Culture + Style

Wacky, Wild, and Wonky: 6 of the Weirdest Festivals and Parades

You won’t have to worry about what to wear to the World Naked Bike Ride. (Photo: Alamy)

Attention, party people: Festival season will soon be upon us! If you want to do more this year than hit up the mega-music festivals (not that there’s anything wrong with that), we’ve got a few suggestions for some delightfully alternative outdoor activities. From mythology-themed parades to flying pumpkins, Hemingway impersonators to garlic ice cream, these are six of the weirdest festivals and parades to look forward to this year.

World Naked Bike Ride, Various Cities

If you think that riding around town on two wheels is one of city living’s great pleasures, just wait till you try it sans vêtements. At the World Naked Bike Ride, held in more than a dozen cities around the US, thousands of scantily clad cyclists will feel the breeze in their hair…and everywhere else, too. Founded as a protest against fossil fuels and exposure to emissions, it’s definitely one of the kookiest—and most liberating—events around.

Gilroy Garlic Festival; Gilroy, California

Gilroy Garlic Festival and Parade
Get your fill of the stinking rose at the Gilroy Garlic Festival. (Photo: Courtesy of Gilroy Garlic Festival)

Any event that serves up garlic ice cream as a treat automatically qualifies as one of the weirdest festivals around. Head to Gilroy, California—the “garlic capital of the world”—at the end of July, and you’ll be in for all things allium at the town’s Garlic Festival. In addition to that ice cream, “pyro chefs” at the festival’s Gourmet Alley will cook up garlicky cuisine in flaming skillets, demonstrations will cater to home chefs, and there’ll be plenty of garlic merch to take home, too. Just be sure to bring a lot of gum with you. Like, a lot, a lot.

Bat Fest; Austin, Texas

festivals and parade
Admire bats en masse in Austin. (Photo: Alamy)

If Stellaluna was your favorite book as a kid then Bat Fest is definitely going to be your jam. (Note to chiroptophobes: you might wanna sit this event out.) Centered on Austin’s Congress Ave Bridge, the festival offers up live music, arts and crafts, and snacks. Oh, yeah: and the chance to witness 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats as they fly out from under the bridge en masse. Just the usual.

Coney Island Mermaid Parade; Brooklyn, New York

The world’s largest art parade, Coney Island’s unabashedly quirky Mermaid Parade was founded back in 1983, and is now one of the Big Apple’s most iconic summer events. Billed as “a celebration of ancient mythology and honky-tonk rituals of the seaside” (we’re not 100% sure what that means, either), it’s probably the best excuse you have to cover yourself in seashells, tote around a trident, and strut your stuff in a sparkling tail (and, in many cases, not much else).

Hemingway Days; Key West, Florida

festivals and parades
Which one looks like Papa? (Photo: Alamy)

Things you’d expect at a regular parade: marching bands, baton twirlers, and colorful floats. Things you wouldn’t expect: dozens of Ernest Hemingway impersonators. But the latter is what you’ll get if you venture down to Key West’s Hemingway Days. Held in honor of the scribe who once called this seaside stretch of Florida home, the festival includes a Hemingway lookalike contest, literary readings, and the aforementioned “running of the bulls.” Now might be the time to add For Whom the Bell Tolls to your summer reading list.

Punkin Chunkin; Bridgeville, Delaware

Not to worry—summer isn’t the only time to enjoy some of the weirdest festivals in the U.S. Hold out until November for the World Championship Punkin Chunkin, held along a quiet stretch of Delaware farmland. Quiet, that is, until the pumpkin cannons are wheeled out. The aim of this event is to see how far competitors can launch their gourds, so expect to see high-tech catapults, trebuchets, and air cannons. Pro-tip: If you’re planning a road trip down to the festivities, you might want to add the Smashing Pumpkins to your playlist.


This article was published through a partnership with Zipcar’s online magazine Ziptopia.