9 Festivals to Plan Your Summer Travels Around

Give your summer travels a healthy dose of arts and culture with these spectacular events.

A few people with mime-like face paint standing among crowds on a cobblestone street.

Spot performers during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Photo by Jan Kranendonk/Shutterstock

With the arrival of summer in North America, festival season comes into full swing. While Independence Day and Juneteenth are perennial celebrations across the United States, plenty of other fests happen abroad, from lesser-known annual festivals to global events like the Olympics.

Check out these nine festivals happening in June, July, and August of this year, and add a jolt of energy to your season of relaxation.

1. Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Scotland

When: August 2–26, 2024

Every August, the world’s largest performance arts festival, Edinburgh Festival Fringe, takes place in Scotland’s capital. Established right after World War II, the more than three-week festival throws thousands of unique shows at hundreds of venues (for a sense of scale, more than 30,000 artists put on 3,841 shows during the festival in 2019). Come to watch emerging shows and talent: Phoebe Waller-Bridge based her Emmy-winning series, Fleabag, on a one-woman show she first performed here in 2013, and comedians including Mr. Bean himself, aka Rowan Atkinson, and Graham Norton, host of his eponymous talk show, also debuted at the fest. Keep an eye on the schedule to solidify your itinerary; while the first lineup of shows were revealed in February, two more batches will be revealed in April and May.

Rainbow banner and rainbow flags hang outside the beige and brick facade of Stonewall Inn.

The Stonewall Inn is a monumental place in LGBTQ+ history.

Massimo Selesi_Shutterstock

2. NYC Pride, New York

  • When: June 30, 2024

In 1969, New York City’s underground queer community rebelled against police during a raid at the Stonewall Inn—then one of the most popular gay bars in New York City—in Greenwich Village. The legacy of this incident became a watershed moment in LGBTQ+ history, leading to the first Gay Pride March in 1970. Commemorating the 55th Anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, the city is not only opening a national monument visitor center this summer but also hosting Pride March on June 30. The march coincides with PrideFest, a free street fair in Greenwich Village that will include exhibitors, entertainers, and activities. While you’re here, check out some of the new hotels, Broadway shows, and cultural happenings across the city.

Adults dressed in British red coats from the American Revolution march in a parade

If you come to Bristol for Independence Day, expect a parade that goes all out—Revolutionary attire included.

Photo by James Kirkikis/Shutterstock

3. Bristol’s July 4 Celebrations, Rhode Island

  • When: July 4, 2024

There’s no shortage of places to celebrate July 4th in the United States, but Bristol, Rhode Island, celebrates with a special amount of fanfare. Its parade—which dates back to 1785—is the oldest continuous Independence Day celebration in the country, and the fun starts more than two weeks before the July event. On June 14, a Flag Day Ceremony kicks off the celebration with a summer concert series, the Fourth of July Ball, and more. Expect outfits that mimic the 18th century, as well as a town crier during Bristol’s festivities.

Transformer costume at the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con

If you wear a costume to Comic-Con, make sure it’s stretchy.

Photo by Steady Hand/Shutterstock

4. San Diego Comic-Con, California

When: July 25–28, 2024

July’s the time to dust off your superhero garb and nerd out at San Diego Comic-Con, a gathering that’s more than 60 years old. In 2023 the Hollywood strikes led to more than two dozen panel cancellations at the event, but this year visitors can expect the return of a star-studded lineup. Visitors of past years have included The Avengers cast, filmmaker J.J. Abrams, and Hellboy creator Mike Mignola, so it’s anyone’s guess who will show up (or surprise) festivalgoers this year. Before leaving, stop at the 2021-opened Comic-Con Museum, which is a testament to the festival’s lasting impact. Upcoming exhibits include “Becoming Betty Boop,” (opening June 2024), which explores the history and evolution of the cartoon character.

Left: Lilac branches hang against a blue sky; Right: A summer view of vegetation, a church steeple, and water on Mackinac Island

Lilacs on Mackinac Island burst into life in June.

Photo by Danita Delimont/Shutterstock and John McCormick/Shutterstock

5. Mackinac Island Lilac Festival, Michigan

When: June 7–16, 2024

In much the same way that cherry blossoms dominate Japanese travel in the spring, lilacs take center stage on this Michigan island in June. More than 250 varieties of the pinkish-purple, clustered flower cover the approximately four-square-mile island and are recognized annually during the Mackinac Island Lilac Festival. For 10 days in June, lilac celebrations on this Great Lakes locale include a Lilac Queen coronation, lilac planting seminars, a cornhole tournament, and a parade. While lilac viewing will be possible in plenty of places on this car-free island, some of the best places to find them are in Marquette Park and on the boardwalk from Windermere Point to Mackinac Island Public School, where you can see twisted lilac trunks.

