It is time to join in the festivities! Cultural festivities, that is — with your kids in tow. Attending a local festival is a great way to immerse yourself in the culture of the destination you’re visiting, but sometimes cultural festivals might be too overwhelming — or just a little bit boring — for your kids. We’ve rounded up four festivals from around the world that are especially suited for the under-12 set. Plan a vacation around one of these festivals to ensure your children learn lots about the local culture, and have a ton of fun while doing so.
Mardi Gras Festival in New Orleans
While New Orleans’ world-famous Mardi Gras festival is more known for ribald, alcohol-fueled festivities, the merry atmosphere could be a great experience for kids and adults alike, if it’s planned right. Kids will get a kick out of the Mardi Gras parade that snakes through the city, where costumed revelers on floats toss out choice toys, stuffed animals, and an absolutely massive amount of beads. Mardi Gras New Orleans recommends that families set up camp along St. Charles Avenue and Napoleon Avenue to watch the parade. This location is near where the parade begins, which means the kids will not be out too late waiting for the last parade float to roll by. Celebrating Mardi Gras with prime seats for the parade is the perfect way to safely immerse your children in the incredibly unique French and Creole culture of New Orleans.
Christmas Markets in Vienna
A Christmas-themed festival that’s full of goodies and sweets? Kids and adults alike go ga-ga for the Christmas Markets in beautiful Vienna, where market vendors pedal traditional Austrian wares and warm cuisine like potato cakes and mulled wine among the freshly fallen snow. Since snacks are available at every turn, this is a great European vacation to embark on with the kids — you won’t have to hear them complain about grumbly bellies for hours on end. Plus, the markets in Vienna have been going on since the Middle Ages, so by noshing on sour-cream-covered potatoes and gingerbread cookies your kids will be engaging in an important historical event. Make sure your family stops by the market stalls at Vienna’s city hall; there’s a special section just for children where they can decorate cookies or make candles.
Blossom Kite Festival in Washington, DC
Each spring kite makers, enthusiasts, and competitors converge on the National Mall to awe spectators with their colorful, high-flying creations — and what kid wouldn’t want to take part in that? The kite festival features trick competitions where kites whoosh and slice through the air in spectacular fashion, but there’s hands-on fun too. Special stations are set up on the Mall for kids to make their own kites, while supplies last. The Kite Festival is actually part of DC’s larger, world-renowned Cherry Blossom Festival, so when you and the kids tire of the kites you can go check out rows of frothy pink blossoms that beckon visitors to the nation’s capital from all around the world. Not to mention, many of the museums that line the National Mall offer free admission, so families can spend the day popping in and out of museum exhibits while “ohh-ing and ahh-ing” over the kites outside. The kite festival also highlights incredible kite designs from countries all over the world, so it’s a great way to immerse your kids in international culture, too.
Songkran Festival in Thailand
Water balloons, water guns, and lots of puddles — that’s how the Thai New Year is celebrated during the Songkran Festival. And kids and tourists are encouraged to join in the fun! Cities and villages all across Thailand celebrate the New Year in April over the course of three days, and one of the main celebrations centers around a giant community water fight. Residents and tourists toss water balloons and squirt water guns at each other to symbolize the cleansing and rejuvenating of the body. Participation in the big water fight is sure to pique your kids’ curiosity about a culture they may never have encountered before. Other activities throughout the New Year celebration include beauty pageants and food festivities, so you and your family are sure to stay busy taking in all that Thailand has to offer during this special time.
Cultural immersion doesn’t have to mean touring silent, stoddy old museums — taking in a kid-friendly festival helps bring different cultures to vivid life for children.
Have you attended a festival that truly captured your kids’ hearts and minds? Share it with us in the comments below!