Help us find our next travel MacGuffin
September 15, 2019 2:30 PM   Subscribe

What local or regional special events - cultural, sporting or otherwise - should we know about that have great local significance but also are a great time and inviting for outsiders to attend, that would be suitable as MacGuffins (putative excuses) for leisure travel? Little bullseyes are what we seek to aim at; not big all-encompassing events like Mardi Gras.

Mrs. JiLS and I recently returned from a really marvelous week in Scotland. The trip was inspired by the desire to see the Braemar Gathering Highland Games, which we did and loved. But that event was really just the Hitchcockian "MacGuffin" for making a trip to Scotland that went well beyond just the Gathering in Braemar (although that segment of the trip did include a brush with greatness involving Dame Judi Dench and our hotel's elevator).
posted by JimInLoganSquare to Travel & Transportation (14 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Ah! I was coming in to suggest the Hand Ba' played in the Scottish Borders (pics) but sounds like that's the one spot you probably don't need to go! But just in case you need an excuse to return, or in case someone else comes this way some time in need of inspiration...
posted by penguin pie at 3:00 PM on September 15, 2019

the 4th annual MLK Jr parade in Lexington, Virginia.

It's an attempt to reclaim the day in Lexington as the state of Virginia officially celebrates "Lee-Jackson Day" on the same day. Both of them are buried in Lexington so there are lots of "sons and daughters of the Confederacy" groups that come through town and hold their own events.

(I have attended all three years prior and there have not been any incidents with the Confederates, we brought our preschool age son at least this past year when it was on the weekend).
posted by noloveforned at 3:34 PM on September 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

Looking forward to the responses. Dussehra in Northern India, Inti Raymi in the Andes, and the Naadam festival in Mongolia are big and perhaps obvious festivals that more or less welcome respectful tourists as spectators. But, they may be rather larger bullseyes than one needs metafilter for. Less obvious is the Hakata Gion Yamakasa Festival in Fukuoma, Japan. (I missed it by six hours and have been annoyed ever since!)

Full solar eclipse chasing is also an option. Chile, Mexico, the central US, and northern North America are coming up reasonably soon.

(I'd personally call this a boondoggle rather than a MacGuffin, but can believe the later can also mean the same.)
posted by eotvos at 3:36 PM on September 15, 2019

Waterford Walls in Waterford, Ireland. It's brilliant and relatively new so it's not a madhouse yet. It's also a really nice area to do other stuff and tour around in any weather (important!). And you can fly into Cork, which is kind of an underrated town - I always enjoy visiting Cork.
posted by fshgrl at 3:51 PM on September 15, 2019

Some geographical constraints would be handy, but if you're looking to vacation in a modest but underrated American city, the Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Race is one of my all-time favorite events. If you like it, you'll like a lot of things about Baltimore.
posted by babelfish at 4:01 PM on September 15, 2019 [6 favorites]

Close to home but coming next weekend: the Common Ground Fair in Unity, Maine is an organic version of the state fair with the usual animal and vegetable exhibits but the activities are more homestead oriented, the food is healthy and the music is local. It's big and varied and laid back. It's probably too late to arrange for nearby lodging this year unless you want to camp but keep it in mind.
posted by Botanizer at 4:45 PM on September 15, 2019

A short train ride from Kyoto is Kurama, where they hold the Kurama Fire Festival at night on the same day of the Kyoto Jidai Matsuri (October 22). Huge torches are carried through the streets of the town.
posted by ShooBoo at 5:42 PM on September 15, 2019

Find all the Diego Rivera murals in San Fransisco.
posted by pilot pirx at 7:34 PM on September 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

Looks like next year will be the year for the hurling in Bodmin, which happens only once every five years! Cornwall is beautiful, and you could win ten pounds!
posted by rikschell at 8:15 PM on September 15, 2019

I accidentally spent the fourth of July in Seward, Alaska without knowing that the Mount Marathon Race, parade, midnight and still sunny fireworks, and cookouts are absolute bucket-list shit. Plus then you're in Alaska.
posted by athirstforsalt at 9:40 PM on September 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

Some friends and I once scheduled an entire Fourth of July long weekend trip around the fireworks and festivities in Independence, IA and I must say, it was the best Independence Day fireworks show that I have ever seen in my whole life.
posted by andrewesque at 6:04 AM on September 16, 2019

How about watching - or even participating in - the Kalmit Klapprad Cup, which takes place every year on the first Saturday in September in the Palatinate region of Germany: People on folding bikes (no gear shifts allowed) dress up according to a yearly theme and race up the Kalmit, which is the highest mountain of the Palatinate Forest. The distance is 6km, the elevation gain about 450 metres. Great fun! Last year's theme was fairy tales, the year before was circus and the year before that pizza, pasta and chianti (links to YouTube videos).
posted by amf at 6:49 AM on September 16, 2019

Whitefish Winter Carnival
posted by Duffington at 1:17 PM on September 16, 2019

There's also Art Shanty Projects in Minneapolis in late January and early February and the Bay to Breakers race in May in San Francisco.
posted by eotvos at 4:45 PM on September 16, 2019

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