8 US festivals that welcome spring
Tuesday, February 06, 2018
Following on the heels of the storm-plagued and frigid winter of 2017-18, Americans just about everywhere are welcoming this year's spring season with open arms. And there are plenty of festivals planned to celebrate the return of warmth and sunshine.
Here are eight of them from across the country:
1. National Cherry Blossom Festival
One of America's best-known spring fests, the National Cherry Blossom Festival in the nation's capital ushers in spring with a flourish of pink. The cherry trees that so famously bloom on the Washington Monument grounds, in East Potomac Park and along the Tidal Basin, are a gift from Japan that dates back to 1912 when the mayor of Tokyo offered the trees in an effort to enhance friendship between the U.S. and Japan.
The blossoms are greeted each spring with a number of public events related to the arts, community spirit and international culture. This year's festival takes place March 20 through April 15.
2. Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival
Treat your senses to a vibrant display of floral creativity and fun events at this annual Disney spring spectacular. For a full three months (Feb. 28 to May 28) Epcot blossoms forth as a topiary wonderland with Disney characters from every era brought to life through floral sculptures and manicured trees.
Festival events include the Garden Rocks Concert series (weekends), special food presentations and guided tours of Gardens of the World and the English Tea Garden. Park horticulturists are on hand as well to offer gardening tips.
3. Calle Ocho
On March 11, sunny Miami's Calle Ocho (8th Street) will be the scene of one of the nation's largest Hispanic street festivals — with more than a million participants and visitors expected to attend. The city's Little Havana neighborhood comes out loud and proud for this event with Latin dance and music groups taking to more than a dozen stages for performances featuring salsa, merengue, reggeaton, bachata, balada, hip hop, rap and jazz.
Like at any good street festival, food is one of the main attractions, and this one tantalizes taste buds with a variety of home-cooked Latin American and Caribbean delicacies. Demonstrations of traditional dance and displays of folkloric artwork round out the festivities.
4. New Orleans Wine & Food Experience
New Orleans, Louisiana
For food and wine enthusiasts, this much anticipated annual event — set for May 25-28 this year — is one of the premier shindigs in the Big Easy. In a city that already has one of the strongest culinary scenes in the nation, this event perpetuates that prominence as hundreds of restaurants and wineries line the streets of French Quarter with food tents and wine-tasting stations.
The highlight of the event is the Royal Street Stroll, during which visitors can shop the street's galleries and boutiques while experiencing a bounty of wine and food offerings along the way. Laissez les bons temps rouler!
5. Texas SandFest
Port Aransas, Texas
Visitors yearning for some warm sand between their toes will want to head out to the beach April 27-29 at Port Aransas, where they'll be further warmed at the site of dozens of amazing sand sculptures. Master carvers demonstrate their skills to more than 100,000 visitors at SandFest, an event that also includes plenty of live music, seafood, barbecue and arts & crafts displays.
One of the best things about the event is that it's run by volunteers serving a nonprofit organization that distributes all proceeds to local charities.
6. South by Southwest Festival
Austin does music festivals better than just about any city. SXSW, set for March 9-18, has evolved over the years from a small indie music fest into one of the country's pre-eminent festival/conference venues, highlighting the latest in the music, film and tech industries.
The film program has emerged as one of the nation's top film festivals (something like a domestic version of Cannes), but music is still why most folks attend — and there are six days devoted to staging more than a hundred upstart bands and individual performers from around the world. SXSW is not only a showcase for new talent but also for new directions in music, including such genres as grunge, grime, death metal, neo-soul and punk. For the rest of us, there's rock, folk, jazz, pop, gospel, reggae and blues.
7. Portland Rose Festival
Largest and most extravagant of all West Coast springfests, the Rose Festival kicks off April 7 this year and runs through July. The mega-celebration features more than 60 events, such as fireworks, parades, races and, of course, rose shows.
Key events include a fireworks spectacular staged in downtown's Waterfront Park on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend; the evening Starlight Parade featuring illuminated floats; the Grand Floral Parade led by nearly two dozen all-floral floats, marching bands and equestrian units; the Portland Rose Society Annual Spring Rose Show, and the Portland Rose Festival Dragon Boat Race.
Portland is known as the "City of Roses," owing to a climate that is ideal for cultivating family Rosaceae with its more than 2,500 species. There are several fabulous rose gardens around the city, the best-known being the International Rose Test Garden in Washington Park. So whatever you do during Rose Fest, take time to smell the roses!
8. Skagit Valley Tulip Festival
Historically, the tulip has been seen as a symbol of paradise on earth. During the month of April, the coastal community of Skagit Valley, nestled between Seattle and Bellingham, Washington, invites visitors to its own little paradise on earth — where millions of tulips burst into bloom during the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival.
Valley farmers lead the nation in the production of tulip bulbs, which means you don't have to travel to the Netherands, the traditional home of the tulip, to witness the colorful bloom. The Tulip Festival is designed as a driving tour. It has no single location. Fields, featuring row upon row of tulips, are scattered along the valley between the towns of La Conner and Mount Vernon.
The festival is perfect for nature lovers — especially photographers — who want to experience the colorful spectacle at their own pace.
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