The Globe-Trotter’s Guide: 12 Months of Festivals, Events, and Hidden Gems Worth Traveling For
The Globe-Trotter's Guide: 12 Months of Festivals, Events, and Hidden Gems Worth Traveling For - Ring in the New Year Around the World
Ringing in the new year is a global celebration, with parties and traditions taking place around the world. For travelers seeking a unique way to celebrate, hopping on a flight and experiencing New Year’s Eve in another country can create memories to last a lifetime.
One of the biggest and most famous New Year’s Eve celebrations takes place in Sydney, Australia. Sydney Harbour becomes the backdrop for a massive fireworks display, with two shows at 9 PM and midnight. Over one million people flock to the harbour area to watch the spectacle in person, with iconic landmarks like the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge illuminated by the colorful explosions in the sky. Even if you can’t make it to the harbour, restaurants, clubs and rooftop bars across Sydney host their own celebrations. The weather is prime for outdoor fun, as Sydney experiences sunny summer days in December.
Rio de Janeiro throws one of the world’s best New Year’s Eve beach parties on Copacabana Beach. Over two million people come together on the stretches of sand to dance, drink and take part in rituals like jumping over seven waves for good luck. Fireworks light up the sky at midnight as live music plays late into the night. The lively, vibrant energy makes it easy to meet locals and fellow travelers to ring in the new year.
In Europe, one of the top destinations is Edinburgh, Scotland, which hosts a massive three-day Hogmanay festival. Concerts with world-famous artists, torchlight processions, ceilidhs (traditional dance parties), and fireworks make Edinburgh buzz with excitement. Historic sites like Edinburgh Castle become the backdrop for open-air parties and outdoor concerts. Locals and visitors alike don tartan and swap stories in cozy pubs while waiting for the clock to strike midnight.
For an eccentric and lively New Year’s Eve, head to Key West, Florida. Locals and visitors alike dress up in crazy costumes, masks and brightly colored wigs for a night of bar-hopping on Duval Street. A conch shell drop and fireworks display over the Gulf of Mexico provide midnight entertainment, but the party goes well into the early morning hours.
In New York City, over one million people gather in Times Square on New Year’s Eve to watch the iconic ball drop at midnight. Live entertainment starts hours before, with musical acts to pump up the energetic crowd. Counting down with thousands of strangers in Times Square and singing “Auld Lang Syne” is a bucket list item for revelers from around the world. It may be cold outside, but the palpable excitement keeps the happy crowds going into the early morning.
What else is in this post?
- The Globe-Trotter's Guide: 12 Months of Festivals, Events, and Hidden Gems Worth Traveling For - Ring in the New Year Around the World
- The Globe-Trotter's Guide: 12 Months of Festivals, Events, and Hidden Gems Worth Traveling For - Love is in the Air: Romantic Destinations for February
- The Globe-Trotter's Guide: 12 Months of Festivals, Events, and Hidden Gems Worth Traveling For - Chase the Northern Lights in March
- The Globe-Trotter's Guide: 12 Months of Festivals, Events, and Hidden Gems Worth Traveling For - April's Global Gatherings and Celebrations
- The Globe-Trotter's Guide: 12 Months of Festivals, Events, and Hidden Gems Worth Traveling For - May Flowers Bring Cultural Festivities
- The Globe-Trotter's Guide: 12 Months of Festivals, Events, and Hidden Gems Worth Traveling For - Summer Solstice and Midsummer Madness
- The Globe-Trotter's Guide: 12 Months of Festivals, Events, and Hidden Gems Worth Traveling For - Autumn Food and Wine Festivals
- The Globe-Trotter's Guide: 12 Months of Festivals, Events, and Hidden Gems Worth Traveling For - December Holiday Magic Near and Far
The Globe-Trotter's Guide: 12 Months of Festivals, Events, and Hidden Gems Worth Traveling For - Love is in the Air: Romantic Destinations for February
February brings thoughts of romance and provides the perfect excuse to escape to a destination made for two. For couples looking to reignite the spark or celebrate their love, these locales deliver dramatic backdrops, cozy hideaways, and unique excursions guaranteed to bring you closer.
Paris, the City of Light, has always topped the list of romantic getaways. Strolling hand-in-hand along the Seine, gazing out over the city from the Eiffel Tower observation deck, and wandering the narrow streets of Montmartre all make it easy to fall in love (again) with the French capital. Indulge in exquisite pastries, sip champagne at a sidewalk cafe, and cap your day with a quintessential Parisian dinner at a Michelin-starred restaurant like Guy Savoy or L’Ambroisie.
