Vive la France! Now that we’ve gotten our own country’s birthday out of the way, it’s time to keep the party going with France’s Bastille Day on July 14. But if you can’t make it to France this month, not to worry – there are plenty of cities all over the U.S. that celebrate Bastille Day, and chances are there’s one near you!
In fact, they’re not only near you; they’re more fun and last longer, too. That’s because in France, it’s a one-day affair – it’s always on July 14th and once it’s done, it’s done. Here in the States, it’s more of an excuse to party all weekend long, no matter what day the 14th falls on each year. For Bastille Day 2010, most major events are happening over the weekend of July 9-11, with only French restaurants and some bars observing the actual day with special deals.
So that means you are going to be getting your French on early on some years, and later on others. Make sure to check with the event organizers to make sure you’re not too early or too late. But without further adieu (French joke, sorry), these are the most fun Bastille Day events all over the nation!
Philadelphia – Bastille Day Festival and the Fairmount French Fling Weekend
The Eastern State Penitentiary is no longer a functioning prison, but it makes a great setting for ridiculously fun Bastille Day events. The four-day festival starts with a bar crawl on Thursday; on Friday there are open-air Pepe-le-Peu cartoons and films shown on the lawn; and Saturday has a Tricycle Tour de France, a dress-up-your-pet parade and a Tastykake-and-super-soaker recreation of the storming of the Bastille, followed by after-parties. If you’re still standing, there’s a French Champagne Brunch sponsored by three area restaurants on Sunday. Say what you want about Philly, but they know how to party.
New York – Bastille Day on East 60th Street
New York’s Bastille Day block party, held on a Sunday, is a little less rowdy but a lot of fun for the whole family. You can play pétanque, the famous French lawn game, attend wine, beer and cheese tastings at the French Institute Alliance Française (for under $15!), and lots of other free themed events like mime performances, waiter races, and a Tour de France on stationary bikes. Raffles for prizes for trips to France, french dinners, French movie DVDs and French language classes will also be held, so if you need a little more joie de vivre, you might even be able to win it.
Seattle – Bastille Day Festival
This one is on Sunday as well, and main events are held at the Fisher Pavillion of the Seattle Center, where the Space Needle is located. Their festival is well-curated, with everything from public screenings of hometown travel guruRick Steves’ France shows in the Pavilion to live music and cooking demonstrations on the Fisher Lawn and $5 wine tastings on the Fisher Roof. There’s even a Citroën car show and a photo competition. French ham and butter baguette sandwiches will feed the hungry crowds, as will French cheeses, sausages and frites.
East Town Milwaukee – Bastille Days
Milwaukee – who knew? And you read that right, it’s Days, as in plural, as in Thursday through Sunday. And they’ve got everything French, all the time, in several locations. There is a full line-up of bands, French language lessons, belly dancing, tastings, mini French lessons, a dog parade, dozens of food and drink vendors selling French specialties… and since it’s Milwaukee, a beer tent. Just look for the to-scale Eiffel Tower, and you’ll know you’re in the right place! Come early on Friday (from 4pm – 6pm) for happy hour and enjoy $3 glasses of beer or wine.
New Orleans – Bastille Day Block Party
New Orleans is bursting with French culture, from the French-influences found in the cuisine to the French-language street signs found in the Quarter (They don’t call it the French Quarter for nothing!). The city hosts a big fat Bastille Day Party, starting on Saturday on Ponce de Leon Street with food vendors and a French dance band and going right on through to Sunday at the French Market where you’ll find a waiters’ race and Marie Antoinette herself serving cake to the masses. Celebrate France’s birthday with a Cajun twist!
St. Louis – Soulard Bastille Days
The historic Soulard area was first settled by the French and today is a wonderful, diverse section of St. Louis; their Bastille Day festival is the weekend after July 14 this year, and there will be blood – a mock beheading of a king and queen is the highlight of the weekend, on Friday night (July 16)! Then on Saturday there is a huge daylong festival in Soulard Market Park, and the festivities wrap up on Sunday with a Tour de Soulard cycling race. Tres chouette!
Bastille Day isn’t the only summer festival coming up. Check out more summer festival travel deals in August and September.