MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Great summer festivals

Here are the best of the fests in the Upper Midwest.

A kids' ride at the Minnesota State Fair.

© Beth Gauper

The Minnesota State Fair includes rides on the Kidway.

When summer comes, there's no time to waste.

Everyone is throwing a party, and you're invited. 

For even more festivals, see Celebrating roots, a comprehensive list of ethnic festivals.

For food festivals, see A feast of festivals.

For outdoor art fairs, see Art al fresco.

For dragon-boat festivals, see Waking the dragon.

For beer festivals, see Best brew fests.

For more events, see our Events Calendar.

Here are some of the best in 2015.

Always check before you go to verify dates and to make sure you catch the best parts of a festival, especially the parades.

Memorial Day weekend

North Country Dylan Celebration in Duluth, MN The town in which Bob Dylan was born its native son with pub trivia, a poetry showcase, a Blood on the Tracks Express rolling musical revue on Thursday, a singer-songwriter contest Friday and, on Saturday, a bus tour to Hibbing and back and an evening acoustic salute to Dylan.       May 17–24.

North Iowa Band Festival in Mason City, IA There's a carnival, craft show and car cruise, but don't miss the 10 a.m. Saturday band parade in this northern Iowa town, which Meredith Willson made famous in "The Music Man.'' May 21–25.

Festival of Nature in Baileys Harbor, WI Ridges Sanctuary hosts this annual festival, with programs and field trips on wildflowers, birds, trees and insects held around Door County. May 21–24.

ChocolateFest in Burlington, WI This big festival in southeast Wisconsin features a battle of the chefs, the Project Yum-way candy-wrapper design contest and chocolate-eating contests, plus a crafts fair and carnival. May 22–25.

World's Largest Brat Fest in Madison, WI There's music on four stages, with headliners including the Charlie Daniels Band, plus the world's largest touring grill (a Johnsonville semi that can cook 750 brats at a time), the Oscar Meyer Wienermobile,  carnival rides and Sunday fireworks. Admission is free. Outside the Alliant Energy Center. May 22–25.

CelebrAsian Asian Heritage Festival in Des Moines, IA This festival at Western Gateway Park features martial arts, lion dancers, chopstick races and a fashion show. May 22–23.

Chicago Gaelic Park Irish Festival in Oak Forest, IL In this west Chicago suburb, there's lots of music, plus a petting zoo, hurling, theater, Irish dog and pony exhibits and red hair, freckle and bonnie baby contests. May 22–25.

Fort Michilimackinac Pageant in Mackinaw City, MI This free pageant at Colonial Michilimackinac features a cast of more than 400, re-enacting events that took place between the French, British and Indian tribes on June 2, 1763. There are also 18th-century fashion shows, voyageur contests, kids' games, a Saturday parade and fireworks. May 23–25.

Native American Festival in St. Ignace, MI This family-friendly festival at the Museum of Ojibwa Culture features drumming, dancing, singing, Ojibwa games, artisan workshops and Sunday mass in Ojibwa. May 23–24.

BobFest in Spring Green, WI The Spring Green General Store in this artistic town on the Wisconsin River celebrates Bob Dylan's 74th birthday with free outdoor music. May 24.

Soundset in Shakopee, MN Headliners of this hiphop festival at Canterbury Park include Atmosphere, J. Cole, Ice Cube, Big Sean and Ludacris. May 24.

Last weekend in May

Bluegrass Festival in Niles, MI Listen to American roots music on two stages along the banks of the St. Joseph River. There's also a carnival, arts show and games. May 28–31.

Street Faire at the Lakes in Detroit Lakes, MN This western-Minnesota lake town hosts a juried arts show with music, fair food and a beer garden. May 29–30.

Gospel Festival in Chicago, IL This free festival opens in Millennium Park, moves to the Chicago Cultural Center on Friday and is in Ellis Park on the weekend. May 29–31.

Chocolate Fest in Hortonville, WI The festival in this small town just west of Appleton features a chocolate-eating contest, a Tour de Chocolate bike ride, a bicycle rodeo, an Artisan Village and fireworks May 30.

Ride for the Arts in Milwaukee, WI This bicycle ride along the Lake Michigan lakefront includes routes of 5, 12, 25, 50 and 75 miles. The three longer routes will include the Hoan Bridge on I-794, which will be closed to cars for two hours, and the longest route goes as far north as Port Washington. The rides start and end at the Summerfest grounds, and there's a party afterward. May 31.

