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13 Bucket list festivals and events you need to experience 

Have you dreamed of raising a pint at Munich’s Oktoberfest or strolling the streets of Japan as pink cherry blossom petals fall around you?  

Look no further if you are searching for the perfect event to book your next vacation. Whether you want to immerse yourself in a new culture as you dine and celebrate with the locals or want to take in a new city, we have your travel inspiration covered. Here are 13 festivals and events you need on your bucket list. 

Oktoberfest – Munich, Germany

Oktoberfest, Germany
AlexRaths | iStock

Oktoberfest is a world-renowned festival that takes place annually in Munich, Germany. The event is a two-week-long celebration of Bavarian culture and tradition, with beer being the main attraction. Visitors from all over the world come to enjoy the wide variety of German beers and traditional foods like sausages, pretzels, and roast chicken.  

The festival originated in 1810 and has since become the largest beer festival in the world, attracting over five million people each year. It also features amusement rides, live music, and a parade to kick off the festivities.  

Although dressing up in traditional Bavarian clothing for Oktoberfest is not mandatory, it’s part of the fun. You’ll spot locals and tourists wearing a traditional dirndl. 

La Tomatina – Buñol, Spain

La Tomatina festival
JackF | iStock

Have you ever wanted to be part of a food fight and not get in trouble? Then you’ll want to head to Buñol, a small town in Valencia, Spain. The area is home to La Tomatina, a tomato-throwing festival on the last Wednesday of August.  

For the event, thousands of people throw overripe tomatoes at each other in the streets every year, painting the area red. Beyond the tomato throwing, La Tomatina also offers a range of activities, including parades, live music, and incredible fireworks displays. 

Mardi Gras – New Orleans, USA

Crowds at Mardi Gras
Joel Carillet | iStock

Mardi Gras is a carnival celebration that takes place in New Orleans, Louisiana leading up to Fat Tuesday (which is where the festival gets its French name). It is known for its party atmosphere, colourful masks, abundant food and drink, and beads galore.  

During Mardi Gras, you can experience the vibrant culture and history of New Orleans. From parades with colourful costumes to masquerade balls, there are plenty of things to do during Mardi Gras. The French Quarter is the center of the festivities, with live music, street performers, and food vendors lining the streets.  

One must-try dish is the king cake, a ring-shaped dessert, often with fruit fillings or cream cheese, and iced in yellow, green, and purple (the colours of Mardi Gras). 

Carnival of Venice – Venice, Italy

Female mask with colorful costume at carnival in Venice | iStock

The Carnival of Venice is one of Italy’s most famous and popular festivals, held annually in the beautiful city of Venice. The Carnival dates to the 12th century and is known for its elaborate masks and costumes, which have become iconic symbols of the event.  

While at the event, there is a long list of activities to join, like masquerade balls, parades, concerts, eating traditional Venetian cuisine, and joining a mask-making workshop or gondola tour. 

Día De Los Muertos — Mexico City, Mexico

Portrait of a friends celebrating the day of the dead lighting candle
FG Trade Latin | iStock

Experience an unforgettable celebration of life and death by heading to Mexico for Día de los Muertos, also known as the Day of the Dead, on November 1st and 2nd. This colourful and vibrant event takes place across the country, with families cleaning and adorning the graves of their loved ones with candles, flowers, and photos.  

Each region of Mexico has their own celebrations, but tourists won’t want to miss Mexico City during the festivities. In 2016, Mexico City hosted its first-ever Day of the Dead parade, featuring massive floats and people dressed up as skeletons. This annual parade has become a must-see attraction for tourists and locals alike. 

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta – New Mexico, USA

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta Set
James O Jones | iStock

Imagine watching hundreds of balloons take to the sky, filling the air with various colours and shapes. Did you know the largest international balloon festival happens in Albuquerque, New Mexico? 

Held every October, Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is a nine-day event with over 500 balloons. There is never a dull moment; you can enjoy a balloon ride, live music, the firework displays and explore all the vendors selling delicious food and drink. 

Rio Carnival – Rio, Brazil

Carnival, Brazil
PeopleImages | iStock

Are you ready for a vibrant and spectacular celebration that will leave you in awe? Then, join the millions of tourists who flock to Rio every year in February, just before the start of Lent.  

At its core, Rio’s Carnival is a celebration of life and culture and an opportunity for people to witness the parade of samba schools, each one more dazzling than the last with their elaborate costumes covered in sequins and giant feathers. But it’s not just about watching – get involved and dance with the locals or attend one of the many parties and events throughout the city. 

St Patrick’s Day – Dublin, Ireland

Young woman with St. Patrick's hat
PeopleImages | iStock

Get ready to embrace the luck of the Irish, even if it’s just for a day! St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin is an explosion of colour, culture, and joy. On March 17, the city comes alive with a fantastic parade featuring floats, street performers, and live music concerts throughout the day. But it’s not just about the festivities – immerse yourself in Irish culture by trying traditional dishes or raising a pint of Ireland’s famous brew, Guinness.  

