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Where to Celebrate Oktoberfest 2018 in the U.S.

Beer, sausages, and general German revelry: Oktoberfest is an annual folk festival that has expanded from its origins in Munich to local celebrations around the world. Officially, this year’s festival takes place September 22nd-October 7th, but don’t worry! You haven’t missed it; in many places, the party lasts through October. So grab your steins and your lederhosen—here are 7 Oktoberfest celebrations in the U.S. that are still going.

beer steins raised in celebration of Oktoberfest
Raise your glass to Oktoberfest! Photo © stillwords/iStock.

Boston, Massachusetts: Samuel Adams Octoberfest

Beantown loves its beer, and Oktoberfest is as good a reason as any to celebrate its most famous brew: the Sam Adams brewery will host their very own celebration on Friday, October 27th. The event includes a variety of original Sam Adams beers to sample, tons of food vendors, live music, and an inflatable slide. Tickets are $45 on Eventbrite, and the event is strictly 21+.

If you’re headed there, check out Moon Boston.

San Juan Islands, Washington: San Juan Island Brewing Co.

This local favorite brewery is bringing Oktoberfest to San Juan Island’s Friday Harbor on October 13th. The all-day celebration features delicious German food, live music, a costume contest, games, and of course—plenty of beer to go around! They’ll be featuring up to 12 styles of their handcrafted ales and lagers. Admission is free. For more information, see visitsanjuans.com.

If you’re headed there, check out Moon San Juan Islands.

Las Vegas, Nevada: Hofbräuhaus Las Vegas

This raucous Vegas institution is modeled after Germany’s oldest beer hall and is essentially a year-round Oktoberfest, with traditional Bavarian food, authentic German beer, and live music. There’s something going on just about every night here, so check out their calendar for specific events (including celebrity keg tappings!).

If you’re headed there, check out Moon Nevada.

Leavenworth, Washington: Leavenworth Oktoberfest

The tiny town of Leavenworth leans all the way in to kitsch: the entire thing is modeled after a classic Bavarian village, so naturally, Oktoberfest is when they really shine. The 2018 Leavenworth Oktoberfest will take place over three weekends (October 5-6, 12-13, and 19-20), with four venues dedicated to live entertainment, food, and beer. Tickets are $10 for Fridays and $20 for Saturdays, and free for children under 12.

If you’re headed there, check out Moon Washington.

Nashville, Tennessee: Nashville Oktoberfest

This year, over a quarter of a million people are expected to attend the 39th Annual Nashville Oktoberfest, a 3-day festival (October 11th-14th) spanning 10 city blocks of Nashville’s historic Germantown. This celebration is pretty epic: in addition to seemingly endless beer and food vendors, there’s a 5k Bier Run, an Annual Parade, a Dachshund Derby, and so much more. Admission is free, but if you’re really committed, there are VIP tickets available for $119 (single day) or $169 (3-day pass).

If you’re headed there, check out Moon Nashville.

Tempeh Beach Park, Arizona: Four Peaks Brewing Co.

The Four Peaks Oktoberfest in Tempeh Beach Park has been going strong for 46 years, and it’s no wonder: the festival is massive and has everything from separate adults’ and kids’ carnivals to polka dancing, kickball tournaments, and, you guessed it, more dachshund races. There are different events on each day of the festival (October 12th, 13th, and 14th); admission is free, but entrance to the carnivals will cost you $30.

If you’re headed there, check out Moon Phoenix, Scottsdale & Sedona.

Helen, Georgia: Helen Oktoberfest

This sleepy mountain town in North Georgia is another Bavarian-themed village that celebrates all things German year-round, and its annual Oktoberfest celebration is not to be missed. The all-ages event includes live German music, food and beer, and tons of dancing—waltzes, polkas, chicken dances, and more. It runs every weekend in September, and then daily through October 28th; admission is $8 Monday-Friday, $10 on Saturday, and free on Sunday.

If you’re headed there, check out Moon Georgia.

Celebrate Oktoberfest 2018 Pinterest graphic

Nashville Summer Events

Nashville is the kind of city that lets loose all year long. But things really heat up in the summer, when temperatures soar and festival season kicks into high gear. Whether you want to sip craft beer and tap your foot to live music, brace yourself for the hottest hot chicken, or wave a rainbow flag at the epic two-day Nashville Pride Festival, there’s something for everyone to celebrate at these Nashville summer events.

nashville skyline
Summer in Nashville is full of fun. Photo courtesy of the Nashville Convention & Visitor’s Bureau.

CMT Music Awards

Country music fans vote on their favorite performers’ videos and TV performances through CMT’s website. The first weekend in June, the winners of the CMT Music Awards are feted in award-show style at a Music City venue like Bridgestone Arena. There’s a red carpet, but in true Nashville fashion, you might see some boots with those black-tie outfits. Attendees will enjoy the many performances that occur between award presentations.

Various locations: early June

Heritage Foundation Tour

During the first full weekend of June you can join the Heritage Foundation of Franklin and Williamson County on the Heritage Foundation Tour. Tours go to private and historical homes that are closed to the public during the rest of the year.

Various locations: early June; $30-35

CMA Music Festival

CMA Music Festival is a four-day mega-music show in downtown Nashville. The stage at Riverfront Park along the Cumberland River is occupied by day with some of the top names in country music, with as many as 400 performers. At night the hordes move to Nissan Stadium to hear a different show every night. Four-day passes, which cost between $220 and $400 per person, also give you access to the exhibit hall, where you can get autographs and meet up-and-coming country music artists. This is one of Nashville’s biggest events of the year, and you are wise to buy your tickets and book your hotel early. Get a room downtown so that you don’t need a car; parking and traffic can be a nightmare during the festival.

