5 Great Spring Festivals in the U.S.

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Spring is here — well, in many parts of the U.S. at least, where temperatures in the 60s and 70s and blooming landscape are giving many people the urge to get outside. It also means that some of America’s most interesting spring festivals are just days or weeks away. Most people are familiar with a few of the legendary spring festivals in the U.S., including the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C., which draws more than 1.5 million visitors each year. The South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas, has become so popular, many longtime fans worry it’s outgrown its theme and roots. Here are a few other festivals well worth visiting this spring.


5. Alabama Jubilee Hot Air Balloon Classic

More than 60 hot-air balloons usually show up at the Alabama Jubilee Hot Air Balloon Classic. © AlabamaJubilee.net

This annual event on Memorial Day Weekend celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. Dozens of hot-air balloons and their pilots will take to the skies in Decatur, Ala. Don’t worry if you don’t have your own balloon — tethered balloon rides are available. Other events include a classic car show, live entertainment and fireworks.


4. Skagit Valley Tulip Festival

Colorful tulips and other flowers abound at the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. © Gina via Flickr

Washington’s Skagit Valley is the epicenter for commercial tulip-bulb production in the U.S. Each April, Mount Vernon, Wash., hosts more than 300,000 visitors who come to check out the blooming fields during this month-long event. Even amateur photographers can come away with stunning photos of the colorful fields open to the public. Other activities in Mount Vernon include art shows, music, and the three-week Kiwanis Salmon BBQ, which has become a tourist draw in its own right.


3. Rochester Lilac Festival

Lilacs provide a colorful backdrop for the many activities at the Rochester Lilac Festival. © Erik Sagen

The festival’s website bills the 10-day event as the “Largest free festival of its kind in North America.” While we’re not sure how they quantify “of its kind,” the “free festival” part speaks for itself. This upstate New York city has been hosting the event since 1898. The colorful lilac gardens in Highland Park inspired the festival, but there are plenty of activities for all ages, from an art show to 5K and 10K “Lilac Runs.” And of course there will be music. Check out the festival website for the scheduled entertainers for the 2018 festival (which runs May 11-20).


2. Kentucky Derby Festival

Thunder Over Louisville lights up the sky to kick off the annual Kentucky Derby Festival. © Shawn Skriver

You don’t need tickets to this legendary horse race in Louisville, Ky., to enjoy the three-week festival in April and early May (2018 events run April 14 to May 4). The fireworks show, “Thunder Over Louisville,” is regarded as the largest annual show in North America. Other activities include an air show, music and hot-air balloons.


1. New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

Daryl Hall & John Oates rock the 2013 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.

When people think of festivals in New Orleans, Mardi Gras comes immediately to mind. But the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival has become an iconic event as well. The first festival in 1970 drew only 350 people — fewer than the number of performers and other participants in the event — but in recent years the seven-day celebration has drawn almost a half-million annual visitors. While there is plenty of cultural atmosphere here, notably the food, the big draw is the music. The 2018 music lineup is loaded. Among the dozens of entertainers lined up are Aerosmith, Aretha Franklin, Sting, Jimmie Buffet, Beck, Lionel Richie, LL Cool J and Khalid. The festival dates for 2018 are April 27 through May 6 and if you’re going, be sure to check out these tips on what to bring and how to find the best deals.


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