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Shake off the Chill with a Spring Festival

After months of snow, ice, gray skies and freezing temperatures, the dawn of spring is always cause for a celebration. And when the time comes, communities across the United States will be ready to party.

Though it’s still winter, organizers throughout the country are busy making preparations for spring festivals that will be here before you know it. These events are often named for the colorful flowers whose blooms mark the arrival of spring, but the festivities are about much more than botany. Travelers who attend spring festivals will find food, music, art, crafts, cultural events and a host of other diversions to help them make the most of the new season.

If your group will be ready to travel after a long winter at home, some of these spring festivals make excellent destinations. And even though you might not have time to put together a trip to attend these events in 2016, it’s not too soon to begin planning travel for next spring.

Tulip Time

Holland, Michigan

What started as one local lady’s plan to beautify her hometown of Holland, Michigan, has grown to become Tulip Time, one of the country’s largest and most famous spring festivals.

“This will be our 87th year,” said Hannah Rogers, group tour salesperson for Tulip Time Festival. “It’s a huge celebration of Dutch heritage, and it also celebrates the millions of tulips that we have around town. About half a million people from all 50 states and numerous foreign countries descend upon Holland during the spring.”

The festival always takes place the first full week in May; it will take place this year May 7-14. As opposed to many festivals that are confined to one particular venue, Tulip Time incorporates the entire town of Holland. While the downtown area is the epicenter of the action, there are more than six miles of “tulip lanes” planted along roads leading out of the city, and numerous attractions around Holland have fields of tulips and Dutch-themed entertainment.

Among the most popular elements of the festival are the parades, which happen three times throughout the week.

“Groups typically arrive on Wednesday for one of our larger parades, where they have reserved grandstand seating,” Rogers said. “They usually get a step-on guided tour with a person in Dutch costume. Then we incorporate evening-meal shows, which groups really love.”

There are three to five shows taking place around town each evening of the festival, among them comedy concerts, Broadway-style musicals and choral performances. Headlining the entertainment this year will be nationally known comedian Bill Engvall.

But perhaps the best-loved entertainment in the city comes from the local Dutch heritage.

“There are over 50 Dutch dance performances during the week,” Rogers said. “We have more than 1,000 dancers, all in authentic costumes. It’s very fun and colorful, and it’s one of the favorite things to catch while you’re here.”

Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival


The Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia wasn’t established for the purpose of running a festival. At its inception in 1994, it was one of more than 30 Japan America societies set up in various cities to promote cultural exchange between the two nations. But when the society’s tree-planting project began to attract attention in Philadelphia, members decided to capitalize on that interest by launching the Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival in 1998.

“It began as a tree-planting project, where we pledged to plant 1,000 cherry trees in Fairmount Park over 10 years,” said the group’s assistant director Aaron Dilliplane. “There was a lot of interest in the trees and a desire to celebrate Japanese culture, so we’ve been expanding the festival into a large celebration. In the last couple of years, it has included a week of events with demonstrations of martial arts, traditional culture, origami and calligraphy.”

The weeklong festival happens in mid-April and will run April 11-17 this year. Events take place in venues throughout Greater Philadelphia. The highlight of the week is Sakura Saturday, a celebration in Fairmount Park that includes an outdoor stage with a variety of performers.

“We get a taiko drumming group from Japan every year, and we usually get a J-pop group to come from Japan as well,” Dilliplane said. “We have an area dedicated to contemporary pop culture items such as cosplay and anime, with a fashion show and karaoke, and Japanese goods and food vendors.”

In addition to taking in some of the cultural performances, groups that attend the festival can tour the park’s Shofuso Japanese House and Gardens or watch the sushi-making contest.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.