ALL POSTS IN [Festivals and Celebrations]

Every year, for 4 days in June, country music fans take over the Tuttle Creek Lake State Park in Manhattan, KS, for the Country Stampede music festival. In fact, it’s one of the largest parties in the Midwest with over 175,000 attendees eating good food, enjoying strong drinks and tailgating in the campgrounds with fellow country lovers — and a few of the performers themselves.

Tonight at 9|8c, Adam joins in the fun on an all-new episode of Fandemonium. In fact, when he comes across a country musician, he even writes a country song of his own … about Brooklyn.

Do you love country music? It’s not too early to start planning your own trip to Manhattan, KS, to join in the stampede. Let our travel guide help you get there!

The town of Laconia, NH, is usually quaint and quiet. But for a single week in June, hundreds of thousands motorcycle enthusiasts make their way to Weirs Beach to show off their custom choppers, indulge in some quality seafood and get down with their bike brethren.

In the mood for a $100 lobster pizza? How about a resort overlooking the waters of Lake Winnipesaukee? The 15,000-person town of Laconia has it all. Wanna get down and dirty with the bikers in Laconia? Check out our travel guide to find out what you can’t miss during this crazy week in June, and tune in tonight at 9|8c to watch Adam Richman join in on the madness on an all-new episode of Fandemonium.

Great barbecue is an art. And for a real taste of the craftsmanship that goes into roasting a whole hog or smoking a rack of ribs so tender the meat falls off the bone, look no further than Memphis in May’s World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest.

Tonight at 9|8c, Adam Richman witnesses the barbecue madness on an all-new episode of Fandemonium. From delicious smoked sausage to Denmark’s take on American barbecue, Adam tastes it all. He also meets more than a few barbecue devotees who make this weekend the highlight of the month-long Memphis in May celebration.

It’s never too early to start planning your next spring fling! If Adam’s got you wanting to join in the barbecue fun, check out our Memphis travel guide for tips to plan your own Memphis in May excursion. Or use our Best BBQ Festivals and Competitions photo gallery to find one closer to home!

And don’t forget to tune in tonight at 9|8c for Fandemonium!

Everything is bigger in Texas … even their Renaissance festival! In fact, the Scarborough Renaissance Festival in Waxahachie, TX, has an average attendance of 200,000 “rennies” each year. And as Adam finds out tonight at 10|9c on Fandemonium, these renn-fest goers are some of the most imaginative and devoted superfans he’s found so far.

From the 22 stages holding over 200 performances, to the more than 150 cast members (most of whom are volunteers!) who bring the festival to life, it’s worth a trip to Waxahachie for the chance to travel back in time to the year 1533.

Did we mention the turkey legs? Or steak on a stake? Or the mead?

If we’ve convinced you to lace up your corset/don your codpiece (not required), then check out our Waxahachi, TX, travel guide for tips. Or check out the Renlist for a list of Renaissance festivals near you!

Not feeling persuaded, yet? Then tune in tonight for an all-new episode of Fandemonium at 10|9c, and you’ll be joining a joust in no time!

On tonight’s premiere of Adam Richman’s Fandemonium, you’ll dive headfirst into the top tailgating events that the great state of Florida has to offer. First at 10|9c, Adam heads to the Daytona 500 where tailgating (and super fandom) is taken to new levels. This is the only place where you’ll find a checkered flag beard.

Then at 10:30|9:30c, Adam sees what mudding is all about when he goes to the Redneck Yacht Club’s Trucks Gone Wild. In Punta Gorda, FL, the parties get down and dirty with unique barbecue (atomic buffalo turd, anyone?) and non-stop off roading.

Are you a super fan? Get tips for the Daytona 500 or the Redneck Yacht Club with our travel guides, and we’ll see you in sunny Florida!

Photography by star5112, flickr

Venture out to Grant Park on Chicago’s magnificent lakefront now through Sunday, July 14, for the 33rd annual Taste of Chicago. Read on for a breakdown of the world’s largest outdoor food festival.

0 = Price. The cost of admission is FREE, however you’ll need to purchase strips of 12 tickets ($8) for food and drink items (priced from 3 to 14 tickets for tasting and full-size portions).