Various locations: June

Craft Beer Festival

Hosted by the Nashville Predators and benefiting the Nashville Predators Foundation, the 21-and-up Craft Beer Festival features food, entertainment, and of course, an abundance of craft beer. The festival takes place in late June at the Bridgestone Arena.

Downtown: Bridgestone Arena; late June; $69-79

event tents set up in a city park for the Nashville Pride Festival
Every June, Public Square Park is host to Nashville’s Pride Festival. Photo courtesy of Solar Cabin Studios.

Nashville Pride Festival

Late June sees Nashville’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community show its rainbow colors at the Nashville Pride Festival, a two-day event at Public Square Park. This is not just an average Pride parade. There’s an artists’ village, where local artisans show off their wares, plus live music, a drag stage, and much more.

Various locations: late June

Independence Day

Independence Day is celebrated in a big way in Music City with fireworks and a riverfront concert that’s broadcast live on television. The event attracts more than 100,000 people every year. Like any Nashville event, the stage (often on a barge in Riverfront Park) is filled with lots of live music, and the fireworks display offers some serious pyrotechnics. Arrive downtown early to enjoy these festivities because you’ll need extra time to park, and you’ll want to stroll and listen before the fireworks begin.

Downtown: July 4

Music City Hot Chicken Festival

The temperature is almost always hot at the Music City Hot Chicken Festival on July 4, but so is the chicken. This East Nashville event is a feast of the city’s signature spicy panfried dish. Because hot chicken is made individually, the lines are long. But music, cooking contests, and other activities help pass the time. This is a great way to sample one of the classic Music City culinary delights.

East Nashville: July 4

Music City Brewer’s Festival

The Music City Brewer’s Festival is a one-day 21-and-up event held in late July at the Music City Walk of Fame downtown. Come to taste local brews, learn about making your own beer, and enjoy good food and live music. It typically has about 50 different brewers and 100 different beers, plus live music and other entertainment. Tickets are required; the event benefits local charities and typically sells out.

Downtown: Music City Walk of Fame, 4th Ave. S.; late July; $39-69

parade of people dressed like tomatoes in Nashville
Join in on the fun at the East Nashville Tomato Art Festival. Photo courtesy of Solar Cabin Studios.

East Nashville Tomato Art Festival

The East Nashville Tomato Art Festival started as a tongue-in-cheek celebration of tomatoes and the hip, artsy vibe of East Nashville. Events include a parade of tomatoes, the “Most Beautiful Tomato Pageant,” biggest and smallest tomato contests, tomato toss, and Bloody Mary taste-off, and has become one of the city’s biggest weekends. The two-day festival takes place the second weekend of August. Costumes are encouraged, so feel free to come dressed as a tomato, or at least all in red.

East Nashville: Woodland St. and 11th Ave.; August; free


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Nashville Summer Events Pinterest graphic

Annual Texas Hill Country Events

Texas Hill Country is characterized by rolling hills, oak trees, dance halls, wildflowers, wineries, abandoned cars in fields, honky-tonks, dude ranches, state parks, and frontier towns scattered throughout the hills. And thanks to the great weather, festivals celebrating its history, legends, and everyday life kick off in early April and continue on through the mild winter.

open road stretching toward scenic green hills in Texas
Head to the Hill Country for a plethora of fun events. Photo © eyemrs/iStock.

April

Folks in Wimberley love butterflies so much they have a day dedicated to these little larvae that turn beautiful. On a weekend in April the Emily Ann Theatre Butterfly Day (1101 FM 2325, 512/847-6969) becomes the focus of town. There’s live music, plays and skits, and fun for kids and the whole family.

Wimberley offers a peek into the studios of some of its artists during Arts Fest (Wimberley Visitors Center, 512/847-2201). Near the Blanco River, Wimberley’s Waters Point Retreat is filled with booths and arts spaces visited by over 3,000 art lovers. Artists represent a number of media, including oil painting, watercolor, mixed media, and sculpture. Most artists are locally, nationally, and even internationally renowned.

May

The biggest and longest-running festival in the Hill Country is the Kerrville Folk Festival (830/257-3600). Starting the Thursday before Memorial Day, this 18-day folk implosion draws the biggest names in Americana, folk, bluegrass, acoustic rock, blues, and country. Live music, arts and crafts, fun for the kids, camping, and food and beverages are all within arm’s reach. The festival takes place at Quiet Valley Ranch, nine miles south of Kerrville on Highway 16. Tickets vary by day but generally run $30 in advance and $40 at the gate. Tickets for all 18 days can be $400-600.

June

For a peach of a time, the town of Stonewall has its annual Peach JAMboree and Rodeo (830/644-2735). At the height of peach season, locals get together for live music and dancing in honor of the fuzzy fruit.

basket of peaches
In June, the town of Stonewall is host to the Peach JAMboree. Photo © Justin Marler.

September

Celebrate Bandera is where to be on Labor Day weekend in the Hill Country. Every year the town of Bandera becomes a giant celebration that includes a real cattle drive, an intertribal Native American powwow, bull-riding competitions, concerts, parades, rodeos, and a Bloody Mary street party. Some events charge a fee and some are free. Check out the website for specific information.

At the Quiet Valley Ranch is the Kerrville Fall Music Festival (830/257-3600 or 800/435-8429). Songwriters and entertainers from all around the United States make their way to Kerrville for this three-day festival, which includes camping. The ranch is nine miles south of Guadalupe River on Highway 16 between Medina and Kerrville. Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the gate.

