Valentine was a saint — you’re not — so make your February count for something more than flowers and chocolates. From ice art in Japan and floating lanterns in Taiwan to Carnival celebrations in Brazil and a rainforest dance party in Costa Rica, these are the best events taking place around the globe in February.
Sapporo Snow Festival
February 4 to 11
Five years after the end of WWII, the Sapporo Snow Festival made its debut in the Hokkaido Prefecture capital and steadily grew into Japan’s largest winter festival with millions of visitors each year. The 71th iteration starts on January 31, but the main draw — artists crafting gorgeous ice and snow sculptures — kicks off a few days later on February 4.
February 8 to 25
Carnival festivals as we know them today likely started in medieval Italy before spreading to neighboring countries and eventually to the New World, and Carnival of Venice was arguably the most famous until Napoleon prohibited it 1797. Nearly two centuries later, Il Carnevale made its return in 1979 with new traditions steeped in fashion, color and elegance. Venice’s winter carnival transforms the city with parades, masked balls, costumes and fantastical makeover of the iconic city. Photo: Giorgio Minguzzi/Flickr.
Sky Lantern Festival
The Chinese New Year marks the start of the two-week Spring Festival, which concludes with lantern festivals throughout several Asian countries. One of the most spectacular places to enjoy the festival is in the Taiwanese village of Pingxi. Due to natural protections found in the surrounding terrain, Pingxi is the only place on the island where the lanterns are actually permitted to take flight. The festival dates back more than a century, and thousands of people visit the village each year. If you plan to take part, write your wishes on the lantern with a Chinese calligraphy pen before launching the glowing orb into the air. Photo: John Shedrick/Wikimedia.
Marlborough Wine and Food Festival
Marlborough, New Zealand
Peruvian chefRicardo Zarate once told us that Marlborough might be his favorite region for sauvignon blanc, and this annual festival gives travelers the chance to sample and celebrate the region’s finest wines. The event features more than 40 local vineyards, including Nautilus, Awatere River and Rapaura Springs, while the culinary options include Wild Az serving gourmet burgers like double-cooked pork belly and Asian-influenced venison and bacon. Kiwi roots band KATCHAFIRE will be on hand to perform faves like “Collie Herbs Man.” Photo credit: Heikki Holstila/Flickr.
Around the world
Ronald Reagan’s diary for Valentine’s Day 1981: “Ran a movie… it was a comedy (Jane Fonda, Dolly Parton & Lilli Tomlin) Nine To Five. Funny—but one scene made me mad. A truly funny scene if the 3 gals had played getting drunk but no they had to get stoned on pot.” Yes, he spelled Lili wrong, and yes, he was offended that the ladies got high instead of drunk and said nothing about the characters’ sexist, lying, abusive boss. Still, Ronnie shows that there’s no shame in staying home on Valentine’s, and you can even pay tribute by watching 9 to 5 while smokin’ one for the Gipper. For everyone else, Valentine’s falls on a Friday night this year, so whether you’re single or paired, make the most of it.
Medusa’s Profane Midnight Rous
Los Angeles, California
February 14 and 15
PRØHBTD loves Disco Dining Club, and its latest dinner doubles as a Valentine feast and five-year anniversary party. This year’s theme, Medusa’s Profane Midnight Rous, is “a deviant feast for the delectably damned” that calls on guests to “wear something provocative.” Limited to 50 guests each night, the Medusa-themed party includes a five-course meal by artist-chef Draden Medina, cocktail pairings byHappy Hour Agency, kink by dungeon master Justine Cross and sexy dancers from the trans-inclusive strip nightJolene. The event, described as unapologetically sexual, will take place at an undisclosed private residence downtown. Photo:jccalvo/Flickr.
Bau Nyale Festival
February 14 and 15
Per the local legend, Princess Mandalika attracted suitors from far and wide who battled for the right to take her hand in marriage, and she responded to the conflicts by throwing herself into the sea. The villagers who followed her into the water encountered thousands of sea worms, which some believed were the princess reincarnated. The tale inspired the Bau Nyale Festival where the Sasak people take to the Lombok beaches to celebrate women as princesses, stage mock battles for their hands in marriage and catch sea worms. Prompted in part by February’s full moon, the worms make their way to surface as part of a mating ritual, and eating the worms supposedly brings beauty, wealth and sexual vitality. Yeah, there’s a lot of weird shit going on there, but it’s an excuse to party on the beach and watch people wolf down worms that might make them better lovers.
Fête du Citron
February 15 to March 3
Blessed with a special microclimate, Menton produces what many call the best lemons in France, and the French Riviera town celebrates its golden fruit with the annual Lemon Festival, now in its 87th year. Using about 140 tons of lemons and oranges, local artisans create large floats depicting dragons, trains, deities and even famous people that fit into the year’s theme. For 2020, the Les Fêtes du Monde (Parties Around the World) theme promises the arrival of otherworldly creatures in bright yellow and orange colors. In addition to the festival, Menton is home to the current No. 1 restaurant in the world, Mirazur, which is famous for its homegrown lemons. Photo courtesy of Fêtes du Citron.
Uvita, Costa Rica
February 17 to March 24
Music, art and spirituality come together in Costa Rica where the rainforest meets the Pacific Ocean near Marino Ballena National Park. With an emphasis on personal empowerment and connection, Envision features four days of DJ sets, yoga sessions, spiritual exercises and education, and the festival grounds include a Village Witches Healing Sanctuary, Herbal Elixir Bar and Free Herbal Clinic. Don’t expect the bar or clinic to stock every kind of herb, but getting high is reportedly part of the program for many attendees. Now in its 10th year, Envision features such music artists as Rüfüs Du Sol, Tipper, the Funk Hunters, Jan Blomqvist, Gone Gone Beyond and others.