6 = Number of celebrity chefs participating in Mazda6 Celebrity Chef du Jour, including Rick Bayless, Carrie Nahabedian, Guiseppe Tentori, Paul Kahan and Gale Gand paired with The Hearty Boys. Introduced last year, the event costs $40, which  gets you a sit-down, 3-course meal in an air-conditioned dining pavilion.

14 = Number of different food trucks participating in the festival — for the first time ever! Parked on the concrete path parallel to Lake Shore Drive, they’ll begin selling entrees and desserts an hour before the evening concerts.

16 = Booth number of famed Eli’s Cheesecake, which has been at all 33 tastes. The Chicago Tribune calls a cool slice of Key Lime Skinny Cheesecake one of The Taste’s best bargains – it’ll only set you back 3 tickets!

35 = Number of restaurants on this year’s menu, including Taste favorites Bobak’s Sausage Company and Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria, as well as newcomers like Bombay Spice and Southern-inspired Wishbone. For the full, diverse list and locations visit the Taste site.

48 = Number of bands and musicians taking the stage(s) this year, including Robin Thicke, rock ‘n roll legend Robert Plant and Grammy-award winners Jill Scott and fun.

For more on demonstrations, pop-up restaurants, kids’ activities and daily schedules, visit the official Taste of Chicago site.

Not able to make the Taste in Chi-town? We’ve rounded up more of the best Food & Wine Festivals around the country.

Getty Images

This weekend Thailand celebrated its New Year, know as Songkran, with the world’s biggest water fight. Songkran is an annual Buddhist holiday that traditionally calls for Thais to visit elders and temples on the first day of the year. The days leading up to the New Year are less serious and filled with epic water battles across the country. For the 3 days leading up to the New Year, there isn’t a dry spot in Thailand, as the “Land of Smiles” fills its water guns and buckets and takes to the streets for the celebratory dousing of passersby. This festival is based on a renewal and cleansing tradition stemming from the water blessing in temples for the New Year. Each year this all-out water fight only gets bigger — and wetter– in Thailand.

Last year, I unintentionally planned a vacation to Thailand during Songkran. As a tourist, I didn’t know what to expect. I prepared myself with a waterproof camera case, a poncho (that proved useless) and the “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” mindset — I bought a water gun in a Thai market for protection. As most tourists who find themselves in Thailand during Songkran can probably attest, I felt lucky to be here to witness something so unique and at the heart of the country’s culture: a veritable national party.

Thailand, a country already so well-known for its hospitality, welcomes droves of tourists during Songkran to join in its annual water fight. So take it as a compliment if you get soaked with a water gun here. It means they like you.

During the 3 days of Songkran, I was lucky enough to see 3 different cities celebrate it.  The first day of Songkran, I was in Pai, a small mountain town in the north of Thailand. Pai has become a favorite among expats and tourists looking for a nature reprieve from Thailand’s congested bigger cities. The small town of Pai is centered around one main street and everyone in the town seemed to be on it during Songkan — either in a truck filled with young mischievous water-throwers with trashcan-size buckets full of water or lined up on the streets for a prime spot to watch the action. And as I would learn repeatedly throughout Songkan, the ultimate target for drenching during the festival is always the tourist. My introduction to Songkran in Pai began when I was ambushed by a group of young monks armed with super soakers (see photo).

Photography by Stephanie Price

Next stop on the Songrkan tour was Chiang Mai, my absolute favorite city in Thailand, less touristy and globalized than Bangkok, but still with plenty to see, do and taste. As our bus from Pai pulled up to the gates of Chiang Mai, I quickly realized that Pai was just a trickle of water fights compared with this city’s all-out water war. There was no shortage of water in Chiang Mai either, as the fuel for this 3-day water fight here mostly comes from the river that runs through the city. By the second city, my travel companions and I had amped up our ammunition; water guns just weren’t as effective — or as fun — as entire buckets filled with water.