Fredericksburg hosts the Renewable Energy Roundup & Green Living Fair (830/997-2350). This green-building fair features exhibits, demonstrations, and workshops all espousing the new products and technologies related to the field of renewable energy and green building. It’s hard to determine whether this environmental awareness spills out from Austin’s liberal hippie-ness, or whether it comes from Texas’s long history of DIY independence from everything. Nevertheless, this event is essential for the green do-it-yourselfer. The roundup is held downtown at Market Square; tickets cost $10 each for Friday and Sunday and $12 for Saturday.

October

Festivals abound in the historic German settlement town of Fredericksburg, but the one that gets everyone’s lederhosen in a bunch is Oktoberfest (830/997-4810). Held every year during the first weekend in October, this three-day bratwurst, schnitzel, and German beer extravaganza draws big crowds. Two stages, two tents, great food, polka and waltz contests, smiles, and music with an oompah make this a great weekend getaway for the family. Oktoberfest takes place at Marktplatz in the center of downtown. Hours are 6pm-midnight Friday, 10am-midnight Saturday, 10am-6pm Sunday. Tickets are sold at the entrance and cost $8 for single-day passes, $14 for two-day passes, and $18 for three-day passes. Children 7-12 are $1, and ages 6 and under are free.

At the end of the month there’s the Fredericksburg Food and Wine Fest (830/997-8515), a celebration of Texas food and wine that includes live music, specialty booths, and lots of clinking of glasses. The festival is held at Marktplatz in downtown Fredericksburg. Admission is $25.

At Love Creek Orchards is one of Texas’s largest and most popular pumpkin patches, The Great Hill Country Pumpkin Patch (14024 State Hwy. 16 North, Medina, 10am-4pm, admission $6). With a scheduled full of family-fun events, this is worth the drive.

November

For over 50 years Bandera has hosted the annual Hunters BBQ and Outdoor Expo (3862 TX-16, Bandera, 830/796-3280). Everyone gets all gussied up in camo and heads out to Antler Oaks Lodge for barbecue and beer and hunter-gatherer fellowship. The expo includes interactive exhibits, demonstrations of the latest hunting equipment, wildlife exhibits, and a live auction.

The best fest in New Braunfels is Wurstfest (800/221-4369, 4pm-11:30pm opening day, 11am-midnight Saturdays, 11am-9:30pm Sundays, 5pm-11:30pm Thursdays and Fridays). This 10-day salute to sausage features accordion music, dancing, and, of course, bratwurst. It takes place at Landa Park; admission is $10 for adults, while children 12 and under are free. The Saturday after Thanksgiving the historic downtown of Comfort is taken over by Christmas in Comfort (830/995-3131, 10am-9pm, free). Over 150 vendors sell arts, crafts, and homemade foods, all to the soundtrack of live music. A trolley brings shoppers to the various businesses around the downtown area.


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Boruca Masks and the Little Devils Festival

A pair of colorful and intricately carved Boruca masks with large teeth and devilish features.
Boruca masks are carved out of balsa or cedar. Photo © Andrés Madrigal/Costa Rica Traveler.

Every year, the Boruca people in south-central Costa Rica enact a centuries-old ritual representing the clash between their indigenous ancestors and the invading Spaniards. During the Balle de los Diablitos, the diablitos (little devils) are dressed in elaborate hand-carved and painted balsa wood masks that often have extensions of jute and banana leaves that cover the reveler’s body. The devils do mock battle with the toro (bull), which represents the invading conquistadors.

The festival begins the night of December 30, with village church bells ringing out the old year. Drummers and flautists accompany the dancers, and the action heats up as participants and onlookers imbibe more and more chicha (fermented corn liquor). The days-long dance traces the evolving interaction between the bull and the diablitos. First the diablitos taunt the bull, but the bull gains ground and eventually “kills” the little devils. But the devils rise from the dead and throw the bull (represented by his costume) into a roaring fire. The fiesta culminates as the devils leap across the flames in celebration of their enemy’s demise.

Masked Dance of the Little Devils festival of the indgenous Boruca of Costa Rica.
The Dance of the Little Devils. Photo © Andrés Madrigal/Costa Rica Traveler.

This is one of the rare examples of living indigenous heritage in Costa Rica, though visitors to the festival give mixed reports: some say it was the highlight of their trip; others feel the community is not particularly welcoming. If you go, be respectful, and ask before you take photos.

The small town where this all happens is called Rey Curre, near a town called Boruca located within the Boruca Indegenous Reserve. It’s on the Inter-American Highway about 20 kilometers (12 miles) south of Buenos Aires and about 90 kilometers (55 miles) south of San Isidro de El General. Visitors can purchase authentic Boruca masks from indigenous artists year-round within the Boruca Indigenous Reserve, or in art galleries around the country.


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Events in Vancouver for All Seasons

Vancouver sparkles in the summertime, when the sun shines and both visitors and locals alike head outside to enjoy the long, warm days. But throughout the year, Vancouver is host to plenty of activities and events that take advantage of the city’s stellar natural scenery.

Here are five events that celebrate the great outdoors in Vancouver—for all seasons.

pink cherry blossoms
Cherry trees blossom all over Vancouver in spring. Photo © Carolyn B. Heller.

Bike the Blossoms

Every spring, more than 40,000 cherry trees bloom around Vancouver, blanketing the city’s streets with their delicate pink blossoms. The Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival organizes several events to celebrate this photogenic floral display, including Bike the Blossoms, a gentle 11- to 12-kilometer (7- to 7.5-mile) group cycle around Vancouver’s most blooming boroughs.

