Travel

Where to Celebrate Juneteenth Around the Country This Year

Coming off its first year as a federal holiday, the Jubilee Day festivities are just getting started.

Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images Entertainment
Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images Entertainment
Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images Entertainment

Hit up a Juneteenth celebration and you might partake in a homogenous spread of red foods: watermelon and red velvet cake, red soda and hibiscus tea, red sausages and strawberry pie. Festive and delicious, but also sobering-the colour is believed to symbolize the struggle and bloodshed of African Americans. This June 19 marks 157 years since Union troops galloped into Galveston Bay, Texas, and announced to the 250,000 people still enslaved in the state that they were legally free.

Though the Emancipation Proclamation technically went into effect two years earlier in 1863, it took longer for it to be implemented in states ruled by the Confederacy, and the westernmost Confederate state of Texas was the last to be notified. “Juneteenth” became a day of celebration by the newly freed population, first documented in Austin in 1867, and introduced to the rest of the country during the Great Migration. For decades, thanks to a combination of Jim Crow-era restrictions and plain old racism, the holiday was mostly celebrated behind closed doors by African American households.

The Civil Rights Movement brought renewed popularity to the holiday, which both honours our nation’s second day of independence and acknowledges the battles still yet to be won. In 1980, Juneteenth became a statewide holiday in Texas, with 47 states following suit. But it wasn’t until the racial reckoning of 2020 that many Americans were even made aware of the holiday. A campaign was soon launched to recognize it federally, and in 2021, Juneteenth became a federal holiday-which means one year later, the party is just getting started.

Here are some of the best and most compelling Juneteenth-AKA Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Emancipation Day, or Liberation Day-celebrations going down around the US this year.

Mark Felix/AFP/Getty Images
Mark Felix/AFP/Getty Images
Mark Felix/AFP/Getty Images

Montgomery, Alabama

In part due to a 1950s bus boycott that forever changed the course of history, Montgomery is widely regarded as the birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement. And they throw a Juneteenth bash to match. On June 18, the Rosa Parks Museum hosts the 7th Annual Juneteenth Celebration, with free admission, live music and vendors, and an authentic 1950s Montgomery city bus on display. On June 17 comes Manifest Liberty Gala: A Multi-Generational Gathering, which emphasizes storytelling and song, and on June 18, the Riverwalk Amphitheater is where you’ll find Global African Diaspora Heritage Day, an evening roster of spoken word, theatre, crafts, poetry, literature, food trucks, and at least one aerialist.

Alexandria, Virginia

This May, the Freedom House Museum reopened in Alexandria, stashed in what remains of a large complex used in the trafficking of thousands of Black men, women, and children from 1828 to 1861. Three new exhibitions are on view: 1315 Duke Street, which includes archaeological artifacts and stories of those trafficked in the slave trade; Determined, which traces four centuries of Black history in Virginia; and Before the Spirits Are Swept Away, a series of paintings by the late Sherry Z. Sanabria depicting historically significant African American sites. The museum is set to celebrate its grand reopening on June 20, the date of this year’s federally observed Juneteenth holiday.

Richmond, Virginia

It’s been said that one in four African Americans can trace their origins back to Richmond, Virginia. The city was at the centre of the slave trade in the country, and their Emancipation and Freedom Monument is one of the few nationwide that commemorates those enslaved. On Saturday, June 18, the area’s free Juneteenth festivities are taking over Dorey Park in nearby Henrico County, complete with a kids zone, vendors, and fireworks. Visitors can also retrace the actual path of enslaved peoples by walking along the self-guided Richmond Slave Trail, which includes 17 markers chronicling the history of enslavement in the area.

Courtesy of Visit Galveston
Courtesy of Visit Galveston
Courtesy of Visit Galveston

Galveston, Texas

As you can imagine, the birthplace of Juneteenth goes all out for its celebrations, not all of which you have to be present to witness. This year, kick things off with a free webinar on June 15. Titled Where it All Began, you’ll hear stories from local historians and organizations dedicated to preserving the stories and memories from that day. June 17 brings the Emancipation Celebration to The Grand 1894 Opera House, with a gospel choir and award presentation, while June 18th sets the stage for the annual Juneteenth Proclamation Reading (you can see what that looks like here). It’s followed by a decked-out parade and day-long festival. While you’re there, check out the self-guided freedom walk or African American history tour and make sure you see Absolute Equality, a new 5,000-square-foot mural unveiled last year.

