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Top 10 Unforgettable Summer Festivals

Summer is the time we’d all like to take a week or two off and just get away from it all. Depending on where you just want to kick back and relax, or you’re a more active and curious person, there are plenty o f ways to spend your free time. But for a truly rewarding and unforgettable experience, we suggest attending some of the following events:

10. Gion Festival

Date: entire month of July

You wouldn’t have thought so, but the Japanese really know how to put on a show. Gion Festival takes place in the eponymous district of Kyoto, one of the country’s most important cultural centers.

Festivities take places throughout the month of July, but the high point of the event is the Yamaboko Junk parade on July 17. The streets of Gion District are reserved for pedestrians in the three days before the parade, which features dozens of floats (called Yama and Hoko), some of them weighing up to 12 tons and all spectacularly decorated.

9. Burning Man Festival

Date: week before Labor Day (25 August – 1 September 2014)

Burning Man is a week-long event that brings over 60,000 people to Black Rock Desert, in northeastern Nevada. The event has sort of a broad focus, intending to create a city in the desert dedicated “to the spirit of community, art, self-expression, and self-reliance”.

This eclectic community gathers each year to enjoy the spectacle and contribute in any way they can, but the main attraction is the ritual burning of a large wooden effigy of a man, which takes places Saturday night before Labor Day.

8. Inti Raymi

Date: 24 June

During the days of the Incan Empire, Inti Raymi, a festival dedicated to the Sun god Inti, was a time of great celebration.

After being banned by the conquistadores, it was revived in 1944 and is now one of Peru’s greatest events. In the past celebrations were held in the Inca capital Cusco, but nowadays it takes place among the ruins of Sacsayhuamán. While animal sacrifices, which used to be an important part of proceedings in the past, are no longer performed, the festival has revived the old Inca atmosphere with colorful costumes, music and dance.

7. Taste of Chicago

Date: 9-13 July 2014

This entry on our list is proof that you can actually organize a great event that’s not focused on culture and music. The Taste of Chicago is the world’s largest outdoor food festivals, with up to three million food lovers heading to Grant Park to treat themselves to an unforgettable culinary experience.

If food is your thing, this is the place to be, with a variety of cuisines like American, Chinese, Italian, Indian, French and more just waiting to be sampled. There are also plenty of entertainment options, with musical performances on multiple stages (including the Petrillo Music Shell), pavilions, and film performances.

6. Dragon Boat Festival

Date: fifth day of the fifth lunar month (2 June 2014)

The origins of the Dragon Boat (or Duanwu) Festival are shrouded in mystery. One popular legend has it that the ancient poet-statesman Qu Yuan committed suicide by drowning after the capture of Ying, his state’s capital, by a rival general. Failing to save him, the locals beat drums and splashed the water with their paddles to ward off evil spirits and also dropped rice dumplings into the river as an offering to Yuan’s spirit.

Nowadays, festival attendees snack on rice dumplings, drink hsiung huang wine and watch the spectacular dragon boats race.

5. Tokushima Awa Odori

Date: 12-15 August

Tokushima Awa Odori is said to have began over four centuries ago, when a local lord hosted a celebration for the opening of Tokushima Castle (with copious amounts of alcohol reportedly being involved).

Nowadays the festival is city-wide party that attracts over one million tourists each year. Singing, chanting, and dancing (with great energy and irregular steps, reminiscent of that drunken party the festival originates from) – all are ingredients for a truly memorable event.

4. La Tomatina

Date: last Wednesday in August (27 August 2014)

Every year, Plaza del Pueblo in the small town of Buñol, Spain attracts over 20,000 visitors ready to take part in the festival of La Tomatina. About 40 tons of tomatoes are brought to the square via trucks and the entire place turns into a war zone for exactly an hour.

There’s something rewarding about throwing tomatoes at people knowing it’s all in good humor – nobody gets hurt, nobody gets mad, it’s just great fun for everybody. While things might seem chaotic, the festival does actually have rules, most notably that the tomatoes have to be squashed before throwing to prevent injuries. After the mayhem stops, fire trucks hose the streets clean and things return to normal – for another year, at least.

3. Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Date: 1-25 August 2014

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is the world’s largest arts festival, basically taking over the Scottish capital for almost the entire month of August, as the most important part of the Edinburgh Festival. It focuses on the performing arts, like theater and comedy, but also to a lesser extent on music and dance.

Hundreds of venues, thousands of performers, tens of thousands of performances and over a million tickets sold – these are some of the amazing figures that show the scale and popularity of the event.

2. Tomorrowland

Date: final two weekends of July (18-20 and 25-27 July 2014)

Since 2005, the final days of July see the aptly named Belgian town of Boom become the Mecca of EDM.

Tickets sell out within minutes, as 180,000 people flock to De Schorre to see a stellar line-up of DJs performing, line-up which in 2013 included the likes of Tiesto, Steve Aoki and Avicii. In fact, Tomorrowland is so successful, that starting in 2014 it will actually take place during two consecutive weekends, at the end of July, in order to permit as many people as possible to attend.

1. Glastonbury Festival

Date: last weekend in June (25-29 June 2014)

Glastonbury is one of the greatest music festivals in England, perhaps in the world, with over 150,000 people are in attendance each year.

Initially a “Pop, Blues and Folk” festival, it has since diversified a great deal and now attracts world-renowned performers from across all genres, from Jay Z to the Rolling Stones, and from Bruce Springsteen to The Cure. Also worth noting is the fact that Glastonbury, which takes places on an actual dairy farm, makes a point out of being as environmentally friendly as possible and also raises money and awareness for a number of worthy causes.

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