We've all been there -- you travel to a new city to find that a festival or event is taking place and either the streets are unbearably crowded or you can't go to some of the sights on your list because they're closed, packed, whatever. While likely not enough to ruin your vacation, it can put a damper on things if you aren't prepared. So to avoid outrageous hotel prices and overcrowded venues, read on to see when to steer clear of these five popular cities. And hey, if attending a festival with hordes of people sounds appealing, by all means, enjoy!
1. New York City: Fashion Week
New York City, where you can buy a $1 slice of pizza and stroll through Central Park, or go see Hamilton on Broadway for $600. It's an amazing place that everyone should visit at least once, but preferably not during New York Fashion Week. Taking place twice each year, NYFW is a week-long event where designers showcase their latest collection; expect to see photographers, models, Anna Wintour, and everyone who enjoys a good runway packing the streets of Midtown and SoHo. With the influx of people, hotels and Airbnbs are either at full capacity or have Standard Rooms available for twice the normal rate. So unless you're actually going to attend a show, avoid NYC during these events.
2. Austin, Texas: South by Southwest
The capital of Texas and self-proclaimed Live Music Capital of the World, Austin is known for being a hip and relaxed city with an outdoor-centric culture. Over the years, Austin has become more popular among tech companies, foodie culture, and young artists, thanks largely to the Austin City Limits Music Festival and South by Southwest. SXSW, which is a combination of film, music, and interactive festivals and conferences, will take place this year from March 10-20. While it's an awesome festival (I loved it when I was a college student in Austin), it's busier than any other time of the year. Hotels are full or expensive, traffic is worse than usual, and because of its now huge size, getting into an event without a $1500 badge is nearly impossible. So for a chance to enjoy the city without hordes of other tourists, it's best to book your vacation around the city's major festivals.
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3. Park City: Sundance Film Festival
Located 30 miles east of Salt Lake City, Park City is filled with freshly powdered mountains ideal for skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts. There are three distinct ski resorts in Park City: Park City Mountain for the partiers, Deer Valley for the luxury seekers, and The Canyons for families. With a range of terrain for beginners to advanced skiers, a solid nightlife scene, and plenty of hiking trails and golf courses in the summer, Park City is an excellent destination for a mountain-filled vacation. But before you go booking a flight, you may want to skip the dates when Sundance Film Festival occurs if you aren't a film buff. The 10-day event sees the screening of both A-list pictures and under-the-radar films, and scoring tickets is actually possible. But once again, the crowds at hotels and restaurants could be annoying if you're not interested in the festival.
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4. New Orleans: Mardi Gras
I know, I know, millions of people go to New Orleans specifically for Mardi Gras. The city is filled with parades, floats, and costumed revelers, with hurricanes or frozen daiquiris in hand (drinking in the streets is legal), and beads being thrown around. (While Bourbon Street and French Quarter are also filled with partiers and smaller foot parades going by, float size restrictions in the neighborhood mean none of the main parades pass through here.) Mardi Gras is undoubtedly a fun and unique experience, but the already popular area is completely packed and extremely rowdy, which might be too much for the tourist who just wants to enjoy some beignets and live jazz music. So if ghost tours, Cajun cuisine, and historic Victorian homes are more alluring than dancing and drinking into the night, go to the Big Easy a different week in the year.
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5. Rio de Janeiro: Carnival
According to the festival's website, "Rio Carnival is a wild 5-day celebration, 40 days before Easter." The key word is "wild". Around two million people are in Rio de Janeiro's streets celebrating, with parades, samba dancing, and exquisite costumes. Carnival is absolutely a chance to immerse yourself in Brazil's culture, but can be overwhelming for those not seeking a vacation filled with over-the-top celebrations and massive crowds. If that's the case, sunbathe on the sandy beaches, marvel at the Christ the Redeemer statue, and dine at a churrascaria restaurant when one of the world's largest events isn't taking place.