Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Unique Fall Festivals

While most people are flocking to harvest fairs and Oktoberfests, set your sights on something different this festival season. Here are a few unique fall festivals, both stateside and farther afield, that are worth traveling for.  Many thanks to the folks at Smarter Travel for this information.

Lewes Bonfire, Lewes, England (November 5, 2013)

On one night each year—November 5—Brits build enormous bonfires to mark the uncovering of Guy
Fawkes' gunpowder plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament in the 17th century. And the biggest celebration of all happens in Lewes, where more than 80,000 people come to see raucous parades with full costumes, flaming torches, fireworks, drum beats, and burning effigies of Fawkes made from old clothes and newspapers. Lewes Bonfire also commemorates the town's Protestant history when 17 burning crosses are carried through town in memory of the 17 martyrs burned at the stake in the Marian persecutions in Catholic England. In Sussex, the official bonfire season runs 10 weeks every fall and various area societies organize pyro-themed festivities. The Battle Bonfire Society's annual parade lights up the infamous Battle of Hastings site late into the night.

Don't Miss: Autumn views of Bodiam Castle and the countryside's fall foliage along the Kent & East Sussex Railway.

The Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze, Croton-on-Hudson, New York (October–November 2013)

New York's Sleepy Hollow Country lights up the season with more than 5,000 hand-carved jack-o'-
lanterns during the Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze. The elaborate display at the historic Van Cortlandt Manor in the Hudson Valley runs 25 nights to sell-out crowds. Sip on hot apple cider as you walk through the Tunnel O' Pumpkin Love or check out the carved dinosaurs in the Jurassic Park-themed section. Special sound effects, synchronized lighting, and an original soundtrack add to the glowing spectacle. New this year is an exhibit of more than 20 pumpkin-inspired sculptures created by local artists.

Don't Miss: This fall's other Sleepy Hollow-themed events. Tour the Horseman's Hollow haunted house at Philipsburg Manor and see a dramatic retelling of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow performed in the candlelit Old Dutch Church across the street. Washington Irving's grave site at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery is within walking distance.

Jidai Matsuri, Kyoto, Japan (October 22, 2013)

For a quick history lesson on Kyoto's 1,200-year past, there's no more visually stunning and
entertaining display than the Jidai Matsuri (Festival of Ages), where time literally marches on in chronological order through the old streets of Kyoto. From your spot on the curb, watch thousands of people in period dress representing every era pass by in a grand pageant. You'll see the costumes and customs of the samurai, commoners from feudal times, and women in elaborate kimonos. A military band strikes up ancient imperial court tunes as the masses stream from the palace to the Heian Jingu Shrine in one of Kyoto's biggest festivals of the year. Inside Asia runs tours during the festival.

Don't Miss: Leaf peeping in temple gardens and across Japan's mountainsides. The peak period is late October through late November, when skies are dry and temps hover around 70 degrees.

Dia de los Muertos, Mexico (November 1–2, 2013)

A huge holiday in Mexico, Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, dedicates the first two days in
November (All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day) to welcoming back the spirits of the dearly departed. Altars are built and grave sites are decorated into works of art, with candles, purifying incense, brightly colored marigolds, and creative displays of loved ones' favorite foods to help guide the spirits back. You'll find late-night grave-site parties and elaborately decorated altars in public squares throughout Mexico, but the city of Oaxaca is one of the most renowned spots to celebrate this traditional holiday.

Don't Miss: Riviera Maya's celebration. Close to Playa del Carmen and Cancun, the eco-archaeological park Xcaret honors the dead with music, dance, and food. Crowds of locals and visitors gather to walk by torchlight past altars and into a graveyard warmed by the heat and light of thousands of candles.

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