For a taste of the great outdoors, watch whales dip in and out of the water at the Hermanus Whale Festival (20 – 24 September, Hermanus), along the rugged coast from Cape Town. If those darned whales don’t appear on demand (it has been known), there’s music and food tents aplenty to keep punters amused. New Mexico is the setting for the International Balloon Festival (5 – 13 October, Albuquerque). The sight of almost 1,000 deflated balloons is quite a sight to behold, as well as odd balloons that appear every festival: the Michelin man, a stars and stripes flag and even a Jack Daniels bottle have been floated in recent years. Along the same lines is the Berkeley Kite Festival (27 – 28 July, Berkeley) in California, or closer to home, the Bristol Kite Festival (31 August – 1 September, Bristol) is one of the largest in Europe. California’s version is predictably bigger and brasher, boasting a kite “bigger than a house and longer than a train”.
For those hardier than a husky on creotine, check out Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival (5 January for a month, Harbin), in north-east China. As well as the ice and snow sculptures – the snow sculptures on Sun Island are particularly impressive – the Siberian Tiger Park lets you get up close and personal with some big cats. But be warned: temperatures of -30 degrees are considered warm. The Sapporo Snow Festival (February, Sapporo) in Japan or the Holmenkollen Ski Festival (March, Oslo) is just as cold, but with cross-country skiing rather than snow sculptures. You’ll have heard of the Hindu festival of Holi before, and if you haven’t you might recognise it as the one where people cover themselves in brightly coloured powder to celebrate the victory of good over bad. It’s held on the day after the March full moon (17 March 2014).
Poland’s Jewish Culture Festival (late June to early July, Krakow) is bookended by two concerts and is didactic in its purpose – to inform through screenings, workshops, exhibitions and lectures and to have a bloody good knees-up, in the buzzing district of Kazimierz. For a ramped-up version of the iconic Oxford-Cambridge Varsity boat race along the Thames river, the Duanwu Festival, or Dragon Boat Festival (12 June, across China), which takes place all across China and south-east Asian destinations, will be right up your street. Replace eight Oxbridge types with a Chinese dragon and you kind of get the idea.