Cyclists assemble in John Hendry Park at Trout Lake on the city’s east side (3300 Victoria Drive at East 19th Avenue) and pedal a loop through the blossoming streets. At the end of the ride, you return to Trout Lake, where you can join in a bring-your-own picnic. This year’s ride takes place on Sunday, April 28, 2018. If you don’t have a bike, rent one through the city’s bike share program or from a local bike shop, including Cycle City Tours, Reckless Bike Stores, or Cycle BC Rentals.

The Vancouver Folk Music Festival

The granddaddy of Vancouver music festivals, which kicked off back in the 1970s, now draws more than 30,000 fans for a weekend of seaside tunes. Despite the festival’s name, performers from around the globe entertain in a range of styles, from folk to world beat to indie rock.

The 2018 edition of the Vancouver Folk Music Festival takes place rain or shine, July 13–15, on the lawns along Jericho Beach on the city’s west side. You can purchase tickets for a single day or a pass for the entire weekend. Bring a blanket or lawn chair; a diverse collection of food trucks keeps music fans nourished.

three firework clusters in the sky over Vancouver
Fireworks illuminate the Vancouver sky during the Celebration of Light. Photo © Carolyn B. Heller.

Celebration of Light

It seems like the whole city assembles along the waterfront for this annual three-night fireworks festival based in English Bay. The Celebration of Light is a 30-minute fireworks competition, with displays choreographed to music that light up the sky on three summer evenings; this year’s dates are July 28, August 1, and August 4, 2018.

You can see these free fireworks displays over English Bay and anywhere around the west end of False Creek. English Bay Beach, Vanier Park, and Kitsilano Beach are prime viewing spots. Pre-fireworks picnicking is encouraged. Plan to arrive at least an hour before the 10pm start time, particularly if you’re trying to get close to the action at English Bay.

Skookum Festival

A brand-new music, art, and food festival is launching in September 2018 in Vancouver’s Stanley Park. The weekend-long Skookum Festival, which will be held September 7–9, takes its name from a Chinook word meaning impressive or strong. Festival organizers have partnered with the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations, whose traditional territories encompass much of present-day Vancouver.

The music line-up will feature indigenous music legend Buffy Sainte-Marie, as well as contemporary groups such as Vancouver’s Hey Ocean and Said the Whale, and other performers from near and far. Food events will range from restaurant pop-ups to long-table dinners; check the website for ticketing information and more details.

crowd of people gathered on the beach in Vancouver for the Polar Bear Swim
Plan a visit to English Bay Beach on New Year’s Day for the Polar Bear Swim. Photo © Kyle Pearce, licensed CC BY-SA 2.0.

Polar Bear Swim

Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you can’t get outdoors, especially if you want to kick off your new year with a splash.

On January 1, at Vancouver’s annual Polar Bear Swim, hundreds of intrepid swimmers take a dip in the chilly waters of English Bay, where the winter water temperature typically hovers between 6 and 8 degrees Celsius (43-46°F). Even if you don’t want to dunk yourself, it’s great fun to watch. Head for English Bay Beach in the West End, where the participants dash into the water at 2:30pm.


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Pinterest graphic with a photo of Jericho Beach and downtown Vancouver British Columbia

Shopping for Venetian Carnevale Masks

Shakespeare never imagined writing a play called the Merchant of Paris or London. He wrote the Merchant of Venice because that’s where the shops were. In the 16th century the streets, markets, and docks around the Rialto were jammed with traders. Merchants came from all over Europe to Venice—the most active port in the Mediterranean—to trade with their Ottoman, Indian, and Chinese counterparts. Pigments, leather, textiles, spices, perfumes, precious wood, and foodstuffs were exchanged for gold, silver, and armaments. Local workshops transformed these materials into valuable objects that brought the city wealth and fame.

crowds of people shopping on the Rialto bridge in Venice
Many commercial shops line the Rialto Bridge. Photo © bluejayphoto/iStock.

Many trades have survived, making Venice shopping an adventure. The most celebrated of these use glass, lace, and papier-mâché. Although the number of craftspeople has declined, they can still be found plying their trades across the city. Historic workshops are common in Dorsoduro, where both and Calle Bastion and Calle della Chiesa are dotted with one-room galleries where artisans work in the back and display textiles, prints, and jewelry in the front. You can find glass and lace in showroom boutiques and souvenir shops around San Marco, but if you want to go to the source you’ll need to board a vaporetto and head out to the furnaces of Murano or the back streets of Burano where lacemaking refuses to die. Be sure to ask permission before taking pictures of artisans’ creations.

Venice has no fashion megastores, but many designer boutiques. Major brands cluster along the most trafficked areas, such as the streets north and west of Piazza San Marco or in the Strada Nuova in Cannaregio, which stretches from the train station all the way to the Rialto. Both sides of the Rialto Bridge are heavily commercialized, and the arcades and market stalls on the San Polo side are a good place to search for T-shirts, jewelry, and masks. Rio Terra Lista di Spagna, the gateway to Cannaregio, is lined with shops, but it’s very touristy and best avoided.

Venetian shops are generally open from 9am to 1pm and 3pm to 7pm, though many sacrifice the traditional lunch break, especially during summer. Most shops close on Sundays and many remain closed on Monday mornings.

a variety of colorful Italian masks on display
Head to the Castello neighborhood to search for traditional masks. Photo © JqnOC/iStock.

Shopping for Masks

Throughout the 18th century, Venetians used masks to enjoy stigma-free decadence. Nobles wore masks to visit brothels, youth to escape from parents, the poor to frequent the rich, the rich to frequent the poor, aristocratic ladies to enter dark alleys, clergy to temporarily break vows, and so on. Famous Venetian Giacomo Casanova wore a mask as he went to meet his lovers at the Cantina Do Mori, where he was a regular.

