Events Bucket List
There are so many ways to experience new cultures, but attending a holiday celebration of a country or region you know little about is probably the best way to immerse yourself quickly. It’s authentic, it’s exciting, it’s often a little strange. People are in good spirit and happy to share their good fortune with you. By ticking off each of these event experiences, you will learn a little more about each of the cultures you visit, hear the history and stories that inform each part of the celebration or ritual, and hopefully return home thinking a little more about why your culture does the things it does.
Head to the island of Koh Phangan, Thailand for one of the most intense 24-hour partying experiences of your life. Held each month on the night of the full moon, the Full Moon party is an excuse to let loose while decked out in garish neon. See if you can make it to sunrise!
A luau is the ultimate way to experience Hawaiian hospitality and culture. Feast on traditional delicacies like kalua pig, taro and coconut pudding, then watch as performers take you through the stories and history of Hawaii through music, dance, and sometimes some fire-knife twirling.
While traditionally a big circus tent was full of performing animals and clowns, these days you’re more likely to see amazing human feats of strength and stunts. The fun of the circus is that it never stays in one place for long, so you’ve got to catch it while it’s close by or who knows when it will be back.
The first of the four Grand Slam tennis tournaments played each year, the Australian Open is held in the beautiful city of Melbourne during the peak of the summer. Watch as the best of the best go head-to-head and see which celebrities you can pick out in the crowd – there’s always someone you wouldn’t expect. Plus, the atmosphere is amazing – Aussies love their tennis.
Some of the most famous artists in the world often take up extended residencies in Las Vegas, performing their hits night after night. Vegas is like another world, so if you ever visit, do try to pull yourself away from the slot machines for a night.
More and more people are cutting their meat intake these days, and that means the vegetarian and vegan options are finally catching up. It ain’t just tofu anymore! A lot of the food is actually delicious, and it’s nice to know nothing was harmed in the making of your lunch once in a while.
In order throughout the year they are: the Australian Open in mid-Jan, the French Open in late May, Wimbledon in June-July, and the US Open in late August. If you can make it to all those, not only will you have seen some incredible tennis, you’ll have visited some of the best cities in the world.
The Rio Carnival is considered the biggest carnival in the world, with two million people per day on the streets of Rio de Janeiro. See some amazing live music and dance, try some delicious food and samba your way along with the parade. It’s the world’s biggest street party!
Often you have to actually be invited to attend the Oscars, which means being talented at some aspect of moviemaking. If that’s not you, perhaps you could date someone who is? Otherwise, they need a lot of ushers and attendants during the ceremony, working there still counts.
And we don’t mean the 1997 Julia Roberts movie (coz you can’t, it’s already done and it’s great). Standing next to your best friend as they marry the person they love is a big honor. Let’s just hope the new addition doesn’t remember that time you drunkenly threatened to destroy them if they ever hurt your bestie.
If you’ve ticked off all the things on your bucket list so far, you’ll have plenty to talk about when you get there! And if you haven’t, you better get cracking. If one of the things on your list is to tell your high school crush how you feel or punch your old bully in the face, well now you get a chance to tick those off too!
Murder mystery parties are the best fun! Everyone turns up dressed as a character, a murder occurs, and everyone has to stay in the parlour until you work out who the killer is. It’s part puzzle game, part fancy dress, part roleplaying. If you’re still waiting for an invite, try throwing one yourself!
There has been a TED talk done about every topic under the sun, so chances are you will find something that appeals to you. Go and be inspired to learn something new, or think about something in a new way. You’ll definitely come out smarter, so it’s worth the ticket price.
In Mexican tradition, your deceased family and friends need your support in their spiritual journey, and you can give it to them by painting your face like a skull, dressing in bright colors and parading down the streets. It’s a beautiful celebration of life and death, and a time to remember your loved ones.
Oktoberfest is the world’s largest beer festival, and held each year in Munich, Germany. It’s a traditional folk festival, which is why attendees often dress in traditional German outfits like lederhosen and dirndls, and is a celebration of beer, history, Germany, and beer. Did I say beer?
Fashion was invented in Paris, so it makes sense that one of the biggest fashion shows of the year takes place here. If big, statement, Haute Couture pieces aren’t really your thing, there’s plenty of ready-to-wear shows throughout the week. Check out the styles that everyone will be wearing in six months’ time!
Most cities will hold an international film festival, so you should be able to find one close by. Film makers will often show their movies there for the first time, so if you like seeing movies without any expectation or hint as to whether you’ll like it, this is the place to do it.
