The United States is known for its buoyant spirit. National pride is very important, and every region has its own traditions. However, there are a few annual events that are universally adored. Many visitors plan their US trips to coincide with events they’d like to attend. These recurring events take place throughout the year.
Wondering when to schedule your USA tour? Here are a few of our favourite US festivals and holidays to inspire your next adventure:
Sundance Film Festival (18 – 28 January 2018)
The Sundance Film Festival is the largest independent film festival in the United States. It is a program of the Sundance Institute and takes place in Park City, Utah, each year. The festival serves as a showcase for local and international indie filmmakers. It celebrates documentaries, feature films and shorts. Sundance is a great option for film lovers who enjoy innovative movies. There are also panel discussions to enjoy!
Super Bowl Sunday (4 February 2018)
The Super Bowl is as American as cornbread and fried chicken. Once a year, the two top American football teams square off amidst plenty of fanfare. This sought-after event normally takes place in one of the USA sun-belt cities’ large football arenas. Aside from the game, a big drawing card is the halftime entertainment. It normally features an elaborate performance by huge artists like Beyoncé or Madonna. Tickets are expensive. It can go up to $4,000 per seat! The good news is you can join in the fun wherever you happen to be in the USA. Simply make your way to a pub or restaurant that will show the game. It’s a wonderful way to see Americans at their patriotic best.
Fun Fact! The average ticket price for the Super Bowl XLIX game between the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks was $5,622.50!
Mardi Gras (13 February 2018)
Mardi Gras is a wonderful carnival that takes place in New Orleans each year. The festival can be traced back to medieval Europe. It was brought to America by the French-Canadian explorer Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Sieur de Bienville. He settled near New Orleans in 1699. The first Mardi Gras was celebrated in 1703. Today it is a family-friendly carnival with floats, entertainment and exceptional food. It’s a whole lot of fun and a great way to experience the inimitable Louisiana ambience.
Masters Golf Tournament (5 – 8 April 2018)
Golf fans around the world have this tournament on their bucket list. As one of the four major events in professional golf, it is an epic show of sportsmanship. It takes place at the Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia every year. Tickets are a little hard to get. Because the tournament is so popular, prospective attendees have to enter a ‘lottery’ to secure a ticket. As such, it can be hard to attend on the fly while you tour the USA. However, you can enjoy it on TV with local US golf enthusiasts on your travels. Fun Fact! The first tournament was played in 1939 and was notable for being the first golf event broadcast on radio.
The Boston Marathon (16 April 2018)
The Boston Marathon is an annual running event. It takes place throughout various cities in the greater Boston area in Massachusetts. The Boston Marathon began in 1897, with only 15 participants, and is the world’s oldest annual marathon! Today, the marathon draws runners from far and wide, and spectators line the streets. The convivial atmosphere is legendary. The event takes place on Patriot’s day (the third Monday of April). If you want to cheer on the athletes, you can just pitch up on the day. If you want to partake, registration begins in September each year.
Coachella (13 – 15 April; 20 – 22 April 2018)
Coachella is one of the best-loved music festivals in the US. It’s actually officially called the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. As such, there is an art component to it as well. The festival is hosted annually at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, California. It is named after the valley in the Colorado desert where it takes place. Here, you will encounter some of the most famous artists and bands in the world. A lot of celebrities attend it as festival-goers as well. It is also a fashion hotspot. Everyone dresses to the nines. In short – it’s cool to the core. This year the festival is repeated over two different weekends. Plan your US trip to coincide!
Top Tip! Be sure to pack your sunscreen and layers – the days will be sunny but the nights might bring on a chill!
Independence Day (4 July)
Independence day is a patriotic US holiday celebrated on the 4th of July. It commemorates the publication of the Declaration of Independence. This is a document that was drawn up in 1776, stating the union’s intent to challenge the British for their independence. These days, it’s a public holiday and a festive affair throughout the country. It’s at the height of summer, so expect plenty of barbecues everywhere. You can enjoy the Independence Day spirit anywhere in America on the 4th of July.
