Category Archives: Travel

6 World Festivals to add to your Life List (and how to get a taste of them at home)


Everyone needs a little celebration in their life list.   Especially big, once-in-a-liftime and potentially tourist-trappy celebrations.  My idea is to eventually make it to these places, but you can experience a little bit if the fun close to home if you know where to look.  Here are a couple of ideas:

1)  Burning Man.  50,00 people set up a tent city in the middle of the Black Rock desert in Nevada.  It’s vast art project, self-described as an  experiment in community, self-reliance and radical self expression.  Every year has a theme (2010 was Metropolis: The Life of Cities, 2011 was: Rites of Passage), and artists and travelers from all over the world organize art theme camps…basically living art projects….for the whole week.

In the meantime:  There are regional Burning Man events all over the world.  One of the most famous is Critical Massive, a one-week alternative arts event held in the summer…right here in the Pacific Northwest.)  You can also check for local Burning Man meetup groups–they can point you to your local Burners and  theme camps.

2) La Tomatina.  Thousands of people pelt each other with thousands of pounds of tomatoes in the streets of Buñol,  Spain.  Legend has it that a market-square food fight turned into one of the world’s most famous celebrations when the authorities decided they could no longer stop the local kids from re-enacting a famous food fight, and therefore decided…if you can’t beat em’,   make a profit from tourism.

In the meantime: Spain can’t hoard all the tomato-throwing fun.  There are tomato events in.  There’s even a company that organizes tomato fights in cities around the U.S.  They just had one in Seattle.

3) Holi is an ancient spring festival celebrated by Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs.  The festivities include singing, dancing and throwing brightly colored powder and water on people.   A joyful, deeply traditional family festival, it’s probably best experienced in India.  But….













In the meantime:  Of course, I dream of celebrating it in India. but there are tons of Holi celebrations throughout the U.S.  Gala Darling once did a post about celebrating  Holi in NYC.  There’s apparently also an annual Holi/ Bollywood dance night in Seattle.  If there is a large East Asian community where you live, you could probably find a Holi celebration in your neck of the woods.

4) Glastonbury Music Festival  in Glastonbury, UK,  derrives most of its awesomeness from how absolutely disgusting it is.  It’s famous for being muddy and on a farm.  We all know what that means.  It also draws an insane lineup and has the benefit of being absolutely mythic.  A warning: there is no Glastonbury in 2012, but never fear, you may have some awesome options closer to home!

Glastonbury Festival 2009


In the meantime:  If it’s farmland you seek, there’s Mountain Stomp in Oregon (available for a fraction of the price–$90 for three days versus Glastonbury’s nearly $400 price tag).   You can also find big-name concerts with big name lineups (and some of the smaller, quirky ones as well ) on Festival Finder.

5) Octoberfest.   Munich, Bavaria, Germany.  Seventeen days. Six million people.  All the local beer you can drink.  All the delicious German food you can eat.   What’s not to love?

In the meantime:  Fortunately,  most places have realized that a Fall festival of local beer and a good time is an excellent idea. If you’re in Seattle, you’ve got the world-famous Fremont Oktoberfest right in your backyard.   Most major U.S. cities have some iteration of Oktoberfest, with varying degrees of success.  When I lived in Florida, we had WOBtoberfest, a beer pub’s take on the festival.  It involved a suburban parking lot, some local bands, and lots of beer and local girls dressed up in lederhosen and miniskirts.  It was fantastic.   The idea isn’t trying to match the tradition of Munich.  The idea is a fall, beer, and a good time.

So those are a few of the major ones.  To  find festivals on the road less traveled, check out my World Parties & Festivals Library:





Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States and principal author of the Declaration of Independence, wanted to be remembered for building Monticello.    He  filled his neoclassical mountain retreat with hundreds of books,  inventions, ancient paintings and maps and Indian artifacts fron Lewis and Clark.

Looking out over Jefferson’s experimental gardens, it’s easy to image that it’s 1801. A southern flash rainstorm, with the thick smell of rain and with big fat rain drops.  The sounds of crickets and silence.  Red earth.   In the distance, a man sings old slave work songs.  Crisp violin waltzes float from the house.

Jefferson loved agriculture, and tried all sorts of experiments in this terrace garden.   He used the sunny garden pavilion  to keep his garden logs.  The wooden posts mark the sites of the enslaved workers’ homes.  Four generations of slaves lived and died at Monticello.   Because of the work of these men, women, and children,  Thomas Jefferson had ample time to sit in his shady suite of rooms for hours, studying, inventing and writing…about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.   For Jefferson, slavery was a necessary evil, something to be phased out slowly (after his lifetime).   It’s hard to juxtapose his contributions as a free thinker, inventor, progressive mind, and freedom fighter with his choice to be a slave owner.  Although the President opposed U.S. involvement in international slave trade, and struggled throughout his life his personal views on slavery, his decision to own slaves throughout his life ultimately spoke louder than his words.

READ MORE:  After my visit to Monticello, I definitely wanted to learn more about Jefferson, his life, his times, his ideas, his family, his enslaved workers.   Here’s what’s on my T.J. reading list:


VISIT MONTICELLO:  It’s a treat to spend an afternoon at Monticello,  wandering the gorgeous grounds and thinking big thoughts.  It’s about an hour from Washington, D.C. and just minutes from Charlottesville, VA.   There’s a huge visitor’s center with a little cafe and several galleries with artifacts and exhibits. It’s $15.00 to tour the house and grounds.  The price will get you a guided, 40-minute tour of the house. Unfortunatel, visitors are  not allowed to wander the house unescorted.  But you can spend the entire day exploring the grounds, hiking through the hills and gardens. There are also a number of programs (nature walks, garden tours, Slaves at Monticello tours, lecture series, etc.)   The official website has a list of programs, hours, tickets & a ton of information.