A fistful of festivals to head for this summer

Festivals worth planning a summer trip around

My story for CNBC this week is a round-up of festivals and events around the country that could lure you out of town. Here is a slightly edited version of that list.

Jazz in Atlanta

Credit_Matt Alexandre

The month-long Atlanta Jazz Festival is underway, with jazz concerts taking place in neighborhood parks, MARTA stations, city museums, clubs and bistros and even at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

The festival caps off Memorial Day Weekend (May 25 & 26) with a free concert at Atlanta’s Piedmont Park featuring more than a two dozen noted jazz performers

Chicago’s Festival Season

Ruthie Foster, photo Ricardo Piccirillo, courtesy Chicago Blues Festival

Chicago is chock-full of festivals each summer.

There’s Lollapalooza (August 1-4), of course, but also the Chicago Blues Festival (June 7-9), Chicago SummerDance (June 27-August 24), the Windy City Smokeout (BBQ, country music and beer; July 12-14) and the Chicago Jazz Festival (August 30- Sept 1), to name just a few.

Shakespeare in the parks

The Public Theater’s Free Shakespeare in the Park_ photo Tammy Shell

Around the country, Shakespeare and summer go together very well.

In New York City, The Public Theater’s free Shakespeare in the Park season kicks off May 21 with “Much Ado About Nothing.” Shakespeare Festival St. Louis will offer “Love’s Labor Lost” in Forest Park May 31-June 23. Chicago Shakespeare in the Park brings its free (abridged) performance of “Comedy of Errors” to city parks July 18-August 19. And the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company in Boston offers free performances of Shakespeare’s “Cymbeline” July 17 – August 4 on the Boston Common.

Celebrate the Grand Canyon Centennial

National Park Service photo

This year is the centennial of Arizona’s Grand Canyon being designated a national park. There are special events taking place all year long to help celebrate the milestone, but one major summer event will only take place after dark.

The Centennial Star Party  (June 22-29) is a night-sky celebration that takes advantage of the park’s dark skies and clear air and takes place on both the North Rim and the South Rim of the park. Amateur astronomers and park rangers set up telescopes nightly and offer constellation tours, lectures and free viewing tips to help spot planets, star clusters and far off galaxies in the sky. The week caps off with the Centennial Summerfest and Grand Archeology Fair on June 29.

Make Music – Even if You Can’t Carry a Tune

Courtesy Make Music Day

More than a thousand cities around the world will be celebrating Make Music Day on June 21 with free outdoor concerts, music lessons, jam sessions, “Mama Mia!” Sing-along trucks and other and music-making events.

“Mass Appeals” in many cities are musical performances all played on the same instrument, i.e. kazoos, ukuleles, guitars or accordions. “Sousapaloozas” will bring together hundreds of brass and wind musicians to play marches by John Philip Sousa. And in many cities, drum shops will set up two full drum sets out on the sidewalks and invite passersby to sit down for drum set duos.

 Flores Mexicanas by Alfredo Ramos Martinez – courtesy Missouri History Center

The Missouri Historical Society in St. Louis houses a large collection of Charles Lindbergh and Anne Morrow Lindbergh artifacts and on June 1 will open a new exhibit at the Missouri History Museum featuring photographs, historic footage and many rarely seen artifacts.

The exhibit, Flores Mexicanas: A Lindbergh Love Story, centers around the recently restored, 9-by-12-foot Flores Mexicanas painting by renowned Mexican artist Alfredo Ramos Martinez, which has been stored away for 50 years.

The Lindbergh – Mexico connection for this painting?

According to the museum:

In 1929 Mexican president Emilio Portes Gill gave the Lindberghs the Martinez masterpiece as a wedding gift. Mexico was significant to the Lindberghs as the place where their love story began. For the Mexican government, the gift was a chance to impress the daughter and son-in-law of the United States’ respected ambassador to Mexico, Dwight Morrow — Anne’s father.”

Straight to the Moon – 50th anniversary of Apollo 11

Buzz Aldrin on the Moon – NASA photo

Cities, attractions and museums everywhere are getting ready to – or have already begun to – celebrate the 50th anniversary of NASA’s July 1969 Apollo 11 mission and the first time humans walked on the Moon.

A few to set your sights on: Seattle’s Museum of Flight is hosting the Smithsonian Institution’s traveling exhibition, Destination Moon: The Apollo 11 Mission, featuring the Columbia command module and other artifacts, through September 2.  The Smithsonian Institution’s National Air & Space Museum has five days of Apollo 50 events and exhibits planned July 16 through July 20. At the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, NY, the exhibit Journey to the Moon: How Glass Got Us There, opens June 29 and runs through January 30, 2010. And there are Apollo 50 events scheduled at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center, at Space Center Houston and in many-other communities around the country that have direct or casual connections to the space program.

A few festivals & cool museum exhibits in May

Out and about this month? Here are few fun festivals, events and new museum exhibits to check out.

Party like its 1969

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame has just opened a new exhibit celebrating the 50th anniversary of Woodstock.