Top Tip! If you want to take part in a scheduled event it’s easy to find one. One of the most impressive fireworks displays is the Boston Pops Spectacular. The Boston Pops is a symphony orchestra. Each year on the 4th of July, they play accompanied by fireworks. These are launched from barges in the middle of the Charles River between Boston and Cambridge.
Comic-Con International (19 – 22 July 2018)
Comic-Con International takes place in San Diego each year. This multi-genre entertainment and comic convention is a must for lovers of pop culture. Here you will find all the latest in comic and graphic novels. Not to mention anime and manga. Video games, movies and collector’s items also feature prominently. But the real reason many people go is to enjoy the costumes. Comic-Con participants are renowned for their elaborate costumes. Many people dress up as their favorite characters from graphic novels and movies. It’s a sight to behold!
Fun Fact! Comic Con started in 1970 and was called the Golden State Comic Book Convention, it was held in the basement of the US Grant Hotel and 300 people attended.
Lollapalooza (2-5 Augustus 2018)
If heavy metal, pop or rock is more your thing, Lollapalooza in Chicago is the music festival for you. This festival also features EDM bands, artists, dancers and stand-up comedians. It basically plays host to A-list bands across all genres. Grant Park provides the perfect backdrop for this remarkable event. There are various ticket types available. So, if you’re on tour, you can purchase a day pass if you plan it correctly.
Burning Man Festival (26 August – 3 September 2018)
Burning Man is an iconic counterculture event that draws visitors from around the globe. It takes place in in the Black Rock Desert of northern Nevada each year. This imaginative happening is a celebration of all things fantastical. Think improbable structures, fascinating people and remarkable art installations. Artistic self-expression is the name of the game. Many guests dress up in exquisite costumes according to the yearly theme.
Another interesting aspect of Burning Man is the gifting culture. Everyone brings something to give to their fellow festival-goers free of charge. You might be handed a lovely piece of French toast. Or be offered a cooling mist bath! It’s not always tangible. Some might write you a poem.
Fun Fact! Burning Man started in 1986, with burning a wooden-figure of a man on a beach in San Francisco – there were 20 people present that night and by the next year it had increased to 80!
US Open Tennis Championships (27 August – 9 September 2018)
The US Open is one of the most important hard court tennis championships in the world. It takes place annually at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Tickets are made available almost a year in advance, so you can secure your seat and plan your travels accordingly. Just make sure you’re in New York at the right time.
Top Tip! Download the U.S. Open app and take a look at the order of play the night before, to make a game plan of what you’d like to see.
Halloween (31 October)
It may not be a holiday, but Halloween is celebrated throughout the US – with parades and everything! Children (and adults) throughout the country dress in costumes and prowl their neighborhoods seeking candy treats. Many cities and towns host costume parades. The best parades are found in New York City’s Greenwich Village and in San Francisco. These cities have large gay communities that push out the boat. They turn up in elaborate costumes and dial up the festive cheer. Have a look here to see what else is cooking in the US’ major cities on Halloween.
Thanksgiving Day (22 November 2018)
Thanksgiving is a holiday that is celebrated in America and Canada. In the US, it takes place on the fourth Thursday of November. It started out as a harvest festival. Today it is an opportunity to get the whole family together to give thanks for a prosperous year. However, there are plenty of public celebrations to enjoy as well. One of the most famous is the Macy’s department store parade in New York. It marks the opening of the festive shopping season. Visitors come from far and wide to enjoy the bustling atmosphere. The parade is also known of its marching bands and entertainers. And the enormous tethered balloons of famous cartoon characters, of course!
Fun Fact! Liberia and certain Caribbean Islands also celebrate Thanksgiving.
New Year’s Eve in Times Square (31 December 2018)
The Americans know how to do New Years. They go all out with the revelry. NYE on Times Square in New York is something out of this world. The energy is palpable as the crowd waits for the ball to drop. An estimated 1 million people gather here every year to ring in the new year. Many more watch it on TV from around the world. Plan your US tour around NYE and experience it for yourself!
These are just a few of the iconic American events that take place each year. There are many more to enjoy. Keen to have your trip coincide with an annual event? Get in touch with our reservations team to learn more about our itineraries. Our trips leave throughout the year, with a little planning you could very well tick more than one item off your bucket list.