Italy (October)
Perugia is Umbria’s capital city, known as the ‘green heart of Italy’, and the area, with its fascinating array of mediaeval towns and hilltop villages, is a popular tourist destination. The city is about 100 miles from Rome and Florence and is easily accessed by road and train.
Perugia’s Eurochocolate Festival, an annual nine-day event in October that is famous throughout the world, is the most popular chocolate festival in Europe.
Scramble for free trimmings as chocolate artists carve huge sculptures out of the massive blocks of dark chocolate, peruse the many exhibitions and live demonstrations, and enjoy the free tastings, when samples of chocolate from all over the world, including Vietnam, Cuba, Bolivia and Papua New Guinea, are handed out.
  • The city’s charming promenades are filled with vendors – more than 700 booths offer an incredible array of goodies made with chocolate – pasta, salami, liquors, cheeses, desserts, drinks and a vast array of pastries, cakes and candies.
  • For relaxation, enjoy the aromatherapy sessions that utilize cocoa and chocolate facemasks. The Eurochocolate festival showcases the latest in chocolate beauty treatments.
  • Where to stay? The Etruscan Chocohotel in Perugia is the first hotel in the world dedicated to chocolate. The Etruscan Chocohotel houses a delightful restaurant where you can dine from a traditional Italian menu accompanied by a selection of fine wines and of course, a Choco-Menu for dessert. A well-stocked Chocostore with products from the best chocolate producers, together with curiosities and gadgets from the four corners of the planet is based in the hotel: here guests may sample and purchase chocolate from all over the world. On the last floor of the Etruscan Chocohotel, there is a wonderful panoramic terrace, with roof garden and swimming pool, waiting for you for some moments of relaxation.

  • Cleveland is the birthplace of rock ‘n roll.
  • Representing 117 different ethnicities and home to internationally renowned chefs, Cleveland is quickly becoming the culinary epicenter of the Midwest.
  • University Circle, located just minutes from downtown Cleveland, is the most concentrated square mile of arts & cultural institutions in the country
  • A trip to Cleveland will cost you just a fraction of the price you’d pay in bigger cities – and you won’t sacrifice any of that ‘big city’ experience.

And Clevelandites love their festivals, so there is a lot to choose from. Some of my faves:
  • Duct Tape Festival (June) - 3-day celebration of duct tape with fashion, sculptures, games and a parade
  • National Hamburger Festival (July) - tastings, competitive eating contests, live music and even a Miss Hamburger Festival. The best is the Hamburger Dunking Contest where contestants must bob in a vat of ketchup to retrieve a burger!
  • Chalk Festival (September) - festival goers can adorn their own patch of sidewalk with their own Monet....out of chalk
  • Pro Football Hall of Fame Festival (August) - 10-days and 700,000 people hot air balloon rides, concerts, races and more

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