Typical vacations require you to be a tourist. Strolling around unfamiliar territory and finding yourself more lost than not, is expected when the activity of the day, every day, is “sightseeing.” While there’s nothing wrong with exploring a new place and gazing up at its unique tourism-driven wonders, there’s something to said about soaking up culture by completely throwing yourself into it. And that’s exactly what participating in festivals can do.
When you’re engaging with locals, trying out their celebratory customs and eating their one-of-kind delicacies, you gain a deeper understanding of what it’s really like to live there. The popular destinations of place are just one side of a very complex and colorful community that one can only experience if they decide to become a part of it.
The best part is, you don’t have to travel to some exotic, far-off location to participate in a unique festival. There are tons of strange and unusual events happening in the United States that are just a quick drive or plane ride away.
Make your next vacation your best vacation by planning to go to a festival! We’ve narrowed down the 20 weirdest and wackiest festivals in the USA for you to attend:
20 Underwater music festival - Florida (July)
If you’re into snorkeling or scuba diving, but wish it was little less quiet down in the big blue sea, then the 34th Lower Key Underwater Music Festival might be for you.
South of Big Pine Key, located in an area of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary sits Looe Key Reef and one of the most unique celebrations of coral reefs in the world. The reef surrounds the entire chain of islands and is visited by tourists and divers year-round. In order to encourage visitors to protect the reef while enjoying it, a local radio stations stages an array of sea-theme songs every July, according to Florida Keys News.
Songs such as “Yellow Submarine” and “The Little Mermaid” are broadcasted underwater through speakers suspended by boats floating above the reef. Divers dress up like mermaids and rock stars while pretending to play a live concert underwater.
Grab your friends, your mermaid tail, and your diving license, and the spend the day jamming out to your favorite under-the-sea tunes while taking in the beautiful sights of one of Florida’s most beloved reefs.
The upcoming festival this year will take place in July.
19 Duct tape festival - Ohio (June)
If you thought duct tape was just for fixing car windows or covering up holes in blow-up beds, you thought wrong. The Annual Avon Heritage Duck Tape Festival brings over 60,000 of people to Avon, Ohio every year to ride the dozens of rides, watch the big parade, make some duck tape crafts and make an outfit worthy of winning the popular fashion show.
The duct tape brand, Duck Brand, is headquartered in Ohio, making it a fitting location for the three-day festival that happens every June. According to the Ohio Traveler, The weekend includes the Duck Tape Parade, where locals show off their crafting skills by making duct tape floats. Everything from giant elephants and firetrucks to wedding gowns and cheeseburgers make their way down the main street.
Later that day is the fashion show, where unique outfits of all kinds are created for the audience to ogle. If the craftsmanship and creativity aren't enough to get you to Ohio, then maybe the rest of the weekend’s festivities will. There are rides to hop on and off of the whole weekend, a giant outdoor movie theatre, a family circus, a vintage car show and concerts every single night.
This year’s festival starts June 14, so book your Ohio ticket ASAP.
18 UFO festival - New Mexico (June)
The 2018 UFO Festival is like nothing of this world. Held every June in Roswell, New Mexico —A.K.A. the UFO capital of the world — the festival features so many alien-themed activities, you’ll think you’ve left planet Earth.
In addition to an alien costume contest that encourages you, and even your pet, to dress up like an extraterrestrial, the event includes a collection of vintage robot and alien toys, tours of the planetarium, a long list of alien research speakers, a night-time space-themed parade and even a 5K run called the “Alien Chase.” Don’t worry though, the aliens don’t really chase you.
But perhaps to the coolest part about the festival — and the thing that draws people to Roswell in the first place — is a tour of the UFO crash site.
According to the Artesia Daily Press, it's one of the main attractions of the festival.
About 71 years ago, a ranch owner heard a crash outside his house and walked out to find a mess of scrap metal and other oddities. He called the sheriff, who called the Roswell Army Air Force. The mess was hauled off and said to be the crash of a weather balloon, but some people believe it was a UFO.
