Spring has sprung, which means fair-weather festivities are popping up all across the globe — from concerts galore to spirited sporting events that last mere minutes. The following events are well worth the journey, and promise to provide the perfect transition into a summer of fun.
Often referred to as the most exciting two minutes in sports, the Kentucky Derby attracts the seersuckered set (and more than 100,000 others) to Louisville each year to drink barrel-aged bourbon and place bets on which three-year-old thoroughbred will be draped in roses. While you can get general admission tickets, the place to see and be seen is Millionaires Row — these choice box seats feature the best viewing platforms, convenient self-service wagering machines, VIP hospitality, full-service bars and buffets full of regional comfort foods such as hot browns (open-faced turkey sandwiches with bacon and Mornay sauce) and steaming burgoo (a spicy stew). Each year, Woodford Reserve sells a limited number of $1,000 mint juleps in custom-engraved, gold-plated trophy cups presented in a box made from bourbon barrel staves. Another annual tradition is the Taste of the Derby, an event held on the eve of the Kentucky Oaks where you can horse around with other racing fans over glasses of Stella and small plates from chefs such as Brian Malarkey and Chris Shepherd. May 1-3
Where To Stay: Located just minutes from Churchill Downs, the site of the Kentucky Derby, The Seelbach Hilton Hotel is Southern hospitality at its finest. Built in 1905, the historic property even inspired author F. Scott Fitzgerald, who modeled the grand setting of Tom and Daisy Buchanan’s wedding in The Great Gatsby after the hotel.
Memphis in May
In its 38th year, this month-long, citywide celebration kicks off with the Beale Street Music Festival, a three-day event (May 2-4) held at Tom Lee Park, overlooking the Mississippi River. This year’s most anticipated acts include Jerry Lee Lewis, Alabama Shakes, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Patti LaBelle, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts and Kid Rock. Next, International Week (May 5-11) honors the culture, customs and cuisine of Panama with musical performances, film screenings and exhibits around town. The annual World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest is a three-day throwdown (May 15-17) where teams compete to see who can slow-cook the best shoulders, ribs and whole hogs to the tune of live country and bluegrass. The festivities come to a close with Sunset Symphony, an all-day event (May 24) on the banks of the Mississippi. After performances by local musicians and an aerial stunt show featuring vintage Air Force aircraft at sunset, lounge on the lawn and enjoy a fireworks finale as the Memphis Symphony Orchestra plays. May 2-24
Where to Stay: Located just blocks from Beale Street, Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star The Peabody Memphis’ name rings as prominently as some of the headliners on the festival’s marquee. Between sets, be sure to catch the famous parade of ducks and nosh on a Four-Star meal from Chez Philippe, possibly the world’s only French restaurant that refuses to serve duck.
Cannes International Film Festival
Since 1946, the Cannes Film Festival has set the standard for films all over the world by previewing new works in a variety of genres, from shorts and documentaries to buzzed-about features. Unlike the Oscars, anyone can submit a film to be viewed and judged by members of the selection committee. For 12 days in May, this normally quiet seaside resort town in the South of France transforms into the No. 1 hot spot for anyone involved in the movie industry. Between ceremonies for awards such as the coveted Palme d’Or (best feature film), directors and filmmakers can take in master classes and screenings that range from black-tie affairs to midnight movies on the beach. Unfortunately, official Cannes events are invite-only. Though no tickets are sold, if you rub elbows with the right person, you just might find yourself walking the red carpet and partying until dawn with A-list celebrities. May 14-25
Where To Stay: Because of InterContinental Carlton Cannes’ sensational views of the Riviera — no need to even mention the stately Old Hollywood furnishings and air of aristocracy that fill all 343 rooms — it’s understandable that availability is limited for May.
Bottle Rock Napa Valley
This Napa music festival hawks decorum as much as decibels. In fact, the only thing more impressive than Bottle Rock’s three-day, 60-band roster is the menu of local wineries and restaurants also attached. You and the 35,000 other daily attendees not only get to enjoy headliners such as The Cure, Outkast and TV on the Radio, but you can meander through the restaurant garden and food truck rodeo, meeting the presenting winemakers and chefs in the process. St. Supéry Vineyards & Winery and Del Dotto Vineyards are just a few of the world-class vintners representing at the event. The likes of local farm-to-table favorite The Thomas and Fagiani’s Bar, Morimoto Napa and a few others will graciously prepare the food. VIP passholders can look forward to exclusive refreshments, special viewing platforms, upgraded restrooms, VIP-only performances and after-hours events. May 30-June 1
Where To Stay: Meadowood Napa Valley, located in nearby St. Helena, will feel worlds away from the festival bustle. But we have to warn you: After the four-handed massage at the rustic hotel’s world-class spa and an early dinner at the innovative Five-Star restaurant, you might feel too relaxed to go back to Bottle Rock for the night’s set.
Fès Festival of World Sacred Music
The 20th edition of the Fès Festival will come to life in the 1,200-year-old city of Fez, Morocco. Musicians of all religions and nationalities converge at this gathering, which is just as much about spirituality as it is about creativity. Past festivals have featured performances by legendary flamenco guitarist Pace de Lucia, Portuguese fado singer Ana Moura, eclectic superstar Björk and the late, great Ravi Shankar. While the 14th-century Bab Al Makina courtyard is the place to catch headliners (American singer-songwriter Patti Smith, Syrian performer Assala Nasri) each night, there is much else to do. The Batha Museum hosts more intimate concerts, film screenings and art exhibitions. Free nightly parties can be experienced in the gardens of Dar Tazi and Bab Boujloud as a part of the Sufi Nights concert series. If you’re looking for more excitement, simply wind your way through the twisting alleys of Fès’ medina and discover snake charmers, drum circles, dance performances and invitations to sip Moroccan mint tea in cafés. June 13-21
Where To Stay: When the sounds start to settle for the evening, sneak off to Dar El Ghalia, a 19th-century guest house decked out in mosaic tile, Moroccan art, open fireplaces and other touches that are music to high-end travelers’ ears.
Photos Courtesy of iStock, Bottle Rock Napa Valley and The Peabody Memphis