|Coachella (here and below) music and cultural festival is held on two consecutive weekends; the first is livelier with more potential celebrity sightings, while the second offers a more relaxed vibe.|
What It Is: One of the top music and cultural festivals in the U.S.
When: Two weekends: April 14, 15, 16 and April 21, 22, 23, 2017
Where: Empire Polo Club 81-800 Avenue 51 Indio, CA, 131 miles east of San Diego and 23 miles from the Palm Springs International Airport in the Indio/Palm desert area.
Why Go: Coachella is more than a top music festival; it is a mecca for celebrities, fashionistas, art, trends and more. This is a bucket-list adventure.
Getting There: Discover 7 Travel founder, Eric Grayson, advises clients to skip the frustrating traffic traveling into the festival. Instead, fly into Los Angeles, from where Surf Air provides private jet flights to Coachella Valley. The flight takes less than an hour and it provides a potential opportunity to spot a celebrity or two.
The Set Up: Coachella is broken into two separate weekends; festival-goers will need to buy separate tickets for each one. The weekends are set to be similar with the same lineup and same art experiences. Discover 7 Travel suggests that travelers looking for a more relaxed experience book weekend two. These three days are ideal for those who want to skip “the scene” and celebrity sightings. If your client wants the more lively experience with more people, book weekend one.
Where to Stay: Guests can camp onsite or book a hotel offsite. VIPs should consider booking a Safari Tent, which is an exclusive onsite luxury camping experience. The tent even has air conditioning and a concierge. The best part is that the price includes two Safari Guest passes. These passes, as Discover 7 explains, get travelers into exclusive Safari-Guest-Only bars and the backstage Artist Village. These private spots are the places to spot musicians and celebrities, explains Grayson. Clients looking to book a hotel, instead of one of the camping options, should be told that there are a limited number of hotels, and rooms fill up fast. To book hotel packages, visit www.valleymusictravel.com.
The Inside Scoop: Grayson suggests clients should check out the Activities Tent. There’s a range of games and spa treatments and yoga in the tent, which is a perfect way to escape the California sun. The Neon Carnival is another event to tell your clients about. It’s an exclusive, invite-only party thrown late at night on the first weekend, says Grayson. If discovering new musical artists is your client’s aim, tell them to spend time in the more intimate Gobi and Mojave tents, says Grayson.
What It Is: One of the country’s most popular music festivals.
When: June 8-11, 2017
Where: It’s on a 700-acre farm in Manchester, TN, about 60 miles southeast of Nashville.
Why Go: This festival attracts some of the best names in music with a southern flair. It also has some great comedy acts.
Getting There: This is another festival that is held away from major cities (and anything else) and that means the best way to get to it is to drive. Guests can fly into Nashville and then head for Manchester by car or shuttle. There will be plenty of signs leading to the festival as travelers enter Manchester.
Where to Stay: Most Bonnaroo fans camp, though it is possible to stay in a hotel. (However, there aren’t many nearby hotel options.) For a luxury camping experience, book a Le Bon tent, which is like glamping. The tents include one queen or two twin beds, a shade tent, cooling unit for temperature control, staff on site, and close proximity to Centeroo (the main area of the festival). Guests seeking more luxury and privacy should look for the opportunity to rent a private tour bus, which was available this year. The bus (like the ones that rock stars use) offers accommodations for up to eight. This hot spot includes flat-screen TVs, plush couches, exclusive showers at the campsite, gourmet catering and more. Note: There are plenty of camping options, but all cars entering the festival will need a Car Camping Pass.
The VIP Option: Festival-goers who want that exclusive access will want to purchase VIP tickets. The perks include top viewing spots at two stages, an exclusive party invite, yoga classes and more.
The Inside Scoop: This event can get overwhelming in the heat. It is important to stay hydrated and it’s best to go places with a buddy since it is an expansive landscape and losing your group in a crowd is possible. Don’t worry about bringing too much food with you as there is plenty to buy at the event. Use your packing space for things like portable fans and solar phone chargers.
|Outside Lands (here and below right), set in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, has a laid-back ‘60s vibe and offers a variety of food and beverage experiences to complement its renowned music program.|
What It Is: Equal parts major musical festival and food event
When: August 5-7, 2016; August 4-6, 2017
Where: Golden Gate Park in San Francisco
Why Go: In the recent past, Outside Lands has hosted such top musical performers as Paul McCartney and Kayne West. Known for its culinary delights like Wine Lands, this is a top festival in a major city.