Houston, Texas

Less than an hour away from Galveston, Houston’s Juneteenth celebration mirrors its state’s massive size. In 1872, a group of formerly enslaved people purchased 10 acres of land and began using the plot for their own Juneteenth observances. Emancipation Park, as it’s known, was the only public park and swimming pool in Houston open to African Americans until the 1950s. Over 150 years later, the festivities keep on keeping on, launching June 1 and culminating in a two-day salute with performances by the The Isley Brothers and Kool & the Gang on June 18, followed by Sheila E. and Frankie Beverly & Maze on June 19.

Megan Varner/Getty Images News
Megan Varner/Getty Images News
Megan Varner/Getty Images News

Atlanta, Georgia

MLK Jr.’s birthplace is the go-to in Georgia for Juneteenth festivities, with free events and concerts sprinkled around the area, including an evening with author Dr. Ibram X. Kendi at Agnes Scott College introducing his new children’s book, Goodnight Racism. The Juneteenth Atlanta Parade & Music Festival in Centennial Olympic Park is now in its 10th year, spanning over 300 Black-owned booths, historical reenactments, and two stages. While you’re in the area, stop by the Historic Oakland Cemetery for a self-guided tour, taking you past the resting place of influential icons like Carrie Steele Logan, founder of Atlanta’s first orphanage for African American children, and Maynard Jackson, Atlanta’s first African American mayor.

St. Augustine, Florida

Black history runs deep in St. Augustine, where, in 1738, African Americans established the first legally sanctioned free Black settlement in the US. Now Fort Mose Historic State Park, the site was also one of the original stops on the Southern Underground Railroad, serving as a sanctuary for escaped British slaves. This Juneteenth, St. Augustine will host two free chamber orchestra concerts covering spirituals and works by African American composers: One on June 18 at the St. James Missionary Baptist Church, which dates back to 1898, and the second on June 19at the stately Cathedral Basilica, established in 1793.

Paras Griffin/Getty Images Entertainment
Paras Griffin/Getty Images Entertainment
Paras Griffin/Getty Images Entertainment

Denver, Colorado

Denver’s Juneteenth celebrations have been happening for 70 years, so you know they know what they’re doing. 30,000 people are expected to descend upon the historically African American Five Points neighbourhood for the Juneteenth Music Festival, starting with a concert headlined by Dave East and Twista, then rolling into a full weekend of live music, vendors, food stalls, art murals, and the longest-running parade in Colorado.

Tulsa, Oklahoma

The former home of Black Wall Street throws a free weekend-long Juneteenth Festival each year, stocked with concerts, food, and entertainment along Greenwood Avenue, plus wellness events and interactive art installations. While you’re there, check out Greenwood Rising, a new world-class institution focused on the neighbourhood’s powerful legacy and historical impact. Entry to the museum is free.

NurPhoto/Getty Images
NurPhoto/Getty Images
NurPhoto/Getty Images

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The birthplace of democracy has come a long way since their first Juneteenth parade in 2016. Mingle with 25,000 attendees in West Philadelphia on June 19 to see floats, dancers, vendors, and community leaders, followed by a festival in Malcolm X Park. Or head across town to the free block party at the African American Museum in Philadelphia to catch a performance by Talib Kweli and other special guests (including a magician). Elsewhere, Kennett Square is the place to be for the Journeying toward Freedom Festival, which runs June 18 – 19.

Brooklyn, New York

For Juneteenth in New York, Brooklyn is the borough of choice. On June 18, Linden Park in East New York, the site of a long-running celebration, will host performances and food trucks, while the Weeksville Heritage Center breaks out all the red foods for a Juneteenth food festival from June 18 to June 19. On June 19, Prospect Park BRIC will throw the free UNITYFEST concert, co-presented by the Robert Randolph Foundation and featuring Randolph himself alongside Deborah Cox, Mali Music, and others. Over at Brooklyn Bridge Park, Urban Park Rangers will conduct talks about the abolitionist movement in Brooklyn, while the party people behind House of Yes are putting on their own free Unityfest shindig, “under the K bridge.”

Detroit, Michigan

Detroit’s Juneteenth Freedom Fest has all the usual suspects: a huge block party, art installations, and a Jubilee stroll through Black-owned businesses. But they’ve also remembered that Sunday, June 19 doubles as Father’s Day, so included in the festivities is a “Cool Dad Contest.” Think your dad has what it takes? Nominations are now open. Elsewhere, the Juneteenth Jubilee Freedom Weekend at the Charles H. Wright Museum emphasizes the history of the holiday, with documentaries, a concert, and an Underground Railroad treasure hunt hitting five historic sites around Detroit.