Few places feel more intimate than Venice, with its latticework of canals, arched bridges, and colorful architecture. Glide through the city on a gondola, listen to live music in St. Mark's Square, and stay in a historic hotel steps from the Grand Canal. Don't miss the breathtaking views from the top of St. Mark's Campanile. Cap off your stay by catching the sunset in Venice’s Arsenale district, far from the tourist crowds.
The tropical island of Bora Bora combines luxury overwater bungalows, crystalline lagoons, and Polynesian culture. Spend your days scuba diving with manta rays and blacktip reef sharks, then relax with a couple's massage at a beachfront spa. Enjoy an intimate dinner on your villa's deck overlooking Mt. Otemanu. For the ultimate romantic experience, reserve a beachside table and dine by candlelight under the stars.
Few places feel more remote than Tasmania, the heart-shaped island south of mainland Australia. Base yourself in the capital of Hobart and make excursions into Tasmania’s wild interior. See the rugged landscape on scenic drives, dine on fresh seafood from the pristine waters, and encounter native wildlife like platypuses, wallabies, and wombats. Cozy up together at an intimate cottage or retreat after days spent exploring Tasmania’s natural wonders.
Verona, the setting for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, brings this classic romance to life. Stroll through Juliet’s courtyard and stand on her famed balcony. Attend an opera performance at the Roman Arena amphitheater for an unforgettable night of culture. Sample wines like Amarone, Valpolicella, and Bardolino at local enotecas as you wander the city’s medieval squares and alleyways. For more contemporary art and architecture, make the one-hour train ride to Milan.
The Globe-Trotter's Guide: 12 Months of Festivals, Events, and Hidden Gems Worth Traveling For - Chase the Northern Lights in March
For intrepid travelers seeking natural wonders, few sights compare to the dazzling dance of the northern lights. March brings long nights across the northern latitudes, creating ideal conditions for spotting the aurora borealis. From Alaska to Iceland to Scandinavia, here are some prime locations for chasing the northern lights this month.
In Alaska, Fairbanks offers front-row seats to the aurora from late August to April. Chena Hot Springs, located 60 miles east of Fairbanks, provides a comfortable base for viewing the lights. Relax in the natural thermal springs before bundling up for an evening outdoors watching for the tell-tale green glow. Local guides lead nightly northern lights tours from Fairbanks, bringing travelers away from the city lights into the wilderness via snow coach. For even better chances, opt for a multi-day tour with overnight stays at remote lodges like Borealis Basecamp.
Iceland’s long winter nights mean that aurora displays can happen any time between September and March. The small northern town of Akureyri provides an ideal jumping off point for clear night skies, along with ample lodging and dining options. Embark on evening snowmobile or super jeep tours for unobstructed views of the dancing lights from locations like Godafoss waterfall. For more remote experiences, book a stay at hotels situated away from city lights, like the Hotel Ranga in southern Iceland.
Travelers keen to cross the northern lights off their bucket lists head for Abisko National Park in Swedish Lapland around March and April. This area boasts the highest success rate for spotting the aurora in all of Sweden, thanks to optimal natural conditions. Local guides offer nightly tours by minibus, snowmobile and dogsled, bringing travelers to prime lookout points within the park. Multi-day stays at wilderness lodges like the Aurora Mountain Lodge maximize viewing time under the dancing green lights.
Norway also offers excellent opportunities for northern lights chasing, with Tromsø recognized as one of the world’s best locations. The remote Lyngen Alps north of Tromsø provide ideal dark skies, along with dramatic mountain backdrops. Local companies like Green Gold Tours lead overnight minibus expeditions with accommodations in mountain cabins optimized for northern lights viewing. For comfy viewing, book a stay at Camp Tamok, an aurora camp situated away from Tromsø’s light pollution.
The Globe-Trotter's Guide: 12 Months of Festivals, Events, and Hidden Gems Worth Traveling For - April's Global Gatherings and Celebrations
April brings warmer weather in the Northern Hemisphere, making it a prime time for festivals and celebrations around the world. For travelers seeking cultural immersion, joining in global gatherings allows you to experience destinations when their energy and traditions are at a peak.
In Japan, the cherry blossoms reach their peak in April, bringing hanami season to parks and gardens nationwide. Hanami literally translates to “flower viewing” and celebrates the ephemeral beauty of cherry blossoms. In cities like Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka, locals gather for hanami picnics under the trees or take leisurely strolls to appreciate the delicate pink and white flowers. Top spots like Ueno Park and Shinjuku Gyoen in Tokyo overflow with revelers day and night. See one of the world’s most renowned cherry blossom displays along the Philosopher’s Path in Kyoto.
