Anyone up for a Caber Toss?

From California to Mississippi, here are the top five must go-to Celtic festivals coming soon

The onset of fall signifies many things: jewel-colored foliage, a smokiness in the air, and…Celtic festivals? That's right. While pumpkin and craft beer festivals are far more ubiquitous this time of year, Celtic festivals remain popular with people yearning for a taste of Ireland and Scotland.

The Celtic people have a long and storied history dating back to the 7th or 8th century BC. The other existing populations, the Romans and Greeks, saw them as barbarians, but this was a misleading label. They were fierce warriors (often rushing into battle naked accompanied by a cacophony of shouting, war-horns, songs and insults), but the barbarian description was a bit far-fetched.

In fact, during the Iron Age, the Celts fairly exploded with forged (instead of cast) jewelry that was distinctly different from other styles of the age. The torq, or torc, an iconic neck ring emblematic of Celtic jewelry, still survives today. It is believed that the Celts were quite proud of their creations and often wore torqs into battle.

Today, Celtic people reside primarily in Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Cornwall, and Brittany, but many descendants also live in the US. And, of course, you don't need to have Celtic ancestors to enjoy the delights of the Celtic culture today. Here are some of the most popular Celtic festivals to partake in this fall:

Tucson Celtic Festival, November 2-4

This combination Celtic festival and Scottish highland games event happens yearly in sunny Tucson, Arizona. You'll encounter vendors hawking hand-forged decorative weaponry, Celtic jewelry of all shapes and sizes, and traditional Scottish apparel. In between the highland games (where men and women sporting kilts attempt to throw various heavy items as far as they can and carry tall wooden beams across a field course in record time), you can listen to the bagpipe bands or cheer for your favorite piper at the solo piping and drumming competition. There's also the opportunity to catch the ever-popular highland dance routines. At the Tucson Celtic Festival you may get to watch people performing the Ghillie Callum (the sword dance of war), or even the Seann Truibhas, which is a traditional nod to shedding the hated constraining trousers in favor of the beloved kilts worn by native Highlanders.

You haven't lived until you've jammed with a man in a kilt

KMVR Celtic Festival and Marketplace, September 28-30

This 22-year-old mainstay takes place in the Nevada County Fairgrounds in Grass Valley, CA. Started by KMVR star Annie O'Dea in 1996, it now acts as a fundraiser for KMVR Community Radio and draws over 7,000 visitors of all ages who flock to the festival to watch musical and dance performances on a total of 11 stages. This year the lineup includes the Seamus Egan Project, helmed by the teen prodigy Seamus Egan. Egan, who is widely known as the founder of the beloved Irish-American band Solas, as well as the composer of The Brothers McMullen soundtrack, will perform with other talented Irish musicians. Also featured are The Black Brothers, singing siblings who supplement their harmonizing Irish brogues with banjo, cittern, and guitar. If dancing's more your taste, stop by the Friday Night Ceilidh (an Irish/Scottish social event) where you can kick up your heels and get down to the sounds of live traditional Irish music, or watch the competitive dance troupes whirl across the various stages.

Reach for the sky and don't drop the weight!

Celtic Festival and Highland Games of the Quad Cities, September 14-15

Iowans love this Celtic festival, held in Centennial Park in Davenport. Learn more about the storied history of the Celtic people in the Education area (specifically the Celtic language, customs, music, and dance), or admire the colorful tartans on display as the various Clans march with the time-honored parade through the festival. Of course, no Celtic festival would be complete without the Heavy Athletics competition (throwing events), featuring the Clachneart and Braemar Stone throw, the weight throw, and the sheaf toss. While many other Highland game events evolved into modern day Olympic sports (including shot put and hammer throw), unsurprisingly, the sheaf toss never quite made the cut; the goal is to toss a bale of hay as high as you can using a pitchfork. Nevertheless, it's an enjoyable activity to watch others partake in. There's also lively music from the Black Hawk Pipes and Drums, and dance performances by Colleen's Clogging and Celtic, and the Champagne Academy of Irish Dance, among others.