Cannes is an annual film festival held in (wait for it) Cannes, France. It is the most well-known and prestigious film festival in the world, and the Palm d’Or is the highest prize a film can win. This one is invitation-only, so start working on expanding your Hollywood network now.
The Germans do Christmas Markets like no one else. Walk through the chilly market square with some warm mulled wine, find some delightful Christmas ornaments and try some of the delicious local delicacies (like Bratwurst!). One of the best markets is held in Dresden, however you can find one in every town or city you visit, and they’ll all be beautifully charming.
See some of the best in the business go head-to-head in this definitely real “sport”. The audience is basically unhinged and baying for blood, the long-standing personal feuds between wrestlers are equal parts dramatic and hilarious, and the whole thing is ridiculously over-the-top, but they don’t call it ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Sports Entertainment’ for nothing.
Self-styled life coach and self-help guru Tony Robbins commands arena-sized audiences for his seminars that promise to help you ‘unleash the power within’ etc. If you’ve got cash to burn and are looking for some motivation, a Tony Robbins event will certainly get you pumped up about life.
Like a Color Run on steroids, the Hindu Spring festival of Holi is celebrated with crowds of people throwing colourful powders on each other. It is a celebration of love, fertility, and color, and the whole point of it is that it brings people together in the streets to have a good time, regardless of race or caste.
The Sydney Opera House is one of the most iconic buildings in the world, and the acoustics are incredible. You can often catch touring and local artists performing there to intimate audiences, which is an amazing way to experience live music and art.
Anzac Day is one of Australia’s most important national occasions, marking the anniversary of the day Australian and New Zealand forces landed at Gallipoli during WWI. Today it’s the day of official remembrance of Australians who have died at war. Many Anzacs were killed on the beaches of Gallipoli, so making the journey there is seen as a mark of respect. After the dawn service, head to your nearest pub for a round of two-up and a pint.
The Monaco Grand Prix is one of the most prestigious Formula One races in the world, with the circuit held on the narrow streets of Monaco. Called the most glamorous of all the races, it’s worth attending if only to visit the beautiful seaside city of Monaco itself.
Sundance is the largest independent film festival in the US, held annually in Park City, Utah. It includes documentaries, short films, feature films, world premieres, and both American and international films. Keep an eye out for celebrities wandering the streets during festival time!
You’ll see more fireworks than you ever have in your life over the days of Chinese New Year (the Chinese invented them, after all). It’s also the cause of the greatest human migration in the world, as billions of Chinese travel back to rural China to spend the day with their families. A massive celebration and one that needs to be seen at least once.
Completely different to the kind of Christmas you may be used to, Christmas in Australia is usually very hot, held as close to water as possible (beach is ideal, backyard sprinkler is a good plan B), and full of fresh seafood, salads, and a BBQ. For an extra special Chrissie, go to the Christmas Eve Carols by Candlelight in Melbourne – you’d have to be a real Grinch to not be in the festive spirit after that.
Not just for geeks anymore, these days Comic Con is home to anything pop culture that has a die-hard fanbase. Check to see what events will be on during, as often you have to pay extra to see talks by your fave artists, actors, directors etc. And if you make your own costume, expect to be asked for heaps of photos with fans.
Easter is the most important holiday in the Catholic calendar, and Rome is where the Pope lives, so it makes sense that this would be the place to visit. The entire week is full of Holy activities which the Pope presides over, including the Easter Sunday Mass at St Peter’s Basilica. Also recommended is the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday, which the Pope leads near the Colosseum.
Catch some downhill slalom, bobsledding, luging, half-pipe snowboarding, or figure skating, by going to the Winter Olympics. The next ones aren’t til 2022, so you’ve got some time to save up for the trip (and brush up on your curling knowledge).
While it may be insanely crowded and freezing cold, Times Square is where the world watches the ball drop to bring in the new year, so it’s a pretty iconic place to be. We recommend bringing plenty of muesli bars as no food is allowed inside the barricades, and keep in mind that there are no bathrooms and if you leave you lose your spot. Happy New Year!
It’s just a regular horse race, except it’s in the desert! The red dirt, the blue sky… it’s not horseracing like you’re used to. And Birdsville is the town where it’s held, there is no racing of birds. That would be ridiculous.
Remember how Steve Irwin used to taunt crocs and get them to chase him around the enclosure? People do that all the time in Australia. Head to a crocodile zoo to watch these giant, dinosaur-like reptiles chomp down on some chickens and maybe a hand or two, if you’re not careful.
