The food. The entertainment. The sights. Everyone loves a good festival! But there are some festivals across the US that are simply ideal for the whole family. We've put together our list of the 10 best family-friendly festivals in the US. Try to include one in your family's future vacation plans – you won't be sorry!
If you've ever told your child to go fly a kite… and they took you up on it, the Mayor Daley's Kids and Kites Festival in May at Montrose Harbor in Lincoln Park is the festival for you! You don't even have to bring your own kite or know how to fly one -- the Mayor's Office of Special Events provides free kits for children to design and create their own kite, until they run out, of course. Kite-flying professionals are on-hand to demonstrate their expert kite-flying skills as well as to help visitors harness your own kite flying abilities.
New York City Parks Department's annual outdoor arts and culture festival is a mix of music concerts, dance performances, movies under the stars, DJ dance parties, kids shows, special events, and wellness activities. This outdoor festival in Riverside Park along the Hudson River is free to the public – including all programs and family friendly events such as sports and recreation for the family (kayaking, yoga, soccer and basketball, Pilates). Don't miss all-day events like the west side county fair, sing-a-longs, and dance and kayak instruction. It's a perfect festival for the whole family!
For three fun-filled days every March, Tumbleweed Park in Chandler, Arizona, transforms into an Ostrich Mecca! Two stages spotlight a diverse sampling of great music, while a huge midway provides excitement to thousands of festival fans. If you've never seen an ostrich race complete with human jockeys, you can't miss this feathered festival. Like any world-class festival, food is available from the traditional fair favorites to Ostrich burgers. Complete with kids zone and petting zoo, this festival is one for every member of the family!
The annual Pirate Festival is held in Vallejo on Father's Day weekend, featuring everything a wannabe swashbuckler could wish for. The Vallejo waterfront becomes a full-fledge pirate town that has entertainment for the whole family including musicians, swordfighters and more. Dress in full pirate attire if you wish – you won't be alone! – but it's not required to enjoy the cannon battles, sailing, nautical music, maritime crafts, and pirate booty for purchase. If your family loves pirates, this annual festival for you.
Think you can build a killer sandcastle? Wait until you see what hits Carmel Beach during the Annual Great Sand Castle Contest, held one day every in around September or October. The Great Sand Castle Contest draws people of all ages to the beach to try their hand at winning the exclusive Golden Shovel award. Other awards, such as the Sour Grapes award, are bestowed upon contestants across many categories. The contest always has on a theme, and contestants use the sand and their creativity to wow judges, who often encourage non-monetary bribery as part of the fun. If you love to build sand castles or just like to watch, this annual event is a good time for all – not to mention that Carmel is one of the most beautiful and quaint beach towns in the world!
Downtown San Antonio is the place to be on New Year's Eve during the Celebrate San Antonio festival. Check out live music and entertainment on six outdoor stages, more than 50 food and beverage booths, carnival games and much more. The event hosts a special children's area in La Villita where your little ones can party like its 1999, kid style, of course. Don't miss the amazing fireworks extravaganza at midnight. The San Antonio Parks Foundation, along with the Parks and Recreation Department, produces this annual New Year's Eve event that attracts approximately 250,000 people each year.
This three-day festival held each year in April is the largest agricultural festival in Texas. Taking place in Poteet, 25 minutes outside San Antonio on a 100-acre site off Highway 16, the festival features a strawberry judging contest, other agricultural events, a Country Western and Tejano music, an arts and crafts show, festival rodeo, carnival, animal shows, food contests, commercial exhibits, magicians, helicopter rides, nightly dances, fireworks and much more.
Celebrating the area's biggest crop, the Florida Strawberry Festival usually includes all things strawberry from vendors offering berry-themed crafts to flats of the red fruit. Held every year in March, the Florida Strawberry Festival boasts more than 60 thrilling rides, daily live entertainment, petting zoos, and more. Don't miss the agricultural shows such as the swine show, steer show, beef breed show, dairy show, lamb show, poultry and rabbit show. You can also participate in or watch the pageants from Strawberry Festival Queen in the feature parade. Younger children can check out a youth parade and baby parade. 303 North Lemon St. Plant City, FL 33563-4706. April 1-3, 2011, Hours: TBD
This is one of the best festivals around for the whole family because it was created just for kids! At the KidsFest San Diego families with kids of all ages can explore, create and play together. Children can play in the Mess Zone "for kids who like to get dirty," the crafts creation station, the green thumb zone, the build it construction zone, the dance party, the costume dress up bar and many other areas that will excite their imaginations and entertain them. You can even bring in your own picnic lunch, or there are concessions available for lunch at the festival. Don't miss the local performers that will entertain crowds of all ages. 2960 Historic Decatur Road, San Diego, CA92106. Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m., annually one weekend in May; Admission: $15; children 1 and under: free.
For five days each May, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is taken over by the Pittsburgh International Children's Festival. Citiparks and the Pittsburgh International Children's Theater co-present this festival of professional performing arts for children. Talented performance groups from the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Canada, Scotland, Kenya and the United States have performed at this festival. Ticketed events include performances in theater, puppetry, music, dance, comedy, multimedia, acrobatics and more for young audiences and are held at the Studio Theatre in the Cathedral of Learning, the Charity Randall Theatre and the Bellefield Hall Auditorium. The festival itself is located on the lawns of the University of Pittsburgh campus and Schenley Plaza, where visitors can enjoy free hands-on educational and cultural activities, an outdoor stage, roving artists and more. Schenley Plaza, Pittsburgh, PA 15260. Hours: Performances held for five days during mid-May. Admission: Some free events; ticketed event prices range from $7 - $18; children under 2 free; discount ticket packages available.