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Big cities like Chicago and New York City have a full line-up of festivals scheduled all throughout the year, which draw in tourists traveling from near and far. But there’s something charming, authentic, and refreshingly manageable about visiting smaller towns to check out their seasonal events. So, in this article, we’re looking at eight fun local festivals in small and mid-size towns that are exciting for their own unique reasons. And since they’re worth making a road trip for, we’ll also include some accommodation recommendations to help you plan your festival getaway!
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This festival is coming up soon on August 3-5. If you’ve always wanted to travel to Ireland but haven’t had the opportunity to get overseas, then simply head to the town of Dublin, Ohio. Here you’ll find a three-day Irish festival that’s the largest of its kind in the United States. The Dublin Irish festival has been going strong for 30 years and is an authentic celebration of Irish, music, dance, food, and culture. There will be seven stages, 65 acts, and over 535 performers at this year’s family-friendly event. Adults will love the Jameson whiskey tasting and the genealogy tent where you can explore your ancestry. One great place to stay nearby is the AC Hotel Columbus Dublin, which is about 10 minutes from the festival grounds. With each night you book at this chic contemporary hotel in the heart of Dublin, you’ll get two free festival tickets.
When September rolls around, we also recommend heading to Cartersville, Georgia for the Arts Festival at the Rose Lawn Museum. This has been a local tradition since 1976, with displays of over 150 handcrafters and artists in the Southeast region. On September 15-16, stop by for food, musical entertainment, plant sales, and guided tours of the beautiful Victorian home-turned-museum. When you come to this festival, you’ll only be about 30 minutes from the Barnsley Resort, which spans 3,000 acres and offers charming cottage accommodations. When you stay here, you can also go horseback riding, clay shooting, play golf, hike, indulge in a spa treatment, and take your pick among the three restaurants onsite for Southern comfort food.
A great road trip destination for travelers who love the fall season is the small town of Cle Elum, Washington. This is where the Harvest Festival takes place on October 6-7 and October 13-14 this year. The Suncadia Resort is home to the 13th annual festival, which involves two weekends of live music, a pumpkin patch, wine tastings, dinners, wagon rides, a beer garden, and more fall fun. This resort is a lovely place to stay for the festival weekends if you’re looking to enjoy nature in the Pacific Northwest. The festival and resort are about 80 miles from Seattle in the sunny Cascade Mountains, with over 40 miles of groomed hiking trails and 6,400 acres of forested mountains. Also, stop by the Glade Springs Spa to take a dip in the warm thermal baths at the end of your festival weekend.
If you’re on the East Coast in October, check out ButterflyFest in Gainesville, Florida. This festival takes place on October 13 at the Florida Museum of Natural History and celebrates the 6,000 butterfly species that call the museum home. Kids and adults love the “Pollinator Parade,” butterfly releases, and workshops. While you’re in Gainesville, stay at the AC Hotel Gainesville Downtown, which is offering a “Spread Your Wings” package with festival tickets. The festival goes on until 4 pm, which is a great time to head to the hotel’s rooftop pool.
This December is a great time to visit Key West because this is when the I Love Stock Island Festival takes place from December 7-9. This is a three-day event that draws in over 20,000 locals and visitors each year to enjoy the local culinary scene, artist studios, and Key West culture. In the past, festival attendees have raved about the lighted boat parade, shrimp boil, and group trips to local restaurants via trolley or bike. When you come to this festival, you can stay at the Perry Hotel Key West at Stock Island Marina, which is a new 100-room boutique hotel that just opened last summer. It’s on a private marina, has two incredible seafood restaurants onsite, and also local artist studios onsite where you can watch local craftsmen in action. You’ll also have easy access to lots of water-based excursions while you’re in town for the festival here.
Winter is an ideal time to be in the Florida Keys, which is why this festival also tops our list. Come to Key Largo between January 10-20 to join the region’s small foodie community and enjoy the culinary creations of South Florida’s top chefs. Here you can check out wine tastings, cooking demos, and live music. Foodies love dining at Playa Largo Resort & Spa’s on-site restaurant, Sol by the Sea, to keep the party going. The marina views are Instagram-worthy, the chefs prepare a unique twist on locally caught seafood, and the desserts are anything but traditional.
Lots of small towns host art and craft fairs throughout the year, and one of our favorites is ArtiGras in Jupiter, Florida. Here you can check out the works of more than 300 artists who come from all over the U.S. The event takes place on February 16-18, 2019 and will showcase everything from oil paintings to pottery and fine jewelry. There will even be children’s activities and live music on site. If you need a break from the crowds but still want to browse the festival for a couple days, consider staying at the Jupiter Beach Resort & Spa. It’s the only oceanfront hotel in the area and offers tennis courts, a great spa, oceanside meals, and areas to jog along the secluded beach.
Another great Florida festival to add to your calendar is the Sarasota Film Festival, which takes place April 5-15, 2019. This event has grown to a 10-day festival with over 200 films and more than 250 filmmakers in attendance. Festival-goers love to stay at the Art Ovation Hotel because it offers discounted rates for film festival guests through April 6. Here you can get into the artsy mood with in-room instruments, such as guitars and cellos. Onsite, you can also take an improv comedy lesson, learn how to make origami, and check out surprise pop-up acts between film showings.