More planning goes into the opening ceremony of each Olympic games than the rest of the event combined (that might not be true). The host country welcomes all competing countries while paying tribute to their culture and through song, dance, music, lights, fireworks, big 3D tech displays, basically everything they can possibly think of in the one enormous production. Definitely worth a look at least once in your life.
While it sounds a bit dull on paper, it’s actually a beautiful event which showcases fields of pink, yellow, purple, orange, red tulips as far as the eye can see. It also includes street fairs, art shows, and sporting events, so there’s more things to do once you’re done with staring at flowers.
Each year there are Mardi Gras celebrations all over the world, but none do it quite like New Orleans. The annual celebration of excess and debauchery is held in the leadup to the solemn period of Lent and includes some of the most elaborate floats and costumes you’re ever likely to see. To get in the thick of it, head to Bourbon Street in the French Quarter and try to catch some beads!
There are 30 of them. That’s 30 baseball matches. They say each stadium has its own unique vibe, the crowds are better at some than others, the food is different everywhere. If you like baseball, that should be a walk in the park (so to speak), but if you’re not that into it and maybe find it kind of boring, that’s a lot of baseball.
Songkran is Thailand’s national New Year’s holiday, held April 13th. The most important part of the festival is water, namely throwing it at everyone in your immediate area. You’re very likely to get splashed if you attend, so you may as well be armed with a bucket or some water pistols so you can at least defend yourself.
Broadway is well-known around the world as the heart of American theatre, with 41 world-class theatres lining the street. Catch some cutting-edge new theatre, or an old favorite with a celebrity cast – it’s all here, baby!
X Games are all about action – who can go higher, faster, further, harder. And in the winter, they do it all on snow against the beautiful backdrop of Aspen, Colorado. It’s a full festival atmosphere with live music next to each event – and, it’s all free to enter!
Jazz is a style of music that, even if you’re not a fan, you can’t help but marvel at when you see it live. The musicians are truly masters of their instruments, and in touch with every element of the music they’re playing. It’s also really fun, and jazz festivals make for a relaxed, easy-going day out.
The US Open is the fourth and final tennis Grand Slam event each year. Played in the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York, it is one of the year’s most important tennis tournaments, so you’re very likely to see superstars playing some of the best tennis of their lives.
The ‘Race That Stops A Nation’ is the biggest horseracing event in Australia, and the most expensive. If having a flutter on the horses isn’t really your thing, you can still check out the Fashions on the Field, where the dress-code is elegant hats or fancy fascinators, and prizes are handed out for best dressed men and women.
The Gold anniversary doesn’t come by all that often, so if you both make it that long, it’s definitely an achievement worth celebrating! The traditional gift is something gold, probably because it’s a gold star effort to spend 50 years with the same person non-stop. Ain’t love grand!
How many weddings have you been to where you’ve known barely anyone? As long as you can avoid the bride and groom until they’re drunk enough to believe you when you confidently thank them for inviting you to their special day, no one else will notice. Create an elaborate backstory in case anyone asks and enjoy all the free champagne and shrimp you can handle!
The oldest and most prestigious tennis tournament in the world, Wimbledon is steeped in tradition. The uniforms must be all white, players must bow or curtsy to any members of the Royal family in attendance, and sometimes the Queen visits. There are less seats than the other Grand Slam tournaments, so getting a spot can be tricky, but it’s worth it to see the world’s best tennis played in its fanciest tournament.
Bastille Day is the national day of France, celebrating the French Revolution and end of the monarchy. In Paris, you can see the fireworks at the Eiffel Tower, a military parade at the Arc de Triomphe, attend one of the Firemen’s Balls, or just spend it with family and friends eating cheese and bread and drinking wine. Sounds like a pretty perfect day to us!
The biggest, cheesiest party you can possibly attend, Eurovision is the night all of Europe puts aside it’s political issues and cultural divides and sings some truly hilarious (and sometimes really good) pop songs. It’s truly impossible to pick the winner, as Finland proved in 2006 with monster-rock band Lordi, but you’re guaranteed some flawless key changes, plenty of wind machines, and an overall great time.
The Bathurst 1000 is a 1,000km supercar race held annually at Mount Panaroma in Bathurst, Australia. Set up camp alongside the track and get in amongst thousands of other rev-heads to see who will be crowned the next king of the mountain!
Ways to do this include being friends with someone very famous, working as a roadie for someone very famous, or needing to be pulled out from the front of the crowd for medical attention (this has only worked for me once, we don’t recommend this as a course of action generally).