Masks are still used today and are one of the most common sights at street-side stalls and gift shops around the city, where cheap versions can be had for €5-10. These have little to do with the papier-mâché versions carefully made in a dozen or so ateliers around the city. These versions sell for €30 to €300 and are based on classic molds that have been used for centuries. The most common is the white Bauta mask that allows the wearer to eat and drink while remaining hidden from view. It is worn by both men and women and often paired with a black tabarro cape. Another popular mask is the Medico della Peste, recognizable by the long nose that resembles a bird’s beak. It was invented by a doctor in the 17th century who didn’t want to be recognized by his patients dying from the plague and was later adopted by Carnevale goers. The Colombina is a half-mask that covers eyes and cheeks. It continues to be favored by Venetian ladies and often comes painted in silver or gold and adorned with feathers and beads.

These and many other historical masks and newer creations are available at workshops around the city where you can learn more about the origins of your disguise. Castello is a good neighborhood to start shopping for masks, and the four shops below are definitely worth a look.

The historically accurate costumes, papier-mâché masks, tuxedos, wigs, capes, hats, and shoes at Atelier Flavia (Santa Marina, Corte Spechiera 6010, tel. 041/528-7429, appointment only) could transform anyone. It’s the ideal place to come before Carnevale for an Eyes Wide Shut (or any other) look. Costumes can be rented or purchased.

The walls of Ca’ del Sol (Castello, Fondamenta dell’Osmarin, tel. 041/528-5549, daily 10am-8pm) are covered in masks. All the classics are here, including bauta, columbine, harlequin, plague, and scores of one-off creations that are handmade using papier-mâché, leather, ceramic, and iron. The shop has been around since 1986 and helped revitalize the art of maskmaking in the city. It’s run by a collective of artisans who patiently answer questions and aren’t uptight about letting customers try on as many masks as they like. They organize maskmaking courses and rent elaborate costumes during Carnevale.

It takes a while to distinguish between the different mask types, but the quality of the structure and painted detailing is immediately evident at Papier Maché (Castello, Calle Lunga 5174, tel. 041/522-9995, Mon.-Sat. 9am-9pm). Four decades of maskmaking experience is on display in the windows of this boutique, which has a large selection of ornate masks with designs you won’t see anywhere else. Prices are a little high, but this is the real deal—and perhaps the finest way to keep your identity hidden.

Ca’ Mancana (Calle de le Botteghe 3172, tel. 041/277-6142, daily 10am-7:30pm) is one of the finest and uses traditional papier-mâché techniques to create both classic Carnevale and fantasy characters. Anyone can hide their identity for as little as €30. This is where Stanley Kubrick came when he wanted masks for Eyes Wide Shut. If you want to learn how masks are made or are traveling with kids, ask about the maskmaking workshops that last a couple of hours and will keep young and old entertained.


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Vendors and craftsman selling glass, lace, and papier-mâché can still be found plying their trades across Venice. Check out these shop recommendations and tips when shopping for authentic Venetian Carnevale maskse.

The Carolina Shag Dance

In South Carolina, the shag is neither a type of rug nor what Austin Powers does in his spare time. It’s a dance—a smooth, laid-back, happy dance done to that equally smooth, laid-back, happy kind of rhythm and blues called beach music (not to be confused with surf music such as the Beach Boys). The boys twirl the girls while their feet kick and slide around with a minimum of upper-body movement—the better to stay cool in the Carolina heat.

Descended from the Charleston, another indigenous Palmetto State dance, the shag originated on the Strand sometime in the 1930s, when the popular Collegiate Shag was slowed down to the subgenre now called the Carolina Shag. While shag scholars differ as to the exact spawning ground, there’s a consensus that North Myrtle Beach’s Ocean Drive, or “OD” in local patois, became the home of the modern shag sometime in the mid-1940s.

aerial view of the streets and buildings lining Myrtle Beach in South Carolina
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Photo © Refocus/Dreamstime.

Legend has it that the real shag was born when white teenagers, “jumping the Jim Crow rope” by watching dancers at black nightclubs in the segregated South, brought those moves back to the beach and added their own twists. Indeed, while the shag has always been primarily practiced by white people, many of the leading beach music bands were (and still are) African American.

By the mid-late 1950s, the shag, often called simply “the basic” or “the fas’ dance,” was all the rage with the Strand’s young people, who gathered at beachfront pavilions and in local juke joints called beach clubs, courting each other to the sounds of early beach music greats like the Drifters, the Clovers, and Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs. This is the time period most fondly remembered by today’s shaggers, a time of penny loafers (no socks!), poodle skirts, and 45-rpm records, when the sea breeze was the only air-conditioning.

The shag is practiced today by a graying but devoted cadre of older fans, with a vanguard of younger practitioners keeping the art form alive. A coterie of North Myrtle clubs specializes in the dance, while the area hosts several large-scale gatherings of shag aficionados each year.

To immerse yourself in shag culture, head on up to Ocean Drive Beach in North Myrtle at the intersection of Ocean Boulevard and Main Street and look down at the platters in the sidewalk marking the Shaggers Walk of Fame. Walk a couple of blocks up to the corner of Main Street and Hillside Drive and visit the mecca of beach music stores, Judy’s House of Oldies (300 Main St., 843/249-8649, Mon.-Sat. 9am-6pm). They also sell instructional DVDs.

two pairs of legs in a swing dancing pose
Several clubs in North Myrtle Beach have made a name for themselves and the unofficial “shag clubs” of South Carolina. Photo © slovegrove/iStock.

