By the end of the month we'll be halfway through the exuberant once-in-a-lifetime festival of festivals known as Shanghai Expo 2010 (China's World's Fair, if you will). If you're at all interested in today's China and you haven't made it to Expo yet, it's absolutely not to be missed (though you might well want to miss the height-of-the-day heat and crowds by going after 5pm on an evening pass).
We won't go into Expo any further here, other than to point you in the direction of our Shanghai Expo guide and the China Travel Shanghai Expo Forum, where you'll find in-depth info and tips on Expo tickets, pavilions and activities.
Beyond Expo, there are plenty of other mid-summer celebrations afoot in the Middle Kingdom. The best of them are scattered throughout some of China's most beautiful western and southern regions, from Qinghai and Inner Mongolia on down to Guizhou.
Double Six Folk Song Fair, Xining, Qinghai (July 3-9)
An incredible gathering of ethnic folk musicians from northwestern China. Thousands of instrumentalists, dancers and singers gather at Lotus Hill. A mix of Hui Muslim Chinese and ethnic Dongxiang and Bao'an people, this is a great opportunity to experience a rich and colorful diversity of cultures that has emerged over centuries in a region where Tibetan Buddhism, Islam, Han Chinese culture and various traditionally nomadic peoples have mixed it up. In addition to spirited music and dance, visitors can sample ethnic cuisines, theater and performance and impromptu outdoor markets.
It's probably the best time of year to visit Xining—over 2,000 meters above sea level, it's cool in the summer. Gorgeous Qinghai Lake, the major Yellow Hat Tibetan Buddhist Kumbum Monastery and dozens of other fantastic Xining-area attractions await beyond the festival site.
Book Xining flights and Xining hotels.Jiayuguan Pass International Hang Glider Festival, Jiayuguan Pass, Gansu(July 15-18)
This is a good one: The massive fort marking the far western terminus of the Great Wall surrounded by the extreme beauty of the Gobi Desert, clear blue skies and phenomenal sunsets and… hang gliders. Sublime.
Book Jiayuguan flights and Jiayuguan hotels.Nadam Grassland Tourist Festival, Inner Mongolia, (July 15 - August 30)
Less a festival than a full-on month-and-a-half celebration of the traditional Mongolian way of life—think horse races, archery, outdoor Mongolian barbecue, singing and dancing—this is the perfect way to get to know the culture of the descendents of the great Genghis Khan (you can visit the Genghis Khan Mausoleum while you're at it for a fascinating look at history through the somewhat fractured lens of Han-Mongolian relations).
The Inner Mongolian Grasslands are at their best mid-summer and it's a great way to escape congested urban China for wide-open spaces and fresh air. It's also a favorite time for big fat Mongolian weddings, so be prepared for a friendly invitation or two to join in the eating, drinking and merrymaking.
Your best bet for getting there, short of saddling up your Mongolian pony, is to base yourself in Hohhot or Baotou. Expect to sleep in a yurt once out on the grasslands.
Book Hohhot flights, Baotou flights, Hohhot hotels and Baotou hotels.Guizhou Famous Liquor and Wine Festival, Zunyi, Guizhou (July-August)
If you're not familiar with the Chinese ganbei! ("bottoms up!"), brace yourself. Guizhou prides itself on being home of the best traditional Chinese liquors, with the famed Maotai topping the list. It doesn't stop there, and if you're up for the challenge of sampling spirits distilled from grains (largely sorghum and wheat) and rice and more, this is the festival for you.
And once you've had a few (or preferably before), you can tour the region's beautiful limestone karst caves, peaks and waterfalls. Highlights include the Maotai Distillery, Zunyi, home of the Zunyi Museum of Chinese Liquor and Wine, and the Shizhang Caves.
You can either fly into Guizhou and then take the train or bus to Zunyi or fly directly into the small Zunyi airport.
Ganbei! (And be careful out there…)
Book Guiyang flights, Guiyang hotels, Zunyi flights and Zunyi hotels.