For beer lovers, Munich’s Oktoberfest actually starts in mid-September and runs through early October. However, late April brings Frühlingsfest, which offers a more local and laid-back spring beer festival experience. Tents are set up at the Theresienwiese fairgrounds, just like Oktoberfest, with local bands playing while attendees hoist liters of beer. The vibe is less crowded and more community oriented. It’s the perfect change to soak up the beer culture without the Oktoberfest crowds.
In Thailand, travelers can join in the wild water fights and parades of Songkran, the Buddhist New Year festival celebrating the start of the traditional Thai New Year. While celebrations happen across Thailand, the major festivities center around Chiang Mai and Bangkok, where the streets become soaked by good-natured water throwing using buckets, hoses, water guns, or whatever method people can dream up. Songkran is as much about cleansing and renewal as it is good-natured fun.
The Globe-Trotter's Guide: 12 Months of Festivals, Events, and Hidden Gems Worth Traveling For - May Flowers Bring Cultural Festivities
May brings bountiful blooms across the Northern Hemisphere, along with cultural festivals and events that often have origins in ancient seasonal traditions. For travelers seeking authentic local experiences, May provides opportunities to join in celebrations that spotlight traditional crafts, foods, music and rituals.
In Scotland and Ireland, the Celtic festival of Beltane marks the midway point between the spring equinox and summer solstice. In Edinburgh, Beltane Fire Festival revives this ancient celebration with nighttime pageantry, drumming, dancing and dramatic fire sculptures to welcome warmer seasons. Locals and visitors gather on Calton Hill for the procession and bonfire lighting against the iconic backdrop of Edinburgh Castle.
Germany’s long-running Wave-Gotik-Treffen festival celebrates Gothic subculture in the city of Leipzig during late May. People from over 50 countries gather for live music, medieval markets, Viking-style battle reenactments, absinthe tastings, and fetish parties. As the world’s largest Goth festival, it provides a one-of-a-kind tribal community experience. Costumes and eccentricities are embraced, so it’s easy to join in the darkly theatrical vibe.
Portugal honors the Feast Day of Fatima on May 13th in the religious sanctuary town of the same name. During the day, a procession honors the Virgin Mary with flowers, candles, and singing. Nighttime festivities include candlelit vigils, midnight masses at the Chapel of Apparitions, and stunning fireworks displays. Witnessing the feast day rituals and faithful pilgrims making their way to Fatima all make for an unforgettable experience.
Jamaica’s Carnival takes place in Kingston throughout May and early June. Experience the pulsating beats, colorful costumes and infectious vibes of the Caribbean Carnival, which culminates in a parade with music trucks and elaborate floats. A Jouvert morning procession ushers in dawn with drumming and partying after an all-night celebration. Chop up and dance along with locals at dawn-till-dusk fetes leading up to the Carnival’s Grand Gala.
The Globe-Trotter's Guide: 12 Months of Festivals, Events, and Hidden Gems Worth Traveling For - Summer Solstice and Midsummer Madness
The summer solstice marks the longest day and shortest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, when the North Pole is tilted most directly towards the sun. For many cultures, this astronomical phenomenon has long been celebrated with rituals, gatherings, and revelry. Midsummer festivals welcome the peak of summertime, the abundance of nature, and the turn into the second half of the year.
In Scandinavia, the summer solstice has pagan origins and is linked with fertility and the harvest. Swedes celebrate Midsommar on the Friday between June 19-25 with dancing and singing around a maypole adorned with flowers and leaves. Participants don traditional folk dress as they feast on classic dishes like pickled herring, boiled potatoes, sour cream, and schnapps. In Norway, the solstice is met by burning bonfires on beaches and hilltops. Danes celebrate Sankt Hans with bonfires and torchlit hiking.
At England’s Stonehenge, the summer solstice aligns with the sunrise shining between the prehistoric stone pillars. Thousands of modern-day revelers gather to celebrate by singing, yoga, drum circles. Seekers experience the solstice surrounded by the 5,000-year-old megaliths. Nearby at Glastonbury Tor, sunrise watchers greet the longest day from atop this grassy hill with mythical Arthurian ties.
