20 of the Biggest and Best Parties on the Planet
Below is a list of 20 great global party possibilities to get you to the right place at the right time for unforgettable international debauchery.
La Tomatina (Buñol, Spain)
If the high school cafeteria didn't give you your life's fill of food fighting, head over to the Valencian region of Spain for the ultimate massive tomato battle. On the last Wednesday in August, music and fireworks accompany the mid-day barrage of tomato tomfoolery.
Trinidad Carnival (Trinidad and Tobago)
If you're into soca or calypso music, you can't miss the two day Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago (the two days before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent - go figure). Bright costumes, loud singing, and street dancing carry the traditions of West African festivals into one of the top Caribbean parties of the year.
Australia Day isn't the only national-day-turned-party in the world, but it sure is one of the most celebrated. Many music festivals are coordinated to take place on the day to help celebrate the birth of Australia with shocking amounts of alcohol. It's not all happy times for everyone, though. As is the case with any kind of "new nations" brought by imperialism crushing an indigenous people, Australia day is called "Invasion Day" by some, even "Survival Day" by others (to mark their continued existence despite colonial best efforts).
La Fete de la Musique (France)
Every June 21st in the streets of Paris, musicians from all genres hit the streets to usher in the summer solstice with a free music party. The event, otherwise known as World Music Day, begins at sundown. So much for making use of the longest day of the year!
Burning Man (Black Rock Desert, USA)
There's nothing quite like the 8-day desert assembly of freaks and freak-outs at Burning Man. Named after the yearly torching of a giant wooden effigy, the celebration brings in the ultimate in celebratory creativity, as visitors set up the temporary Black Rock City with a spirit of generosity, freedom, absurdity, self-expression and self-reliance.
Full Moon Party (Ko Pha Ngan, Thailand)
Ko Pha Ngan island's Full Moon Party is a classic well-known party spot for tourists to Thailand. Held every full moon, the event brings in tens of thousands for an overnight beach party. Entry can run from $3-7 if you're not already staying on the island. Nice.
Glastonbury (Pilton, England)
As far as music festivals go, Glastonbury is legendary. 150,000 people attend every year now with the top UK and international music acts gathering for a few days of... true substance. It used to be more open with people attending without tickets, but since pretty much 2003 it's been a widely successful ticketed affair. 2009's lineup included Blur, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, The Prodigy, Pendulum, Maxïmo Park, Bloc Party, Franz Ferdinand, Lily Allen, Doves, Lady Gaga, Jason Mraz, Nick Cave, Pete Doherty, Hugh Cornwell, Crosby Stills & Nash, and more. Sound fun?
Holi (Northern India)
Otherwise known as the Festival of Colors, Holi is a hugely popular 16-day Hindu spring festival focused in the Braj region of northern India, but celebrated by Hindu communities the world over. Not exactly like the other more get-wasted-and-go-nuts kind of parties, Holi celebrates the coming season with people spreading colored water and powders all over the place (including and especially on each other), and with massive holy bonfires.
Bay to Breakers (San Francisco, California)
Started initially to help people feel better and recover after the 1906 earthquake, San Francisco's Bay to Breakers footrace consistently involves well over 50,000 participants. Generally a pretty crazy run of floats, drunkenness, and varying degrees of nudity, an attempt to crack down on the more extreme ends of the party section resulted in a slightly tamer compromise in an otherwise still awesome celebration. At the end of the race is "Footstock", a musical mini-fest to continue celebrations.
Calgary Stampede (Calgary, Canada)
Canada's cowboys gather every July for a massive rodeo-based celebration that makes anyone, at least for a little while, wish they had a cowboy hat. In addition to the bull-riding and other classic rodeo fare, the over a million attendees get to enjoy various music and exhibitions, calling back to its origins in the late 19th century as the Calgary Exhibition. Don't worry if you're not much of a cowboy type - it's still a wicked party.
