Sometimes the idea is better than the reality. Take, for instance, New Year's Eve in Times Square, a 115-year-old tradition. Sure, you get celebrity hosts, national acts, swag and proximity to the nearly 12,000-pound crystal ball that draws the curtain on another year. But to receive those goodies, you must battle crowds and cold and survive hours on your feet without a public toilet or an adult beverage - though considering the former, maybe the latter restriction is for the best. For some revelers, this sounds like bliss; for others, torture.
We are not suggesting you skip the country's biggest festivals and holiday celebrations. They have earned a place of honor in America's consciousness for good reason. But for the new decade, we recommend breaking from the pack and following an alternative track. Though smaller in scale and lower in attendance, these events attract top talent in their fields, including art, cinema, music, cartoons and hot-air ballooning. They also offer a full schedule of activities that don't just engage and entertain; they foster a strong sense of community between the attendees, the participants and the destination itself.