This year get closer to space and aliens that inhabit it by visiting the festival starting on June 29.
17 The chicken show - Nebrasksa (July) - Featuring the world's largest chicken dance!
First held in 1981 in Wayne, Nebraska, the annual Wayne Chicken Show was founded as a way to get the community together and celebrate the humor and wonder of the chickens that surrounded their rural community. What started out as a funny little town happening quickly grew to a worldwide oddity with thousands of attendees every year.
You can "ooh" and "ahh" at the chicken-themed parade, find a nice chicken collectible or souvenir at the Outdoor Clucktique Market and Sidewalk Sale, test your tastebud skills at the Saucy Hot Wing Eating Contest, rent a chicken for the Chicken Crowing or Flying Contest or get your dance on by participating in the World's Largest Chicken Dance, according to the event's website.
Wayne is seemingly all about the chicken puns, and every year they come up with a new phone for the festival's theme. Everything from "22 Hen Salute" to "Under Coop-struction" to "Y2Kluck" have been used. The theme for this year's event — which begins on July 13 — is still to be determined. Which is just one more reason to go.
16 San fermin - New Orleans (July) - Because why not?!
Rather than fly out to Pamplona, Spain to be chased by bulls, why not head on down to good ole New Orleans and get chased by the Big Easy Rollergirls?
According to the San Fermin in Nueva Orleans website, the idea for the festival was born when a man named Mickey Hanning drunkenly declared during Mardi Gras that he was going to run with the bulls in Spain. He did attend a year and a half later, and brought back a much less terrifying version of the tradition to NOLA.
Held this year on July 14, more than 18,000 runners and 400 RollerBulls will zoom down the streets of New Orleans. After you're done — and probably out of breath — you can hang out at the after-party where there will be live entertainment, food, drinks and a chance to hang with the RollerBulls.
But perhaps the best thing about the festival is its reason for existing, which is simply "why not?"
15 Mooning of The Amtrak - California (July)
Every year on the second Saturday in July, thousands of people flock to Mugs Away Saloon in Laguna Niguel, California to show their behinds to the passing Amtrak cars.
Lovingly referred to as "The Mooning of the Amtrak," literally no one has any idea how this event started. According to the event's website, many believe that back in 1979 a guy named K.T. Smith told his friends that he'd buy the next drink for everyone who ran outside and mooned the next train. Each year the event has grown more and more in popularity, especially when Amtrak started scheduling more weekend rides.
In addition to the freeing feeling you get from mooning unsuspecting train riders, the festival is similar to Mardi Gras, including activities like street vendors, wet t-shirt contests, and beads. Probably not the best destination for your next family vacay.
14 Great Texas mosquito festival (July) - This one really bugs us
Mosquitos are typically something we run from, not celebrate, but in Clute, Texas there's an entire three-day festival held at the end of every July to honor those that leave us the itchiest of bug bites.
Originally started to promote the fine city of Clute, the unique festival has grown to draw over 13,000 people every year, according to its website. While the history of the longtime festival isn't clear — they claim it was the brainchild of a mosquito ironically named Willie Man-Chew — every year it includes a carnival, haystack dives, and a contest called Mosquito Legs, where you literally show off your legs and are judged by their "mosquito-ness."
And if you're not in the mood to strut your thighs around on stage, you can enter the Mosquito Calling contest, where the winner is the person who can attract the biggest bug. Sounds like fun, right?!
13 Yale Bologna - Michigan (July) - For the meat eaters
If you love bologna — and you wanna "yale" about it — then the annual Yale Bologna Festival is the festival for you.
Held every July in Yale, Michigan, thousands of people gather for three days to celebrate their favorite kind of lunchmeat. With the coveted title of the King and Queen of Bologna up for grabs, this event has drawn up to 20,000 people since it first began 30 years ago. The festival is meant to celebrate the town and the origin of local citizen T. J. Minnie selling his first bologna there in 1906.
