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Looking Ahead Mark your calendar for these fun-filled events held across the country in April and May.
If you’re a dyed-in-the-wool fan of London’s most eccentric gumshoe, Sherlock Holmes, then it’s only elementary, my dear Watson, that you should attend the second annual 221B Con, its name cribbed from the address of the legendary sleuth’s Baker Street flat. Held at the Atlanta Marriott Perimeter Center, this three-day event—the largest of its kind in the world—honors every imaginable aspect, permutation, and representation of one of the world’s most beloved and recognizable characters. (Indeed, Holmes has starred in 60 of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories and has been portrayed by 70-plus actors in more than 200 films and TV shows.) Panels include “A Most Prodigious Author: [Arthur Conan Doyle’s] Other Works,” “Women in Sherlock,” and “Birth of the Detective Novel” plus sessions on the BBC’s Sherlock and CBS’ Elementary, while a costume contest caps the event and is sure to include enough deerstalker hats to make Bambi bound quickly out of town. Celebrity guests, Q-and-A’s, and a live, onstage performance of a Holmes classic by the Atlanta Radio Theatre Company complete the more than 130-hours of programming. From $55 for a weekend pass
5 New York City
Ah, how much more peaceful—not to mention deliriously silly—would the world be if we were to solve global conflicts and border disputes with pillow fights instead of harsh sanctions and nuclear threats. Not that The Big Apple’s ninth annual International Pillow Fight in Washington Square Park is anvil-heavy with ideology; rather, it’s mostly about family-friendly, all-ages tomfoolery. Feathers will fly at 3 p.m. sharp as this year’s event looks to attract thousands of cushioned commandos in an attempt to best last fall’s Guinness World Record of 3,813 pillow-armed combatants in Chicago. (Similarly epic battles will occur on the same day in more than 100 major cities around the world.) According to Wikipedia, a useful technique in a pillow fight is to bundle the nibs, but exhaustive research hasn’t helped us better define how exactly one accomplishes this, so you’re on your own. Free
12 Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
Famed Romantic poet William Wordsworth once said, “The ocean is a mighty harmonist.” So it only makes sense that a school of big fish—including Nashville, Tennessee’s powerhouse Luke Bryan, chart-topper Sheryl Crow, and reggae great Ziggy Marley—will unleash power chords and smash hits at the second annual Rock the Ocean’s Tortuga Music Festival, a two-day, family-friendly event dedicated to raising funds for marine research and conservation. This jubilant and edifying affair begins at 11 a.m. across three stages on the sands of Fort Lauderdale Beach Park, where tens of thousands of fans can, at Sheryl Crow’s urging, “soak up the sun,” while also enjoying the pop smarts of Train, Delta Rae, and other hitmakers. Plus, in the interactive Conservation Village guests can enjoy touch tanks, virtual-gaming consoles, and sustainable seafood prepared by top chefs. Festival passes start at $165, children 10 and under free
19 Portland, Oregon
Chocolate and peanut butter. Sonny and Cher. Beer and Ping-Pong. The world is full of offbeat combinations, but the 12th annual Filmed By Bike festival, taking niche cinema to a new extreme, may very well take the cake. This popular four-day event squishes together movie-making and bicycles, wheeling audiences through 45 of the best bike-themed independent short movies from around the world. Some are stunt compilations, others are animations, but the vast majority go deep inside of heretofore unexplored aspects of bike culture, as in last year’s Bare As You Dare, a documentary on the annual Portland World Naked Bike Ride, and Three-Legged Horses, a short about a pedi-cab driver’s final day on the job. Held at the historic Clinton Street Theater, one of the oldest continually operating cinemas in the country, Filmed By Bike kicks off with a raucous street party and on closing night crowns the fest’s best filmmaker with, natch, The Golden Helmet Award. $25 for a festival pass