February 18 to 26
The party that Brazil and Portugal call Carnaval is spelled Carnival in the Spanish-speaking world, and Spain is one of the best places to celebrate. For a warmer celebration in Spain, Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife takes place on the Canary Islands, which are located off the coast of southern Morocco, while notable mainland celebrations take place in Cádiz, Madrid and Barcelona. Still, beach-front Sitges stands out as arguably the best Carnival celebration in the world with an LGBTQ focus. Located about 45 minutes south of Barcelona, Sitges is a Hamptons-like Catalan town that celebrates Carnival in style with parades, parties and couture costumes.
Montréal en Lumière
February 20 to March 1
The beloved French-Canadian city hosts this major winter festival that attracts about a million people with concerts, theater, comedy, art installations and gastronomy. The event turns 21 this year with an Illuminart exhibit, a 360-foot Milk Urban Slide, a 600-foot zipline, a Québec Maple Ferris wheel and fine-dining events with chefs from Copenhagen, Dubai, New York City, Paris, Carcassonne, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Haiti, Chile, San Francisco and of course Canada. Photo credit: art_inthecity/Flickr.
South Beach Wine & Food Festival
February 19 to 23
It’s Food Network overload with channel-approved personalities like Giada de Laurentiis (Giada at Home) paired with some of the world’s top chefs. This year’s participating chefs include José Andrés (The Bazaar), Juan Borjas (KUSH hospitality), Chad Cherry (Chef Kulture), Iron Chef winner Cat Cora, Evan Funke (Felix), Daniel Boulud (Daniel), Bruce Kalman (Knead & Co. Pasta Bar), Francis Mallmann (1884), Marcus Samuelsson (Red Rooster), Michael Voltaggio (Estuary) and Mauro Colagreco of the aforementioned Mirazur.
Rio de Janeiro & Salvador, Brazil
February 21 to 26
This debaucherous celebration takes place around the world, but the biggest bashes occur in Rio de Janeiro and Salvador, Brazil. What is the difference between the two? In Rio, the parade happens in a stadium, and the partying mostly takes place on the beaches and in the Lapa district. Up north in Salvador, the parade literally travels through the streets, where getting groped like a Weinstein intern is pretty much a given. For those able to blow a few bucks in Salvador, shell out for a bloco shirt, which allows you to join the parade procession alongside a traveling party truck, or watch the party from an all-inclusive camarote club overlooking the parade route. Our recommendation is to stay near Ipanema Beach in Rio or Barra for Salvador, though those more interested in culture than caipirinhas should head further north to the celebration in Olinda.
Trinidad and Tobago Carnival
Port of Spain, Trinidad
February 24 and 25
Most people think Brazil when it comes to Carnaval, but the world’s best might take place in the Caribbean. Carnival in Port of Spain is a colorful, music-driven party that demands participation, and Carnival historian Barbara Ehrenreich says it “makes Mardi Gras look like a Veterans Day parade.” Starting weeks (and even months) before the actual two-day event, the party officially begins at midnight on the first day when people fill the streets dressed as demons, devils or covered in chocolate, paint or mud. Rum is the drink of choice, and local soca music plays a pivotal role as top artists compete for the prestigious Soca Monarch crown.
Morro de São Paulo, Brazil
February 26 to March 1
A couple of decades ago, Morro de São Paulo became the post-Carnaval destination to recover from all the drinking and late nights. The five-day recovery became known as Ressaca (or “Hangover”), but the annual tradition soon turned into a more exclusive continuation of Carnaval. Morro is a town on Tinharé Island off the coast of Salvador, and the boats that jettison people to the island come with barf bags that are used waaaay too often. The beautiful beach town has no cars, and the island clubs take turns hosting various parties, which typically include a foam party. Still, the best times are had drinking caipirinhas on Beach #2 as rows of tiny stands make the cocktail with a wide range of fresh tropical fruits that you choose simply by pointing. In case you’re wondering, yes, Morro’s four beaches are indeed named #1, #2, #3 and #4.
Great Wines of Italy
Dallas to Miami
February 26 to March 6
Wine Spectator vet James Suckling is one of the world’s foremost wine critics, and his wine-tasting events sell out all over the world. This month, the Los Angeles-born expert kicks off his annual Great Wines of Italy tour with stops in Dallas (Feb. 26), Beverly Hills (Feb. 28), San Francisco (Feb. 29), Chicago (March 2), New York City (March 4) and Miami (March 6). The U.S. leg of the tour, which rolled through Asia late last year, will feature more than 200 premium wines — some with perfect 100-point scores — handpicked by Suckling. This is one of the best wine events of the year.
February 27 to 29
Started in the late ’90s, by:Larm is an annual festival and conference devoted to emerging music acts from Scandinavia and around the world. The event includes seminars, lectures, debates and networking during the day and concert performances at night. Though the scope is international, Scandinavia is famous for songwriter/producers like Max Martin, Björn Djupström and Shellback and music artists like Icona Pop, MØ, Lucas Graham, Avicii, Swedish House Mafia, the Cardigans, Tove Lo, Turbonegro, Annie, Highasakite, Kygo, Of Monsters and Men, M2M and glam rock pioneers Hanoi Rocks. Photo credit: Bernt Sønvisen/flickr.
David Jenison (email@example.com) is Editor-in-Chief at PRØHBTD.