February is best known as the month of love and there are tons of fantastic destinations that offer unique experiences, festivals, and opportunities for romantic getaways or a solo vacation. Here are our can’t-miss events and places in February.
Quebec City, Quebec
From February 1 to 17, 2013, Quebec City hosts Winter Carnival, the world’s largest winter carnival. This year, don’t miss the Uniprix Ice Slide, the TELUS International Snow Sculpture Event, the sugar shack, giant snow slides, the Arctic Spa village, dogsled rides or KRAFT Snow Rafting. For more, go to: www.carnaval.qc.ca.
Sure, Christmas and New Year’s in Hong Kong are a big deal – but you haven’t seen anything – until you celebrate a Chinese New Year’s in Hong Kong. This year, Chinese New Year begins February 10, 2013. The next 15 days are spent celebrating and ushering in the Year of the Snake.
Join locals in the Tsim Sha Tsui district for the New Year Night Parade or for family-friendly fun, try Hong Kong Disneyland or Ocean Park Hong Kong. Be sure to visit the flower markets, 24-hour temples, catch the fireworks shows, eat some traditional Chinese New Year’s food, and get your fortune told for the coming year. Go to: www.discoverhongkong.com/canada for more.
Every third weekend in February, the otherwise tranquil town of Okayama City in Japan becomes a giant naked playground for the Hadaka Matsuri – the Naked Man Festival. Dating back as far as the 8th century, today the festival features nearly 10,000 almost-naked men in loincloths and sandals chasing a sacred wooden ofuda (a pair of sticks) thrown into the mob by a priest. The participant who secures the ofuda will be blessed with a year of happiness. Originally part of the lunar New Year celebrations in Japan, the event has become a popular tourist experience and since it takes place in the dead of winter, ensures that only the bravest competitors will survive.
At the beginning of every New Year, the remote hillside town of Pingxi in Taiwan celebrates with the Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival and the sky is lit with lanterns of all shapes and sizes. Before it was a coal-mining town, Pingxi was home to small farming communities in the mountains. In those times, robberies and killings would happen often on the road, especially at night. Today, lanterns are a symbol of peace and good fortune. People write their hopes and wishes on the lanterns, light them, and set them afloat in the air. This year’s festival begins on February 24, 2013.
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
The annual Winterlude festival takes place in Ottawa, Canada. From February 1 to 18, 2013, a range of free indoors and outdoors activities for all ages takes place in the nation’s capital like skating on the world’s largest ice rink, the 7.8km-long Rideau Canal Skateway or enjoying the world’s biggest snow playground, the Snowflake Kingdom. For more, go to: www.canadascapital.gc.ca/celebrate/winterlude .
Since February is also the season for love, it’s also the perfect time for some fun and romance in the desert. Marrakech’s La Mamounia hotel (www.mamounia.com) is one of the most luxurious, romantic, and exotic places in the world and perfect if you’re looking to make a real impression for a special someone. Rates are good at this time of year and the weather is perfect. The hotel offers packages with unique experiences like hot air balloon rides in the Atlas mountains, romantic picnics, an authentic hammam experience, a visit to Marjorelle Gardens, and more – not to mention getting the real VIP treatment during your stay.
Miami, Florida, USA
As February rolls around, so does Spring Break across many Canadian and U.S. colleges and universities – and with it, hoardes of students hitting the beaches for some much-needed R&R. February is the best time to visit Miami with the least amount of rainy days year-round to maximize the vitamin-D. Also, February 21 to 24th, 2013 also marks the South Beach Food & Wine Festival that will feature celebrity chefs like Curtis Stone, Ming Tsai, Scott Conant, Anne Burrell and more. Go to: www.visitflorida.com or www.sobefest.com for more.
Whistler, British Columbia, Canada
February means peak season in Whistler, BC, home to the 2010 Winter Olympic Games and one of the best ski resort destinations in the world: Whistler Blackcomb. Fear not: even though it’s peak season, it doesn’t mean you’ll have to fight long lift lines – with over 8,100 acres of skiable terrain, 200+ marked trains for all levels, 17 restaurants, 37 lifts, and an elevation of 7,494 feet (2,284 meters) – you can explore runs all by yourself without having to worry about crashing into someone else. Go to: www.whistlerblackcomb.com for more.
There’s no better place to celebrate Valentine’s Day with all the other lovey-dovey couples than in Paris, France, the City of Love itself. Stroll the Seine on the left bank while overlooking the stunning Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris, get lost in random cafes hidden away in cobblestone street pedestrian walkways, go shopping along the Champs Elysees or enjoy the high-end fare at the many fine dining restaurants around the city like L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon, L’Arpege or L’Astrance.
New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
This February 3, 2013, New Orleans will play host to thousands of football lovers and tailgate parties as it welcomes Super Bowl XLVII. Soon after on February 12, the city will host its epic Mardi Gras party, the one last day to party before getting ready for the Easter season. Drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, the parties, parades, beads and throws, and revelry, are what makes Mardi Gras in New Orleans one of the “best shows on earth.” Be sure to hail parade royalty Rex, watch the krewes and floats, try some king cake, and dress up in an outrageous costume of our own. For more, go to: www.neworleansonline.com.
Just 40 minutes from Turin in northern Italy, you can celebrate with the locals from the city of Ivrea while they engage in their Carnival celebration: the Ivrea Orange Battle, this year from February 9 to 10, 2013. In 1194, a woman named Violetta (the local Joan of Arc) began an insurrection that ended with the destruction of the castle (and ruling party) – taken down by the throwing of oranges mixed with a spiced wine. Visitors from around the world come for the battle and those who want to stay neutral can wear a traditional berretti frigid or a red hat. At the end of the battle, the city hires snow removers to help clear the streets. See www.italiantourism.com for more.
Just as New Orleans is synonymous with Mardi Gras, so Venice, Italy is where Europe’s most extravagant, glorious Carnival celebration takes place. The party starts two weeks prior to Shrove Tuesday (also Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras this year, February 12, 2013). Venice’s Carnival is especially known for its extravagant masquerades, magnificent ball gowns, and centuries-old ornate Venetian masks. From hundreds of years ago to today, masked revelers of all ages, classes, or status can come together for a good time – even if it’s just for a few days. If you can’t find a hotel room in Venice, then try Viareggio, Italy for the next-best Carnival in the country. See www.italiantourism.com for more.
If there was an award for the wildest party in Spain – and Spain has many wild parties – the Sitges Carnival would win every year. The normally quiet fishing village near Barcelona draws over 1/4 of a million revelers each year for its Carnival celebrations that begin the Thursday before Ash Wednesday (this year, February 13, 2013). Sure, the local dishes, parades (like the Rua de la Dixbauxa or the Debauchery Parade) and outrageously dazzling outfits are eye-catching but many – gay and straight – come for the drag shows and the LGBT scene. The celebrations end on Wednesday with annual “burial of the sardine” ritual. Go to www.spain.info for more.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
For Carnival celebrations wildly unique from those taking place in Venice or Spain, Rio de Janeiro is the place to be. The festival begins a week before Ash Wednesday (this year, February 13, 2012) and is all about the block parties, parades, large pageant groups, the floats, the glittering costumes, but most of all, the samba. The entire week celebrates the rhythms and rituals of Brazil’s sexy African-Brazilian culture as well as lots and lots of beer (80% of the country’s annual consumption of beer happens during Carnival). Just be sure to book early – hotel rates can get pricey. For more, go to: www.embratur.gov.br.