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You resolved you would be a better planner in 2018, right? Well, don’t be left at home scrolling your friends’ Instagrams all year round — here, we rounded up some of the best festivals worth traveling to this year. Sip some bourbon, soak up the sun while listening to your favorite bands, or simply sit in cool theaters to get your culture fix.
Stars are born, careers are made and plenty of snow is trudged. Park City, Utah’s annual festival is a pilgrimage of sorts for LA entertainment fiends who can’t miss out on the undiscovered gems —inevitably, a new ingenue is crowned and buzzy films keep their heat all year. Premiering 16 new narrative films this year, it’s a must for cinephiles who throw a killer annual Oscar party. This event take place: January 18-28.
If you haven’t had a king cake, you haven’t truly lived. Fix that at New Orleans’ party of the year —just don’t forget to wear purple, green, or gold. A version of Mardi Gras (minus the parades) has been celebrated in NOLA since 1718. Come for the whole weekend to get an eyeful of outrageous sights and if you overindulge, not to worry: Fat Tuesday is a legal holiday in Louisiana, so you’ve got all day to recover. This event begins: February 13.
Let the influencers descend. NYFW gets bigger and more impressive every year and this year the Manhattan event is combining both the men’s and women’s shows into one long extravaganza. Calvin Klein, Tom Ford, Narciso Rodriguez, Bottega Veneta and more are on tap. Anyone who expects the week to be a walk in the park is usually surprised; it’s actually a breakneck pace navigating catwalks and presentations — and who can forget the parties? This event takes place: February 5 – 14.
If you’ve never mixed up rye or bourbon in your life, this weekend festival in Louisiana devoted to the brown stuff might be your bag. Now in its second year, the event will host pairing dinners, plenty of tastings and is highlighting master distillers with long family lineages and women in the bourbon world. So there you go. Where else can you get an education while double-fisting? This event takes place: March 8 – 10.
Welcome to a Texas smorgasbord that has a little something for everyone. Sitting at the crux of the interactive, film and music worlds, SXSW has “tracks” for people interested in everything from entertainment influencers to social impact to VR/AR. There’s a film festival and a music festival going on at the same time, plus, Melinda Gates, Darren Aronofsky, Ta-Nehisi Coates and Barry Jenkins are among the keynote speakers. Get yourself to Austin. This event takes place: March 9 – 18.
The Weeknd and Kygo. Beyoncé and Haim. Eminem and Cardi B. Need I say more? Maybe I shouldn’t — one of the year’s most anticipated and biggest music festivals (or biggest scenes, depending on who you ask) is already sold out. Don’t fret. There’s plenty of time before the Indio, California weekend to jump on the resale game. This event takes place: April 13 – 15 and April 20 – 22.
Once a year, authors pry themselves from their desks, leave their studies and get blinded by natural sunlight at the huge annual get-together for the literary world. The USC campus plays host to the free event — last year 150,000 people attended — featuring hundreds of conversations with bestselling writers and speakers like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Prepare to leave with at least one new tote bag. This festival takes place: April 21 – 22.
Master your serious “this is my looking at art” expression at this yearly event of Modern and contemporary artwork that takes over New York’s Randall’s Island. Panel discussions, lectures and site-specific installations make it an immersive and transportive event and the city’s nearby museums get in on the action, too. This event takes place: May 3 – 6.
Break out your tux and climb the iconic red stairs for the film world’s most glamorous gathering on the French Riviera. Winning a Palme d’Or can make a career, but seeing a Palme d’Or film can be just as exciting. Right? Cate Blanchett was just announced as this year’s Jury President, so you know the line-up’s guaranteed to be good. This event will take place: May 8 – 19.
Every year, the tiny town of Hay-on-Wye in Wales turns into the literati’s dream. Writers, artists, academics, thinkers and performers gather for talks and discussions ranging from philosophy to climate change. Can’t make it? Hay Festivals have also expanded to Cartagena, Spain, Mexico, Peru and Denmark. This event takes place: May 24 – June 3.