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Vanita Salisbury is Thrillist’s Senior Travel Writer.¬†

Travel

Find Volcanoes, Wine Islands, and Thrills in Auckland

One minute you're on a ferry to wine island, the next you could be bungy jumping off of New Zealand's tallest tower.

things to do auckland
Photo: Natasha Bazika

The city of Auckland is a free spirit. It is easily the most geographically blessed city in New Zealand. Within an hour, you could be tasting wines on an island, chasing more than 50 volcanoes, or leaving footprints on a black sand beach. Keep in mind, that Auckland is the country’s most populous city but certainly doesn’t feel cramped.

Instead, the city is buzzing with trendy eateries, boutique shops, quiet streets, and expansive green parks. Around every corner, you’re never too far from something beautiful to see.

From world-class wines to kickass thrills, here’s where to find what you’re looking for in Auckland.

things to do auckland

Seek the thrills

If you thought Queenstown was the home of the adrenaline rush, wait until you see Auckland. In the middle of the city, you can jump off a sky tower or a bridge, zip through the jungle, and scream on a high-octane jet boat ride. The Sky Tower, which can be seen from every corner of Auckland is more than just a landmark. Take a ride to the top and sign up for a Skywalk, where you can wander around the platform, which just so happens to be 192 metres above the ground. If that doesn’t get your heart pumping, you can always jump off it. It’s New Zealand’s highest jump, and can only be described as just like being a movie stuntman, or a superhero. 

The other iconic place to jump off of is the Auckland Harbour Bridge. Unlike the Sky Jump, this one will have thrill seekers dipping their hands and head in the ocean. It’s a 40-metre Bungy, and a great experience. Although, if you’d rather still take advantage of the bridge views, book a climb, which takes you right to the top for sweeping views of the city.

Another way to take in the city is via Auckland Adventure Jet, which takes passengers for spins and tricks on the water.

Just a 35-minute boat ride from Auckland is Waiheke Island, where thrill-seekers will find Eco Zip Adventures. Across three separate lines, you will zip high above a working vineyard and lush, ancient forest canopies, soaking up incredible views back to the city and beyond.

things to do auckland
Photo: Natasha Bazika

Sip wine on Waiheke Island

Whether you want to spend a weekend or a day, Waiheke Island is a must-visit. It’s around a 35-minute ferry ride to the island from Auckland, and once there you can hop from winery to winery. The island is quite large and the terrain is rugged, so trust the experts and book a tour with Ananda Tours. The small, family-run business is owned by Jenny who has been on the island since before the vines were planted and she’s the best person to seek out when getting the Waiheke Island experience. You can book a private tour or group tour, and they can be catered to your preferences and tastes. A few standout stops include Kennedy Point, where they produce fully certified organic Syrah, Merlot, Malbec, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay wines. You can also state estate-grown olive oils, which the island has plenty of. Enjoy a tasting on the deck with views of Kennedy Bay, or enjoy a picnic under the olive grove.

For the best views on the island, head to Batch Vineyard. As the highest vineyard on Waiheke, you will be treated to panoramic views of the rolling hills, blue waters, and even Auckland city. Their sparkling wine, Blanc de Blancs is a must-try.

When it comes to lunch, there are two spots to choose from. The first is Stonyridge, which is also where you can taste premium award-winning wines, including a Cabernet blend Larose‚ÄĒNew Zealand’s cult wine. The second is Mudbrick, a romantic spot, set amongst beautiful gardens with even more spectacular views, and a bar and bistro serving up some of the best dishes on the island.

things to do auckland
Photo: Natasha Bazika

Eat your way through the city

Auckland’s dining scene isn’t pretentious, but the food quality is good enough to rival the best restaurants in New York‚ÄĒbut the city doesn’t like to brag. Instead, it celebrates good food in every setting, from waterside restaurants to trendy Mexican eateries in a shopping centre.

Inca, is helmed by critically acclaimed chef, Nic Watt. Inspired by Watt’s travels to Peru, diners can expect to find Nikkei cuisine, including spicy chicken karaage, hand-pressed corn tacos filled with pork cheek and spicy tuna. You wouldn’t expect to find such a good restaurant in a shopping centre, but there it is.

Another great trendy restaurant is Hello Beasty, which is home to the famous, prawn and crab toast. This work of art starts with a slice of crispy deep-fried bread, smothered with prawn and crab mousse. On top, there are slices of wagyu, drizzled with a sweet and sour sauce. Although, there are plenty of other great dishes on the menu, including a Sichuan tuna tartare, Korean fried cauliflower, and potstickers swimming in chilli oil. Try the yuzu mandarin soda if you’re looking for something fizzy to go with dinner or lunch.

Deli De Bossi is a recent opening and already becoming a favourite breakfast spot. Apart from coffee, you can get all kinds of toasted sandwiches, filled with everything from mushrooms to hams and salamis.

