Culture, Music, Sport and Festivals

Embrace The Culture: A year of festivals in the USA

Rebecca Harley

18th March 2024

Musician playing guitar to a crowd in Nashville, Tennessee

The USA boasts a jam-packed itinerary of festivals throughout the year – many of which are internationally renowned, so when planning your trip it’s worth checking to see if there are any that might interest you.

From film and music to food, cars, and even cherry trees – Americans love a celebration and they know how to do one too. This list is by no means exhaustive, but these festivals are ones we here at Journeyscape have attended and can personally recommend. From popular, world-class events to unique opportunities to gain real insight into American culture and traditions, take your pick!

January

Sundance Film Festival
Park City and Salt Lake City, Utah

If you’re a film aficionado, then it’s worth planning your trip to coincide with the renowned Sundance Film Festival. This annual extravaganza celebrates the best of the independent film industry, so sign up to watch a screening, attend a Q&A, or be on the lookout for your favourite actors as they make their way around the Park City area.

February

Mardi Gras
New Orleans, Louisiana

The festival of Mardi Gras or “Fat Tuesday” takes place on what we know as Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day in the UK. Carnival-like celebrations take place to celebrate the last feast before Lent begins, and nobody goes all out like the locals in New Orleans! Expect impressive costumes (and make sure to be dressed up yourself if you’re attending), delicious food, loads of drink and wonderful music that you can’t help but want to dance along to.

March

South by Southwest (SXSW)
Austin, Texas

SXSW celebrates the convergence of tech, film, music, education, and culture, and is fast becoming the annual event to attend in the United States. Creative professionals from around the world attend 9 days of networking, exhibitions, conferences, live music and comedy, film and television screenings, award ceremonies, and much more.

April

Jazz & Heritage Festival
New Orleans, Louisiana

Known by the locals as JazzFest, this 11-day festival is a celebration of the unique culture of New Orleans. Visitors can choose from 13 stages and enjoy a wide variety of music styles, from brass bands and gospel to jazz, rock and zydeco, from some of the region’s greatest musicians, as well as internationally renowned artists, such as The Rolling Stones. Beyond the music, you can expect delicious local cuisine, one-of-a-kind arts and crafts, and vibrant parades.

May

The Kentucky Derby
Louisville, Kentucky

The longest continuously held sporting event in America and one of the most prestigious horse races in the world, there’s a reason the Kentucky Derby is hailed as “America’s Greatest Race”. Held at the legendary Churchill Downs Racetrack in Louisville, Kentucky, this annual horse race is one of the most important events in the South, and getting dressed up to attend is a highlight of any social calendar. Put on your finest, sip a Mint Julep and you’ll be set for the thrill of the fastest two minutes in sport!

June

Pride Month

Pride month is celebrated across the USA with parades, fairs, and parties. Take to the streets in one of the cities that does Pride best like San Francisco, New York, Seattle, Houston, Chicago, Miami and Atlanta.

July

National Cherry Festival
Traverse City, Michigan

Originally called the “Blessing of the Blossoms Festival”, the people of Traverse City have been celebrating their flourishing cherry trees since 1925. This extremely popular event attracts over 500,000 people throughout the eight days it runs for. Visitors enjoy a host of family-friendly activities, including carnival rides and attractions, live music, pie-eating contests, and even a Cherry Queen pageant.

August

The Sturgis Motor Rally
Sturgis, South Dakota

Make a detour on your road trip through South Dakota to take in the impressive Sturgis Motor Rally, the largest motorcycle rally in the world. The rally first began in 1938 focusing on racing and stunts, but nowadays, the event has a party-like atmosphere with bike shows and live concerts.

September

Neptune Festival
Virginia Beach, Virginia

Although summer might be drawing to a close, down in Virginia Beach, they are not ready for it to end just yet. Head to this beautiful coastal city for an entertaining weekend filled with free concerts, seaside wine tastings, and a multitude of events, including an 8km race and volleyball tournament. You can also wander for 30 blocks and find handmade artwork and sculptures, as well as over 200 food and shopping vendors.

October

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta
Albuquerque, New Mexico

Thousands of visitors each year make the trip to Albuquerque to watch this breath-taking spectacle as 500 colourful hot air balloons fill the blue sky above. Other highlights from the 9-day festival include firework displays, drone-operated light shows, chainsaw carving, and hot air balloon rides at dawn.

November

Florida Seafood Festival
Apalachicola, Florida

Held at the mouth of the Apalachicola River, an inlet off the Gulf Coast, this festival features delicious seafood, arts and crafts, live music, and events, including a festival parade, oyster shucking contest and Red Fish Run 5km. If you’re not a fan of seafood, there are several local vendors offering food of all varieties as well.

December

Dickens on the Strand
Galveston, Texas

If you’re travelling throughout the festive period and start to miss home, make a stop in the Gulf Coast town of Galveston for their unique holiday spectacular. The area is transformed into 19th century Victorian London, featuring parades, live entertainment, a play area for children, and a shopping village. Costumed vendors line the streets selling food and drink, as well as Victorian-inspired crafts, clothing, and gifts.

If you’re looking for more inspiration, browse our wide range of Holidays to the USA.

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