The Location: One of the best parts of Outside Lands is the location. Set in the middle of the vibrant city of San Francisco, it provides the opportunity to mix sightseeing and festival time. Unlike other such events, Outside Lands does not provide a camping option, so it’s also the perfect excuse to try out top hotels in the area.
The Atmosphere: Outside Lands offers a relaxed experience. Think of it as a throwback to a ’60s vibe, old-fashioned festival. While some people come dressed in their trendy festival wear, you’ll see just as many people in flannel and boots. Remember it may be August, but when that San Francisco fog rolls in at night it gets chilly.
The Food: The food is a very important element at Outside Lands, with 80 restaurants, food trucks and food stands from around San Francisco and 40 wineries and 28 breweries on display. There are also designated food areas, guests can take a trip to Wine Lands for wine tasting or visit Choco Lands or Cheese Lands for a yummy sweet or salty treat. New this year is Outside Clams, a seafood experience by Woodhouse Fish Co.
The VIP Spot: The Box Suites have great views of the main stage and Box Suites comes with exclusive perks, including private entrance, gratis beer, wine and non-alcoholic beverage services. This box also comes with exclusive parking, which is very limited at the festival. Most people walk-in or take taxis and public transportation to the event.
The Inside Scoop: With top performers playing at different stages at the same time, it’s best to decide who you want to see before getting to the festival. The atmosphere is very friendly, meaning you can break off from your group. It’s also the perfect place for solo travelers.
Sundance Film Festival
What It Is: The world-famous movie festival created by legendary actor Robert Redford.
When: January 19-29, 2017. It’s usually held in early January.
Where: Park City, Utah
Why Go: This is a dream trip for dedicated movie buffs or for those who simply enjoy a good celebrity sighting.
Getting There: Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) is served by several airlines and connects to more than 90 cities in the U.S. Regular shuttle service between the airport and Park City is available; travel time is just over half an hour.
The Set Up: Most of the movie screenings are world premieres, meaning the stars of the movie being shown are not only in attendance, but may even be sitting just a few rows ahead of you.
Where to Stay: Sundance Film Festival works with more than 50 accredited lodging options, including brands such as Best Western, Doubletree by Hilton, Hampton Inn, Holiday Inn, Hyatt, Marriott, St. Regis and Waldorf Astoria.
The Inside Scoop: It is essential that clients going to the Sundance Film Festival purchase a tickets package well beforehand. Tickets are extremely limited, as they are not offered solely to the consumer, but also to the cast of the film. You can go as big as you want as far as VIP passes go, but at the bare minimum make sure you have tickets for the movies you want to see or else you’ll be standing in two-to-three-hour-lines for leftover tickets with only a slim chance of gaining admission. Register online at www.sundance.org for tickets as soon as possible. Registration begins the September before the show. Perhaps, the best tip we can offer, and it requires a little networking, is to make a friend in Park City or if you already know someone living there, then this is a good time for a reunion. Residents have their own ticketing options and usually get the first crack at all the most popular movies.
|Apropos of its name, Burning Man culminates in setting fire to a large wooden figure.|
What It Is: This is essentially a party in the middle of nowhere with nonstop music and free-flowing adult beverages.
When: Late August to Early September
Where: The Black Rock Desert in Nevada
Why Go: This week-long celebration for music lovers and all fans of the arts in general includes everything from elaborate costumes to yoga to art galleries, culminating in a massive bonfire where partygoers set fire to a gigantic wooden structure of a man, hence “Burning Man.”
Getting There: Most visitors arrive by car, bus or other motor vehicle from Reno or San Francisco, about a three-hour drive. Burner Express bus service offers transfers from and back to the San Francisco Civic Center and Reno Airport.
The Set Up: Andrey Zakharenko, an advisor with Always Travel in San Francisco, who has been attending the festival for years, says attending is easy. All you need is a ticket, which can only be booked online at www.tickets.burningman.org. Attendees can apply for low-income tickets and volunteering at the event may get you a discount. Tickets go on sale around the middle of January and they sell out very fast. Important: “Advertising and selling the experience is not allowed. The use of the name or logo can lead to legal problems and Burners are very active in making sure this rule is followed,” Zakharenko says. Although agents can’t make a commission on this event, arming yourself with this information will still impress clients, who have inquiries about the event. You will look like a true insider, as most information about the specifics of Burning Man is tough to come by. Plus, you can suggest a pre- or post-festival add-on stay in San Francisco or Reno.