Fans listen to music at the Winnipeg Folk Festival.

© Beth Gauper

Fans listen to music at the Winnipeg Folk Festival.

First weekend in June

2 Rivers Wine & Jazz Festival in Ottawa, IL The festival in this town on the Fox and Illinois rivers features wine from 25 Illinois vineyards and jazz and blues in Washington Park. June 5–7.

Buffalo Days in Luverne, MN This festival in the southwest corner of Minnesota features a cow-chip throwing contest, fire-truck ladder rides, duck races, an arts show and a big parade on Saturday.   June 5–7.

Lilac Festival in Mackinac Island, MI Most of the events of this festival charge a fee, except for the closing-day grand parade, but the island really is gorgeous when its lilacs are blooming. June 5–14.

Fresh Art Spring Tour in Lake Pepin, WI Artists' studios and gardens will be open along the Mississippi and in the bluffs between Maiden Rock and Pepin in western Wisconsin. June 5–7.

Milk Days in Harvard, IL The festival in this small town just south of Lake Geneva, Wis., is the longest running in the state. There are milk-drinking contests, milking demonstrations, cow-chip lotto, bed races and a parade at 1 p.m. Saturday. June 5–7.

Great Wisconsin Cheese Festival in Little Chute, WI This Fox Cities festival includes cheese-curd eating, cheese-carving and cheesecake contests and a 10:30 a.m. Saturday cheese parade. June 5–7.

Edina Art Fair in Edina, MN The juried show in this posh southern Minneapolis suburb draws 375 exhibitors and 60,000 people. June 5–7. 50th & France website

Spring Art Tour in Mount Horeb, WI Artists open their studios in Mount Horeb and other towns in the Wisconsin River valley: Mazomanie, Black Earth, Cross Plains, Blue Mounds and Verona. June 5–7.

Iowa Arts Festival in Iowa City, IA This free downtown festival features an art show, a Global Village, a Culinary Row and music and dance. Sunday is Children's Day, with 10 booths of hands-on activities. June 5–7.

Rhubarb Festival in Lanesboro, MN There’s a Rhubarb Olympics, featuring the Rhubarb Stalk Throw and Green Eggs and Rhubarb, and a Rhubarb Rant Speakers Corner for opinionated folks. The Rhubarb Sisters entertain. It's 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Sylvan Park. June 6.

Milwaukee Highland Games in Wauwatosa, WI Listen to bagpipe bands, eat Scottish food and watch sheepdogs, Highland dancers and athletes. June 6.

Grand Old Day in St. Paul, MN When the weather's nice, crowds turn out for this street fair, during which Grand Avenue is divided into "districts'': entertainment, family fun and sports. A parade starts at 9:30 a.m. from Grand and Dale. June 7.

Ride the Drive in Madison, WI Ride, walk or skate a car-free six-mile loop along Lake Monona, around the State Capitol and through downtown. There are also family activities, parades, food and music. June 7.

Wisconsin state-parks open house in All state parks, WI Visit a state park without paying the daily vehicle fee, $7 for residents and $10 for non-residents. June 7.

Model A Day in Sharon, WI In this hamlet near Lake Geneva, on the Illinois border, Model A's from the 1920s and '30s line main street, and people dressed as gangsters and flappers promenade in front of historic buildings. June 7.

Second weekend in June

Lilac Festival in Mackinac Island, MI Most of the events of this festival charge a fee, except for the closing-day grand parade, but the island really is gorgeous when its lilacs are blooming. June 5–14.

Irish Festival in Oshkosh, WI This festival in Riverside Park on the Fox River includes Irish music, food and dancing. June 11–14.

Butterfest in Sparta, WI There's an arts and crafts show, flea market and carnival but also a milking contest, firemen's water fight and a parade at 12:30 p.m. Sunday. June 11–14.

Steel Bridge SongFest in Sturgeon Bay, WI More than 150 musicians and songwriters perform in more than 15 venues around town to benefit the historic Michigan Avenue canal bridge. June 11–14.

Pride of the Fox Riverfest in St. Charles, IL See dragon-boat racing, a water-ski show, sand sculpting and car shows, all along the Fox River. June 11–14.