Folk festivals are the most authentic-feeling of any festival you can attend – handicrafts, delicious foods, and the most fun music to dance along to. Contemporary folk is a bit different to the folk styles of old (and of course it varies by country), but all have an emphasis on storytelling and usually has instruments related to the national culture.
Held in the middle of the Black Rock Desert in Nevada, Burning Man isn’t a festival in the traditional sense – there are no acts booked to perform. Instead, you bring along what you can do, however you can collaborate, and participate actively in the ‘temporary city’. Get ready for a transcendent communal experience where you’ll bond with people from every walk of life imaginable.
Russian Ballet is well-known for being some of the best ballet in the world and has produced some of ballet’s greatest dancers. If you’ve never seen any ballet, or never understood it, give it a go and try to follow the story through the music and movement – you’ll gain a new appreciation for it, we guarantee.
A solar eclipse is when the Moon passes between the Sun and Earth, effectively blocking the Sun’s light from reaching us and creating a few minutes of darkness in the middle of the day. It’s an eerie experience, and one that we don’t recommend staring at directly, however much you might want to.
The American holiday of Thanksgiving is traditionally celebrated with a big family dinner of turkey, pie, yams, cranberry, and all sorts of other decadent things. Even if you’re not from the US of A, any excuse to cook up a feast and invite your nearest and dearest around is good by us! Now pass the stuffing, would you?
The Gaelic May Day festival marks the beginning of Summer and include bonfires as a pagan ritual symbolising the sun. In Edinburgh, Scotland, you can attend the Beltane Fire Festival and really get wild like the pagans of old.
You’ll get to be the bride’s right-hand woman, plan the hen’s do, deal with any unexpected issues that might pop up, and basically make sure that the bride makes it to the alter in one piece. Sure it’s been said that it’s one of the most stressful jobs ever (especially if your friend is prone to Bridezilla tantrums), but the look on the face of your best friend when her day goes off perfectly and you’re there beside her is well worth it.
You’ll get to see genuinely famous guest hosts perform alongside the best up-and-coming comedy talent, live in front of not just you in the audience, but the entire world. To get tickets you’ll have to arrive at 30 Rock very early that day (like 7am early) or enter the annual lottery in August for tickets on a random date.
Be as close to your idols as you can possibly be and get right up the front at a rock concert. You’ll be able to feel the energy of the crowd behind you, see everything the band does as they play, and who knows, you might even get pulled up on stage! It’ll only happen if you’re at the front!
Independence Day is the biggest summer holiday in the US, celebrated with fireworks, parades, and concerts. In Washington DC, you can also visit the Founding Fathers, see the Declaration of Independence, or catch a morning baseball game at Nationals Park. Americans love their independence, so you know this will be a huge day no matter where you spend it.
Challenge yourself at your next dinner party and make every dish vegan! With a bit of extra effort and planning you can make a feast that keeps the flavour and texture of non-vegan food, and with even more color. Cutting back on animal products is becoming increasingly important for our environment, so show everyone how easy and delicious it can be and maybe you’ll convert a few people!
Bring your nearest and dearest together to see in the new year and say goodbye to the year that was. People always appreciate being invited to a NYE gathering, and most would prefer to avoid the crowds of the city. Whether it’s a big old rager or a quiet night in with your faves, it’s nice to mark the occasion with good people around you.
How do they do that with their bellies?? How do they move so gracefully, so rhythmically? Originating in the Middle East, the music, movement, and costumes all come together to create a transfixing yet fun cultural performance.
It’s always fun to get a little bit silly and dress up, and even more fun to see the lengths your friends have gone to when you get to the party. Trying to work out what their costume even is is also fun. Plus, costumes are great conversation starters, so it’s a good reason to speak to people you normally wouldn’t, and expand your social circle a bit!
Gay weddings unfortunately aren’t legal everywhere, yet. But as more countries get with the times, more couples who previously couldn’t marry will begin to walk down the aisle. Given they’ve waited so long for the opportunity, you know they’re going to make the most of it, and the ceremony and reception will be all the more special because they won’t take it for granted.
Throw some money on a fight in Sin City. Visit the MGM Grand Garden Arena, where some of the biggest boxing matches in history have taken place. The atmosphere is electric, coz you know everyone has way too much money riding on the outcome.
