Spring is just around the corner and it's a time to get outside and enjoy the great outdoors. Here is a selection of festivals around the country that are a great excuse to travel and get back in the spring sunshine.
Dana Point Festival of the Whales Dana Point, California March 7 to 8 and 14 to 15, 2009
Each year, over two sunny weekends in March the town of Dana Point, just south of Laguna Beach, California celebrates the return of migratory California Gray whales to this part of the Pacific Ocean. Now in its 39th year, the coastal town comes alive with festivities which include whale-watching, an arts festival, parades, street fairs, kids' fishing clinics, educational hands-on activities for the entire family, a harbor concert series, sailing, a rubber duck race, historical walking tours and a free shuttle service to take visitors to different areas. The festival also coincides with Dana Points' Restaurant Week (www. danapointchamber.com), with local eateries offering three-course prix fixe meals from $20 per person including tax and tip. During this peak whale season, approximately 50 whales pass by Dana Point each day, using the Dana Point Headland's 200-foot cliffs near the harbor as a landmark to check their migration path. There are six tour companies and boat charters that can take you out on a whale-watching adventure with expected sightings of whales plus giant Sun Fish, dolphins, seals and ocean birds. Prices start at $29 per adult and $19 for children with a full list of providers given on the festival website at www.dpfestivalofwhales.com.
Chandler Ostrich Festival Chandler, Arizona March 13 to 15, 2009
Chandler is the center of Ostrich ranching in the U.S., and, although you may not be too keen to tuck into an ostrich burger and down an ostrich steak, you can still enjoy a weekend of festivities at the 21st annual Chandler Ostrich Festival. Trying to be all things to all people, the festival boasts a number of seemingly unrelated events and, of course, it famous ostrich races where jockeys ride these feathered beasts, that can race as past as 40 miles per hour around the ostrich track at Tubleweed Park. In addition to this signature event, there is also live music and dance from more than 20 different groups and performers; a dance party hoe down; a petting zoo; sea lion shows; live ostrich displays; a muscle car show; a demolition derby; pig races; firetruck displays; a circus; medieval jousting; comedians; jugglers; a stunt and thrill show; boxing; a five kilometer run, a carnival, plenty of food outlets; and an official Ostrich Festival parade through town. All day carnival and admission passes are $25 per person and general admission including concerts is $9 for adults, $8 for seniors, $7 for children aged five to 12 and kids four and under are free. For more information or to purchase discounted tickets online visit www.ostrichfestival.com.
Festival of Houses and Gardens Charleston, South Carolina March 19 to April 18, 2009
The Historic Charleston Foundation gives curious travelers and heritage buffs the opportunity to explore the interiors and gardens of some of the finest private residences in America during its 62nd Annual Festival of Houses and Gardens. Each three hour tour (afternoons from 2 to 5pm and evenings from 6 to 9pm) is led by a Foundation specialist guide and lets you to .visit eight to ten properties dating from the American colonial period, through the antebellum and Victorian years of architecture, to the early 20th century. Tours run throughout the month and cover various historic districts throughout the city. They also offer "enhancement" activities following the three hour tours including harbor cruises, wine tastings, meals and musical performances that can be purchased in addition to your tour ticket with prices ranging from $25 to $45. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.historiccharleston.org.
Tulip Time Festival Holland, Michigan May 1 to 9, 2009
You don't need to travel to the Netherlands this spring to see and smell some of the world's finest and most abundant tulips. The town of Holland is home to millions of colorful bulbs (the festival boasts six million of display in 2009) and a celebration of all things Dutch. The 80th annual Tulip Time Festival, one of the largest flower festivals in the country will be held this May and kicks off with fireworks on May 1, followed by a week of Dutch heritage and cultural events with three street parades; Dutch Dance performances; entertainment; a town crier competition; outdoor concerts; beer tastings; fun runs; variety shows; demonstrations by the British Army Household Cavalry and the US Army Blue Devils Horse Platoon; an antique car show; an arts and crafts fair; a Dutch market; trolley tours; and children's events like story telling, food events; a petting zoo and a carnival. Some events are free, whereas others charge an admission fee ranging from $6 for the children's area to $38 for theatre tickets. Tickets and more information are available at the festival website at www.tuliptime.com.
Paso Robles Wine Festiva Paso Robles, California May 15 to 17, 2009
Paso Robles, in California's Central Coast area, is home to more than 170 wineries and 26,000 vineyard acres growing more than 40 wine varieties from Cabernet Sauvignon to Zinfandel, Syrah to Viognier and Roussanne to Merlot. Always held on the third weekend in May, the Paso Robles Wine Festival, now in its 26th year, is the marquee tasting event along California's Central Coast and offers more than 100 area wineries hosting an array of special events like winemaker dinners, food pairings, seminars, winery tours, and special tastings for your chance to swirl, smell, sip and spit. There are also side activities like a charity golf tournament at Hunter Ranch Golf Course plus signature events like the Friday Reserve, a party featuring library, reserve, and barrel sample wines plus a wine country auction on the eve of Wine Festival; and the Saturday Grand Tasting event where more than 90 area wineries pour some of the finest wines Paso Robles has to offer in a quaint downtown park and visitors can enjoy local cuisine. There are demonstration kitchens with local chefs sharing their secrets, sample tastings at the outdoor grilling station, and an Artisan alley with locally grown products from olive oil to cheese. All Wine Festival tasting ticket packages include unlimited wine tasting and a commemorative glass. The Friday event is 4125 per person, a premium Saturday ticket is $75, regular festival entry is $55 and (responsibly) a designated driver entry ticket is $15. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.pasowine.com.