The mighty pipers lead the way

Celtic Music Festival & Scottish Highland Games, November 10-11

Southerners in Harrison County, Mississippi gather every year to celebrate Celtic heritage at this combination music and Highland games festival. Boasting musicians like Kracker Dan, a seven-member folk string band hailing from Alabama, and Seven Nations, which has been pleasing fans with their unique take on Celtic music since 1993, this festival is sure to entertain even those who claim no Celtic heritage. Feast on meat pies and gourmet Welsh cakes, shop for charming kilts (and even corsets) at the marketplace, and keep an eye out for the parade of Clans.

Sometimes we like to coordinate

Hood Canal Highland Celtic Festival, September 1-2

Grab your tartan and hotfoot over to this yearly Celtic festival in Belfair State Park in Washington. You can meet the queen and her court, or watch herding demonstrations every few hours. There's a beer tent that opens at 10am (pace yourself!) and traditional athletic events spaced throughout the day. You'll certainly get your fill of jousting as well: the Seattle Knights, the Pacific Northwest's favorite jousting troupe, perform every half hour throughout the festival. For those looking to indulge in some lighthearted Clan camaraderie, be sure to bring your official flag and clothing to proudly show off during the parade.

Don't worry about your heritage playing a role in your enjoyment of these festivals. No matter your ancestry, a Celtic festival is a winsome experience for anyone seeking some piping, hearty meat pies, kick-up-your-heels dancing, and, of course, brawny men and women hurling large boulders across a field.

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It's no secret that the restaurant scene in New York City is one of the most impressive in the world.

Whatever you could want to eat, you can find it in New York—meaning that even if you have a slightly restrictive diet, like veganism, there's plenty of options for you. Local fast-casual chains like By Chloe and Superiority Burger are making New York one of the most vegan-friendly cities in the world, but the deliciousness doesn't stop there.


Between Manhattan and Brooklyn, there's been a boom of vegan restaurants that'll satisfy any craving. Here are just a few of our favorites.

Blossom(Upper West Side + Greenwich Village)

vegan restaurant

With two locations serving both Uptown and Downtown, Blossom is a go-to for local and tourist vegans alike. They offer an elevated dining experience (and a wide-spanning takeout radius) that puts a cruelty-free spin on classic main dishes like chicken piccata, rigatoni, and grilled salmon. Complete your dinner with a fresh, fruity cocktail and tiramisu—but reservations are strongly recommended beforehand.

Jajaja (West Village + Lower East Side)

vegan Jajaja

Jajaja is the ultimate heaven for Mexican food addicts. Get your fix of south of the border staples like burritos, street tacos, and enchiladas that'll make you second guess whether or not it's actually vegan (pro tip: The nacho portion is large enough to be a meal for one person). They also have a small but mighty menu of tequila and mezcal cocktails to kick off a night of LES bar-hopping. It gets crowded here quickly, though, so try to schedule your dinner early.

Urban Vegan Kitchen(West Village)

Urban Vegan Kitchen

We get it—eating vegan can get kind of bland sometimes. But that's not an issue at Urban Vegan Kitchen, the type of restaurant that'll have you wanting to order one of everything on the menu (but we recommend the "chicken" and waffles). Co-owned by the founder of Blossom, they boast a menu that's just as edgy and exciting as their decor. Their space is large too, making it a crowd-pleasing option for a slightly larger group.

Champs Diner (Williamsburg)

Champs Diner vegan

Located near the border of hip neighborhoods Williamsburg and Bushwick, Champs is a favorite of many young Brooklynites. Their menu is full of vegan alternatives to classic diner fare like breakfast plates, cheeseburgers, and even milkshakes that taste mysteriously like the real deal, while the decor puts a quintessential Brooklyn edge on '50s digs. Who said going plant-based had to be healthy all the time, anyway?

Peacefood (Greenwich Village)

vegan Peacefood

Conveniently located just a stone's throw from Union Square—near both NYU and the New School—Peacefood is a hotspot for college students, but vegans of any age are guaranteed to enjoy their menu. They specialize in comfort food items like quiche, chicken parmesan, and chili with corn bread—all plant-based, of course. While their "chicken" tender basket is to die for, make sure to save room for dessert here, too; Peacefood's lengthy pastry menu is a dream come true.