It’s doubtful that Wordsworth was endorsing Earth Day 175 years ago, but his quill certainly swooned at Mother Nature’s many miracles, penning ode upon sonnet to her majesty. The Emerald City kicks off its own family-friendly observance of Earth Day, Arbor Day, and springtime at the Seattle Art Museum’s Olympic Sculpture Park. Opened in 2007, the OSP transformed a nine-acre industrial site into a beachside gathering space featuring dozens of original works of art made from glass, bronze, black granite, and more. Enjoy the eye-popping pieces and the stunning views of the Olympic Mountains, all while shaking your booty to eclectic local bands or devouring delicious organic eats. Guests can also celebrate The Blue Planet with hands-on environmental activities, art-making inspired by the natural world, tours that tell about the site’s history and the park’s ecology, and more. The event runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Free
22 Oklahoma City
One of the nation’s largest events of its kind, the 48th annual Oklahoma Festival of the Arts is a Big Friendly rite of spring, a six-day extravaganza of visual arts, performance, interactivity, and good eats. At this year’s fest, more than 750,000 guests will delight in the works of fine artists from 30-plus states, witness nonstop live acts featuring everyone from elementary school kiddos to professional shredders, and enjoy a Children’s Art Field offering face painting and arts and crafts activities. Held at Festival Plaza and the Myriad Botanical Gardens in downtown Oklahoma City, the event also dishes up an inviting International Food Row, serving tasty Indian tacos and strawberries Newport, as well as yummy plates of BBQ, pizza, and Filipino and Polynesian cuisine. Is it any wonder that musical-comedy maestros Rodgers & Hammerstein wrote so rhapsodically about the Sooner State? Free
24 Norfolk, Virginia
Despite what you might expect, the 17th annual Virginia International Tattoo is not dedicated to intricate body art but is instead a rousing four-day celebration of valor, patriotism, freedom, and sacrifice. In this instance, “tattoo,” a 17th-century wartime colloquialism, indicates “a ceremonial performance of military music by massed bands,” according to the organizers’ website. Gathering more than 900 performing units—including military and civilian bands, drill teams, gymnasts, drum bands, and Highland dancers—from around the world, the Virginia International Tattoo, part of the Virginia Arts Festival, is the largest event of its type in America. In honor of the 50th Anniversary Vietnam War Commemoration (a 13-year Department of Defense program that will run until 2025), 2014’s Tattoo will recognize and pay homage to Vietnam veterans and their families. In between spectacular performances, local vendors will provide the anticipated 30,000 guests a variety of dining options, and you can go bottoms up at the event’s legendary beer garden. Performances begin at 7:30 each night, with a 2:30 p.m. Sunday matinee. From $20
24 Newport Beach, California
Newport Beach has provided a home base for many of the 20th-century’s biggest movie stars, including James Cagney, John Wayne, Humphrey Bogart, Shirley Temple, and Errol Flynn, so it only makes sense that the Orange County coastal haven would host a world-class film festival. Although Sundance continues to hog the limelight when it comes to indie cinema, the Newport Beach Film Festival, now in its 15th year, screens a celebrated combination of classic and contemporary movies from around the globe, with more than 400 films on 15 screens over eight days. Festivals past have honored Oscar winners like actor Alan Arkin, composer Elmer Bernstein, and legendary director Robert Wise, while acclaimed names like Aaron Sorkin, the Academy-Award winning scribe of The Social Network, have offered free workshops in recent years. Crowd favorites include the Family Film Series and the Youth Film Showcase, as well as free industry seminars on film music composition, directing, animation, and writing. From $14
Even if the best of the Windy City’s chefs weren’t sizzling up over three tons of juicy pork goodness, creating bacon-infused cocktails and imaginative desserts, we’d still have to attend the sixth annual Baconfest Chicago because it promises a singular contest for the best poetry written about, you guessed it, bacon. With three shifts over two days (a Friday night dinner, a Saturday afternoon lunch, and a Saturday evening dinner), this year’s fest will host more than 4,000 rasher fans at the UIC Forum to sip tasty cocktails—all featuring bacony twists—and sample creative dishes from 150 restaurants. Last year’s celebrity chefs included Dan Smith (one of Food Network’s The Hearty Boys), Top Chef’s Heather Terhune, and staff from Chicago restaurant Table Fifty-Two, who whipped up dishes like slow-poached egg with bacon ragout, bacon dashi and nori; bacon scrapple with bacon sriracha and bacon-salt cured egg yolks; and bacon-wrapped hickory-smoked ribs with bacon-guajillo BBQ sauce. The ticket price includes unlimited food samples and up to seven beverages from Baconfest’s liquor partners. From $100
