The world-famous parade known as Mardi Gras is part of a week-long festival of street celebrations, floats and beads-galore. The city-wide event takes place every year before the season of Lent. Mardi Grad, or Fat Tuesday, is the day before Ash Wednesday -- the final day of Carnival. Visitors come from all over to be a part of the festivities, and for many locals, it is the most anticipated event of the year.
Tombstone is one gold rush-era "ghost town" that isn't, well, a total ghost town. With a year-round population of about 1,500 (the town's motto is "The Town Too Tough to Die"), Tombstone hits its stride around Halloween, when travelers descend on the town to celebrate "Helldorado Days," which began as an anniversary commemorating the famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral (it went down Oct. 26, 1881). The annual event features a variety of Old West-themed activities and is usually held the third weekend in October. While you're whooping it up Old West-style, don't forget to visit Big Nose Kate's Saloon to buy tickets for the "Gunfighter and Ghost Tour," featuring Tombstone's "most haunted" destinations, and check out famous Boothill Cemetery (pictured), where many of the outlaw gunslingers -- and their victims -- are buried.
Residents of this southeast Portland neighborhood make sure their holiday light displays live up to their street's colorful namesake. A tradition since the 1920s, Peacock Lane's decor definitely has glimmer and glitz, but it also strives to be different, with rotating Christmas trees and lifelike replicas of Santa and Frosty the Snowman. You can safely stroll down Peacock Lane on "pedestrian only" nights, or pick up a ride in a horse-drawn carriage that will deliver you to the neighborhood and back to your car in style.
Curiously, even though Christmas derives its identity from snow and cold, one of the most recognizable emblems of the season is flamboyantly tropical: the poinsettia. Encinitas is home to the world's largest grower of these stunning plants, Ecke Ranch, which produces 70 percent of the poinsettias sold in the United States. Ecke Ranch grows a rainbow assortment of colors, including traditional reds, pinks and creams, and a recently introduced bright-white variety called Polar Bear whose sales benefit the conservation of these endangered animals.
You'll likely find a touch of Middleborough on your holiday dinner table: It's the cranberry capital of the world. The Ocean Spray company, headquartered here, is surrounded by acres of cranberry bogs and still gets much of its crop from area families who have been in the business for generations.