Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta – Albuquerque, New Mexico
Since 1972, the city of Albuquerque has hosted ballooning enthusiasts and inquisitive locals at the International Balloon Fiesta. This 39th annual event will have more than 500 registered hot-air or gas balloons and 650 pilots traveling in from 17 different countries and 39 U.S. states. A highlight of the fiesta is on the first night, October 2—the Balloon Glow is a starry display of lit-from-within balloons that seem to triple the amount of stars in the night sky. Followed by one of New Mexico’s largest fireworks displays, the moment is consistently named as participants’ favorite.
Black and Blue Festival – Montreal, Canada
In 1991, 800 people gathered to party, sending all proceeds to an organization built to provide resources for people living with AIDS. Now 20 years later, the Black and Blue Festival is the largest gay and lesbian dance fest in the world. If your idea of fun is packing yourself into an over-capacity warehouse full of speakers the size of your office cubicle while showing off your interpretation of the word “dance,” then Montreal, October 6-12, is where you should be.
Oktoberfest – Tulsa, Oklahoma
That’s right, Oklahoma is home to one of the most highly praised Oktoberfest celebrations. Tipsy frat boys, crazed foodies, and even locals applaud the event’s yearly execution. Bon Appétit, USA Today, ABC News, and Maxim are all major media outlets that have ranked T-Town among their top ten places to chug a beer—as if any of us really need advice on where to do that. Admission will set you back six dollars, and shuttles run from various points in the city. Mugs and pretzels the size of your head, accordion tunes on repeat, and over-zealous keg-tappers abound.
Kohpangan – Koh Pha Ngan, Thailand
Full Moon Party. This all-night beach party started in 1985 as a “secret” getaway from the highly trotted tourist trail and now houses a rowdy bunch of nearly 20,000 adventure seekers each full moon, the next being October 23. Bars, bands, and the police stay up until sunrise the next day to ensure the party keeps going… safely. Though the festival has gotten a bit of a bad rep, more recent events have seen a crackdown on the, uh, crack, and Thai police have been out in force patrolling the once isolated party. My advice: Stick to Singha, Tiger, and Chang, don’t bring anything with you more valuable than a ten dollar bill, and make sure to stumble back to your hotel room instead of a bed on the beach.
Chonburi Buffalo Races – Chonburi, Thailand
The first weekend in October is when farmers from the Thai province of Chonburi load up their most highly skilled buffalo and head into the city for some neighborly competition followed by a buffalo-carted parade through the streets of Chonburi City. It is said that the skilled buffs are fed a diet consisting of only beer and eggs. That’s up to your own discretion—unless you are a Thai buffalo breeder in the know. Bring your appetite for some seriously spicy grub and an open mind for celebrating as the Thai do: Muay Thai boxing, greasy pole climbing, and cock fighting. To bring some beauty into the festivities, each year a new “Miss Farm Maiden” is crowned.
Abu Simbel Festival – Abu Simbel, Egypt
Ramses II took charge of his architectural history when he had his temple painstakingly built and angled at Abu Simbel so that the inner sanctum would light up twice a year when the sun hit it perfectly. And now on his birthday and the anniversary of him taking throne, travelers gather to watch the inner sanctum glow radiantly as the statue of Ptah (the god of darkness) stays in a dimly-lit shadow. These two events are called the Abu Simbel Festival. When Nasser Lake rose in the 60s, the entire temple was saved and brought to higher ground. Subsequently, the sun now hits a day later than initially planned.
ZomBcon – Seattle, Washington
If you like fake blood and vampire teeth, get your zombie walk on over to the three-day event of all things gore. For $30, slide into your best duds for Prom Night of the Living Dead, a Halloween costume party. Other events include a tribute to the “Godfather of Zombie Films,” George Romero, a blood-red carpet screening of The Day of the Dead, and a blood drive to benefit the Puget Sound Blood Center. If you get queasy easily, this isn’t the event for you.