The Inside Scoop: Clients need to bring with them everything they need once they get there, since it is miles and miles away from anywhere. Burning Man attendees we spoke to say most people rent trailers, build camps and even bring their own electricity. Travel Agent was told that there is no money exchanged at this event. Instead, everything one needs can be obtained through a barter system. Bring everything you would need to camp, but also pick one thing to buy multiples of. For example, bring extra toilet paper, beer, sunblock or anything else you think people will need.
Important to Know: We would never encourage illegal use of drugs, but we must note that drug use is prevalent at this event, even though such behavior is not essential for the enjoyment of the shows. Clients should also expect every type of persons — naked, pierced and/or tattooed people, as well as super-friendly folks.
Cultural Festivals: Selling The Best Parties in the World
February 27-28, 2017;
February 12-13, 2018
What’s the Big Deal?
Trinidad Carnival easily takes the crown for being the best carnival in the Caribbean. One of the most beautiful qualities of Trinidad is its diversity — a unique blend of Indian, Syrian and Chinese cultures. Officially held on the Monday and Tuesday immediately preceding Ash Wednesday, the celebration is actually a full week worth of parties. Some of these fetes don’t end until about 4 to 5 a.m., while others don’t start until then.
|A highlight of the Medellin Flower Fair (here and above right) is the parade in which millions of blooms are shown in complex arrangements known as “silettas.”|
How to Do It Right
Perhaps the most important piece of advice we can give anyone looking to attend next year’s Trinidad Carnival is to book the Hyatt Regency now. In fact, when Travel Agent was leaving this year’s Trinidad Carnival in early February, we were told rooms at the Hyatt were already being booked for next year. We believe it is the best hotel to stay at in Port of Spain and isn’t that expensive as the other hotels there. If the Hyatt fills up or if clients are looking to save a few bucks on the rooms, the Hilton Trinidad & Conference Centre would also be a solid option.
As far as the partying goes, we found Carnival Tuesday, the culmination of all the Trinidad Carnival events, to be surprisingly the most subdued of all the parties we attended. And it was quite refreshing; it was great to just see the many unique costumes that obviously required a lot of love to make and the beautiful smiles that went along with them. This was a day of pride.
Then, there’s J’ouvert, which commemorates a time when slavery was prevalent and French settlers would throw masquerade balls that the slaves were barred from attending. The slaves would instead throw their own parties in their backyards, wearing costumes to mock their slave owners. Another highlight is Soca Brainwash, an outdoor Soca music festival.
Popular organizations include Caesar’s Army and TRIBE. The main difference between these organizations is simply the amount of people participating in each one, with TRIBE usually taking the lead with the most participants. Agents looking to book Caesar’s Army should reach out to Kim C.S. Kirton ([email protected]); for TRIBE, contact Dean Ackin ([email protected]).
February 24 to March 1, 2017
What’s the Big Deal?
For many years, Brazil Carnival has been known for its main Samba parade in Rio de Janeiro. During this enormous parade, six of the 12 best Samba schools march to the Sambodromo (Samba Stadium) each day for the opportunity to be selected the year’s champion. The Carnival fun doesn’t end there as the festival has additional Samba parades, Carnival balls, children’s parades (good to know for family travelers), neighborhood block parties and other events that are just as entertaining.
For many attendees, Carnival actually starts and ends with the “street blocks,” or individual neighborhood street parties. During this time, Rio locals, better known as “Cariocas,” take to the streets dancing and singing. Full of creativity and humor, these blocos hype up the joy of the city, and best of all, it’s free and open for the public to attend.
How to Do It Right
The beauty of Brazil Carnival is that clients can have fun here for free, on a budget or they can go all out and make the celebration as luxurious as they want. A unique aspect of Rio’s Carnival centers on its VIP parties, such as The Copacabana Palace Ball, which dates back to 1924.
For Brazilians, Recife is one of the top carnivals to attend, and the city’s population actually drastically increases from 1,297,000 residents to more than two million people during the celebration of the festival. At the carnival in Recife and Olinda, one can hear samba, maracatu and mangue beats, as well as Frevo, which is unique to Recife and Olinda and showcases these cities’ colorful personality and flavorful culture. Visitors, especially those on a budget, can appreciate that all carnival activities in Recife are free.
