There's nothing quite like visiting a place when it's in the middle of a party -- especially if it's the kind of celebration that doesn't happen every year. In addition to the many festivals and events that occur annually around the world, there are some that are on a far less frequent schedule -- some will only happen this year.
Here's a selection of some of the must-see festivals and events happening exclusively in 2013.
Queen's Day in Amsterdam
Amsterdam likes to party, and Queen's Day on April 30 has long been an incredibly popular holiday on the Dutch calendar. In 2013, however, the holiday will take on added significance as Queen Beatrix announced in January that she will be abdicating the throne this year. Her son, Prince Willem-Alexander, will be "honored as King" on Queen's Day this year. Although there aren't any details yet about other specific changes to 2013's festivities, you can bet this will be a Queen's Day to remember.
British and Irish Lions Rugby Tour in Australia
Through June into early July, the British and Irish Lions Rugby Tour takes places at stadiums all around Australia (and one in Hong Kong). The nine-match tour has been 12 years in the making, and is expected to be the biggest rugby tour in Australian history, with 400,000 people expected to attend the games.
Photo courtesy of jeremyfoo via Flickr.
Venice's famous festival of the arts, the Biennale, gives away its schedule in its name. Every other year (always in the odd-numbered years), there are special art exhibits, theater and dance performances, and concerts. The festival starts in June and continues through November, which gives visitors a chance to skip the summer crush of tourists and still catch some of the exhibits. Check the schedule now to find out what sorts of things you can see, and plan to spend a couple of nights in Venice in order to take full advantage of the performances as well as the city itself.
Take an art tour of Venice
Photo credit: ecosistema.urbano via Flickr.
International Festival of Music in Bogotá
The folks at UNESCO do more than just add places to their list of heritage sites -- they also declare various cities capitals of culture, music, and art (among other things). In 2013, Bogotá is a UNESCO City of Music -- and we can think of no better way to honor that designation than by attending the debut edition of the city's music festival. The 2013 International Festival of Music (I Festival Internacional de Musica de Bogotá, if you're looking for the official Spanish name) is dedicated to all things Beethoven, and runs from March 27-30. Rock music more your thing? Head for Simón Bolivar Park during Rock al Parque, Bogotá's annual rock festival (Latin America's largest), which is held annually (typically in June-July).
Photo credit: Yassef. via Flickr.
Wagner's Ring Cycle
200 years after Richard Wagner's birth, orchestras all over the world will be staging performances of the composer's entire Ring Cycle. The Berlin production (a partnership with Milan's La Scala) is particularly notable, since Wagner was German and the conductor is a renowned Wagner expert, but almost regardless of where you are in the world, you'll find a Ring Cycle production somewhere nearby. Music aficionados can check out performances in Seattle, Taipei, New York City, London, Bangkok, St. Petersburg, Palermo, Riga, Paris, Melbourne, and many more cities. Just be prepared for a multi-night event - it is, after all, roughly 16 hours of music.
Photo credit: MITO SettembreMusica via Flickr.
The Gathering in Ireland
There may never be a bad year to visit Ireland, but in 2013 the country is making a concerted effort to invite the millions of Irish descendants around the world to return for a sort of "family reunion." Called "The Gathering," the invitation lasts all year long and will feature different festivals, exhibits, and other events in different parts of the country -- including special "clan gatherings" to really emphasize any Irish ancestry you might have. This is, after all, one of those countries in which most of us feel like family whether we're Irish or not -- but if you are Irish, 2013 is a stellar year to be in Ireland.
Book a multi-day tour of Ireland
150th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg
Gettysburg National Military Park is marking the 150th anniversary of both the infamous Battle of Gettysburg and President Lincoln's subsequent Gettysburg Address with a slate of events throughout 2013. There's a lecture series, musical and theatrical performances, and a new exhibit featuring rare Civil War artifacts. From June 30-July 4 there will be several National Park Service programs to mark the official anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, and then on November 19 there will be a ceremony to mark the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.
Visit on a Gettysburg Day Trip from Washington DC
Photo credit: Donald West via Flickr.
