What better way to experience authentic culture, make new friends and sample local cuisines than at a local festival? Timing your holiday around a festival or event will guarantee a memorable experience sure to last a lifetime. We’ve rounded up the best nine North American festivals in the USA, Canada and Mexico guaranteed to do just that. While you may know some of them, we guarantee there’ll be some new discoveries to add to your bucket list.
Top festivals in the USA: JazzFest
As the birthplace of jazz and R&B, music runs through the veins of New Orleans year-round. However, the city truly comes to life during JazzFest, an eight-day festival in late April and early May. Previous years have seen big names such as Bruce Springsteen, Elton John and Bon Jovi play alongside Louisiana’s most loved musicians, craftspeople and chefs at this unforgettable soulful celebration. A must-do for all music fans!
Top festivals in the USA: Merrie Monarch Festival
Hawaii is as rich in culture as it is in natural beauty. Learn more about the island’s traditions including the captivating art of Hula at the Merrie Monarch Festival, held annually over the Easter week in the town of Hilo. As well as hula performances, the festival hosts craft fairs, concerts and exhibitions showcasing authentic Hawaiian culture.
Top festivals in the USA: Lummi Stommish Water Festival
Experience war canoe races, traditional Indian games, dances and delicious fresh BBQ salmon at this Native American celebration of community and history. Originally held in 1946 to welcome home WWII veterans, the Lummi Stommish Water Festival’s has grown into a three-day celebration drawing thousands to the festival site on the Lummi Reservation, north of Seattle.
Top festivals in Canada: Celebration of Light
Vancouver’s skies shine bright every summer for the Celebration of Light. Over three nights, pyrotechnics teams battle it out to be crowned ‘world’s best fireworks’ with incredible displays. On ground level, music, food stalls and attractions will keep the whole family entertained.
Top festivals in Canada: Quebec Winter Carnival
Quebec’s Winter Carnival, the largest of its type in the world, is a spark of joie de vivre in this winter loving city. Watch the nightly parades led by cheery mascot Bonhomme, explore the impressive snow sculptures and check out the infamous canoe race across the icy Saint Lawrence River.
Top festivals in Canada: Montreal First Peoples’ Festival in Montreal
Dive into the vivid culture of America’s first inhabitants at The Montréal First Peoples Festival. American aboriginal art, history and traditions take centre stage as visitors have the chance to share unforgettable moments with the Indigenous peoples of Canada through music, dance, craft, film and food.
Top festivals in Mexico: Día de los Muertos
Venture to Mexico’s capital on November 1-2 and you’ll find yourself dancing alongside colourful skeletons through the streets and city plazas. Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), is a time for Mexicans to celebrate both life and death, through costumes, parades, singing and dancing and offerings.
Top festivals in Mexico: Cervantino festival
Every year in October, Guanajuato comes alive with opera, music, dance, theatre, street spectaculars, visual arts, film and literature for the most important cultural festivals in the Spanish-speaking world- the Cervantino festival. For a true feast for the eyes, ears and soul, don’t miss this two-week showcase of arts from around the world.
Top festivals in Mexico: Guelaguetza
You know it’s Guelaguetza time when the roads fill with thousands of brightly dressed women and sombrero-laden men descending from their villages towards the southern city of Oaxaca. This folk festival celebrating Indigenous culture is held annually in July. But its crazy dances – like the Turkey Dance which sees men don large baskets and pretend to be fighting turkeys- is what earned it a place on this list. If you’re looking to get up close and personal with fascinating cultures, add Guelaguetza to your itinerary.
Have we got your heart racing and your toes tapping? Talk to our North American destination experts about the best ways to experience these wonderful festivals as part of your North American journey.
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