Sinulog Festival (Cebu City, Philippines)
If partying, to you, means the celebration of baby Jesus, then the Sinulog Festival in Cebu City, Philippines is one not to miss. A large part of the celebration involves the Sinulog dance, two steps forward and one step back, part of a parade with music, costumes, and dancing. Thank Magellan for landing there, wedging a cross into the ground, and claiming the territory for the King of Spain for this party!
Roskilde Festival (Roskilde, Denmark)
One of the few rock festivals of competing size with Glastonbury, the Roskilde Festival has been rocking Denmark since the early 70s. Typically more Scandinavian, it now attracts a strongly international audience. If the name sounds familiar, it was the festival where, in 2000, nine attendees were killed accidentally during a Pearl Jam concert, resulting in crowdsurfing bans and a re-vamping of safety in massive festivals. Don't worry - it's all fine now.
Thailand's New Years party is a 3-day affair, with a party atmosphere that many think rivals the Full Moon Party the country is more famous for. What started as a traditional, more religious ceremony that involved symbolic pouring of water has become a yearly festival of water throwing, with hose and water gun wielding partiers getting drunk and soaking each other.
Queen's Day (Netherlands)
Otherwise called Koninginnedag, Netherlands' Queen's Day involves a massive orange-clad Dutch party with plenty of outdoor concerts and events for the well over 500,000 visitors attending. Needless to say, any party-oriented travel to the Netherlands has its perks, but this April 30th celebration makes it an even better choice (the 29th if the 30th is a Sunday). Everyone's allowed to sell whatever they like in what becomes a huge nation-wide "freemarket", adding to the outdoor community fun.
Carnival (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)
From the term "carnelevare", meaning "remove meat", Brazil's carnival is a globally-known festival that takes place four days before Lent. It is often considered the largest, most famous party in the world! Borrowing elements from European festivals (like Parisian masquerade parties), the celebration mixes in elements from African and Native American cultures, resulting in massive block parades of vivid colored costumes and dance. If you want to do it right, head to Rio de Janeiro where it all began. Samba anyone?
Calle Ocho (Miami, Florida)
If you're looking for a massive carnival party in the US, Miami's Calle Ocho Festival might be your best bet. The end of February/beginning of March celebration assembles over a million people on twenty-four closed-off blocks on Calle Oche (SW 8th Street), and involves a run, concerts, and an awesome block party at the end. In 1998, the festival earned an entry into the Guinness World Records, with a conga line nearly 120,000 strong.
Queima das Fitas (Coimbra & Porto, Portugal)
There are a few Queima das Fitas festivals in Portugal, and they center around students celebrating near the end of their final semesters. Lots of concerts, lots of beers, and lots of burning of ribbons that represent each faculty. While some find the increased alcohol presence to be evidence of commercialization of the party, the attending students that come from all over the country (and even some from Spain) largely don't seem to mind.
Fantasy Fest (Key West, Florida)
If you're looking for a street party with a little more nudity, a little more kink, and a little more costume, then check out the week-long alcohol-driven craziness that is Fantasy Fest. It's the place to get drunk and see half-naked vampires and over-the-top outfits letting loose at the end of October - a nice adult spin to Halloween season. It was created to help an otherwise dry tourist season. Not exactly romantic, but still fun!
Las Fallas Festival (Valencia, Spain)
As if just assembling for a festival wasn't enough, Valencia is home to another impressive celebration, with thousands of crazies setting off large amounts of firecrackers at 7:30am on the dot, called La Despertà. While I'm generally not a fan of anything loud early in the morning, the sick explosiveness of it all really makes for something special. No, it's not war-torn. It's a party!
Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival (Indio, California, USA)
Coachella started in 1999 as another large and awesome music festival. Taking place the last weekend in April, the acts include some huge names in rock and electronic music, not entirely unlike other large music events, but with a little more sculpture and other art. Starting as a Pearl Jam-driven boycott of Ticketmaster, the event is still running strong a decade later.