11 of the Best, Most Stunning Festivals in the World
Your Coachella days may be behind you, but there are festivals around the world that don’t involve flower crowns or short-short cut-offs. From revelries of color and tomatoes to celebrations of fire and ice, these 11 fetes are worthy of a trip for the photo opps alone.
When: Early spring
The Hindu festival, known as the “Festival of Colors,” celebrates the victory of good over evil with a free-for-all of rainbow splatter—participants cover each other with brightly pigmented powders as they sing and dance through the open streets.
Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Stringer/Getty Images
Where: Buñol, Spain
When: The last Wednesday in August
What began by chance in 1945 has evolved into the most beloved annual one-ingredient food fight in the world. Set in the town square, a gigantic pile of tomatoes awaits excited participants ready to pummel each other for an hour or so until they wash off the remnants in a local pool. The good news? The citric acid actually leaves the streets extra clean.
Yi Peng Festival
Where: Chiang Mai, Thailand
When: A full moon of the second month of the Thai lunar calendar
Sky lanterns are essentially small hot-air balloons constructed of rice paper. While used for centuries around Asia for different festivities (and also for military reasons), the most popular occasion is held in the ancient capital, where thousands of people launch their lanterns to bring good luck and tham bun (or Buddhist merit) and fill the night sky with light.
Jan Sochor/CON/Getty Images
Dia de Los Muertos
Where: Mexico City, Mexico
When: October 31 to November 2
While the “Day of the Dead” is widely celebrated across Mexico and even internationally, the holiday (during which families honor their ancestors and pray for their spirits in the afterlife) is best enjoyed in Mexico City. Exquisite altars covered in marigolds, painted skeleton faces and dancing Calavera Catrinas (“Dapper Skeletons”) make their way in Technicolor down the four miles of the Paseo de la Reforma as hundreds of thousands cheer on the parade.
Mondial Air Ballons
Where: Chambley-Bussières, France
When: Every two years at the end of July
Beating out the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta for the largest hot-air-balloon gathering in the world, the Mondial Air Ballons draws over 300,000 spectators over ten days to gawk at the 900-plus balloons in the sky.
Where: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
When: Four days before Ash Wednesday
Brazil’s most popular national holiday attracts tourists from all over the world (about half a million people!) to take part in the parties, music, drinking and, of course, the famous parade—aka “The Greatest Show on Earth”—as a major brouhaha before Lent. The event is so important, the city built the Sambadrome, a street-turned-permanent parade ground with bleachers, specifically to house it.
Snow & Ice Festival
Where: Harbin, China
When: January to February
If you thought that party luge at your friend’s wedding was spectacular, you’ll be absolutely floored by the scope of this winter festival’s sculptures: They’re basically frozen cities constructed of ice. The best part? At night, the buildings and monuments glow as multicolored lights shine through their translucent walls.
Where: Nara, Japan
When: The fourth Saturday of January
While the origins of this tradition vary—no one’s sure whether it was a boundary dispute between two temples or a way to prune wild boar pests—the dead grass of Mount Wakakusa is burned in an annual “mountain roast,” which is followed by a fantastic fireworks display. The resulting firelight leaves bystanders with a spectacular, one-of-a-kind light show.
Carnevale di Venezia
Where: Venice, Italy
When: 40 days before Easter
Similar to Carnaval in Rio, this pre-Lent celebration is world famous for its grandeur—especially the elaborate costumes. The artisan-made masks even have names, like the bauta, a simple stark white or gilded one; the Colombina, a half-mask decorated with gold, silver, crystals and feathers and held up with a baton; the Medico della peste, aka the plague mask; the volto, the classic Venetian mask usually with a white base and gilded details; and so many more.
Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
Up Helly Aa Fire Festival
Where: Lerwick, Scotland
When: The last Tuesday in January
The torch-lit, half-mile procession and burning of a Viking longship has been an annual Shetland tradition to mark the end of the Yule season since the 1880s. While a thousand or so male participants dress up and take part in the procession, only the head of the festival, the Guizer Jarl, and his squad can don Viking garb. As for women and children, it’s viewing with the 5,000 onlookers from the sidelines (or now even streaming online).
