ALL POSTS IN [Festivals and Celebrations]

Photography by Golden Owl, flickr

Happy 500th birthday, Florida!

In 2013, it will be half a millennium since Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon landed on the shores of Florida, essentially becoming America’s very first tourist. To commemorate the 500th anniversary and honor Ponce de Leon for inspiring the European colonists to settle here, the Sunshine State is having a big year with festivals, events and celebrations.

2013 is chockfull of lively gatherings, and we listed a variety of our favorites throughout the year. Mark your calendar for some truly exciting adventures that wait in Florida!

Jan. 5: First Christmas in Florida
Mission San Luis, Tallahassee

Witness a reenactment of explorer Hernando de Soto’s 1539-1540 encampment in Tallahassee, with costumed interpreters, re-enactors, music and theatrical performances at Florida’s only recreated Spanish mission.

Feb. 2013: Grand Opening of Colonial Quarter
St. Augustine

Commemorating the discovery of La Florida by Juan Ponce de Leon 500 years ago, St. Augustine has added a legacy addition to its visitor experience: A living-history museum with exhibits, shows, taverns, restaurants and more to immerse visitors into Florida’s Spanish colonial experience.

Feb. 1-May 11: Picasso Exhibition
St. Augustine’s Visitor Information Center

Exhibition of graphic work and ceramics by Pablo Picasso, featuring pieces from the Fundacion Picasso in Spain that have never been displayed in the United States.

Feb. 7-18: Florida State Fair
Florida State Fairgrounds, Tampa

In 2013, this annual festival will highlight how historic European influences affect Florida’s lifestyles today, especially in food and agriculture.

April 2-5: Commemorating Ponce de Leon
Melbourne Beach

Costumed interpreters will land a replica ship to commemorate Ponce de Leon’s landing on Florida’s northeast coast. Events include an Air Force flyover, 21-gun salute, parade and erection of a statue of the Spanish explorer.

April 29-May 6: Broward Navy Days
Port Everglades, Fort Lauderdale

This annual event focuses on Florida’s rich maritime history, with tall ships to salute Viva Florida 500.

May 24-27: Florida Folk Festival
Stephen Foster State Park, Hamilton County

Singer-songwriters, folk musicians, storytellers, craftsmen, Native Americans, Florida cowboys and historical re-enactors bring Florida history to life.

June TBA: Spanish National Soccer
Miami Dolphins Stadium

Spain’s National Football Federation presents an exhibition soccer game and a chance to meet players, thanks to Espana-Florida Foundation, Fast Track Agency, the Miami Dolphins and Sun Life Stadium.

Oct. 3-5: International Spanish Food and Wine Festival
Throughout St. Augustine

Spanish culture will abound as Spanish wine distributors, along with local and regional restaurants, take over the Visit Information Center and Promenade for a festival celebrating Spain’s food, wine and dance. Hosted with the U.S.-Spain Chamber of Commerce.

October TBA: Festival Calle Orange
Orlando

One of Florida’s most internationally famous cities celebrates the state’s Hispanic roots with a street festival, food and cultural activities spread over 10 city blocks.

Nov. 30-Dec. 8: Maritime Heritage Festival
St. Augustine Municipal Marina & Promenade

Boats of all kinds — from tall ships to fishing skiffs — will celebrate maritime heritage at America’s oldest port, starting with the launch of a high-tech sailing voyage around the world in hopes of breaking a record.

- Jimmy Im

Jimmy Im is NYC-based travel writer, TV host and instructor, as well as the cofounder of OutEscapes.com

New Year's Day Plunge

Photography by Todd Bush Photography

Sometimes you need to make a statement — big and bold — in order to start the New Year off with a fresh, clean slate. And what better way to begin a new chapter than with a dip into a body of water — icy cold, at that!

I can personally vouch for it: Taking the plunge on New Year’s Day is something you won’t soon forget. Last New Year’s, on the heels of recovering from a lower back injury, I was feeling a little listless, like something had to change. Then one day, an ad popped up on my Facebook page — something about a Coney Island Polar Bear Club Plunge on New Year’s. Intrigued, I clicked on the ad.

Turns out, the Coney Island Polar Bear Club is the oldest swimming club of its kind in the United States, and every year since the early 1900s, this hardy group of men and women, now numbering in the hundreds, has taken a dip in the Atlantic Ocean off Coney Island on New Year’s Day. (They also take regular dips every Sunday from November through April, in case you can’t get enough.)

Hypothermia? Nah!

OK, OK, you’re probably thinking — I don’t know — “hypothermia” right about now. But as I found out last New Year’s, as I gathered with more than a thousand eager New Year’s plungers off the boardwalk at Coney Island’s Stillwell Avenue, you don’t have to be in super-primo-uno shape to take the plunge.

In fact, looking around at the sea of humanity ready to celebrate that New Year’s Day, I wasn’t exactly looking at a bunch of bodybuilders — and that’s putting it mildly. (As Bon Jovi music blasted from nearby speakers, yes, I did actually see grown men in every kind of sportive garb – including, you know, speedos and diapers — but hey, who am I to judge?)

Then came the moment …

At 1 p.m. sharp! –– a sea of people — my fellow brothers and sisters! — rushed toward the water, many yelping in what sounded like a primal seal sound: ah-oooh, ah-oooh

Feeling the growing excitement, I raced toward the water with them, and then it hit me, “Wow! This water is cold!” But then, what the heck, this was it, the moment — the New Year! — and soon, I dunked my whole body underwater, then rushed back toward the shore, feeling an exhilaration and joy I wouldn’t soon forget. I’m still talking about it a year later! (And a word to the ladies: A New Year’s plunge is a great date option — you’ll see how tough your fella really is!)

