There is something about attending a festival that renews the soul; the people, the activity, and the collective energy are enough to keep you smiling for weeks after the event. Some better known festivals may leave you feeling jaded, due to the dense crowds that may make it impossible to actually enjoy the festivities. However, the following festivals offer unique and unforgettable experiences without having to stand for hours on end, in an unbearable crowd, just to get a glimpse of a parade float.

For the traveler who has seen it all: International Balloon Festival (León, Mexico)

The International Balloon Festival, known as Festival Internacional Del Globo in its native country, is celebrated in León, Mexico. From its onset in 2002 to last year’s festival (2012), the festival has grown from 22 to 200 hot air balloons, wafting over the Metropolitan Ecological Park of León. If you are picturing 200 oval-shaped, run-of-the-mill balloons, think again; the International Balloon Festival is known for showcasing unique works of balloon artistry, ranging from Mickey Mouse to Darth Vader. Festival activities include, but are not limited to, an early-morning balloon launch, concerts, a rodeo, and an evening balloon show accompanied a lightshow and music. It is advertised that spectators are not offered the chance to ride in the hot air balloons, but if you meet the right people….(we can dream, right?)

For the music, wine, beer, and food aficionado/aficionada: Outside Lands (San Francisco, California)

Outside Lands in the quintessential Californian music festival. Whereas some music festivals (to be left unnamed) are solely focused on presenting the electro-DJ du jour, Outside Lands is more committed to presenting great live music in San Francisco’s idyllic Golden Gate Park. Taking place in August, the Outside Lands festival is spread over three days, featuring nearly 100 musical acts. If the music alone isn’t enough to keep your attention, allow your mind to wander to the beer and wine tasting areas, or grab yourself some gourmet food truck grub and settle in amongst the California redwoods to do some topnotch people-watching. Might I add that the lineup includes renowned comedians, as well as a food vending area known as Choco Lands? Need I say more?

For the Color-Run Enthusiast: Color Festival of Holi (India)           

We have all seen the pictures on Facebook- runners start a 5k in the customary clean white aerobic-ware, but finish the race looking more vibrant than a bag of Skittles. However, long before these Color Runs starting popping up everywhere, the Color Festival of Holi gave participants a similar opportunity to get colorful. Historically celebrated by the Hindu culture of India, Holi is a celebration of spring’s arrival, and takes place in late February to early March. Celebration of this festival is not confined to Hindus alone, as the festival is grounded in the belief of bringing society and its diverse population together in a joyous celebration. Holi is observed across the country; Delhi, being the capital of India, is known to have one of the most extravagant Color Festivals. So next time you feel like getting messy, and smearing colored powder on the faces of your friends, head to India. Leave your dry cleaning at home for this one.

For the Troublemaker: La Tomatina (Buñol, Spain)

If the colorful revelry of the Holi Color Festival left you wanting more to feed your mischievous side, head to Spain at the end of August to partake in La Tomatina (better known as that festival where everyone throws tomatoes at each other). Far less dangerous than the Running of the Bulls, La Tomatina is Spain’s second most notorious festival. While the historic origins of the festival are debatable, the intent is clear- just have fun and get messy! Participants gather in the town’s main square, and after the opening gunshot is fired, the tomatoes begin to fly. There are some rules to the chaos; tomatoes must be smashed before they are thrown to avoid injury, and no tomatoes may be thrown after the second shot is fired. After the tomato fight, participants head out for their celebratory sangria. Safety goggles are permitted (and recommended).

Whatever your interests may be, festivals give you the opportunity to participate in a collective positive energy, sharing your happy place with friends, both new and old.

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