Erika Goldring/Getty Images
Where: New Orleans
When: The Tuesday before Ash Wednesday
Another let’s-party-before-Lent celebration, this famous Louisiana fete has the masks of Venice’s Carnevale, the party vibes of Rio’s Carnaval and the beads you don’t want to ask your friend how she got. With a major parade every day of the two-week celebration, there’s really no party like a Bourbon Street party.
On March 19, 2020, United operated its first flight carrying cargo without passengers on board. While the passenger cabin was empty, its cargo hold was completely full, carrying more than 29,000 pounds of commodities from Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD) to Frankfurt Airport (FRA).
A year later, United Cargo has operated more than 11,000 cargo-only flights carrying more than 570 million pounds of freight. To support the COVID-19 pandemic recovery efforts, United Cargo has also transported more than 113 million pounds of medical and pharmaceutical products on both cargo-only and passenger flights as well as approximately 10 million COVID-19 vaccines, providing global communities access to the items they have needed most.
"At the beginning of the pandemic, we knew we were uniquely positioned to utilize our widebody aircraft and our network to keep commodities moving, so we quickly mobilized various departments throughout the airline to launch a cargo-only network of flights that would keep commodities moving," said United Cargo President Jan Krems. "Thanks to those efforts, United Cargo has delivered millions of items to countries all around the world. We would not have been successful without the steadfast support of our employees, industry partners and our customers."
Since last March, United Cargo has transported almost 850 million pounds of freight on cargo-only and passenger flights. The airline will continue to monitor market trends adjust its cargo-only flight schedules to help ensure we are meeting our customer's evolving shipping needs.
Whether you haven't flown with us for a while or just need a quick refresher before your spring trip, read this list of tips to know before your flight and arrive at the airport travel-ready:
1. Download the United app for contactless bag check, travel assistance and more
Before your flight, download the United app to view your flight status, check in, sign up for flight notifications, locate departure gates, access our free personal device entertainment when available and more. We've also updated our app with new features that can make your trip a little safer, including contactless bag check.
Don't forget to use Agent on Demand for help with any and all questions you may have before your flight. This new capability is available at all our U.S. hub airports and allows you to use your own mobile device to contact a customer service agent via phone, video or chat to help with day-of-travel questions while you're at the airport. Learn more about Agent on Demand here.
2. Check out the Travel-Ready Center
Our Travel-Ready Center makes it easy to get a personalized overview of everything you need to do in preparation for your flight. Just enter your confirmation number or MileagePlus® number and you'll find detailed information on all the documents, tests and more that you'll need for your trip.
3. Read and sign the Ready-to-Fly checklist
Before completing check-in, all United travelers will need to read our Ready-to-Fly checklist and confirm that they understand and agree to our policies. These include:
Acknowledging that you haven't had any symptoms of COVID-19 in the last 14 days
Agreeing that you will not fly if you have tested positive for COVID-19 within the last 21 days
Confirming that you will follow all policies regarding face masks, social distancing and other health and safety measures we've adopted
4. Arrive early; avoid the stress
Airports can be busy, especially during peak travel periods like spring break season. The TSA advises arriving at the airport two hours before your flight for domestic travel and three hours for international travel in anticipation of long security lines. This can help ease the stress when navigating busy check-in areas, security lines and crowded boarding gates.
5. Get familiar with CleanPlus
United CleanPlus℠ is our commitment to delivering industry-leading cleanliness as we put health and safety at the forefront of your experience. We've teamed up with Clorox to redefine our cleaning and disinfection procedures and Cleveland Clinic to advise us on enhancing our cleaning and disinfection protocols, like:
Disinfecting high-touch areas on board and in the terminal
Using electrostatic spraying, Ultraviolet C lighting wands and more advanced measures to clean aircraft cabins before boarding
Redesigning our mobile app to allow for touchless check-in and contactless payment, along with enhanced travel assistance features
Implementing high-efficiency (HEPA) filters on our aircraft that completely recirculate cabin air every 2-3 minutes and remove 99.97% of airborne particles, including viruses and bacteria
Studies show COVID-19 exposure risk is minimal when air filtration systems and masks are in use, so you can rest assured that the steps we've taken to keep you safe truly make a difference.
