The USA has thousands of festivals that celebrate almost anything and everything. Many tourists plan their trip to the USA to celebrate one of these festivals. But what if you do not know where to start? In this article, we preview the top 5 biggest festivals in the USA.
Be sure to use a USA prepaid SIM card when visiting these festivals to maximise your experience.
If you are looking to attend one of the biggest parties in the USA, you have to attend the New Orleans Mardi Gras. The city’s French-creole heritage is celebrated during Mardi Gras which can only be described as one of the biggest party’s in the USA. Various parades are held during the whole festival, with the largest parade taking place during the last five days with a ball sometimes being held on the last day. Be sure to have a bowl of Jambalaya and a Benye or two during your stay.
Date: moving date. The festival is held over a two-week period starting on the Tuesday before Shrove Tuesday and ending on Ash Wednesday.
Venue: The streets of New Orleans as well as many bars and restaurants.
Theme: There is no set theme to Mardi Gras. Various costumes are worn during the festival.
Things to do: various bars and restaurants join in the festivities. There are also plenty of street parties for festival attendees to join.
Tourist attractions: St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, the French Quarter, and Lafayette Cemetery No. 1.
Places to stay: Club Wyndham La Belle Maison, Blue60 Marigny Inn, and French Quarter Delight 1.
Organisers: various social clubs in New Orleans.
Price: it is free to attend most street parties. There may be a cost to attend some and some of the bars and restaurants may apply a surcharge during Mardi Gras.
Attendants: 1.4 million visitors over the whole festival.
There is an old Irish proverb which says: everybody is Irish on Saint Patrick’s Day. This is no more evident than Chicago’s Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations. Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations start with the dyeing of the Chicago River (where it is turned green). This is followed by various parades across Chicago that celebrates the heritage of the city’s largest immigrant population. You will be sure to find a few pubs holding Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations as the whole city gets into a festive mood.
Date: 17 March.
Venue: various sites across the city.
Things to do: the Lincoln Park Zoo, Wrigley Field, and the Field Museum.
Tourist attractions: 360 Chicago, Millennium Park, and the Chicago Cultural Center.
Places to stay: Club Quarters Hotel Central Loop, Congress Plaza Hotel Chicago, Hotel Blake.
Organisers: various organizing committees
Attendants: 1 million people across the city.
When anyone mentions a US music festival, Coachella is one of three music festivals that immediately comes to mind. Featuring the best indie artists in the world, Coachella attracts thousands of music lovers over a three-day period to detach themselves from the stress of the real world in the Colorado Desert. Over the years, artists such as Beyonce, Eminem, Muse, and Radiohead have performed at Coachella. In 2022, Billie Eilish, The Weekend, Harry Styles, Swedish House Mafia were the headline acts.
Date: Consecutive three-day weekends in April.
Venue: The Empire Polo Club.
Theme: There is no set theme for Coachella.
Things to do: the Indian Palms Country Club, the Indio Open-Air Market, and Shields Date Garden.
Tourist attractions: the Riverside County Fairgrounds, the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, and the Gargan Optics Observatory.
Places to stay: Indian Palms Country Club, Indian Palms Vacation Club, and Royal Plaza Inn.
Attendants: 750 000 over the whole festival.
The USA has historical strong ties with piracy and the battle against piracy. This buccaneer past is celebrated in Tampa every year during the Gaspirilla Pirate Festival. The central figure of the festival is José Gaspar who may or may not have been an actual pirate that frequented Florida. During the Gaspirilla Pirate Festival, there is a friendly sea invasion which is conducted by a ship built specifically for the festival. There is also a Parade of Pirates which is one of the most attended parades in the USA outside of the parades at New Orleans Mardi Gras.
Established: 1904 (the first sea invasion was in 1911).
Date: mid-January to early March. The Parade of Pirates is held on the last Saturday in January.
Venue: various sites across Tampa.
Things to do: Busch Gardens, The Florida Aquarium, and ZooTampa at Lowry Park.
Tourist attractions: Ybor City, the Tampa Riverwalk, and the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.
Places to stay: Hotel Haya, Hyatt Place Tampa Busch Gardens, The Godfrey Hotel & Cabanas Tampa.
Organisers: Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla.
Attendants: 300 000 average per day over the whole festival.
Christmas is a big deal in the USA and no festival celebrates this more than Christmas at Biltmore Estate. One of the largest privately owned mansions in the US, the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina is decorated with lights and Christmas decorations to celebrate the Festive Season. The estate is then opened up to the public who can view the estates gardens, the four floors and 32 bedrooms of the mansion. Finally, there is a grand ball at the end of the festival which is the hottest ticket in town.
Date: November and December.
Venue: Biltmore Estate, North Carolina.
Things to do (Asheville): Biltmore Village, the New Belgium Brewing Company, and The North Carolina Arboretum.
Tourist attractions: the Biltmore Estate, the Basilica of Saint Lawrence, and The North Carolina Arboretum.
Places to stay: The Asheville Inn, The Residences at Biltmore, and Best Western Asheville Tunnel Road.
Organisers: The Biltmore Company.
Price: Tickets start at $99.
Attendents: 300 000.
The USA is a melting pot of cultures. In order for specific groups to maintain their heritage, festivals play a major role within their communities. Attending the biggest festivals in the USA will give you key insight into what makes the USA tick.