27 Little Rock, Arkansas
Though the Natural State is home to fewer than 2,000 Jews, the state’s Jewish Food Festival, celebrating its eighth year, consistently draws nearly 15,000 guests to its mouthwatering affair. “I think so many people attend the festival because it’s an opportunity to eat foods that are normally not available in Arkansas—which is exciting for both Jews and non-Jews,” says festival publicity chair Shelly Baron. This year, Little Rock’s War Memorial Stadium dishes up a savory array of booths devoted to Jewish history, culture, customs, and art, with a live soundtrack of contemporary and traditional Jewish music played by local and regional bands. Most importantly, no one leaves hungry, as the event is a veritable smorgasbord of delectables, breaking fast with an early morning combo of bagels, cream cheese, blintzes, and kugel. Throughout the day, bakers serve up piping hot rugelach, honey cakes, challah, and mandel brot, while additional chefs deliver corned beef sandwiches, kosher hot dogs, cabbage rolls, and other Jewish delicacies. As famed Jewish humorist Fran Lebowitz says, “Food is an important part of a balanced diet.” So be’te-avon, or bon appétit! Free
The Mile High City hosts its 27th annual Cinco de Mayo Festival—the largest in the United States—which celebrates the victory of an outnumbered Mexican army against the attacking French forces in 1862 with the best in Latino music, food, art, and culture. This two-day, family-friendly event will have you saying muchas gracias for its full-sensory, south-of-the-border exuberance. After kicking off with a vibrant, colorful parade, the fest offers up a high-octane chili bowl cook-off, carnival rides and amusements for the kids, more than 200 exhibitors, and live entertainment on three stages, including the percolating sounds of norteño, mariachi, duranguense, banda, and cumbia bands. When thirst strikes, stop by one of the festival’s myriad shot stations, margarita stands, or beer booths serving up—what else?—Tecate and Dos Equis on draft. If that doesn’t have you saying si, si, then we have two more words for you: Chihuahua races! Free
8 Las Vegas
“No place on earth has the concentration of great restaurants and great chefs [that Las Vegas has] in three square miles,” says John Curtas, restaurant critic and co-author of Eating Las Vegas: The 50 Essential Restaurants—and that is fully evidenced at the eighth annual Vegas Uncork’d, hosted by Bon Appétit magazine. A gourmand’s dream come true, the event collects some of Sin City’s greatest culinary magicians—from Mario Batali to Michael Mina, Thomas Keller to Pierre Gagnaire—in a foodtastic celebration held at a sampling of the city’s most dazzling casinos. Over four days, guests can enjoy an enticing cornucopia of special offerings, including an exclusive dinner with famed chef Nobu Matsuhisa at Caesars Palace, a pig roast with Mina at the MGM Grand, Asian-inspired cuisine with Batali and crew at The Venetian, and a grilling/cocktail event with chef Royden Ellamar and mixologist Ricardo Murcia at The Bellagio. Caesars hosts the Grand Tasting, plating up choice morsels from participating master chefs, with the venue’s hot new nightclub, FIZZ, delivering a sizzling after-party and an exhibit of art from Elton John’s private collection. From $80
We’re off to see the wizard, the wonderful wizard of Oz—but forget the Emerald City, we’re heading to Beantown’s Symphony Hall. In honor of the iconic film’s 75th anniversary, Boston Pops conductor Keith Lockhart leads the famed orchestra in three stirring performances of The Wizard of Oz’s score while the film, complete with dialogue and vocals, plays on screen overhead. You’ll hear all of E.Y. Harburg and Harold Arlen’s classic tunes, from “Ding Dong! the Witch is Dead” and “Follow the Yellow Brick Road” to the beloved Judy Garland ballad “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” which was chosen by the American Film Institute in 2004 as the greatest movie song of all time. Two family matinee concerts take place on Saturday and Sunday afternoon, with an additional evening performance Saturday at 8 p.m. The film premiered on August 15, 1939, but despite their advanced ages, Dorothy and crew have never looked—or sounded—better. From $22
16 Rosemont, Illinois
