Whatever the season, there’s a signature Elizabeth festival awaiting your discovery. Come in the spring for an all-ages bicycle tour. Come back in the summer for the largest celebration of Colombian heritage in the country. Or savor the anticipation until fall, when you can slip back in time to the colonial era at the city’s epic historical reenactment. Whether you prefer to travel for adventure, leisure, learning, or a little of each, there are festival options for everyone.
The Tour de Elizabeth attracts hundreds of cyclists each year. Riders of all ages and abilities come to experience the city’s history, natural beauty, and vibrant urban landscape. There’s a new theme every year and the route changes yearly to highlight the best scenery Elizabeth has to offer. You might find yourself pedaling along the Elizabeth River Trail, where art installations and plentiful seating make for a pleasant rest stop, or cruising past the First Presbyterian Church, a Revolutionary War landmark dating back to 1780. Riders get a healthy workout and a history lesson in one event.
Elizabeth’s Memorial Day Waterfront Carnival is held every year at the Veterans Memorial Waterfront Park. Come commemorate your heroes surrounded by some of America’s most impressive modern feats. The Manhattan skyline is visible across the water and nearby, towering industrial cranes testify to the massive scale of the ocean shipping industry. Complementing the dramatic view are family-friendly rides and music brought in especially for the occasion. Local restaurateurs serve up authentic ethnic cuisine from around the world, so be sure to find a local resident and ask them to recommend a favorite. There’s no better place to celebrate this American holiday than Elizabeth, where residents from more than 50 countries have made their home.
Since 1978, residents and tourists alike have flocked to the streets for the Elizabeth Portugal Day Parade. This long-standing tradition is a hallmark of the cultural diversity that makes the city proud. Experience small-town charm among the flags, floats, and thousands of revelers who come to enjoy the drummers, dancers, royal court, and more. It’s one of the biggest Portuguese heritage events in the tri-state area.
The Colombian Independence Day Festival lights up the stage every summer with deejays, live bands, and one of the most irresistible displays of national and cultural pride you’re likely to witness in this lifetime. Attendance often reaches into the hundreds of thousands, so be sure to take the train or bus if you can.
Dice in the window. Trophies in hand. Cadillacs, motorcycles, hydraulics, and gull-wing doors. You must be at the Annual Midtown Car & Bike Show where all makes and models are welcome. Browse to the beat of live bands and indulge in a plate of fresh local food. The wheeled beauties on display here are rare and classic—your memories will be, too.
Travel back to a bygone era at the Annual Historical Reenactment. Originally known as Elizabethtown, the city was founded in 1664 and sits in the shadow of several important Revolutionary landmarks. Watch muskets flash and cannons smoke as the patriots battle the red coats in a reenactment of the Battle of Elizabethtown. The soldiers wear tricorn hats so naturally, you’ll forget what century it is. Down to their pipes and ornate rings, these bearers of Revolutionary history will teach you and transport you.
Once the official festival events are over, do stay awhile. Stroll the 200 acres of Warinanco Park, take the self-guided, historic walking tour with the magic of your smartphone, or shop till you drop at The Mills at Jersey Gardens, New Jersey’s largest mall for outlet and value shopping.