February Holdays and Events in the USA

A parade participant in a Mardi Gras Parade.
••• The costumes and extravagant floats on display during Mardi Gras in New Orleans are a must-see (Sean Gardner/Getty Images).

February may be the tail end of winter and a season when snow or chillier temperatures blanket much of the nation, but it has no shortage of celebrations. Here are the festivals and events that happen each February in the USA. 

All Month Long:  Black History Month. February was officially designated as Black History Month in 1976 by former President Gerald R. Ford. It is a month to celebrate the achievements and recognize the history of African-Americans.

You can also explore the places where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. made history as an African-American Civil Rights leader, or head to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C., where the historic "I Have a Dream" speech was made in 1963.

February 2: Groundhog Day. This odd holiday has its origins in the German holiday of Candlemas. German settlers brought this folk tradition to Pennsylvania when they first settled in the United States. When they arrived, they noticed an abundance of groundhogs, and decided that the groundhog looked like a European hedgehog. The tradition holds that if the hedgehog (or groundhog) emerges on February 2 and sees his shadow, six more weeks of winter will follow. Today Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania (near Pittsburgh) is the home of “Punxsutawney Phil” the official weather forecasting groundhog who emerges every February to give his prediction. Learn more about Groundhog Day.

First Sunday in February: Superbowl. America’s most-watched sporting event is the National Football League’s (NFL) Superbowl, which pits the year’s winners of the National Football Conference (NFC) and the American Football Conference (AFC) against one another. The Superbowl is typically held in a sunny location, such as Miami or Phoenix, and is accompanied by much fanfare, including press events, special days for fans, and tailgating events.

 

As Early as February 3: Mardi Gras and the Beginning of Lent. Mardi Gras (Carnival) festivities are plentiful in the USA, but especially in New Orleans where the holiday originated. This year it falls on February 28, but parades and celebrations will start gearing up during the second week of February. Drinking is one of many Mardi Gras traditions, and it can get a little rowdy, but the city offers a “Family Gras” on the weekend before Mardi Gras. It is a great time to check out a more kid-friendly version of the fun and learn about the other traditions behind the event like King Cakes and costumes. Learn more about upcoming dates for Mardi Gras and Mardi Gras in the USA (hint: it's not just in New Orleans). See also March in the USA.

February 14: Valentine’s Day. While not an official holiday, Valentine’s Day is very popular in the United States. Couples spend the day exchanging cards, flowers, and glances over romantic dinners. To find out more about the day, About’s Guide to Honeymoons and Romantic Travel has put together a special Valentine’s Day website, which includes a round-up of romantic restaurants in a U.S. city near you.

Third Monday of February: Presidents' Day. An official federal holiday—which means that banks, stock markets, and government offices are closed—Presidents' Day celebrates (you guessed it!) all U.S. presidents.

However, the holiday was originally conceived in order to celebrate the birthday of George Washington, who was born on February 22, 1732. The day was first officially recognized in 1885. 

Presidents' Day is a good time to learn about American history. Though, truth be told, many Americans see the whole three-day weekend as an opportunity to take advantage of winter sales or to take a quick winter holiday. Schools across the country typically have a break directly before or after the holiday, and it becomes a busy time for travel. Ski resorts especially tend to be packed, so if you are thinking of heading out that weekend, make sure to plan well in advance.