Buddha Bodai (Chinatown)

Buddha Bodai vegan

Dim sum restaurants in Chinatown are a dime a dozen, but Buddha Bodai takes the cake for the best veggie-friendly experience in one of New York's most bustling neighborhoods. Bring your family or friends along with you to enjoy this massive menu of buns and dumplings stuffed with any type of mock meat you could want. This is also a great option for gluten-free vegans, too, as much of their menu accommodates a gluten-free diet.

Greedi Kitchen (Crown Heights)

Greedi Kitchen vegan

Crown Heights might not be the first neighborhood people think of when it comes to dining in Brooklyn, but Greedi Kitchen is making the case for delicious restaurants in the area. Inspired by its founder's many years of travel, Greedi Kitchen combines the comforting flavors of southern soul food with the added pizazz of global influences. Try one of their po'boys or the crab cake sliders. Trust us.

Screamer’s Pizzeria (Greenpoint + Crown Heights)

Screamer's Pizza vegan

We know what you're thinking: Pizza without real cheese? Call us crazy, but Screamer's does vegan pizza to perfection. If you're into classic pies like a simple margherita or pepperoni, or you want to branch out with unexpected topping combinations, Screamer's is delicious enough to impress carnivores, too (pro tip: the Greenpoint location is small and serves most pies by the slice, while the Crown Heights location is larger for sitting down).


Learning a second language is one of the coolest and most rewarding things you can do in your spare time.

However, if hopping on a one-way ticket to your country of choice isn't an option for you, it can be difficult to find an immersive experience to learn, especially past high school or college.

The next best thing is language-learning apps.

We wanted to look at the top two: DuoLingo and Rosetta Stone. Duolingo is the new kid on the block; one of the top downloaded, this free app is a favorite. Then, there's the legacy option: Rosetta Stone. For over 20 years, they've been developing their language-learning software, and their app is the most recent innovation.

They're both great options, but keep reading to figure out which one is the best for you.

Key Similarities

  • Both claim you'll expand your vocabulary
  • Both are available as an app for iOS and Android users
  • Both have a clean user interface with appealing graphics
  • Both have offline capabilities (if you pay)

Key Differences

  • DuoLingo has a popular free version along with its paid version, whereas Rosetta Stone only has a paid version
  • DuoLingo offers 35+ languages, and Rosetta Stone offers 24 languages
  • Rosetta Stone has an advanced TruAccent feature to detect and correct your accent
  • DuoLingo offers a breadth of similar vocab-recognizing features, and Rosetta Stone offers a wider variety of learning methods, like Stories

DuoLingo Overview

DuoLingo's app and its iconic owl have definitely found a place in pop culture. One of the most popular free language-learning apps, it offers 35 different languages, including Klingon, that can be learned through a series of vocabulary-matching games.

DuoLingo offers a free version and a version for $9.99 a month without ads and with offline access.

Rosetta Stone Overview

The Rosetta Stone app is a beast. There are 24 different languages to choose from, but more importantly, you get a huge variety of methods for learning. Not only are there simple games, but there are stories where you get to listen, the Seek and Speak feature, where you go on a treasure hunt to photograph images and get the translations, and the TruAccent feature, which will help you refine your accent. Whenever you speak into the app, you'll get a red/yellow/green rating on your pronunciation, so you can fine-tune it to really sound like you have a firm grasp of the language.

Rosetta Stone costs just $5.99 a month for a 24-month subscription, which gives you access to all of their 24 languages!

Final Notes

Overall, these are both excellent apps for increasing your proficiency in a new language! They both feel quite modern and have a fun experience.

When it comes to really committing words to memory and understanding them, Rosetta Stone is king.

DuoLingo definitely will help you learn new words, and the app can be addicting, but users report it as more of a game than a means to an end.

With Rosetta Stone's variety of features, you'll never get bored; there are more passive elements and more active elements to help you activate different parts of your brain, so you're learning in a more dynamic and efficient way.

The folks at Rosetta Stone are extending a special offer to our readers only: Up To 45% Off Rosetta Stone + Unlimited Languages & Free Tutoring Sessions!

Travel

So You Want to Try Workaway

Want to travel cheap, meet locals and kindred spirits, live off the land, and possibly change your life? It might be time to try Workaway.

Sitting in a house on a hill in Tuscany, Italy, watching the sun set and listening to the sound of music coming from the house in which I was staying almost rent-free, I wondered how I had gotten this lucky.