Shag Clubs

North Myrtle Beach is the nexus of that Carolina-based dance known as the shag. There are several clubs in town that have made a name for themselves as the unofficial “shag clubs” of South Carolina. The two main ones are Duck’s (229 Main St., 843/249-3858) and Fat Harold’s (210 Main St., 843/249-5779). There’s also The Pirate’s Cove (205 Main St., 843/249-8942).

Another fondly regarded spot is the OD Pavilion (91 S. Ocean Blvd., 843/280-0715), aka the Sunset Grill or “Pam’s Palace,” on the same site as the old Roberts Pavilion that was destroyed by 1954’s Hurricane Hazel. Legend has it this was where the shag was born. Also in North Myrtle, the Ocean Drive Beach Club (98 N. Ocean Blvd., 843/249-6460), aka “the OD Lounge,” inside the Ocean Drive Beach and Golf Resort, specializes in shag dancing most days after 4pm. The resort is a focal point of local shag conventions and is even home to the Shaggers Hall of Fame. Also inside the Ocean Drive Resort is another popular shag club, The Spanish Galleon (100 N. Ocean Blvd., 843/249-1047), aka “the Galleon.”

National Shag Dance Championships

The Grand Strand is the birthplace the Carolina shag dance, and each winter for the last 25 years the National Shag Dance Championships (2000 N. Kings Hwy., 843/497-7369, from $15 per night) have been the pinnacle of the art form. Beginning with preliminaries in January, contestants in five age ranges compete for a variety of awards, culminating in the finals the first week in March. The level of professionalism might amaze you—for such a lazy-looking dance, these are serious competitors.


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Pick Your Parade: How to Do Mardi Gras in New Orleans

Mardi Gras is New Orleans at its peak: colorful, over-the-top, and full of vibrant history and tradition. It officially starts in February or early March, and lasts for 2–3 weeks prior to Lent (Epiphany to Ash Wednesday for those who celebrate, as “Fat Tuesday” began as a way to indulge before the fasting and solemnity of Lent). The festivities range from colorful street masks and costumes to balls: masquerade parties that occur at the end of a parade where the Mardi Gras royalty present themselves and party with their friends and the paying public.

But Mardi Gras’s most famous events are the parades themselves. Free and open to the public, the parades are sponsored by krewes, which feature colorful floats, marching bands, motorcycle squads, dancers, entertainers, and, sometimes, a royal court (the king, queen, maids, and dukes of a krewe). Spectators vie to catch throws—trinkets like beaded necklaces, stuffed animals, and commemorative doubloons—that are tossed from the various floats. For most krewes, each year brings a new theme, usually with a historical, mythical, or topical bent.

Only a few official Mardi Gras parades run through the French Quarter, including the raunchy Krewe du Vieux, the wine-themed Krewe of Cork, the dog-filled Krewe of Barkus, or the sci-fi-themed Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus. Most of the other parades in and around the city (including Uptown, Mid-City, Metairie, and communities on the west bank and north shore) are surprisingly family-friendly. Some have special throws, such as the hand-decorated shoes offered by the Krewe of Muses, which usually rolls on the Thursday before Mardi Gras weekend. Parade routes are listed in the New Orleans Times-Picayune and online (nola.com, mardigras.com, mardigrasday.com, mardigrasneworleans.com).

a crowd of people gathered to cheer and watch the Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans
In New Orleans, Mardi Gras parade floats are sponsored by organizations called krewes. Photo © sandoclr/iStock.

New Orleans Superkrewe Parades

The biggest krewes, or superkrewes, are Endymion, Bacchus, Orpheus, Zulu, and Rex, each with their own traditions, style, and themes, so make sure not to miss your favorite!

Endymion

The Krewe of Endymion is the city’s largest parade, a superkrewe that features enormous floats, magnificent court costumes, and celebrity grand marshals.
When: 4:30pm on the Saturday prior to Mardi Gras
Where: Starts near City Park and travels down Canal Street and St. Charles Avenue, culminating with its ball in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Bacchus

The Krewe of Bacchus features incredible floats and celebrity kings, from Danny Kaye to Will Ferrell. Signature floats include the Bacchasaurus, Bacchagator, and Baby Kong.
When: 5pm on the Sunday prior to Mardi Gras
Where: From Napoleon Avenue and Tchoupitoulas Street, it rolls through Uptown on Napoleon Avenue, along St. Charles Avenue, and down Canal Street, ending at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.

Orpheus

Co-founded by Harry Connick Jr., the Krewe of Orpheus has featured a slew of celebrity monarchs, from Stevie Wonder to Anne Rice.
When: 6pm on Lundi Gras
Where: From the corner of Napoleon Avenue and Tchoupitoulas Street, it rolls through Uptown on Napoleon Avenue, then along St. Charles Avenue, down Canal and Tchoupitoulas Streets, to the Orpheuscapade, a black-tie event at the convention center.

Zulu

The Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club presents one of the season’s most anticipated parades, during which spectators vie for painted coconuts, the krewe’s signature throw. Zulu also hosts the Lundi Gras Festival, a free music event on the day before Fat Tuesday.
When: 8am on Mardi Gras
Where: From the corner of Jackson and South Claiborne Avenues in Uptown, it travels along Jackson Avenue, continues north on St. Charles Avenue, follows Canal and Basin Streets, and ends at Orleans Avenue and Broad Street.

