Best Cultural Festival (2020)


Raucous or restrained, artistic or irreverent, our 10 winners for Best Cultural Festival are each travel-worthy in their own right, and each offers the chance to broaden horizons, try new things and connect with others from around the continent and the world.

  • Water Lantern Festival

    Water Lantern Festival
    Multiple Locations

    The Water Lantern Festival is all about connections. Magical nights in cities across the U.S. include food, live music and the beauty of thousands of lanterns adorned with letters of love, hope and dreams floating on the water.
    Photo courtesy of Water Lantern Festival

  • Carnaval of Quebec

    Carnaval of Quebec

    The Quebec Carnaval is a 10-day festival of winter, the world’s largest, complete with night parades, ice skating, snow sculptures and a towering ice palace. Other highlights include ice canoe racing, a sugar shack and iconic Caribou drinks.
    Photo courtesy of Carnaval of Quebec

  • Kutztown Folk Festival

    Kutztown Folk Festival
    Kutztown, Penn.

    The nine-day Kutztown Folk Festival is the nation’s oldest continuously operated folklife festival, drawing visitors from around the globe. A celebration of Pennsylvania Dutch culture and heritage, the event includes America’s largest quilt sale, 200 craftsmen and folk artists, local food and family friendly entertainment.
    Photo courtesy of Kutztown Folk Festival

  • Fiesta San Antonio

    Fiesta San Antonio
    San Antonio

    The aroma of sizzling fajitas fills the air as margarita-sipping visitors stroll the River Walk to the sounds of live mariachi music. This is Fiesta, an 11-day citywide celebration of San Antonio's rich and diverse cultures. The festival began in 1891 as a single parade to commemorate the heroes of the Alamo and San Jacinto, but today it's grown to include pageants, river and street parades, masquerade parties, fireworks, a carnival, oyster bakes, sporting competitions, art fairs, races and parties – truly something for everyone.
    Photo courtesy of Betsy Newman Photography / Fiesta San Antonio

  • San Francisco Chinese New Year Parade

    San Francisco Chinese New Year Parade
    San Francisco

    San Francisco has celebrated its Chinese heritage during its annual Chinese New Year Festival & Parade since just after the Gold Rush. The parade ranks among the best in the world, with 100 units, elaborate costumes, fireworks and the perennial crowd favorite 268-foot Golden Dragon, which takes a team of 100 men and women to navigate through the streets. It has become one of the largest events of its kind in the world, drawing some three million spectators and television viewers.
    Photo courtesy of Knight Lights Photography / San Francisco Chinese New Year Parade

  • Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

    Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

    For nine days each October colorful "upside down ornaments" dot the big, blue Albuquerque skies during the annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. The world's largest ballooning event welcomes some 500 balloon teams from two dozen countries to the Southwest city, with the headlining event being the weekend mass ascension, when hundreds of balloons take to the sky together. Popular events like the Special Shapes Rodeo and Balloon Glows are complemented by a juried art show, local food trucks and live music.
    Photo courtesy of iStock / Greg Meland

  • Oregon Shakespeare Festival

    Oregon Shakespeare Festival
    Ashland, Ore.

    The marathon Oregon Shakespeare Festival runs from February to October and features 11 plays (four of them works of Shakespeare) at various venues. But the festival extends well beyond the stage. Attendees can experience backstage tours, park talks, classes, workshops, lectures and post-show conversations to enhance the theatrical experience. Enthusiastic festival-goers can see as many as nine different plays in a single week during this annual celebration of the stage.
    Photo courtesy of Oregon Shakespeare Festival

  • Frozen Dead Guy Days

    Frozen Dead Guy Days
    Nederland, Colo.

    Quirky, irreverent and more than a little macabre, Frozen Dead Guy Days in Nederland, Colo. centers around the cryogenically frozen corpse of Bredo Morstoel, a Norwegian patiently awaiting reanimation in the town. In honor of this bizarre resident, Nederland residents hosted the first installment of its festival in 2002. Events include coffin races, costume polar plunging, ice turkey bowling, frozen t-shirt contests, a parade of Hearses, a poetry slam, frozen salmon toss and snowy human Foosball.
    Photo courtesy of Frozen Dead Guy Days

  • Artscape


    Artscape, Baltimore’s largest free arts festival, brings in more than 350,000 attendees over three days each year. Each July, more than 150 fine artists, craftspeople and fashion designers come together for an artists’ market, live concerts, visual arts installations, performing arts, literary arts workshops and cooking demonstrations.
    Photo courtesy of Edwin Remsberg / Artscape

  • Aloha Festivals

    Aloha Festivals

    The Aloha Festivals bill themselves as a "cultural showcase of Hawaii" – a celebration of the music, dance, food and cultural traditions of the Hawaiian archipelago. The festivities started out as Aloha Week in Honolulu and has since expanded to include hundreds of events on six different islands. Event highlights include the Aloha Festival Parade, coronation of a royal court, hula performances, block parties, food and plenty of live, local music.
    Photo courtesy of Aloha Festivals

The top 10 winners in the category Best Cultural Festival are as follows:

  1. Water Lantern Festival - Multiple Locations
  2. Carnaval of Quebec - Quebec
  3. Kutztown Folk Festival - Kutztown, Penn.
  4. Fiesta San Antonio - San Antonio
  5. San Francisco Chinese New Year Parade - San Francisco
  6. Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta - Albuquerque
  7. Oregon Shakespeare Festival - Ashland, Ore.
  8. Frozen Dead Guy Days - Nederland, Colo.
  9. Artscape - Baltimore
  10. Aloha Festivals - Hawaii

A panel of experts partnered with 10Best editors to pick the initial nominees, and the top 10 winners were determined by popular vote.

Congratulations to all these winning events!

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