6. Wear your mask
Federal law requires all travelers to wear a face mask in the airport, including customer service counters, airport lounges, gates and baggage claim, and on board during their entire flight. Make sure you review the requirements for face masks, including what an acceptable face mask looks like.
7. Get ready for a safer boarding process
To make boarding even safer, we now have travelers board their aircraft from back to front. At the gate, just listen for your row number to be called – we'll ask a few rows at a time to board, starting with the last row of the plane. This helps everyone maintain a safe distance from each other during boarding without slowing things down. As you step onto the plane, flight attendants will hand each passenger a sanitizing towelette, which you can use to wipe down your seat to ensure it's extra clean.
8. Pack smart
Before packing your bags, check to see what exactly you can carry on and what you should plan to check. You can also copy your confirmation number into our Baggage Calculator tool to learn about the bag allowance included with your reservation, as well as the cost of checking any additional bags.
9. Check your flight status, important notices and weather
Check the United app regularly for the latest updates on weather conditions, flight status, gate numbers and seat assignments. You can also visit our Important Notices page to find essential information and updates about travel waivers, international travel, TSA and security, airports and United Club locations.
10. Relax and enjoy your flight
Once you're on board, it's time to sit back and enjoy your flight. Our flight attendants will be happy to help you with anything else you need.
This week, we were honored to become the first U.S. airline to join the UNICEF Humanitarian Airfreight Initiative to combat the COVID-19 pandemic by transporting the vaccine and other critically needed supplies to underserved areas of the globe.
"We are committed to helping the global community in any way we can, and we all must work together to do our part to bring this health and humanitarian crisis to an end," said Director of Cargo Specialty Products Manu Jacobs.
We will leverage our expertise to transport these critical pharmaceutical and healthcare shipments around the world safely, efficiently and expediently. We are proud to partner with the United Nations to support this global effort and provide equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.
Together, we are facing an unprecedented challenge. United Together, we rise to meet that challenge.
Calling all AvGeeks and travelers! Take your next video call from a United Polaris® seat, the cockpit or cruising altitude with United-themed backgrounds for use on Zoom and Microsoft Teams.
Newly added to our collection is a background encouraging our employees and customers to vote. Our mission is to connect people and unite the world — and one of the most important ways to do that is to engage in the democratic process. No matter which party you support, we know our democracy will be stronger if you make your voice heard and vote.
So for your next meeting or catch up with friends and family, download the app to either your computer or mobile device to get started.
To use on Zoom:
- Start here by downloading your favorite United image to your computer or mobile device. Just click "download" in the bottom left corner of the image.
- Next go to your Zoom app (you'll need to download the app to access backgrounds) and click on the arrow to the right of your video camera icon in the bottom of the screen.
- From here select, "choose virtual background" to upload your uniquely United photo.
To use on Microsoft Teams:
- Start by downloading your favorite United image to your computer. Just click "download" in the bottom left corner of the image.
- If you're using a PC, copy the image you want to use into this folder:
- C:\[insert your device user name here]\AppData\Microsoft\Teams\Backgrounds\Uploads
- If you're using a Mac copy the images to this folder on your computer:
- /users/<username>/Library/Application Support/Microsoft/Teams/Backgrounds/Uploads
- If you're using a PC, copy the image you want to use into this folder:
- Once you start a Teams meeting, click the "…" in the menu bar and select "Show background effects" and your image should be there
Watch our most popular videos
This is why we fly.
20 UCSF Health workers, who voluntarily set aside their own lives to help save lives, are on their way to New York City.
We are humbled by your selfless sacrifice.
In celebration and appreciation of all first responders and essential workers. 👏🏻👏🏼👏🏽👏🏾👏🏿
This is the story of Jason and Shantel. You see, Jason and Shantel love each other very much. They also love traveling and they love the classic Adam Sandler film, The Wedding Singer.
It all began when Jason reached out to United's social media team, hoping for assistance with his upcoming plan to propose. Some phone calls and one borrowed guitar later, the stage was set for Jason. Put all that together, mix in some helpful United employees and, voila, you have a truly memorable marriage proposal. Congratulations to this fun-loving and happy couple, and here's to many more years of making beautiful music together.
A big thank you to Chicago-based flight attendants Donna W., Marie M., Karen J. and Mark K. for making this proposal come to life.