Held at the end of the Chinese New Year holiday, the Lantern Festival celebrates family reunions and is often called the true Chinese Valentine’s Day. The lanterns are often set adrift across lakes or held aloft, and can be quite elaborate and beautiful. You don’t have to go all the way to China – Chinese New Year is celebrated all over the world, often in the Chinatown district of the city.
You’ll need to either be in the military, or be invited as a date by someone in the military, to attend a military ball. Be prepared to shake the hands of a few generals, do about a million toasts to the country, and be offered way too many drinks. Military balls are a fun way to show respect to the people who defend your country, so if you’re ever invited to one, make sure you put on your best outfit and have a boogie!
It’s pretty hard to get on the red carpet, unless you work in an industry that likes to throw those kinds of events. You can still be invited to one though, even as a regular old pleb. If you put on a fancy outfit and look important enough, you could definitely just walk on through and people will assume you’re supposed to be there.
The endless beat, the flashing lights, the crowds, the darkness, the heat – for plenty of people, this sounds like absolute hell. For others, it’s a great night out! Until you’ve really let loose at a rave, it’s hard to explain just why people consider this fun. Just think of it as a really good cardio workout.
Japanese Tea Ceremony involves the ceremonial preparation and presentation of matcha tea, and is meant to demonstrate good etiquette and refinement. There is a full order of procedure for a proper tea ceremony, and students attend courses to learn how to properly conduct themselves. So you’re probably best off attending one as a guest, rather than running one for yourself.
A wedding is a very important event in Hinduism, and the celebrations can last for several days. Wear a bold color in order to fit in with the Indian guests if you yourself are not Indian, and be prepared for plenty of food and dancing to Punjabi folk music.
See why they call it the World’s game! While attending a World Cup match would obviously be one of the best to see live, most cities in the world have a soccer team you can follow. Football dominates most of Europe, Asia, South America, and Africa, so no matter where you go you’ll be sure to find some die-hard fans and a great match.
Opera is like a really fancy version of musical theatre, in that all the lead roles are made up of singing parts and everyone sings their feelings. However, often it’s all sung in Italian and you may not exactly be able to follow what those feelings are. Still, opera singing is one of the most incredible kinds of performance you’re likely to see, so go get a bit worldly and visit the opera!
Whether you’re sitting casually around the fire with a drink and a guitar or dancing wildly around the flames til the wee hours of the morning, people have been drawn to fire as a communal activity since fire was first invented (in 1923 if I’m not mistaken).
See some of the most incredible feats of human agility, strength, and poise, in one of the most beautiful and entrancing pieces of performance art in the world. There are many performances to choose from, from the family-friendly Beatles LOVE, to the sensual, seductive Zumanity – be sure to catch a performance when they’re near you next!
Classical music can move you like nothing else, with its intricacy and grandeur. If you need to dip your toe in more slowly, these days you can often see Philharmonic Orchestras performing more modern pieces, like the soundtracks to Game of Thrones or Call of Duty.
Chinese New Year is a celebration that usually lasts over a week. Feast on foods with symbolic meanings (so heaps of dumplings and Chinese cabbage), spend time with family and friends, and visit one of the parades that will likely be on in your city’s Chinatown district. The lion dancers and drummers are always a treat with the kids!
While it might seem as though Viennese balls are stuffy, aristocratic affairs, these days that’s no longer strictly true. You can purchase a ticket and take yourself – but do make sure to dress appropriately (tux or ballgown) and learn some steps to the Viennese Waltz ahead of time so you can really get into the spirit of things.
The Harlem Globetrotters aren’t a real basketball team, in the traditional sense. They play exhibition basketball, combining athleticism with comedy and theatre, which basically means they do way more tricks than anyone should in a real game.
K-pop (or Korean pop) is exploding all over the world right now, so you don’t have to travel to South Korea to catch a show – though we recommend you do, because the fans are obsessed with their favourite stars and it’s something you have to experience. K-pop puts as much effort (if not more) into the look of the band – the dancing, the aesthetic, everything has to be perfect – so it’s worth seeing live to really understand the hype.
Man vs Bull – it’s a weird thing to do, but the Spaniards have been fighting bulls specially bred to be extra aggressive for thousands of years. If this is something you’re interested in you best do it soon – more and more cities in Spain are declaring themselves ‘anti-bullfighting’ as younger generations consider it a barbaric practice.
When it comes to attending Mass, you can’t do much better than hearing a sermon from the top guy himself. No, not God – the Pope. Sure, it will likely be in Latin so you probably won’t understand any of it, but you’ll be in St Peter’s Basilica so it will sound amazing anyway.
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