Blues Festival in Chicago, IL Local bluesman Buddy Guy headlines the largest of Chicago's free music festivals, drawing 750,000 people to Grant Park. June 12–14.

Stamman Scandinavian Folk Festival in Nisswa, MN This festival in the Brainerd Lakes area features visiting musicians from Denmark, Sweden and Norway as well as many North American folk musicians. June 12–13.

Polish Fest in Milwaukee, WI This big festival on the lakefront features lots of rollicking, zydeco-laced polka and hearty food. June 12–14.

Lighthouse Festival in Door County, WI The Door County Maritime Museum in Sturgeon Bay offers tours of the peninsula's 10 lighthouses by foot, boat, trolley and minibus. Tickets go on sale April 1; some tours sell out quickly. June 12–14.

Windsurfing Regatta and Music Festival in Worthington, MN This southern Minnesota town is a windsurfing hot spot and hosts an annual windsurfing tournament on Lake Okabena. There's also live music, a bike ride and Arts on the Shore. June 12–14.

Ribfest Chicago in Chicago, IL This street festival in the Northcenter neighborhood, on Lincoln Avenue between Irving Park Road and Warner Avenue, features barbecue plus indie, roots, rock and alt country music. There's a Kids Square with games and a rib-eating contest Friday with professional eaters. June 12–14.

Winstock Country Festival in Winsted, MN Alabama and Jake Owen headline this festival just west of Minneapolis. June 12–13.

America's River Festival in Dubuque, IA This riverside music festival includes a motocross show, movie tent and children's games and rides. June 12–13.

Northwoods Bluegrass Festival in Ladysmith, WI Six bluegrass bands perform at the fairgrounds in this Blue Hills town, and there's on-site camping. June 12–13.

Wells Street/Old Town art fairs in Chicago, IL Together, the Wells Street Art Festival and nearby Old Town Art Fair two fairs have more than 500 exhibitors and draw 110,000 visitors. June 13–14. Wells Street website

Spring Iowa Barn Tour in Northeast, IA This year's tour of historic barns is in Grundy, Bremer and Black Hawk counties around the Cedar Falls-Waterloo area. June 13–14.

Northern Spark in Minneapolis, MN From sunset to sunrise, artists perform a variety of projects at museums and outdoor venues along the riverfront and around Minneapolis. June 13.

Steamboat Days in Burlington, IA There's a carnival, music on two stages, a parade at 11 a.m. Saturday and a Sunday art fair on Snake Alley. June 16–21.

Fourth of July on Madeline Island.

© Beth Gauper

On Madeline Island, the Fourth of July parade follows the Lake Superior shoreline.

Third weekend in June

Steamboat Days in Burlington, IA There's a carnival, music on two stages, a parade at 11 a.m. Saturday and a Sunday art fair on Snake Alley. June 16–21.

Steamboat Days in Winona, MN The main event is the 12:31 p.m. Sunday parade, one of the region's largest. There's also a carnival, craft show, power-boat races and car show. June 17–21.

Harborfest in South Haven, MI There's dragon-boat racing, a boat parade, pirate-chaser sails on the Friends Good Will, music and a craft fair. June 18–21.

Great Galena Balloon Race in Galena, IL Eagle Ridge Resort hosts two balloon races, two night glows and rides for the public. An Alefest Friday includes tastings of more than 100 beers. June 19–21.

Wooden Boat Show and Summer Solstice Festival in Grand Marais, MN The harbor-side North House Folk School on Lake Superior kicks off summer with a boat parade, dancing, craft demonstrations, mini-courses and a solstice parade. June 19–21.

Bridgefest in Houghton/Hancock, MI There will be helicopter rides, a water-ski show, a Friday parade and Saturday fireworks. The two towns are linked by the Keweenaw Peninsula's massive Portage Lift Bridge. June 19–21.

More on 34 in Aurora to Galesburg, IL A 131-mile yard sale along U.S. 34 from Aurora to Galesburg, with events in many towns. June 19–20.

Blues on the Fox in Aurora, IL Blues artists perform at the festival grounds on the Fox River, in the town where Chicago blues musicians recorded for RCA's Bluebird label in the 1930s. June 19–20.

