A guide to the world’s best locations by holiday
The world’s coolest holiday destinations, helping you celebrate in a new way.
Is your family the kind that goes to their condo in Florida every year for Christmas? Maybe you’re the kind of person that ends up celebrating New Years Eve in a friend’s basement every year, or spends every Easter at your great aunt’s house eating the same dishes as the past 20 years? Well this year, change it up. This is the guide to the world’s coolest holiday destinations to help you celebrate in a new way.
New Years Eve: January 1
While Times Square is totally the American spot to want to be, watching that glorious sparkly orb drop and finding someone to smooch, book a ticket to Rio De Janeiro instead. Home to the world’s largest (and supposedly wildest) NYE party, Copacabana Beach in Rio gets filled with over two million welcomers of the new year, squeezing into the 2.5 mile-long beach. Fireworks, live music, traditional dance and dress in addition to a mix of spiritual and cultural beliefs gives Rio a unique flare to ringing in the New Year.
Valentine’s Day: February 14
Let’s be real, I’m not putting a location here because just about anywhere you go for this “holiday” is going to be sappy, over-the-top and expensive. SKIP!
St. Patrick’s Day: March 17
Now this is a holiday. Irish or not, everyone can celebrate this day (as our American culture has challenged and exemplified). I’m from Chicago, so we have a pretty amazing St. Paddy’s Day celebration. However, if you’re wanting to get out of the States and find a totally unique place to celebrate, book a flight to Monserrat in the West Indies (What?! Not Dublin?!).
Don’t hate just yet. Known as the Emerald Isle of the Caribbean, Monserrat is the only other country in the world where St. Patrick’s Day is a public holiday. When Irish Catholics were persecuted in the Caribbean in the 17th century, they fled to Monserrat, making the population over 50% Iris. It’s no wonder this is a haven for shenanigans. With a unique blend of Caribbean and Irish tradition, visitors to Monserrat can experience nature hikes, calypso competitions, traditional games and dances, unique food and of course Guinness. Caribbean craic!
Cinco de Mayo: May 5
Thought to be Mexico’s Independence Day, Cinco de Mayo actually marks Mexico’s victory over France in the Battle of Puebla in 1862. It’s only fitting to fly south for this holiday to Puebla, the place where it all began. With large parades, mariachi music, street festivals and a reenactment of the battle, Puebla is the place to be for Cinco de Mayo. Although this festival is hugely celebrated in the state of Puebla, the rest of Mexico sees the fifth of May as the fifth of May. So get your party on at the source of this completely misunderstood holiday. ¡Viva México!
Independence Day: July 4
Just so we can all be clear–we all love our country, no matter where we’re from, we declare ourselves American on this day. From red, white and blue Jell-O shots to sparklers and setting of fireworks in the most dangerous manner possible, we love celebrating our Day of Freedom (yes, every day is a Day of Freedom when you live in America, I understand the reaffirmations).
However, if you’re looking for something spectacular for your ‘works, look no further than Lake Tahoe. On the border of California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe boasts beautiful scenery of the lake and the mountains in which the fireworks reflect and illuminate, making this one of the most aesthetically pleasing displays of fireworks in our nation. The 25-minute show can be viewed from around the entire lake, and some say the best place to see them is from a paddle boat in the water.
If you’re more for the celebration than for the mere ‘works, head to Nashville. With a full day of free music, mostly country, you can start and end the day with entertainment and consequentially food and booze. End the day with fireworks that are choreographed to live music from the Nashville Symphony. Nashville claims to have set off more fireworks than NYC in 2015, which would make it the city with the most over-the-top celebration. USA, USA, USA!
Labor Day: (varies), September 5, 2016
Who doesn’t love a weekend off of work and school? If you’re not one to bum around, however, head to Arlington, Virginia. Why, might you ask? For the Highland Games, of course! Arlington hosts the Virginia Scottish Games every Labor Day weekend. Activities range from athletics to whisky tastings and everything in-between–sheep herding, British car shows, a fiddle tent, Highland dances, reenactments, and more, it’s the Scotsman’s home away from home. And for only $30 for a two-day ticket, it’s totally worth the wacky adventure.
Halloween: October 31
This holiday ranges from fun and festive to dark and twisted with every option in-between. If you’re looking for that extra special oomph to make your Halloween one to remember, try out these destinations.
For the foodie: Head south to Atlanta, where the Little Five Points Halloween Festival takes place. This food-focused celebration boasts food trucks and artisan kitchens putting their best work forward for the public. From street food to the finer things placed on the table, Atlanta is the place to be if you’d like to gorge yourself like Bruce Bogtrotter.
For the celestial being: Find yourself in Salem, Massachusetts, where the infamous witch trials began. Here, you’ll be able to meet with psychics, mediums and crystal balls during the Festival of the Dead, and maybe have time to summon spirits, meet with witch doctors or try your hand at voodoo. Not for the faint of heart or for those easily spooked.
For the go-getter: Get a team together and make your way to the Emma Crawford Festival in Manitou Springs, Colorado. There, you’ll pay tribute to Emma Crawford by participating in a coffin race, a wheeled contraption created by your team and pushed by your four “mourners.” With beautiful natural springs nearby, this is the destination for the adventurous soul.
For the partier: Nawlins’ baby! Fly down to the Big Easy to experience the party–open container policy applies in New Orleans, so come prepared to party all night. With a history of voodoo and black magic, the city has a combined flavor of spooky and wild, making for you a Halloween you might not remember.
Thanksgiving: (varies), November 24, 2016
Let’s be honest–go home for this one. Find family, friends, relatives, even neighbors and give them the sharing spirit this holiday provides for you. Remember where you came from, how you got here, and those who should be remembered and thanked for on this day. And football, of course.
Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanza/any other holiday when it snows:
It might just be me, but I get that cozy familiar feeling around this time of year. So many places offer so many different things for wintertime, but I think of this time as one to do whatever–spend it with family, finally travel to Bali like you’ve wanted to for what seems like forever, follow that Friends cult holiday thing or come up with your own. This is the time of year where you get to breathe, to get ready to begin again, and to celebrate it how you want.