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Known for Festivals

Pasadena, California

New Year’s Eve is all about the ball drop, but New Year’s Day is reserved for the Rose Bowl. An estimated 700,000 people from around the world gather in Pasadena in the days leading up to the Tournament of Roses Parade and Rose Bowl game.

“There’s a lot of energy in the week leading up to the parade,” said Melissa Perez, marketing manager for the Pasadena Convention and Visitors Bureau — and there’s a lot for groups to do.

The CVB has a list of float-decorating companies and individual associations that need people to work around the clock in the days just preceding the event to put the finishing touches on floats, something visitors are welcome to do. If groups don’t want to decorate, they can head to Rosemont Pavilion at the Rose Bowl Stadium to watch as workers apply seeds, bark and grasses to floats. After the parade, floats are displayed along Sierra Madre and Washington boulevards.

Live on Green is an annual three-day celebration that coincides with the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl. For three decades, the free festival has entertained visitors from morning to night with live music, performances, activities, contests, food booths and more at the Pasadena Convention Center.

Groups can also arrange for guided tours of the 1922 Rose Bowl Stadium or explore Pasadena’s local food scene with Melting Pot Food Tours.

Holland, Michigan

Spring is when the tulips bloom across Holland, Michigan, but autumn is planting season for roughly 6 million bulbs. Sometimes groups will participate in the fall community planting, “then come back in the spring and say, ‘I planted that,’” said Sally Laukitis, executive director of the Holland Area Visitors Bureau.

The annual Tulip Time Festival has been a citywide celebration since 100,000 tulips imported from the Netherlands bloomed in 1929. Although Tulip Time highlights the best of Holland’s Dutch culture, it kicks off in May with Fiesta!, a celebration of Holland’s Latino culture. The two-day festival, held at the Shops at Westshore, features live music, traditional dancers, crafts and a car show.

Many groups arrive midweek to catch the main events, including the festival’s three parades. Groups can enjoy dance performances and concerts and sign up for hands-on programs, such as stenciling Delftware patterns on dishware. The festival also offers step-on guides and a docent program for groups.

Guests can make Dutch pastry at Nelis’ Dutch Village or enjoy an organ concert at the 1856 Pillar Church. At Windmill Island, groups can watch a demonstration of the working flour mill in the 255-year-old DeZwaan windmill, which was imported from the Netherlands in 1964.

At the DeKlomp Wooden Shoe and Delft Factory, groups can watch craftsmen carving wooden shoes, chat with artists or visit the Holland Bowl Mill to watch craftsmen make wooden bowls.

Albuquerque, New Mexico

The population of the state of New Mexico is a little over 2 million residents. That lends perspective to the fact that about 1 million people visit Albuquerque during the nine-day Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, so “there’s a lot of activity,” said Brenna Moore, public relations and communications manager for Visit Albuquerque.

“It’s quite exciting; everybody loves that time of year,” she said. “You see balloons right outside your window every morning.”

Every October, teams from around the world descend on the city to ascend from the 360-acre Balloon Fiesta Park, the launching place for balloons and the stomping grounds for visitors. Daily events include mass ascensions, races, competitions, “glowdeos,” laser shows and fireworks displays. The adjacent Anderson-Abruzzo International Balloon Museum just opened a new 4-D theater and will soon open an interactive weather lab, Moore said.

Some balloons can hold more than a dozen people, although rides should be reserved well in advance. On the ground, groups can sign up to help inflate balloons or be part of a chase crew.

Several other events coincide with the Balloon Fiesta. The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center’s two-day Albuquerque American Indian Arts Festival features 50 Native American artists, and the Rio Grande Arts and Crafts Festival runs during both fiesta weekends. Old Town Albuquerque becomes its own festival with live music and daily walking tours of the historic quarter.