Eager to take the plunge yourself? Check out these New Year’s plunge options around the world! We’ve even included some warmer options, in case, you know, you don’t want to freeze to death. Go figure.

By Katie Hards

George Motz at the New York Food Film Festival

Photo by Katie Hards

What happens when you combine food- and film-hungry New Yorkers, 20,000 South Carolina oysters, live music, and the Brooklyn Fire Department? You get the closing night party for the New York City Food Film Festival. READ MORE

The off-season is the perfect time to visit the island of Nantucket, off the coast of Cape Cod in Massachusetts – a real-life “Pleasantville,” complete with cobblestone streets, grey-shingled houses and miles of picturesque beaches and conservation land. The island is especially inviting in October, when the water’s still warm, many restaurants are still open, the sea air is crisp and the streets aren’t lined with tourists toting a year’s worth of Nantucket reds home from Murray’s Toggery Shop. Do you need any more reasons to board the ferry?

Make the 30-mile passage out to sea for chef Michael LaScola (of Nantucket’s American Seasons) and chef Matt Jennings’ (of Providence’s Farmstead) Hogtoberfest, a 2-day celebration of all things pig, cooking and beer. The annual event – now in its 4th year – takes place on October 13 and 14. READ MORE

This Saturday, outdoor lovers have a chance to give back to some of the United States’ treasured nature reserves for National Public Lands Day. It’s the largest single-day volunteer effort in the country, and over 170,000 volunteers are expected to help plant trees, remove trash, restore habitats and beautify their public gardens, beaches and parks. This day is set aside annually to promote the importance of protecting our environment and conserving nature.  If you love hands-on activities and don’t mind getting a little messy, this is a great way to connect with nature and help our environment.

And to celebrate, the National Park Service is waiving the entry fees to all national parks, so If you don’t plan on volunteering this weekend, be sure to get outdoors and take advantage of this great opportunity to explore some of America’s treasures.

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By Kate Hards

“There’s a guy here wearing a PETA shirt,” wrote my confused co-worker in a text message. Liz met me at the 35th Street East River ferry landing for a quick boat ride to Meatopia on Randall’s Island. We were about to attend a one-day food festival featuring meat-centric dishes prepared by chefs from around the world … and there were vegans about to board?

At the dock, I inspected said t-shirt. In this case, PETA didn’t stand for the animal activist group, but rather “People Eating Tasty Animals,” a theme that was evident throughout Meatopia. Hoards of hungry carnivores descended upon the park and lined up to taste small plates and bites of tasty, tasty animals. The event was organized into Meat-themed neighborhoods in a large grassy field on the island: The Deckle District, Offalwood, Beaktown, Embassy Row, Meatopia Heights, Carcass Hill, The Quarter and the Game Reserve each had tents serving unique dishes prepared with humanely and naturally-raised meats. READ MORE

Chris Matthews and Andrea Mitchell at the DNC

Photograph by Oliver Cox

Think you need a VIP ticket to enjoy Charlotte during DNC week? Not really. In democratic style, travelers can see and be seen in the company of major politicos and media celebrities, all in town for the week. You just need to know where to go. Check out these prime spots in uptown Charlotte during DNC week. READ MORE

 

Wanderlust festival in Whistler

Photograph by Ali Kaukas

Need another reason to love September? In addition to Indian summer weather, back to school (shopping) and fall weekend getaways, September is National Yoga Month. Celebrate by visiting one of the thousands of studios and organizations all over the country that are offering free yoga classes and events, many of which are outdoors (so you can enjoy the Indian summer while you’re saluting the sun).

Don’t worry if you aren’t a Vinyasa veteran, these events are open to all levels and are the perfect introduction for newbies to experience all the mind and body benefits of yoga, including bringing people together all over the world. READ MORE

La Tomatina Festival

Photo by Getty Images

La Tomatina Festival — the world’s largest tomato fight – begins each year on the last Wednesday in August and continues for a week in Buñol, Spain. Each year, over 40,000 people descend on the small town outside of Valencia to throw 100 tons of rotten and over-ripe tomatoes in the streets. The first event is marked by the firing of water hoses and lasts for approximately an hour. It may look like a free-for-all, but apparently there is some method to the madness – follow these 5 simple rules, and you may just survive the food fight:

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Photo by Dave Vann

Once in a while, a music festival can inspire a road trip. Sure, it’s super-convenient when your favorite bands happen to stop somewhere close to home, but sometimes it’s fun to make the journey to partake in one of the biggest gatherings of music lovers around. So why not take that to a new level? Book a cruise.

Concert cruises aren’t a new idea — there have been the Rock Boat, Jam Cruise and even John Mayer’s Mayercraft — but if you follow travel news like we have, there’s reason to believe that this trend is going to take off.

In fact, the world’s largest passenger ship will set sail for a Beatles tribute cruise next year. Royal Caribbean’s 5,400-passenger Allure of the Seas will host the 7-night Cruise for Beatles Fans 2013.A Beatles tribute band will be onboard along with other musicians — all with a Beatles connection — such as Mark Hudson, a producer for the Beatles’ Ringo Starr; Billy J. Kramer, who has recorded songs written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney; Joey Molland, a singer from Badfinger, a band signed by the Beatles’ label.

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