Jack White, Travis Scott, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Eminem (hey, that guy gets around!) are headlining this year’s summer fling that somehow feels more epic than other musical festivals — maybe because you have to take a ferry to get there? There’s also installations by street artists, mini golf and more outdoor activities and some of New York City’s best restaurants and food trucks so you won’t get hangry. This event takes place: June 1 – 3.
Trek to Manchester, Tennessee and you’ll find The Killers, Muse and Bon Iver among the dozens of acts featured at this feel-good festival that urges visitors to “Radiate Positivity.” But the biggest decision won’t be who to sing along to, but where you’re going to sleep. Car camping and glamping are big, but of course there are nearby hotels for those who require finer amenities. This event takes place: June 7 – 10.
Founded in 1980, the Windy City’s popular outdoor food festival is also the country’s largest. Can’t you imagine sitting on the lakefront at Grant Park, stuffing your face with lobster rolls while listening to a concert or watching a local dance company? Summer, please get here soon. This event takes place: July 11 – 15.
First, the bad news. Comic-Con 2018 is already sold out. Now, good news: You have six months to wrangle tickets from your best friend’s sister’s ex-boyfriend, or whoever else you can call in a favor from. Don’t be mistaken by the name. Even though comics and autograph signings play a huge role, this has turned into more of a pop culture convention, with people swarming to see trailer and teaser debuts (last year’s big ones were Stranger Things Season Two and Avengers: Infinity War). Don’t forget to pack your costume. This event takes place: July 19 – 22.
Scotland’s capital transforms every year into a theater geek’s dreamland, with three weeks of thousands (literally thousands) of shows performed in over 300 venues. There’s traditional theater, but also comedy, dance, circus, cabaret, children’s shows, musicals, opera, music, spoken word, exhibitions and events. The sky’s the limit for culture vultures. This events take place: August 3 – 27.
It may be a stretch to call this a traditional festival — nearly everything about Burning Man is unlike anything else. But if heading to Nevada’s Black Rock Desert is on your bucket list, by all means, go forth. Dedicated to “community, art, self-expression and self-reliance,” Burners create their temporary metropolis by bringing everything they need and leaving nothing behind. This event takes place: August 26 – September 3.
Over 16,000 people flocked to the Pacific Northwest last year to get a taste (or more) of this food and drink festival. Last year’s event featured hands-on classes, a dinner series, a Sandwich Invitational, backyard cookout and something called a Brunch Village. Heaven is real. This event takes place: September 13 – 16.
The clock can’t turn on October without acknowledging Oktoberfest. Over 6.2 million people showed up in Munich to drink 7.5 million liters of beer last year. Not too shabby. Sure, the German tradition can be celebrated elsewhere, but you might as well drink your Bavarian beer in its natural habitat. This event takes place: September 22 – October 7.
Screenwriters, playwrights and podcasters will appreciate this writers’ conference, which features competitive film and screenplay competitions, conferences about issues in the industry, roundtable discussions and, for brave souls, pitch sessions. When you’re done learning and mingling, there’s also an eight-day film festival. This event takes place: October 25 – November 1.
The country’s largest documentary film festival got its start in 2010, but has become a force of nature year by year, with 300-plus films and events screening last year in New York City. Those who like to stay ahead of the curve should also know that since the fest’s beginning, it’s screened every documentary Oscar winner. This event takes place: November 8 – 15.
Curators, critics and artists keep this one marked on their calendar every year — it’s a full week of buying, selling and ogling. Included in the mix are Design Miami and Art Basel Miami Beach, showing artwork from over 200 of the best galleries in the world. Plus, even if you’re an art world neophyte, there are worse fates than hanging out in Miami in December. This event takes place: December 4 – 9.
Featured image of the temple at Burning Man by @justthegritty via Twenty20
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