And, of course, what would St. Patrick’s Day be without a splash of green? So, from costumes to buildings – the city is draped in green to celebrate this national holiday in style. 

Cherry Blossom Festival – Japan

woman wearing traditional japanese kimono in cherry blossom garden in Osaka, Japan. Spring season in Japan.
ake1150sb | iStock

Japan’s cherry blossom festival, or hanami, is a spectacular and unforgettable event that draws thousands of tourists annually. The festival usually occurs in late March or early April, depending on the region and weather conditions. During this time, people celebrate the arrival of spring by gathering under the beautiful cherry blossom (sakura) trees and enjoying food, drinks, and the company of friends and family. Traditional bento boxes and pink-themed sweets are popular for Hanami picnics.   

There are several top picks to see Japan transform into a magic sea of pink and white petals, including Yoshino in Nara, which has 30,000 cherry blossom trees on the Kii Mountains, Himeji Castle in Hyogo, Fuji Five Lakes in Chubu as you can photograph Mount Fuji behind the flowers, and all over Kyoto and Tokyo. Osaka is also a top pick to celebrate cherry blossom season. The city has many beautiful parks and gardens, including Expo 70 Commemorative Park in Osaka, which has over 5,000 cherry trees. 

Diwali – India

Nitish Waila | iStock

Diwali, also known as the “Festival of Lights,” is one of India’s most important and widely celebrated festivals. The festival usually takes place in October or November, depending on the Hindu lunar calendar. Diwali celebrates the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance. During this time, people light up their homes with beautiful lamps and candles, decorate their houses with colourful rangolis (patterns made from coloured powder), and exchange sweets and gifts with friends and family. Fireworks are also a large part of the celebrations. 

Visit Jaipur to take in the warm glow that settles over the city during Diwali. Shops, homes, and the streets of Jaipur come alive with the light form oil lamps. Plus, every year the local government runs a contest where they will pay the electricity bill for the most dazzling and lit up market in the city. The decorated markets bring people from all over India and the world to Jaipur to take part in the Diwali festivities and sights.  

Harbin Snow And Ice Festival — Harbin, China

Ice and Snow World, Harbin, China
LeonU | iStock

Harbin’s Snow and Ice festival is a winter-long celebration of China’s north that leaves the city covered in majestic ice sculptures. The sculptures cover 750,000 square metres of the city. Explore themed areas with sculptures representing architectural wonders, traditional crafts, and global folklore. While taking in the icy playground that Harbin is transformed into every winter, enjoy gliding down the Songhua River on skates or by pony.  

At the heart of the festival is the Harbin Ice And Snow World. This majestic icy palace started as a commission from the local government in 2000 to ring in the new millennium. Now, Ice And Snow World is a must-see winter wonderland of illuminated sculptures.  

Las Fallas – Valencia, Spain

Las fallas. Valencia, Spain.
Jorgefontestad | iStock

Valencia’s fire festival, known locally as Las Fallas is a 19-day event celebrating the beginning of spring. Las Fallas combines art and satire with Spanish traditions. From March 1 to 19, head to the Plaza del Ayuntamiento to take in the fireworks that sound like gunfire, music, and religious celebrations. While Valencia is alive with activities throughout the festival, the main events occur from March 15 to 19, when the giant commissioned effigies for Las Fallas are paraded through the city to their final places. The commissions are modern works of art that sculptors often spend a year, and a lot of money, to create.  

On March 17, the over 750 Fallas commissions are brought to Plaza del Ayuntamiento to receive their awards in the morning. The commissions then head to the Plaza de la Virgen for the flower offering to the Virgen de los Desamparados, the patron saint of Valencia. Bouquets are added to the cape of the 15-metre-tall statue. The festival ends on the night of March 19 as all the commissions are set on fire. The burning starts with the smallest commissions and ends with the first-place winner and the monument placed in the Plaza Del Ayuntamiento.  

Vivid – Sydney, Australia

Vivid Sydney - Opera House
RugliG | iStock

For creatives and foodies looking for a festival that combines a love of the arts and a love of food, Vivid is the festival for you. Vivid is a celebration of lights, music, creativity, and innovation that takes over Sydney, Australia, from late May to mid-June. Across the city, you will find stunning light displays that take over iconic locations, bringing Sydney to life. Enjoy a free walk that tours you around the light displays. As more than just a festival of lights, Vivid immerses you in the sounds of Australia. You can take in free and paid concerts featuring First Nations voices and highlighting local talent.  

The 2023 Vivid Sydney festival is adding a new pillar to the Vivid lineup, adding food as a central aspect of the festival. Vivid Food will highlight Sydney’s place as the culinary capital of Australia, featuring local menus done by some of Sydney’s award-winning chefs.  

Ready to cross some festivals off your bucket list?

Want to check one of these festivals or events off your bucket list? Book an appointment with a CAA Travel Consultant to start planning today. 

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