Rex

Since 1872, the king of the Krewe of Rex has reigned as the king of Mardi Gras. The parade features majestic floats, masked riders, and a royal court. Mardi Gras officially ends with the Rex Ball at the Sheraton New Orleans Hotel on Canal Street.
When: 10am on Mardi Gras
Where: The parade travels down Napoleon Avenue from the intersection with South Claiborne Avenue in Uptown, then along St. Charles Avenue and down Canal Street toward the Mississippi River.

Now that you’ve chosen your ideal parade, check out our tips for planning a trip to New Orleans for Mardi Gras.


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Enjoy the revelry of Mardi Gras in New Orleans this year with the help of this guide, which introduces beginners to the biggest krewes, their parade routes, and a helpful schedule of events.

10 Tips for Planning a Trip to New Orleans for Mardi Gras

Laissez les bon temps rouler: Let the good times roll. This motto is at the heart of Mardi Gras, where for a few blissful weeks people live life to the fullest. But your trip to New Orleans could flop without careful planning: luckily, here are 10 ways to make sure you have the perfect Mardi Gras.

masks and mardi gras decorations in new orleans
New Orleans is the place to be for Mardi Gras! Photo © jkaufmann88/iStock.

1. Know when to go.

Carnival season technically begins on January 6 (known as Twelfth Night, or the Feast of the Epiphany), but Mardi Gras Day shifts every season from mid-February to early March. Mardi Gras parades usually start about two weeks prior to Fat Tuesday, but most revelers venture to New Orleans for the weekend preceding the climactic day—from the Friday before Fat Tuesday through midnight on Mardi Gras.

2. Know where to stay and book ahead.

Make reservations well in advance. Note that many hotels require a minimum stay of three nights during Mardi Gras weekend, and costly special-event rates may apply. Although you’ll find cheaper hotels near the airport, staying there will require renting a pricey car and enduring long commutes to reach the main festivities. You’ll save time by staying in a more convenient neighborhood, such as the French Quarter. For a good night’s sleep, stay in the CBD or Faubourg Marigny districts, both of which lie within walking distance of the Quarter. As an alternative, you can stay in some of the quieter inns throughout the Garden District, Uptown, and Mid-City, most of which are accessible via the streetcar lines.

3. Pick your neighborhood.

Mardi Gras is intense, so pick your neighborhood to get your ideal dosage. If you seek debauchery, the French Quarter will not let you down. However, celebrations elsewhere in the city—notably in Uptown along the St. Charles Avenue parade route or in Metairie along Veterans Memorial Boulevard—are much more family-oriented and tend to be dominated by locals, or at least Louisianians.

4. The best deals are online.

Utilize Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks for last-minute hotel deals, ride-sharing possibilities, and other ways to save time and money during peak travel weeks. The New Orleans CVB routinely posts information about upcoming events, so check in regularly!

5. Beware of scams.

Many residents rent out rooms and cottages for Mardi Gras visitors. While you may find a good deal this way, make arrangements as early as possible and be aware of unscrupulous landlords.

streetcar traveling in New Orleans
Use alternative transportation methods during Mardi Gras. Photo © Wandersmann/iStock.

6. Plan your transportation.

During Mardi Gras, the French Quarter is closed to non-essential vehicular traffic. Hailing a cab can be difficult (even with ridesharing, the streets are full of people), so many visitors prefer getting around town via bus, streetcar, or foot. Some even opt to rent a bicycle (or bring their own).

7. Stake out seats.

If you want to be close to the floats, you’ll need to arrive several hours early. For major parades, such as Endymion, many people set up blankets, chairs, and ladders the day before, and stay with them, as it’s illegal to leave such marked areas unattended. Pick a spot near a public restroom, and bring snacks, beverages, and portable chairs. Given the influx of out-of-towners, make reservations at your can’t-miss restaurants or dine at off-peak times.

8. Prepare for mayhem.

The French Quarter might be the rowdiest neighborhood, but city festivals are prime events for boisterous crowds and opportunistic crime. Visit with a friend (or several), arrange regular meeting spots when splitting up, and keep an eye on your wallet. Float riders in the major parades, like Endymion and Bacchus, tend to hurl trinkets with unnecessary force, so look out.

9. Wear a costume.

On Mardi Gras Day, you’ll see costumed revelers dressed as everything from pop culture icons to political statements. Do as the locals do and wear a costume (or at least purchase a mask, available in shops throughout the Quarter); it might even get you cheaper invitations to a Mardi Gras ball! Remember to prepare for the possibility of cold, rainy weather, which is common in February and March.

10. Eat king cake.

King cake, essentially a giant cinnamon roll, is the season’s most famous treat. Grab a slice at a local coffeehouse or pick up an entire cake at places like Rouses Market, Gambino’s Bakery, Haydel’s Bakery, Maurice French Pastries, and the seasonal Manny Randazzo King Cakes.


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If it's your first time planning a trip to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, careful planning is in order. Luckily, we've got 10 expert tips for making sure your NOLA trip is perfect.

Vancouver Winter Activities

Why visit Vancouver in the winter? Despite the region’s frequently damp weather, there’s plenty to do during the winter months. And if you’re watching your budget, winter is the most economical time to travel to Vancouver. Unless you are traveling during the Christmas/New Year holidays, accommodation prices can drop to half of their summertime rates.

Start planning your trip with these 10 winter activities to try in Vancouver.

gourmet food at Dine Out Vancouver
During Dine Out Vancouver, more than 300 restaurants offer special fixed-price menus. Photo © Carolyn B. Heller.

Eat Out with Dine Out Vancouver

Vancouver hosts a popular annual restaurant festival from mid-January through early February, when local dining spots offer good-value fixed-price menus and numerous other food events take place around town.