Other activities include the outhouse race, where people race their homemade outhouses, a street dance, fireworks and a huge parade where the King and Queen of Bologna wave and greet their admirers, according to the Yale Chamber's website. There is also a crown for "Baby Bologna" if you're looking for something to embarrass your child with later in life.
12 Cow chip throw - Wisconsin (August) - No, you can't wear gloves
Sadly, this is not cow-themed chips or any other kind of cow reference you were hoping it to be. It's dried cow dung, and in Wisconsin, there's a whole festival dedicated to it.
Apparently in 1970, tossing cow chips became a sport of some kind and in 1975, the Sauk Prairie Jaycees recognized their area as the Cow Chip Capital, and the slightly stinky tradition turned into a massive festival held every August, according to the festival's website.
While there are arts and crafts, games for kids, music, a beer garden and a 5K included, the main event is the Cow Chip Throw. The current record in the state is 248 feet, and no, you can't wear gloves.
11 Broomcorn festival - Illinois (September) - Grab your broomstick!
If you don't know what broomcorn is, then you're seriously missing out. Or you've just never lived in/been to Illinois.
Every September for the past 48 years, the town of Arcola hosts a festival dedicated to the kind of millet (a.k.a. corn) used for making brooms. According to their website, thousands of people gather to show off their broom skills in the National Broom Sweeping Contest, watch the broom-themed parade and see the infamous Lawn Rangers.
A "precision lawn mower drill team," the Lawn Rangers march in formation with brooms and lawn mowers during the big parade. They've been doing so since 1980, and seeing them live, in action should really be on your bucket list.
10 Mothman festival - West Virginia (September)
This festival takes home the title of being the creepiest, especially when you learn about its history.
According to the website, the first sighting on the red-eyed winged creature known as "Mothman" was in 1966 in Point Pleasant, West Virginia. While it's just an urban legend, visiting the festival and the town itself might have you turning into a believer. There are paranormal guest speakers, a tour of the area where the sighting took place, selfies with the infamous Mothman statue, costumes and of course, Mothman face painting for the kiddos.
The three-day event takes place every September and you're pretty much guaranteed to leave feeling very creeped out.
9 Celebrating a frozen man who's passed... - Colorado (march) - This one's a little strange
Surprisingly less creepy than the Mothman festival (but still kinda morbid) is the annual celebration of a frozen corpse.
In 1989 a guy from Norway brought the body of his recently departed grandfather to the U.S., where it eventually made its way to the town of Nederland, Colorado to be cryogenically frozen. Needless to say, the body eventually decomposed and out came a celebration called Frozen Dead Guys Days, according to the event's website.
Held every March (sorry you'll have to wait next year for this one), the event includes a Royal Blue Ball, — where you can be crowned the Cold-As-Ice Queen or Grandpa Bredo (the frozen guy's name) — a coffin race, a polar plunge, Snowy Human Foosball and participate in a Brain Freeze contest.
8 Mike the headless chicken - Colorado (June)
Over in Fruita, Colorado, there is an entire festival dedicated to the all inspiring story of a chicken who refused to give up.
According to Roadside America, in 1945, a Wyandotte rooster named Mike had his head cut off by a farmer, and thanks to the little amount of brain that remained, he lived for another 18 months. The farmer managed to keep him alive by feeding it, but it's a little weird and cringeworthy, so you can discover it for yourself if you're so inclined.
Now an annual festival is held every June to celebrate Mike's unlikely survival with a poultry show, games, a wings eating contest and an intense disc golf tournament.
Mike would be proud.
7 Twins festival - Ohio (August)
Conveniently located in Twinsburg, Ohio, the annual Twins Days Festival started 43 years ago for twins all around the world to gather together and celebrate their unique togetherness, according to their website.
