Join the World's Best Parties
A carouser's guide to seven annual celebrations worth a haul.
SUMMER SOLSTICE AT STONEHENGE
7 p.m. June 20 to 8 a.m. June 21, 2010
The vibe A Stone Age–era Burning Man—one with neo-pagans dancing around the famous monoliths to celebrate sunrise on the longest day of the year.
Psst... Be prepared to revel in Wiccan drum circles. And fill your pockets with HobNob cookies—you might, um, get a case of the munchies (packet of HobNobs $4).
Booking basics Free during solstice. From London's Waterloo Station, it's a 90-minute train ride to Salisbury, then a shuttle (nationalrail.co.uk, from $98 round trip; thestonehengetour.info, round-trip shuttle $18).
July 2 and August 16, 2010
The vibe Ten of the town's 17 contrade (neighborhoods) duke it out in a 354-year-old horse race around Piazza del Campo. The palio is the flag that goes to the winner.
Psst... Join one of the prerace feasts the night before (from $50; call the Siena tourism office, 011-39/577-280-551, for ticket advice).
Booking basics Bleacher seats start at $216 and sell out months in advance, but standing in the piazza is free—and it holds 24,000. If you want a good view, arrive early (ilpalio.org).
FESTIVAL OF SAN FERMÍN
July 6–14, 2010
The vibe Thousands—clad in all-white with red sashes and scarves—line the streets for the daily running of the bulls in the morning and bullfights in the arena at night.
Psst... To prep for the bull run, walk the course in advance and note tricky spots. If you fall during the stampede, stay down until you get tapped, a signal that the last bovine has passed.
Booking basics It's free to sit in the ring's upper stands and watch the bulls arrive on weekdays (from $9 on weekends). Bullfight tickets (from $30) are sold starting at 9 p.m. the night before (sanfermin.com).
September 18–October 3, 2010
The vibe The kegger to end all keggers, with 34 wooden "tents" showcasing Munich's suds-making skills, and 1.5 million gallons of beer downed each year.
Psst... Even hipsters don old-world getups; score knickers and dirndls at Kleidermarkt (Im Tal 30, kleidermarkt.de, dirndls from $22).
Booking basics At www.oktoberfest.de/en, you'll find maps, tent profiles, even iPhone apps—blood-alcohol calculator, anyone?
CHINESE NEW YEAR
February 3–5, 2011
The vibe Exuberant well-wishing ("Gong hei fat choi!") accompanied by a multi-float parade on the first night, and neighborhood lion dances plus five tons of fireworks the second.
Psst... At the Central district's Luk Yu Tea House, feast on auspicious dim sum: Fish patties symbolize surplus, puffed sesame-seed balls represent growing wealth (24-26 Stanley St., 011-852/2-523-5464, sesame ball $3.50).
Booking basics The Hong Kong Tourism Board can help you snag grandstand seats for the opening-night parade in Tsim Sha Tsui East, Kowloon (discoverhongkong.com, from $23).
February 26–March 8, 2011
The vibe Pre-Lenten excess: bawdy costumes, booze-fueled mayhem, king cakes, and dozens of parades from age-old social clubs called krewes, many of which have more than 1,000 members.
Psst... Avoid Bourbon Street's frat-boy vibe; locals head to Frenchmen Street for jazz at the Apple Barrel (609 Frenchmen St., 504/949-9399) and Snug Harbor (626 Frenchmen St., snugjazz.com).
Booking basics Mardigrasneworleans.com features maps of the parade routes and describes the history of the 53 individually themed krewes.
Rio de Janeiro
March 5–8, 2011
The vibe Some 70 samba groups flood the streets for a pre-Lent bonanza of dancing and eye-popping outfits. The top 12 troupes stage spectacles in the 70,000-person Sambódromo stadium.
Psst... Sambódromo events get the media buzz, but Cariocas embrace street parties and the Ipanema beach revel March 5.
Booking basics Purchase Sambódromo tickets at least six months in advance. A well-priced source: rio-carnival.net (tickets from $110).