Looking for an excuse to escape this winter? Kate Ford finds some festive inspiration giving you an excuse to leave the cold weather behind.

LA TOMATINA
BUNOL, SPAIN

When: August 28

Things get messy in the Valencian town of Bunol each year as La Tomatina, the annual tomato throwing festival, takes over. This world-famous festival involves some 145,000kg of tomatoes all ripe and squashed and ready to throw.

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The most widely accepted origin tale of the festival stems from a parade in 1945, when crowd jostling and rowdiness led to a participant losing part of their costume. This parade member flew into a fit of rage and there just so happened to be a vegetable stand in his path. A food fight broke out and people started throwing tomatoes at each other. The following year this tomato pelting was re-enacted, thus beginning the tradition.

La Tomatina festival in Bunol, Spain. Photo / Getty Images
La Tomatina festival in Bunol, Spain. Photo / Getty Images

In the week leading up to the tomato tossing there are parades, fireworks, paella-cooking contests and more fun activities on the Bunol streets. The actual tomato throwing part of the festival lasts a mere hour. When the last squashed orb has been hurled, fire trucks drive through the town hosing off the streets. Apparently the citric acid from the tomatoes leaves Bunol cleaner than before people started painting the town red.

CHELSEA FLOWER SHOWLONDON, UK
When: May 21-25

The most famous flower and garden show in the world has been held in Chelsea, London since 1913, featuring spectacular displays that provide joy to those with green fingers around the globe.

Highlights over the years have included the 460sq m of orchids in a 1960s show, edible gardens, and James May's plasticine garden. New Zealand won a gold medal in 2004, when Tourism New Zealand presented the first authentic thermal garden, called Ora Garden of Wellbeing.

RHS Chelsea Flower Show at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, London. Photo / Getty Images
RHS Chelsea Flower Show at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, London. Photo / Getty Images

With beautiful displays and new blooms being launched each year, the show attracts visitors from around the world, including royalty. This year the Duchess of Cambridge and the Duchess of Sussex are both connected with designs entered in the show.

With more than 150,000 visitors attending each year — numbers are limited due to space — all tickets must be bought in advance, with prices starting online from $74.

FOURTH OF JULY CALIFORNIA, USA
When: July 4

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July 4 is a national holiday throughout America, but is there anywhere on Earth more synonymous with sun than California? Celebrations here are akin to the rest of the country, with fun, festivities and fireworks all round. In California, pick your holiday mode depending on which location of the sunny state you are in.

Visit San Francisco for a lively urban holiday. Watch fireworks along the waterfront and join in the festival vibe of Pier 39, where you can spend the day listening to live music and enjoying family-friendly activities.

Fourth of July Fireworks at San Francisco, California. Photo / Getty Images
Fourth of July Fireworks at San Francisco, California. Photo / Getty Images

For more mature palates, tour the Napa Valley wineries in northern California. There are more than 400 wineries in this region, so prepare to park up for a few days for some serious sipping. There are wines to suit all tastes; try the family-owned, award-winning V. Sattui winery and its artisan deli and picnic grounds, the Francis Ford Coppola-owned Inglenook Winery, an ivy-covered estate that attracted Hollywood stars like Clark Gable and Jean Harlow.

Enjoy a quintessential American adventure in the form of a southern Californian road trip. Fly in to Los Angeles and cruise down to San Diego, stopping off at Huntington Beach to cool off before continuing to Blue Water Seafood Market and Grill for a plate of fish tacos. End the night with — you guessed it — a stunning Fourth of July fireworks display in San Diego's historic old town.

WHITE NIGHTS FESTIVAL
ST PETERSBURG, RUSSIA

When: May and June, leading up to main festival dates of July 11-14

St Petersburg may not be the most obvious destination for a summer holiday, but this city with bellowing winters makes a splash when the sun is finally out. Besides, if St Petersburg is on your bucket list, summer is surely the time to go.

The city comes alive with warmth during the White Nights Festival, a celebration of the sun sticking around for longer each day. The extended daylight hours call for joyous revelry in parks and outdoor cafes. By night, there's a full cultural calendar with festivals and concerts.

Crimson Sails tallship during white nights celebration fireworks in St. Petersburg. Photo / Getty Images
Crimson Sails tallship during white nights celebration fireworks in St. Petersburg. Photo / Getty Images

Festivities for White Nights begin from the end of May, during which time the Stars of the White Nights shine on stage in the form of top Russian and international performers participating in operas, ballets and classical concerts.

The Scarlet Sails event draws more than one million people. The water, light and fireworks show takes place alongside rowing and motorboat races on Neva River, before the famous appearance of a tall ship "with blood-red sails".

Performers are yet to be announced for 2019, but the 2010 Scarlet Sails saw the interesting mix of Cirque du Soleil, Mariinsky Ballet and Antonio Banderas as festival entertainment.

GION MATSURI
KYOTO, JAPAN

When: The month of July

Gion Matsuri is Kyoto's biggest festival and one of Japan's largest annual events. It originated in 869 when the emperor at the time ordered festivities to take place in the city as a way to pacify the gods and prevent plague from ravaging the population. Today Gion Matsuri has become a celebration of Kyoto and Japanese culture.

Gion Matsuri festival in Kyoto, Japan. Photo / Getty Images
Gion Matsuri festival in Kyoto, Japan. Photo / Getty Images

The month-long celebration is punctuated by two main parades, held on July 17 and 24. In the days leading up to these parades, the downtown area is closed to traffic and the streets are lined with night stalls selling all kinds of deliciousness like yakitori skewers, fried noodles and the okonomiyaki savoury pancake.

The biggest parade and the highlight of the festival occurs on July 17 and runs from 9am to 1pm.

Beginning at Shijo Station, a float procession moves through the city, showing off colourful floats, traditional costumes and festival music.