Winter in the northern climates can be cold and gloomy, leaving you yearning for an escape to warmer places and the excitement of summer. Consider planning your next getaway to one of these top global festivals to celebrate the end of winter and the coming of spring.
Cultural extravaganzas to brighten winter days
As cold weather keeps people indoors, winter days can start to feel routine. But in February and March, cities around the world play host to many exciting festivals. Cultural celebrations like Carnival, Mardi Gras or Holi in India offer the perfect escape from dreary days with vibrant experiences.
Get to know new cultures this winter and make exciting new memories with a visit to one of these globally renowned festivals. You’ll want to bring your camera along to capture every moment, but be sure to protect it from the bustling crowds with the best camera backpack for travel. These events are often fast-paced and you don’t want to miss a shot because of a damaged camera.
- Mardi Gras in New Orleans, U.S.: Known for food, music and culture all year round, New Orleans has an iconic Mardi Gras celebration. Enjoy parades and parties in the French Quarter while also enjoying Louisiana culture throughout the city. Mardi Gras is on February 13, 2024, and many people arrive the Saturday before to party and see the city.
- Nice Carnival in Nice, France: If you prefer to head to Europe, the annual carnival in Nice on the French Riviera makes for a wonderful winter escape. Watch extravagant parades and flower battles or catch art displays around the city. Nice Carnival is from February 17 to March 3, 2024.
- Las Fallas in Valencia, Spain: This celebration originally heralded the arrival of spring. Today, Valencians celebrate by building artistic sculptures that are burned in a bonfire at the end of the festival. The festival also features parties, daily fireworks, music and more. The main festival runs from March 15 to March 19, 2024.
- Holi in India: Known as both the festival of colors and the festival of love, this sacred event in India celebrates the coming of spring. People in cities throughout India gather to throw colored powders at each other, creating a spectacular rainbow display. Holi is March 25, 2024, although particular times and dates can vary depending on which region of India you are in.
- Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, District of Columbia, United States.: Although March in the U.S. capital can still be chilly, seeing the vibrant pink blossoms of the cherry trees is a lovely way to welcome spring. You can also attend a variety of cultural events and a parade during the Cherry Blossom Festival. This year’s festival is from March 20 to April 14, 2024. Peak bloom time will vary, and you can watch for it on the festival’s bloom watch.
Sun-soaked celebrations across the world
When winter demands a trip to somewhere sunny and warm, there are destinations both far from and close to home. Go for a festival and stay to bask in the sun in these warm weather destinations.
There are many facts about Puerto Rico that make this a top getaway spot in cold months, like high temperatures over 80 F during winter. You can also enjoy local culture during the many festivals in Puerto Rico. The San Sebastián Street Festival in mid-January through early February is one of Puerto Rico’s largest annual celebrations with live music, dancing, art vendors, circus performances and all-night parties. You can also check out Carnival Ponceño, Puerto Rico’s Carnival celebration in February.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Rio Carnival in early February is one of the biggest Carnival celebrations in the world. You’ll experience a weeklong party of eye-catching costumes, samba parades and gatherings in the streets as you usher in the Lenten season. Best of all, Brazil will be in the height of their summer season. Rio Carnival runs from February 9 through February 17, 2024.
Trinidad and Tobago
The largest Carnival in the Caribbean, this event is a chance to bask in the sun while you experience the unique traditions of Calypso music, stick fighting, and Trinidadian costumes. Trinidad and Tobago Carnival is from January 6 to February 17, 2024.
Canary Islands, Spain
The annual carnival in Gran Canaria makes for a wonderful European winter escape. In fact, the Canary Islands are one of the few places in Europe where one can enjoy sunny beaches year-round. Watch extravagant parades, a variety of shows, and even a dog carnival where pets can show off their best costumes. This “is not just a festival but a vibrant expression of the island’s spirit and cultural richness, making it a pivotal event both for tourism and community pride,” according to local resident and Creator of ProjectGO, Andy Magri. Gran Canaria Carnival is from January 25 to February 18, 2024.
Modern and quirky festivals in the United States and abroad
If you are looking for a unique winter getaway, quirky festivals can be a nice escape. Some of these destinations may be a little cold in February and March, but you won’t notice the chill with the exciting lineup of events.
- Las Vegas shows and events: There is always something happening in Vegas. From the free shows in Las Vegas to the cultural events, there is plenty to do. Check out the Las Vegas Mardi Gras Beer Crawl on February 10, 2024, or celebrate the lunar new year at the 13th annual Chinese New Year in the Desert between February 15 and 17, 2024.
- San Francisco Valentine’s Day Pillow Fight: This unofficial event brings more than 1,000 people to SF’s Embarcadero for an unforgettable pillow fight. While there is no guarantee that it will take place, bring a pillow on February 14 and you might get to take part in this one-of-a-kind flash-mob event.
- Yanshui Beehive Fireworks Festival in Yahshui, Taiwan: The Taiwanese city of Yanshui brings in the lunar new year with fireworks. But instead of a fireworks display you can watch, participants fire thousands of bottle rockets at each other and claim that getting hit by one will bring good luck. This quirky festival is on February 23, 2024.
- Ultra Music Festival in Miami, Florida: For electronic dance music (EDM) lovers, Ultra Music Festival is a chance to dance to favorite DJs and newcomers. If Miami’s mild weather doesn’t warm you up, the dancing will. This year’s festival is March 22, 23 and 24.
Plan your vacation to a winter festival in Las Vegas, Puerto Rico and beyond
A cultural celebration, a musical festival or another gathering to welcome in spring is the ultimate way to brighten the last days of winter. A festival offers a one-of-a-kind experience, and the diversity of festivals means there is an event to suit every taste.
With dozens of festivals happening in February and March of 2024, now is the time to make travel plans. This winter, pack your camera and let festivals be your motivation for exploring the world.
Norbert Figueroa of GloboTreks is an architect and travel writer on a mission to visit all 195 U.N. Recognized nations, and beyond. He shares his adventures and passion for travel, architecture and cultures on his blog and social media.