The exhibit runs through Fall 2019 and includes rare prints, performance outfits, video footage, original signage and artifacts including the guitar strap Jimi Hendrix used while playing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the festival, a hand-drawn map of the festival grounds and the outfit John Sebastian (of the Lovin’ Spoonful, wore when he made an unscheduled acoustic performance after a rain break.

Hang with Hoosiers

Indiana is going all out to welcome visitors with discounts and free admissions at over 300 businesses and attractions during Visit Indiana Week.

Admission is free to all Indiana state parks, forest recreation areas and off road vehicle riding areas on May 5, State Park Sunday.

Discounts for zip lines, bike and boat rentals and ideas for free outdoor activities are offered on Get Moving Monday (May 6), while restaurants around the state have lined up deals for Tasty Tuesday (May 7). Museums, monuments and state historic sites will have discounts on Wayback Wednesday (May 8), while sampling and discounts are on the menu at Indiana’s wineries, distilleries and craft breweries on Thirsty Thursday (May 9). The week rounds out with Family Fun Friday (May 10) and Sweet Saturday (May 11). 

Gather in Greenville

Greenville, South Carolina’s annual 3 day art & cultural festival known as Artisphere takes place this year from May 10-12.

This year the festival includes demonstrations, dance performances, more than 30 concerts, a DIY art lab, a local “Artists of the Upstate” exhibition and Artist’s Row: 135 pop-up shop galleries on Main Street in Greenville.  

A new public art sculpture, by Blessing Hancock, titled “Spindle” will be unveiled during the festival to honor Artisphere’s 15 anniversary. The sculpture is inspired by the rich textile history of the area once known as “The Textile Capitol of the World”.

Party like its 1869 on National Train Day  

On May 10, 1869 workers, dignitaries and railroad officials gathered in a remote spot on the north end of Utah’s Great Salt Lake for a ceremony to join the tracks of the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads and mark the birth of the Transcontinental Railroad.

During the event, which is reenacted each year at the Golden Spike National Historic Site at Promontory Summit in Utah, four ceremonial spikes  including a gold spike with “The Last Spike” engraved on the top – were tapped into a wooden tie with pre-drilled holes.

This year, to mark the 150th anniversary of “Last Spike” ceremony and of the Transcontinental Railroad, there will be three days of festivities (May 10 through 12) with locomotives facing each other on the tracks and volunteers reenacting the 1869 ceremony word-for-word and spike tap for spike tap, several times each day.

For those who can’t make the trek out to the park, Spike 150 lists exhibits and events to mark the anniversary taking place throughout Utah, and throughout the year, including a display that includes three of the original four spikes used on May 10, 1869.

Reno-Tahoe airport says bye-bye to dusty Burners

This year’s Burning Man festival is over and more than 18,000-20,000 Burners will be heading home via Reno-Tahoe International Airport over the course of about five days.

This is one of the busiest times of the year for this airport, which usually handles about 7,000 departing passengers a day, and it’s one of the dirtiest and dustiest as Burners leave the playa covered in a fine dust and packing out all their garbage.



To make sure all that playa dust doesn’t muck up the airport’s bagagge handling and security systems, the airport and the airlines require everyone to put everything in a plastic bags.

These photos come courtesy Reno-Tahoe International Airport.  I asked for photos of the piles of garbage burners may be leaving behind, but so far they say those trash bins are “too yucky.”

Washington, DC-area airports celebrate Cherry Blossom Festival

(Washington Dulles International Airport, photo by J. David Buerk)

The month-long National Cherry Blossom Festival is underway in the Washington, D.C. area and even the airports are getting into the spirit with cherry trees in bloom and buildings lit in pink at night.

Pink lighting is illuminating the iconic main terminal of Washington Dulles International Airport and the parking garage stairwells at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

Inside the airports, there are cherry blossom-themed promotions and entertainment scheduled through April 16.

There will be Cherry Blossom stilt walkers strolling through airport halls pre-and post-security from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays (March 24, March 31, April 7 and April 14).

Photo courtesy Sidney Woods

Entertainment on tap includes souvenir photos, paint sessions with a Japanese Sumi-E artist (black ink painting) and performances by Cellist Peter Kibbe at Dulles International on Thursday, April 6, from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and at Reagan National on Friday, April 7, from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Several restaurants will be offering pink-themed menu selections and drinks through April 17 and shoppers who spend more than $100 (pre-tax) on food or retail can turn those receipts in for a free National Cherry Blossom coaster set.

Social media followers of the airport Facebook pages can also win free ticket to official Cherry Blossom Festival events. Details here.




Oktoberfest at CVG Airport

It’s Oktoberfest season and Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport (CVG), is helping kick off the city’s 40th Annual Oktoberfest Zinzinnati today (Friday, September 18) with Bavarian pretzels, soft-drinks and a band playing polka music between 8 and 10 a.m.

Fritz, the Oktoberfest Wiener Dog Mascot, will also be greeting passengers.

Oktoberfest is also being celebrated at Denver International Airport this year, with the temporary “Beer Flights” beer garden on-site for a full week.