The Opening of the New Bay Bridge in San Francisco
By the end of the year, San Francisco will be home to the world's largest Self-Anchored Suspension Span (SAS) supported by a single one-mile long main cable. The new East Span of the bridge cost more than $6 million to build and is expected to open on Labor Day weekend, an event marked by several celebrations, a foot race across the bridge, and the opportunity to walk across the bridge before it opens to vehicle traffic. More than 150,000 people are expected to walk across the bridge on Labor Day (paying a $37 toll to do so) so this is sure to be a great weekend to visit the city.
See the bridge from above on a San Francisco helicopter tour
Photo credit: jitze via Flickr.
One of the emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates, Sharjah has long been regarded as a cultural capital. In fact, UNESCO named it the Cultural Capital of the Arab World in 1998. Sharjah's biennial arts festival has been held in odd-numbered years since 1993, and in 2013 it runs from March 13-May 13. This 11th edition of the festival is called, "Re:emerge, Towards a New Cultural Cartography," and nearly 100 artists have been selected to participate. There will be concerts, films, dance performances, and art exhibits - and 2013 is also the first year when the Sharjah Art Foundation will host the festival from its new Art Spaces, under construction since 2009.
Photo credit: yeowatzup via Flickr.
500th Anniversary of Ponce de Leon Landing in Florida
It's hard to call it a "discovery" when there were already people living there, but it was 500 years ago that Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León landed at present-day St. Augustine and gave the place its name -- La Florida. In 2013, there are special events throughout the state to mark the anniversary, including historic exhibits and lectures, parades, musical performances, scavenger hunts, a re-enactment of de León's arrival on Melbourne Beach on April 2, and a Ponce de León celebration in St. Augustine from April 2-7.
Photo credit: Dave via Flickr.
Another arts festival that gives away its infrequency in its name is the Istanbul Biennial, held every two years (in the odd-numbered years). Istanbul's festival focuses on contemporary arts, and runs from September 14-November 10 this year. 2013 is the 13th edition of the Biennial, and the concept this year is called "Mom, am I barbarian?" (the title refers to a book by Turkish poet Lale Müldür). As the festival won't begin until mid-September, the program of events isn't yet available -- but in a city that's becoming more and more art-centric every year, it's a safe bet to assume that booking a trip to Istanbul for the Biennial will make any contemporary art lover smile.
Photo credit: yellow book via Flickr.
Toronto Fringe Festival
You may be familiar with the huge Edinburgh Fringe Festival that takes place each August, but that's not the only Fringe. In fact, Toronto's Fringe Festival is in its 25th year in 2013. While it's primarily a theater festival, The Toronto Fringe (like its Edinburgh cousin) also features musical performances, comedians, art displays, and childrens' activities. This year's Fringe will include more than 150 productions at 25 venues across Toronto from July 3-14.
Make the most of your visit with a Toronto City Pass
Photo credit: Kevin Konnyu via Flickr.
200th Anniversary of Pride & Prejudice
The house where Jane Austen was living when she penned one of England's most beloved novels is an obvious destination for any Austen fan in 2013, 200 years after Pride & Prejudice was first published. The cottage in Chawton, however, is only one of the places around the world that's celebrating Austen (and the novel) this year. Chawton is hosting Pride & Prejudice readings, writing workshops, Pride & Prejudice study days, musical performances, and even lace making classes. Elsewhere, you can attend a Jane Austen Festival in Louisville (USA), a Pride & Prejudice Festival in Cambridge (UK), "Pride & Prejudice celebrations in Sydney and A.C.T. (Australia), and Pride & Prejudice readings in places as far afield as Brazil, Portugal, and Italy.
Photo credit: Herry Lawford via Flickr.
International Day of Happiness in Bhutan
Many travelers have heard about how Bhutan measures its own success as a country not by the familiar "gross domestic product" but by what it called "gross national happiness," or GNH. Last summer, Bhutan's campaign to bring greater global awareness to GNH bore fruit -- the United Nations declared March 20 the International Day of Happiness. 2013 will mark the first time the day has been recognized by the UN, and although there's no indication yet that Bhutan will be holding any special events on March 20, the Bhutanese calendar is already crammed with national and local festivals -- including several in March. Besides, where else would you rather be on the first International Day of Happiness than in the country that essentially invented it?
Photo credit: jadis1958 via Flickr.Read more about festivals and events around the world.
- Jessica Spiegel for Viator