Actually, it was really all thanks to one website—Workaway.info.

Workaway Workaway


Workaway is a site that sets travelers up with hosts, who provide visitors with room and board in exchange for roughly five hours of work each weekday. The arrangement varies from host to host—some offer money, others require it—but typically, the Workaway experience is a rare bird: a largely anti-capitalist exchange.

I did four Workaways the summer I traveled in Europe, and then one at a monastery near my home in New York the summer after. Each experience, though they lasted around two weeks each, was among the most enriching times of my life—and I'd argue I learned almost as much through those experiences as I did in four years of college.

There's something extremely special about the Workaway experience, though it's certainly not for everyone.

Workaway Isn't for Everyone: What to Know Before You Go

I loved all the Workaways I went on, but the best advice I can give to anyone considering going is: Enter with an open mind. If you're someone who doesn't do well with the unexpected, if you're not willing to be flexible, if you're a picky eater or easily freaked out, then it's likely that you won't have a good experience at a Workaway.

There are exceptions to all of this. At the Workaway I stayed at in Italy, one of the travelers was suffering from stomach bloating, and the host helped cure her with a diet of miso. (I'm not saying you should go Workawaying if you're ill—this traveler's mother also came to oversee everything—but still, you never know what you'll find).

Workaway WoIsango.com

You should also probably be willing and able to actually work at your Workaway. These aren't vacations, and some hosts will be stricter and less forgiving than others regarding your work ethic. If you're someone who has no experience with difficult farm work, for example, it might not be a good idea to do a Workaway on a farm.

How to Choose a Host

The Workaway website boasts a truly overwhelming number of hosts. You can narrow your search down by location, but you can also search key terms that can help guide you in the right direction. You might search "music," for example—that's how I found the Italy location. You'll find hosts in busy cities and in the most remote mountains of India; you'll find opportunities to tutor and explore. You'll find shadiness, too, so trust your instincts.

Take time to actually read the host's entire bio before reaching out. Read all the comments, too, and if you're nervous or a first-timer, only reach out to hosts who have exclusively glowing reviews. I had the best experiences with hosts that had left extremely detailed bios—that showed me they were likely going to be dedicated hosts.

I also chose hosts whose bios gave me a good feeling, something like a spark of electricity or recognition. This instinctual method might not work for everyone, but it certainly led me in the right direction in all of my Workaway experiences. My Workaways gave me some of the best memories and deepest relationships of my life, and that was partly thanks to the fact that I chose places that were good fits for me.

For example, I chose to stay alone with a wizened academic in France. Something about his bio and descriptions resonated with me enough to trust him. (I also read some of his many thousand-page-long treatises on peace and compassion and decided that if someone could write this and be a psychopath, this wasn't a world I wanted to live in anyway). It was the right decision—and the two weeks I spent there were some of the most enlightening of my entire life.

When you reach out to a host, particularly if it's someone you really want to stay with, it's a good idea to frame your initial contact email as a cover letter of sorts—make sure you explain who you are and personalize your letter to fit each host.

Ixcanaan A Workaway painting experienceWorkaway


Travel Safely

Especially if you're traveling alone, it's always a good idea to choose a host whose page has tons of good reviews. Aside from that, a quick Google search and a scan of any social media pages related to your potential host can't hurt.

Ultimately, Workawaying requires a certain amount of trust and faith on both the host and the traveler's parts—you're either trusting someone to stay in your home or trusting a stranger to host and feed you.

But that trust, in my experience, also results in rapid and deep connections unlike anything I've experienced in the "real world." When you go and share a home with someone, you're also sharing yourself with them, and in that exchange there are the seeds of a powerful bond.

Participate Fully

Wherever you go, you'll want to open your mind and participate fully. Adjust yourself to your host's lifestyle, not the other way around, and take time to get to know your host and the others around you.

You might find that you become someone you never knew you were. As a lifelong introvert, I somehow managed to develop close relationships with many of the people I was staying with.

This might be because most people who are at Workaways are seeking something for one reason or another. In my experience, you find lots of people who are at junctures in their lives, seeking connection and meaning. With the right Workaway, you might just find it.

Workaway The Broke Backpacker - WorkawayThe Broke Backpacker