Nearly 300 restaurants participate, serving $20, $30, or $40 three-course meals, while other events include guest chef dinners, brunch crawls, food tours, craft beer tastings, and lots more. Get event details, a list of participating restaurants, and information about discounted accommodation packages online at Dine Out Vancouver.

Go to a Festival

It’s not just food that gets festival treatment in Vancouver. Whether you’re interested in theatre, music, wine, even hot chocolate, Vancouver’s winter calendar is packed with special events.

Avant-garde theatre fans line up for the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival, which presents an eclectic selection of theater, music, dance, and multimedia events for three weeks starting in mid-January. In February, Granville Island hosts Winterruption, a weekend of music, art, food, and family-friendly activities.

Prefer to toast winter with a glass of bubbly? Then mark your calendar for late February and the Vancouver International Wine Festival, a week of wine-tastings, seminars, wine dinners, and a festive gala that all show off hundreds of wines.

Or warm up at the annual Hot Chocolate Festival, starting in January, when cafés and chocolatiers across the city concoct new chocolate drinks and other confections.

Sample Local Spirits

Get out of the rain and into one of Vancouver’s small batch distilleries, where you can taste gin, vodka, or other spirits. Long Table Distillery in Yaletown, the city’s first micro-distillery, produces several varieties of gin and vodka in their copper-pot still. Stop by for a custom cocktail on the weekend when they host popular Gin & Tonic Fridays and Cocktail Saturdays.

At Liberty Distillery on Granville Island, you can sip handcrafted spirits at their elaborately carved bar. Head to the East Side for a sampling stop at Odd Society Spirits, a small-batch distillery in a former motorcycle garage.

Browse the Granville Island Galleries

On a warm summer day, Granville Island—with its popular public market and numerous art galleries and shops—can be wall-to-wall people. Take advantage of the quieter winter season to explore the island’s art studios and chat with the artisans at work. There are weavers and potters, glassblowers and broom makers, wood carvers and jewelry crafters. Both browsing and holiday shopping are encouraged.

ski lifts at Cypress Mountain with views of Vancouver
On a clear day at Cypress Mountain, you can see miles of beautiful scenery. Photo © Carolyn B Heller.

Go Skiing or Snowboarding

You don’t have to go far from the city to go skiing or snowboarding. Vancouver has three mountains just 30- to 45-minutes from downtown. The closest is Grouse Mountain, the most family-friendly is Mount Seymour, and the largest is Cypress Mountain, which was a host site for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

And from Vancouver, it’s just a two-hour drive to the mega-resort of Whistler-Blackcomb, handy for a day trip or weekend adventure.

Tip: It can be snowing in the mountains when it’s raining in the city, so check the forecast if you’re thinking about a ski day.

Explore the Coffee Scene

If the weather is damp or chilly, head for one of Vancouver’s numerous independent cafés, where you can wile away the afternoon over a pour-over or a cappuccino.

Some local favorites include Small Victory in Yaletown, which also makes excellent baked goods (try the almond croissant), and Forty Ninth Parallel Coffee Roasters, with locations in Kitsilano and on Main Street, where you can pair your drinks with donuts. In Gastown, look for Revolver Coffee, or go right for the pastries at Purebread.

Check Out the Art

The Vancouver Art Gallery highlights works by British Columbia artists, along with diverse modern and contemporary exhibitions. On the University of British Columbia campus, the first-rate Museum of Anthropology has a stunning collection of native totem poles, other works by west coast indigenous artists, and art and artifacts from traditional cultures around the world.

New in late 2017, the Polygon Art Gallery on the North Vancouver waterfront showcases photography and contemporary visual arts. Catch the Seabus from Waterfront Station to Lonsdale Quay, a short stroll from the gallery.

front view of the International Buddhist Temple in Vancouver's Richmond neighborhood
Visit the International Buddhist Temple on the night prior to the Lunar New Year to welcome the coming year. Photo © Carolyn B. Heller.

Celebrate Lunar New Year

With its huge Asian population, Vancouver celebrates Lunar New Year in a big way, with a parade through Chinatown that draws nearly 100,000 spectators. In Richmond, the Aberdeen Centre shopping mall hosts a week of performances and New Year’s events, and on the eve of the Lunar New Year itself, many people welcome the coming year at the International Buddhist Temple.

Try Ice Skating

From December through February, you can ice-skate downtown at the Robson Square Ice Rink, under a dome outdoors near the Vancouver Art Gallery. Skating is free; rentals are available.

During the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, the Richmond Olympic Oval hosted the speed-skating events. Now, during the Oval’s public skating hours, you can practice your own skating moves on the indoor Olympic-size rink.

Or if you’d rather watch skaters than take your own spin around the ice, cheer for the Vancouver Canucks, the city’s National Hockey League team. See the Canucks play at Rogers Arena, or join local fans to watch the game at sports bars around the city.

outside view of the dome of Bloedel Conservatory
At any time of year, it’s tropical inside the Bloedel Conservatory. Photo © Carolyn B. Heller.

Wander Through a Garden

While you might not think of visiting a garden in the winter, the VanDusen Botanical Garden illuminates the dark evenings with its annual holiday Festival of Lights. Thousands of twinkling bulbs light up the garden paths from early December until the beginning of January.

Nearby, the Bloedel Conservatory, high on a hill in Queen Elizabeth Park, is an indoor greenhouse that’s tropical and warm year-round, even when it’s chilly outdoors. Who needs summer?


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Vancouver is host to a variety of winter activities both indoors and outdoors. If you're looking for things to do, check out these 10 ideas, many of which are budget-friendly.

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