Booking Brazil Carnival
Travel Agent was told that one of the best operators selling Brazil Carnival is Brazil Nuts, which offers agents a 10 percent commission and is a preferred tour operator partner of LATAM Airlines. One option includes four nights at the four-star Golden Tulip Regente; a private tour of Corcovado, Christ the Redeemer and Sugarloaf Mountain; grandstand seats to the Sambodromo Carnival Parade with transfers and guided assistance, round-trip private airport transfers and daily breakfast. It starts at $1,525 per person double. Option two offers the same plus a little more, with five nights at the five-star Miramar by Windsor in a Superior Executive Ocean Front Room; a food tour of Rio, a private evening tour of Lapa and live music at the Rio Scenarium. It starts at $3,698.
Brazil Nuts also offers tickets to the Copacabana Palace Ball. Although rates for 2017 are yet to be published, we were told those tickets usually cost around $1,000. Reach out to Julia Carter ([email protected]), director of sales.
Feria de Las Flores (Flower FAIR)
Medellin, Colombia, Early August
What’s the Big Deal?
Back in 2013, Travel Agent attended the Desfile de Silleteros (Silleteros Parade), the central event of Medellin, Colombia’s annual Feria de las Flores (Flower Fair), which attracts roughly 20,000 residents and tourists, and thought this was one of the best and most unique celebrations of culture we have ever seen. It usually runs in the first or second week of August.
A highlight of the week-long celebrations is the parade in which millions of flowers are shown in the famous “silletas” — complex floral arrangements made by generations of farmers from Santa Elena. With more than 80 varieties of flowers, silleteros design beautiful landscapes, portraits and messages. The parade also includes floats with some of Colombia’s most well-known musicians performing live music.
Later in the week is the Festival Nacional de la Trova Ciudad de Medellin. Trova is something like free-styling — think rap battles and then substitute folk music for rap.
How to Do It Right
For the parade, there is free admission for patrons wanting to line up on one side of the street while the other side has paid seats. We suggest the latter as those seats are covered, providing some shelter from the relentless August heat of Colombia. Also, a reserved seat means clients don’t have to get up at about 5 a.m. to claim a spot.
Booking Feria de Las Flores
Travel Agent was told the three best tour operators that sell Feria de Las Flores are Destino Antioquia, Destino Colombia and Panamericana de Viajes. The respective contacts to reach out to are Silviana Cardona Bedova (gerencia @viajesdestinoantioquia.com); Luisa Fernanda Hurtado ([email protected]) and Ruby Murrillo Correa (operaciones.[email protected]).
|Oktoberfest in Munich celebrates the region’s history and traditions, highlighted by plenty of music, dancing, food — and beer.|
September 17 - October 3, 2016;
September 23 - October 8, 2017
What’s the Big Deal?
Each year travelers from around the world flock to Munich, Germany, to experience Oktoberfest, an event that began in 1810 as a celebratory horse race to mark the wedding of King Ludwig I and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. The festivities eventually evolved into an agricultural show designed to boost Bavarian agriculture and since then have become internationally recognized as a celebration of the region’s history, culture and tradition, encompassing local cuisine, music, dancing, and of course, beer.
This year marks the 183rd anniversary of Oktoberfest, with an estimated six million visitors expected to attend. The event kicks off with the “grand entry” of the Oktoberfest landlords and breweries and involving about 1,000 participants, including the landlords’ families in decorated horse-drawn carriages, waitresses on decorated floats and beer tent bands. However, the Oktoberfest Costume and Riflemen’s Parade is considered by many to be the highlight of the celebration. The procession includes regional costume groups from Bavaria, Franconia, Swabia, the states of Germany and neighboring countries. There are also “troops” in historical uniforms, marching bands, riflemen, horses, oxen, cows, goats, the decorated drays of the Munich breweries, floats and historic carriages.
Good to Know: This year’s Oktoberfest is particularly notable, as it coincides with the 500th anniversary of the Bavarian Purity Law, which states that only four ingredients, namely water, barley, hops and yeast, may be used in the brewing of beer.
How to Do It Right
Visitors to Oktoberfest, who are looking to sample authentic German beer and food, should head to one of the 14 main beer tents, each run by a particular family or brewery. Some popular tents include the Hippodrom, Augustiner Festhalle, Hacker Festzelt and Marstall Festzelt.
Note: Many of the more popular beer tents can become heavily crowded during peak times and many require prior reservations to book a table or an area. For detailed information or to request space at a particular tent, visit www.oktoberfest.info/en/information/reservation.