 

Photography by Stephanie Price

Our last stop on the Songran tour was Bangkok, Thailand’s bustling capital city. This was also the last night of the celebrations before people throughout the country would flock to temples for a more serious (and drier) day with family — but not before one last big splash. So we found ourselves in the epicenter of the country’s water festival, on the biggest night, in Thailand’s biggest city. Think New Year’s Eve in Times Square, but instead of noisemakers, everyone’s armed with water guns. Our hotel was smack dab in the middle of the action on Khao San Road, a 0.5-mile-long strip full of bars, restaurants, hotels, stores and heaps of tourists mostly of the young budget-traveler type.

As I learned firsthand, staying dry as you walk through Khao San Road is the least of your problems during Songkran. I could barely walk through this street because it was so crowded with Songkran revelers. While Thais are generally known to be laid-back people  – often, you can even escape the water splashing if you just shake your head or hand — we found no such luck here. No matter how much we pleaded, we couldn’t escape getting soaked in Bangkok. The water battle on Khao San Road was unlike anything I could have imagined. Few would ever take a camera out here to document the craziness for risk of it getting ruined. Luckily, neither did I.

On the early morning of the New Year, after a final night of water mayhem, we were due to fly home. We woke up and breathed a sigh of relief that finally the crowds on Khao San Road had gone home and we could skip the bathing suit under our clothes and poncho for the trip to the airport. So we packed into a tuk-tuk (Thailand’s rickshaw) with all of our luggage (cabs were nowhere to be found on this national holiday) and headed to the airport. But to our utter surprise, we received one final drenching at a stoplight from a truck that still had a bucket of water in the back from the night before.

Soaked and carrying our wet bags, we arrived at the airport laughing, knowing there was no better way to leave Thailand than with one big splash.

 

Cherry Blossoms

Finally! The first day of spring is here, and the growing sunshine and warmer weather are bound to inspire travel ideas in you. If those plans include a trip to Washington, DC, for the 101st annual National Cherry Blossom Festival, though, you may have to adjust your calendar ever so slightly: The National Park Service reports that the peak bloom time for the blossoms has been recalculated — it’s now April 3-6. (An earlier projection had called for March 26-30; the reason for the date push-back is the recent cold snap that hit the nation’s capital). To make sure you do not miss the peak bloom, the National Park Service has set up a live web cam of the Tidal Basin.

Along with cherry blossoms, be sure to check out DC’s other top attractions:

Don’t want to wait that long to see cherry blossoms in bloom? Then head on over the Japan! What’s late here is early there — in fact, this year cherry blossoms in Japan have peaked at their earliest time ever: CNN reports that the Japan Meteorological Agency announced the beginning of cherry blossom, or “sakura,” season over the past weekend.

For more cherry blossom travel ideas, check out our recent roundup of cherry blossom festivals across America — and fun fact: The Garden State actually has more cherry blossoms than Washington, DC! So you may want to add New Jersey’s Branch Brook Park to your cherry blossom viewing list!

Where’s the best place to practice yoga? Paradise. More specifically, Wanderlust O’ahu, the one-of-a kind festival that features yoga, music, surfing and plenty of Hawaiian culture on the fabled North Shore. Typically a summer festival that’s held in mountain resort areas, Wanderlust kicked off its 2013 season by leaving the mainland for its first-ever beach location in the Aloha state.

photo by Mike Bernard

When I attended my first Wanderlust at Whistler last August, I was immediately hooked on the unique vibe of this festival that combines world-class yogis, outdoor adventure, organic wining and dining and dancing under the stars to crowd-pleasing bands.

But Wanderlust at a more intimate setting on one of Hawaii’s most beautiful beaches? Mindful-living magic.

Away from the crowds of Waikiki, Wanderlust O’ahu was held at Turtle Bay Resort, an 880-acre paradise that sits on the northernmost tip of the North Shore with 5 miles of remote beachfront. Yogis down-dogged by the crystal blue ocean (or on the ocean if they attempted stand-up paddleboard yoga) with palm trees swaying and 15-foot waves breaking nearby. Hawaiian surf legends Gerry Lopez and Rochelle Ballard taught yoga classes and shared their surf-yoga connection during evening speakeasies. Wanderlust-ers got a taste of Hawaiian culture with surf, ukulele and hula lessons. And every day in paradise was topped off with dancing under the stars – with musical acts like Michael Franti and Friends and ALO.

photo by Ali Kaukas

While every moment at Wanderlust O’ahu felt perfect, my favorite moment had to be the spontaneous “trance dance” party led by yoga goddess Shiva Rea and Wanderlust musical mainstay Michael Franti. Picture over a thousand people jumping and dancing to the infectious beats of Michael Franti under the Hawaiian sunshine (in comfy yoga pants, of course).  Pure happiness.

