A view of the Tel Aviv skyline at sunset shows why this Mediterranean locale is dubbed "The White City." A view of the Tel Aviv skyline at sunset shows why this Mediterranean locale is dubbed "The White City." Tel Aviv's "White City" is an aptly named inspiration for a White Night festival.

White Nights around the world

These cities make partying till the sun comes up a community event.

White Night festivals have become the lynchpin of cultural life in a handful of places around the world. From Texas to Tel Aviv, nocturnal landscapes are transformed into celebrations of everything art and culture.

So called because they take as their inspiration the White Nights Festival in St. Petersburg, Russia—a 3-month long celebration of the city's warm weather months where daylight can last into the early morning—the current iteration is decidedly simpler, lasting from dusk until dawn for a night (or two). Here are some of the cities who today are doing the White Night right.


Paris, France

Paris is credited with pioneering the new wave of White Night festivals.Paris is credited with pioneering the new wave of White Night festivals. (Photo: Yann Caradec/Flickr

Paris is credited with pioneering the new wave of White Night festivals. Called Nuit Blanche in French, the event has been held on the first Saturday in October since 2002. Beginning at sunset, Paris takes to the streets to celebrate all things art and culture, with scores of installations, light displays, concerts and visual art performances transforming the capital into an event to be experienced.


San Antonio, Texas

The Alamo Plaza in San Antonio is lit up during Luminaria. The event has been held in the city since 2008.The Alamo Plaza in San Antonio is lit up during Luminaria. The event has been held in the city since 2008. (Photo: Corey Leopold/Flickr)

Luminaria, as it's referred to in this Southwest U.S. city, was inspired by Paris's Nuit Blanche. Launched in October 2008, Luminaria is an annual one-night downtown arts celebration focusing primarily on the works of San Antonio artists. The event has since expanded to include artists from both near and far. In 2014, for example, artists from Latin America and San Antonio were brought together. If that doesn't appeal to you, taking a walk downtown to see the light shows and listen to the many musical performances might.


Tel Aviv, Israel

Residents in this Mediterranean city need little motivation for a late night out, but come one night in late June they are given some anyway. First held in 2003 to celebrate UNESCO naming Tel Aviv’s “White City” a world heritage site, this annual festival is highlighted by the White Dinner, where attendees dress all in white. This year's event included a special illumination of buildings in the “White City,” DJ sets, and perhaps coolest of all, “Hallelujah – A Tribute to Leonard Cohen."


Montreal, Canada

Montreal braves the cold weather for its White Night festival, which takes place in February.Montreal braves the cold weather for its White Night festival, which takes place in February. (Photo: John Walker/Flickr )

Speaking of Leonard Cohen ... his hometown puts on their own Nuit Blanche. And get this: the event takes place in February, one of the coldest months of the year in this frigid Francophone city. Nonetheless, citizens pour into the often snow-covered streets for 200 mostly free cultural, musical, culinary and sports-oriented activities, all of which are available to the public from 6pm to 6am.


Rome, Italy

Rome's White Night festival draws scores of people each September. Here citizens enjoy relaxing on the steps leading to the Campidoglio. Rome's White Night festival draws scores of people each September. Here citizens enjoy relaxing on the steps leading to the Campidoglio. (Photo: Wikipedia)

A late night walk through the Eternal City provides enough culture for a lifetime. Observe the people milling about in piazzas or enjoying drinks next to buildings that have been around for thousands of years; nonetheless, one night each September, Romans head out to the streets for an extra special celebration of their city. Notte Bianca includes concerts, theater and art events, with many of the city's main attractions and amenities remaining open until dawn. Some estimates have it that more than 1 million people take part each year.


Melbourne, Australia

Melbourne hosted its first festival in 2013, and it's already drawing more than half a million people. Billed as "Australia’s most celebrated major cultural event," the event takes place in February – a summer month down under. This year included art installations, music concerts, film screenings and a host of other exceptional entertainment.

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