Every June, thousands of sets of twins come dressed up based on the theme of the festival — this year's being "Two-Player Mode" — and participate in activities such as a Weiner Roast, "Twingo," corn hole, volleyball, a talent contest and the "Double Take" parade. But the most coveted part of the festival is the Twins Contest, where twins can enter in divisions based on themes, age, most alike and least alike.
Whether you've got a twin or not, there's definitely no better place to celebrate twins than Twinsburg.
6 A Cook-off of the strangest requirements - West Virginia (September)
Honestly, America is kind of a weird place.
Every September, the folks of Pocahontas County, West Virginia spend a weekend making gourmet meals created from animals commonly found on the side of the road. According to the website, acceptable entries include groundhog, opossum, deer, rabbit, bear, crow, squirrel, snake and turkey.
Over 20,000 people come to sample the roadkill meals and winners of the contest can take home unto $1,200. Which isn't too bad considering you probably didn't have to buy the meat.
The cookout is a strange part of a much more normal Autumn Harvest Festival that includes all the normal arts, crafts, food and live entertainment you're used to.
5 World of Faeries Festival - Illinois (August)
Your favorite childhood mystical creatures are celebrated every August during The World of Faeries Festival in South Elgin, Illinois.
For three whole days, you can transport yourself into a world of magic and wonder — and totally forget that you're just in Illinois. The festival includes quests for families to complete together for prizes, harp playing, storytelling, a village market and fairy-themed food, according to the festival's website.
It's a chance for fairies of all ages to dust off their wings (which, let's be honest, you were saving for Halloween anyway) and enjoy all the enchantment that the festival has to offer.
4 National hollerin’ festival - North Carolina (September)
Every September, people rush to Clinton, North Carolina to scream. This isn't a joke
Formerly known as the National Hollerin' Contest, the competition was first held in 1969 to celebrate a "sophisticated" vocal tradition used between individuals dealing with long-distance communication. Obviously, this method of talking came before the telephone.
Now known as the Hollerin' Heritage Festival, the event still features the contest, as well as food, drinks, games and other entertainment, according to WRAL.
3 Bugfest - North Carolina (September) - Let's hope you're hungry
If you've been wondering where you're going to get your next bug meal, never fear. We've got the festival for you.
Located at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh, Bugfest is an annual festival that draws in crowds of 35,000 people to experience all the bug-themed goodness one can hope for. Along with exhibits, crafts, games, and talks from bug scientists, the event includes Cafe Insecta.
According to the website, the cafe offers bug dishes — yes with real bugs — prepared by local chefs for you to try. Hopefully they make them in a way where you don't taste much, uh, bug.
2 The dance mile - Maine (July) - Get that boogie on... And on... And on!
Up in Portland, Maine, people like to get together one a year and dance. For an entire mile.
Every July, thousands of participants get their boogie shoes on and follow a mobile DJ for 5,280 feet. While there's no alcohol provided during the event — it's meant to be more of a fitness kinda deal — there is plenty of encouragement to dress up.
Everything from tutus to rainbow wigs to full on onesies are allowed and celebrated during this joyous occasion, according to the site Heck, you can even roller-skate if you want to.
You'll dance, you'll laugh, and you'll probably get tons of cute Instagrams. Sounds like a win.
Plus, once the dancing is over, you can watch some of the local dance acts or finally grab that drink you earned at the post-event dance party.
1 GeckoFest - Florida (September)
What is probably one of the most colorful events in the U.S., GeckoFest brings thousands of visitors to Gulfport, Florida every September to celebrate the town's "unofficial mascot and favorite reptile."
According to the festival's website, the theme for this year's event is GeckoCon, which means all the people who come dressed like geckos will now come dressed like geckos in superhero costumes.
While the street performers, colorful costumes and annual Gecko Ball are obvious attractions, perhaps the coolest thing about this festival is its popular, high-energy street dances.
Attending this event will leave your smiling and with a weird new appreciation for geckos.