For a modern take on an ancient rite, head to the giant art and music gathering of Burning Man in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. While not timed to the actual solstice, Burning Man encapsulates the communal, creative spirit of celebrating nature’s cycles and humanity’s connections. The week-long event gathers 70,000 people in a temporary metropolis of art, whimsy, and radical self expression. At the pinnacle, the burning of a giant wooden effigy embodies ritual, rebirth, and the collaborative human spirit.
In Peru, the solstice coincides with Inti Raymi, the ancient Inca Festival of the Sun celebrated since the 13th century. For the solstice itself, thousands of pilgrims gather in Cusco at the archeological centers of Sacsayhuamán and Qoricancha, where Inca priests make offerings of incense, corn and livestock in honor of the deity Inti. The modern-day rendition culminates with a lavish costumed reenactment at Sacsayhuamán, exemplifying Peru’s living Inca culture.
The Globe-Trotter's Guide: 12 Months of Festivals, Events, and Hidden Gems Worth Traveling For - Autumn Food and Wine Festivals
As the harvest season arrives, autumn provides the perfect opportunity to celebrate regional food and wine. For oenophiles and epicureans, planning travel around food and wine festivals allows you to tap into the flavors and spirit of a destination. Taking part in harvest traditions and culinary events illuminates place-based culture and cuisine.
In Tuscany, the medieval towns of Montepulciano, Montalcino and Pienza host wine and gastronomy festivals throughout October. At the Festa dell’Uva in Montepulciano, parade through town alongside fruit-bearers carrying grapes on the vine to symbolize the season’s harvest. Montalcino’s Sagra del Tordo celebrates the rituals of the grape harvest with parades, concerts, tastings and medieval reenactments. Pienza honors the Pecorino cheese-making tradition during October’s Festa del Formaggio. Across scenic Tuscan landscapes, these festivals offer authentic ways to engage with tradition, community, and the origins of world-famous wine and food.
Germany’s wine regions along the Rhine and Moselle Rivers host Weinfeste (wine festivals) in September and October. Towns like Rudesheim am Rhein and Bernkastel-Kues celebrate the grape harvest with tastings, music, and parades. Drink regional Rieslings and Gewürztraminers alongside seasonal fare like noodles with pumpkin and fried fish. Costumed dancers and live bands like accordion players perform as part of the festivities. Visitors can easily make connections with welcoming locals while taking part in centuries-old customs.
In Kyoto, Japan, kaiseki ryori, an artful multicourse dining tradition, is showcased during the Kyoto Autumn Food Festival in November. Participants can learn about the cultural heritage behind this meticulous cuisine, which follows the seasons and sourcing directly from nature. From tea ceremonies to sake tastings to market tours, the festival provides immersion into Japan’s refined culinary spirit. The peak of autumn colors across Kyoto’s shrines and gardens adds to the seasonal splendor.
The Globe-Trotter's Guide: 12 Months of Festivals, Events, and Hidden Gems Worth Traveling For - December Holiday Magic Near and Far
For many, December elicits nostalgic notions of celebrating the holiday season. While favorite traditions may center around family gatherings, December also presents the perfect opportunity to create magical new memories through travel. Discovering how the holidays are feted around the globe provides eye-opening cultural perspective.
"Some of my most vivid childhood memories revolve around the holiday season, so I try to seek out opportunities to recapture that magical feeling as an adult," says frequent traveler Mark Johnson. "One of my best trips was experiencing a traditional German Christmas market in Munich. Vendors sold ornaments, baked goods and handmade gifts from charming wooden stalls decorated with lights and greenery. Kids whizzed down an outdoor ice skating path adorned with twinkling trees as I sipped mulled wine to ward off the crisp chill in the air. It felt so festive and alive, like being transported into a holiday film set."
Of course, heading to a tropical locale provides the ultimate escape from cold winter weather. "I'll never forget celebrating Christmas on a beach in Australia one year," recalls adventuresome couple Carla and James. "We spent the day swimming, grilling fresh seafood, and enjoying a cookout under the palms. At first it seemed strange to have Santa in shorts instead of a snowsuit, but we made our own unique traditions. We finished off Christmas Day watching an amazing fireworks display over the water, creating memories neither of us will ever forget."
Traveling over the December holidays allows you to experience how different cultures and faiths celebrate this season. "As someone who grew up with Christmas, visiting Israel during Hanukkah really expanded my perspective," explains Michelle, who tries to take one big annual trip each December. "I loved seeing the menorah lightings each night and children playing with dreidels for chocolate coins. Instead of stockings, kids opened presents on each night of Hanukkah. Trying traditional fried foods like sufganiyot really made me feel part of a community coming together through meaningful rituals."