See Michael Franti lead the dance party in the festival highlights video. Check out images of Wanderlust O’ahu in our slideshow. And get more highlights of the festival in my Postcard From Wanderlust O’ahu.

photo by Kathleen Rellihan

Don’t worry,  there are still many chances to experience Wanderlust this year. It’s just gearing up for its 2013 summer season, with all the mainland events tickets on sale now: Wanderlust Vermont, Jun 20-23; Wanderlust Colorado, July 3-7; Wanderlust California, July 18-21; and Wanderlust Whistler, August 1-4. Don’t miss out on advanced pricing, which ends March 26. Ticket prices will go up, so now is the time to book your Wanderlust adventure. And the earlier you book, the more likely you’ll get into the popular classes, which fill up quickly.

Where will your wanderlust take you this year? I have a feeling mine will take me back to another Wanderlust festival.

With St. Patrick’s Day falling over a weekend this year, parades, festivals and celebrations are planned across the US. Here are 5 cities with uniquely Irish-themed soirees in the works.

Boston

If pretty much everyone you walk by is wearing a scally cap or a Dropkick Murphys shirt, then you must be in Boston. More than 600,000 people line the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade route as it winds through South Boston – (but call it Southie if you want to sound like a local). Plus, scores of the political and politically-connected will gather for the infamous St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast at the Boston Convention Center (a chance to roast one another in the spirit of the day).

Best Craic: The World Championships of Irish Dancing at the Hynes Convention Center, March 23-31.

Chicago

Each year, 40 pounds of green dye are added to the Chicago River, turning it a bright emerald green – head to the east side of the Michigan Avenue bridge for the best viewing. Hundreds of thousands of people also show up at the parades that wind through Chicago’s streets, including the Southside Irish St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Sunday, March 10, and the St. Patrick’s Day Parade on March 16. This year, city leaders are working to have the Windy City named as the US headquarters of St. Patrick’s Day as part of its ShamROCK Chicago campaign.

Best Craic: Celtic punk by the Tossers at Metro, Saturday, March 16.

New York City

Plenty of cities claim to have the best, but there’s no question as to whose parade is the largest. New York City’s annual procession up Fifth Avenue, started in 1762 by Irish soldiers in the British army, will draw nearly 2 million spectators. Step inside Molly’s Shebeen (287 Third Ave) after for some renowned lamb stew or shepherd’s pie. A white stucco exterior topped with shingles, sawdust floors and a warm fireplace make this watering hole one of New York’s most authentic.

Best Craic: McSorley’s Old Ale House at the 8 a.m. opening – everyone is still sober, friendly and excited about the day at this point.

Washington, DC

The Shamrock Festival is a massive celebration of all things Irish. On Saturday, March 16, visitors will jam the RFK Stadium Festival Grounds in Washington, DC, to experience more than 40 bands across 9 stages, beer trucks spanning the length of 2 football fields, a pub row and strolling entertainers. The Irish Village will provide step dancers, pipers and games. The city’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade steps off the next day and will make its way up Constitution Avenue at noon.

Best Craic: Legendary traditional Irish group The Chieftains at the Kennedy Center, March 14-16.

San Diego

Swarms of revelers are expected to squeeze into San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter on St. Patrick’s Day to celebrate the 18th annual shamROCK. Live Irish bands will perform on the main stage – including this year’s headliners the Young Dubliners – and a 150-foot Irish pub will be accessible streetside on F Street between 5th  and 7th avenues. Plus, there’ll be 80,000 square feet of green turf covering the streets of San Diego.

Best Craic: The Smiling Irishman contest at the St. Patrick’s Day Festival in Balboa Park on Saturday, March 16. The winner takes home a special hat and a Blackthorn walking stick.

- Bill Burke 

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