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Festivals

In addition to the public holidays listed – on July 4, Independence Day, the entire country takes time out to picnic, drink, salute the flag, and watch or participate in fireworks displays, marches, beauty pageants, eating contests and more, to commemorate the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 – there is a diverse multitude of engaging local events in the US: arts-and-crafts shows, county fairs, ethnic celebrations, music festivals, rodeos, sandcastle-building competitions, chili cookoffs and countless others.

Certain festivities, such as Mardi Gras in New Orleans, are well worth planning your vacation around – obviously other people will have the same idea, so visiting during these times requires an extra amount of advance effort. Halloween (Oct 31) is also immensely popular. No longer just the domain of masked kids running around the streets banging on doors and demanding “trick or treat”, in some bigger cities Halloween has evolved into a massive celebration. In LA’s West Hollywood, New York’s Greenwich Village, New Orleans’s French Quarter and San Francisco’s Castro district, for example, the night is marked by colourful parades, mass cross-dressing, huge block parties and wee-hours partying. Thanksgiving Day, on the fourth Thursday in November, is more sedate. Relatives return to the nest to share a meal (traditionally, roast turkey and stuffing, cranberry sauce, and all manner of delicious pies) and give thanks for family and friends. Ostensibly, the holiday recalls the first harvest of the Pilgrims in Massachusetts, though Thanksgiving was a national holiday before anyone thought to make that connection.

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