Another iconic eat-hit list is Parade in Ponsonby. Here, the burgers are served in a pretzel bun and filled with chicken or beef.

Most of these restaurants are casual, but if you’re looking for something a little fancy, book a table at Kingi. Taking cues from Sydney’s own Josh Niland, the dishes at Kingi focus on sustainable seafood, caught locally by local fishermen. The blue cod wings are a must. They’re covered in burnt lime and served with a ranch sauce for dipping. The stracciatella with feijoa is also a standout dish, that’s light and a great start to a meal. Inside, the dining room is cosy with bench seats, fire heaters, and exploded brick walls.

After dinner, walk down the street and grab dessert from Miann. The flavour of the day is always chocolate, and they serve up seriously good desserts. Try the tasting platter for a piece of each pastry on the menu of the day, or pick one that is most desirable to you. Although, the tasting platter is only $23 and you’d be missing out on tasting a little of everything they offer if you didn’t get it.

things to do auckland
Photo: Natasha Bazika

Discover art, culture, and movie magic

One of the best ways to learn about a city or country is by visiting its top museums and galleries. The Auckland War Memorial Museum sits atop a hill in Auckland’s Domain, which also happens to be the city’s oldest volcano. This museum is one of the most important as it tells the story of New Zealand’s natural and military history. Take a self-guided walking tour to explore at your own pace. There are plenty of interactive features for the kids and adults. The museum also hosts exhibitions. An ancient Greek exhibition is currently on display and is one of the largest exhibitions the British Museum has ever loaned to Aotearoa, New Zealand.

Art lovers, spend a few hours wandering around the Auckland Art Gallery, Toi O TńĀmaki. You will find artworks from around the world, including a Picasso or two. Although, the exhibitions are a real treat. Yona Lee’s, An Arrangement of Five Rooms is an incredible installation, spanning multiple rooms, which you can sit on and touch‚ÄĒto immerse yourself in the artwork. Declaration: A Pacific Feminist Agenda, is another must-see exhibition exploring the most pressing issues of our times: climate change and resilience, tino rangatiratanga (sovereignty), activism and social justice.

While art and history museums are insightful and a great way to educate a visitor, there are some other museum types that can be a lot of fun and interactive. Weta Workshop Unleashed is a new Auckland attraction and an incredible experience you don’t want to miss. Step into the world of filmmaking, explore how horror, sci-fi, and fantasy films are made and at times feel as if you’re in a movie. Comedic tour guides will introduce you to movies that are in production and explain every aspect, from prop making to effects, and more. There are even mysteries to be solved, making it fun for the whole family. It’s truly an unmissable experience in Auckland, and one of the best, unique tours you might ever experience.

things to do auckland
Photo: @sidwithlens

Walk on a volcano

Erupting over 100,000 years ago, Pukekawa is one of Auckland’s oldest and most popular volcanoes. Today, the Domain parkland is the remains of the explosion crater and most of the surrounding tuff ring of Pukekawa. Most days you will see people running around the park, families picnicking on the weekend, and tourists snapping photos by the pond or under a magnificent tree, grown from an experiment conducted by the Auckland Acclimatisation Society. Enter from one end, enjoy a picturesque walk, and exit through the historic Parnell shopping and restaurant area. On a sunny day, the atmosphere is charged with romance, but even in the rain, it’s a moody, beautiful sight to see. The Auckland War Memorial Museum’s large neo-Greek architecture is also a standout, commanding top-of-the-mountain views.

where to stay in auckland

Where to stay in Auckland

If you’re looking to sleep on top of the world, you can’t beat a room in Cordis Auckland’s new Pinnacle Tower. From the pillowy-cloud-like beds, guests have sweeping views of the city from the Sky Tower to Rangitoto and Mount Eden. Enjoy a breakfast buffet in the Eight restaurant downstairs, and canapes and drinks in the Cordis Club lounge on the 14th floor. There’s also a health club, spa, and swimming pool. The hotel is within walking distance to some of the best eateries in Auckland, making it a prime option.

Although, if you’re looking to stay in the heart of Britomart, Auckland’s hub of shopping, eating, and drinking, then The Hotel Britomart is where you want to be. From its exterior of hand-made bricks to its beautifully timber-lined rooms, The Hotel Britomart does detail like nobody else. Plus, the best of downtown waterfront Auckland is just outside your front door. With 5 Green Star Design and Build ratings from the NZ Green Building Council, The Hotel Britomart is the country‚Äôs ONLY 5 Green Star hotel, and has sustainability built in from the ground up.¬†

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