With spring weather comes the desire to stop wearing socks, dust off the grill and spend as much time outside as humanly possible. Cities and tourism boards across the country are poised to cure your spring fever with festivals that celebrate everything from flowers to food to film.
May and early June are great times to save on travel; we've even found deals that are valid over Memorial Day weekend. Make the most of this fleeting season by booking a last-minute trip to attend one of these annual fests -- and leave those closed-toe shoes at home.
Orlando: On display through May 20, the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival features Disney character topiaries, live entertainment and presentations by gardening experts from Epcot and HGTV. Stay at the Holiday Inn for $89 per night with free shuttles to the parks every half-hour, and get there for $200 or less roundtrip from cities including D.C., Chicago, New York City and Atlanta.
Atlanta: May marks the beginning of the city's beloved Jazz Festival, featuring local, national and international acts performing at venues across the city all month long. Save your travel budget for recordings of your new favorite artists with flights for under $200 roundtrip from Chicago, Dallas or Fort Lauderdale.
Seattle: The Seattle International Film Festival starts May 17 and lasts almost a month, with dozens of screenings at theaters across the city. Tickets start at $50 for opening night, which kicks off with "Your Sister's Sister," starring Emily Blunt and Mark Duplass of "The League," followed by a cocktail and hors d'oeuvres-filled gala. Flights start at $170 from SFO and $200 from LAX.
Burlington, Wis.: This southern Wisconsin town has less than 11,000 residents, but every Memorial Day weekend, three times that number attend ChocolateFest, now in its 26th year. Events include daily chefs' demonstrations and chocolate-eating contests, plus carnival rides, fireworks and, this year, a flash mob. Make a day trip from Chicago or Milwaukee, or stay overnight at the nearby, AAA 4-Diamond Grand Geneva for $119 on Memorial Day night.
San Francisco: May 27 marks two major events in San Francisco this year: the Golden Gate Festival, honoring the bridge's 75th birthday with exhibits, music, tours and fireworks; and San Francisco Carnaval, anchored by the Grand Parade at 9:30 a.m. Visitors can stay at Le Meridien in the heart of the Financial District for $159 per night all weekend long, saving $150 on regular rates.
St. Paul, Minnesota: The official start of summer in this Twin City is Grand Old Day, a free street festival along a hip strip of Grand Avenue that features a parade, art fair, battle of the bands and more than 150 food vendors. Make a trip on June 3 and save room for some of Minnesota's finest delicacies: cheese curds, funnel cakes and corn dogs. Check Spirit Airlines for the best fares, which makes its MSP debut on May 31.
New York City: There's always plenty to do in the Big Apple, whether it's eating your way through 20 blocks of Hell's Kitchen at the Ninth Avenue Food Festival (May 19-20) or seeing ships and meeting sailors during Fleet Week (May 23-30). One night only on June 12, the Museum Mile Festival grants visitors free admission to 10 museums along Fifth Avenue, including the Guggenheim, MoMA and the Museum of the City of New York. Roundtrip airfare starts at $120 from Boston and D.C.
-- Erica Wacker
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