Grey plaque with the words "Juneteenth" and a description of the event

Juneteenth is rooted in Texas and is still celebrated throughout the state.

Courtesy of Visit Galveston

6. Juneteenth Celebrations, Texas

When: June 19, 2024

Juneteenth became a federally recognized holiday in the United States in 2021, but the celebration—which commemorates the end of slavery in the country—first took place on June 19, 1866, in Galveston, Texas, when news reached the city that the Civil War had ended. Other cities including Houston, Chicago, and Washington, D.C., have since joined the party, but Galveston’s traditions stick to its roots. There are plenty of events leading up to the weekend: This year, the island city will host its second annual Juneteenth comedy fest at the Galveston Island Convention Center on June 14, and a parade and picnic will be held the following day. Festival events culminate on June 19 with the 45th annual Juneteenth Proclamation reading (which commemorates General Orders, No. 3, which announced that all slaves were free), an emancipation march, and festivities at Reedy Chapel AME, where the first Juneteenth celebration occurred.

A statue of the Olympics symbol through which one can see the Eiffel Tower in Paris

The Opening Ceremonies of the Paris Olympics kick off on July 26, 2024.

Photo by Shutterstock

7. Olympics, France

When: July 26–August 11, 2024; Paralympics August 28–September 8, 2024

This year, hundreds of thousands of people are expected to visit Paris for the 2024 Olympics and the Paralympics, which kick off about two and a half weeks later. The event will be televised, of course, but expect in-person events to feel especially festive, considering the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions of the last summertime Olympics. Iconic landmarks of the French capital will be incorporated into the festivities: The Opening Ceremony will be held along the Seine River, a more than 12,000-seat outdoor arena beside the Eiffel Tower will host beach volleyball and blind football events, and the Grand Palais will be the setting of fencing and tae kwon do contests. Plus, for the firs time, this year’s event will feature breakdancing as part of the Olympics, with the category debuting at the Place de la Concorde.

There are plenty of reasons to visit the City of Light besides the quadrennial event, so consider a long weekend of exploring and café hopping to make the most of your time in Paris.

Line of flags waving in the wind near green plants and trees.

Curaçao’s North Sea Jazz Festival started in 2010.

Photo by StephanKogelman/Shutterstock

8. North Sea Jazz Festival, Curaçao

When: August 29–31, 2024

Come August, there’s more to the 180-square-mile island than its beaches. From August 29 to 31, the Curaçao North Sea Jazz Festival returns for its 10th anniversary—after a five-year hiatus. So you can expect big names to show up. Performers in 2024 include Chic (the band behind worldwide hit “Le Freak”), salsa artist Marc Anthony, and Italian singer and songwriter Eros Ramazzotti. While only the initial names have been listed, expect plenty more to appear, as artists are scheduled to perform across the World Trade Center Piscadera Bay’s three stages. Curaçao’s capital, Willemstad, is only a 15-minute drive from the venue; extend your time for a day or two and explore the rich history—from its roots in the transatlantic slave trade to its Dutch influence—of this Caribbean island.

Big red floats, called yamahoko, are wheeled through Kyoto in a parade, with people around it

The Gion Matsuri has been held annually for more than 1,000 years.

Photo by Alexander Hagseth/Shutterstock

9. Gion Matsuri, Japan

When: July 17 and July 24, 2024

The Gion Matsuri dates all the way back to 869, when Emperor Seiwa ordered that people give offerings to Kyoto’s Yasaka Shrine to appease the gods during an epidemic in the then capital of Japan. The purification ritual has been held annually since 970 in the city, encompassing several traditions. The festival’s biggest draw is its UNESCO-recognized yamahoko processions (one is held on July 17 and the other on July 24). During the event, elaborate floats, which may be 85 feet tall and weigh more than 10 tons, are transported through the city’s streets. Don’t miss the festivities held on the three nights before each procession, known as Yoiyama, during which people buy good-luck charms and eat street food in various areas of Kyoto.

Be on the lookout for signage in the Gion district, as Japan aims to roll out several restrictions for visiting tourists starting in April.

Chloe Arrojado is the associate editor of destinations at AFAR. She’s a big fan of cafés, dancing, and asking people on the street for restaurant recommendations.
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