All the coolest kids know that anime—a Japanese style of animation renowned for its sophisticated storytelling, complex characters, fantastical worlds, and a distinct aesthetic popularized in landmark works like Astro Boy, G-Force: Guardians of Space, Robotech, and Pokémon—is where it’s at. For three days, the Prairie State’s Hyatt Regency O’Hare and Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, which are connected by skywalk and lie just half an hour northwest of downtown Chicago, will become Anime Central, the Midwest’s largest anime, manga, and Japanese pop culture convention. The family-friendly event’s 24-hour programming includes movie premieres, live performances, a massive exhibit hall, interactive panels, gaming, and the opportunity to meet your favorite anime artists and creators—in short, Anime Central is the place to get doe-eyed over this wildly popular genre. Screenings include the latest in steampunk, giant robots, magical girl, and Chibi Kawaii, while gaming music maestro Cranky, Tokyo/UK hardcore great Minamotoya, and DJ/producer Jakazid round out the music lineup. Saturday evening’s masquerade ball is always a highlight, and kids under 12 are free all day Sunday. $60 for adults, $15 for children 6–12, children 5 and under free
Dubbed the “race of the century” by Sports Illustrated, Preakness Stakes, celebrating its 139th year in 2014, is the second leg of the Triple Crown (between the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes), in which thoroughbred colts, geldings, and fillies hightail it around a Grade I, 9.5-furlong, flat track for a whopping $1.5 million purse. One of the largest single-day sporting events in the United States and immortalized in the feature films Secretariat and Seabiscuit, Preakness launches with an extended live set from Grammy-winner Lorde, followed by the traditional audience sing-along of “Maryland, My Maryland” and the thunderous galloping of hooves. The record to beat is a 1:53 run posted in 1973 by Secretariat, who graced the covers of Time, Newsweek, and Sports Illustrated in a single year and was named, in 1999, the 35th Best Athlete of the 20th century by ESPN. This year, odds favor 2013’s Kentucky Derby winner, Orb, who at press time had a five-race winning streak. Preakness, dubbed “The People’s Party” by its organizer, the Maryland Jockey Club, also offers up four-star dining overlooking the race course, exquisite cocktails, and special events, including stable tours and jockey meet-and-greets. On your mark, get set, go! From $25
Indy 500 drivers can zoom around the track at more than 200 mph; turtles, not so much. But as the saying goes, slow and steady wins the race—and that’s especially true when the only competitors are of the hard-shelled variety. Billed as “the greatest event in tortoise racing,” the Indianapolis Zoo’s Zoopolis 500, now in its 34th year, pits five resident endangered radiated tortoises against each other for a shot at the grand prize: a plate of fruit. Held on the Wednesday before the Indy 500, the fun begins at 10:30 a.m., when guests can mingle with the zoo’s mascots and this year’s “500 Festival” Princesses (college-age ambassadors for the race’s accompanying festival), plus take photos with a pace car at the front gate. Following a parade lap, the green flag drops an hour later, with Indianapolis Motor Speedway announcer Mike King returning for his 16th year to narrate the action as the tortoises attempt to make their way down the course. Last year’s race was the closest in history with Marco the tortoise (named after third-generation race car driver Marco Andretti) taking the fruit—after about seven minutes. Free with zoo admission
Last year, The Wall Street Journal opined that cranking up electronic dance music (EDM) can be akin to “listening to a heart attack,” given its accelerated beats per minute. But it’s doubtful that the 100,000-plus fans expected at the ninth annual Movement Electronic Music Festival will suffer while celebrating this ebullient, tribal genre in a three-day rave at Motor City’s riverfront Hart Plaza. Presenting more than 100 artists on five state-of-the-art outdoor stages, Movement aims to put a spotlight on “rising talents, local heavyweights, and pioneering legends,” which include California’s house DJ Miguel Migs, dance music icon Carl Cox, hip hop producer and DJ Just Blaze, and New York rapper Action Bronson, along with a bevy of local greats. (Past headliners include Grammy winners Fatboy Slim and Skrillex and Grammy nominee Photek, all of whom have helped move EDM closer to the mainstream.) Attendees are sure to give rave reviews to the countless official after-parties and the interactive tech center that features the new wave of EDM industry gear. From $110
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