Old Canal Days in Lockport, IL Lockport was the headquarters of the Illinois & Michigan Canal and site of the first lock; now it's on the National Register of Historic Places. At its festival, there are historic reenactors, horse-drawn carriage tours of the canal, duck races, a juried craft show, music and a 6 p.m. Friday parade. June 19–21.

Gentlemen of the Road in Waverly, IA Mumford & Sons bring one of their Stopover Festivals to northeast Iowa. Headliners also include the Flaming Lips, Dawes and Jenny Lewis. There's free tent camping on-site. June 19–20.

GermanFest in St. Paul, MN This free festival at the Historic Schmidt Brewery features German folklore, storytelling, games and history as well as food, beer and music. June 19–21.

Fyr Bal Festival in Ephraim, WI It's the 51st annual Scandinavian midsummer festival in this Door County village. There's a regatta, historic walking tours, art fair, trolley rides, Fur Ball pet parade, cake walk and, of course, a fish boil. June 20.

Midsummer Fest in Coon Valley, WI This family festival at Norskedalen Nature & Heritage Center, in the coulees near La Crosse, features the best of Scandinavian culture: food, music and crafts. For children, there will be a visit from the trolls by the bridge, fjord horses and a scavenger hunt. June 20–21.

Stone Arch Bridge Festival in Minneapolis, MN On the banks of the Mississippi, 250 artists show their wares around St. Anthony Main. There are also three stages, art for kids and a car show. June 20–21.

Custer Fair in Evanston, IL This big fair in the Custer Avenue-Main Street shopping district features 250 artists, 50 variety performers, a medicine show, powwow dancing, children's activities and music on two stages. June 20–21.

Swedish Days Festival in Geneva, IL This Fox River town on the western edge of Chicago offers music, a zipline, a carnival,  a Swedish cottage walk and a big parade at 1 p.m. Sunday.  June 23–28.

Country USA in Oshkosh, WI Miranda Lambert, Tim McGraw, Lee Brice, Eric Church and the Eli Young Band are the headliners of this year's big festival. June 23–27.

Scottville Clown Band.

© Beth Gauper

The Clown Band from Scottville, Mich., marches in Mackinac Island's Lilac Festival parade.

Fourth weekend in June

Swedish Days Festival in Geneva, IL This Fox River town on the western edge of Chicago offers music, a zipline, a carnival,  a Swedish cottage walk and a big parade at 1 p.m. Sunday.  June 23–28.

Country USA in Oshkosh, WI Miranda Lambert, Tim McGraw, Lee Brice, Eric Church and the Eli Young Band are the headliners of this year's big festival. June 23–27.

Summerfest in Milwaukee, WI They call this the world's largest music festival. More than 800 acts perform on 11 stages along Lake Michigan. June 24–28.

Musky Fest in Hayward, WI A carnival, crafts, ice cream-eating contest and lots of festivities downtown, capped by the 1:30 p.m. Sunday parade. June 25–28.

Twin Cities Jazz Festival in St. Paul, MN Listen to jazz in Mears Park, in St. Paul's Lowertown. June 25–27.

Country Fest in Cadott, WI This year's big outdoor festival near Chippewa Falls features Toby Keith, Keith Urban, Tim McGraw and Rascal Flatts. June 25–28.

Lakes Jam in Brainerd, MN Lee Brice headlines this music-and-camping festival at Brainerd International Raceway. June 25–27.

Water Ski Days in Lake City, MN There's music, an arts and crafts fair and, on Sunday, a parade followed by a water-ski show on Lake Pepin, where water-skiing was invented. June 26–28.

Des Moines Arts Festival in Des Moines, IA This big, juried arts fair at Western Gateway Park downtown includes street theater, live music and a film festival. June 26–28.

Cedar Basin Jazz Festival in Cedar Falls, IA There will be 42 hours of free entertainment in Sturgis Park, including a Sunday morning gospel set and a jazz brunch. June 26–28.

Midwest Viking/Scandinavian Hjemkomst Festival in Moorhead, MN This festival at the Hjemkomst Center includes demonstrations, performances and goods that tell about society and culture in Viking-age Scandinavia and beyond. June 26–27.

Northwoods Blues Festival in Spooner, WI Marcia Ball and Devon Allman headline this festival at the Washburn County Fairgrounds. On-site camping is available. June 26–27.

Engineers Day/Bridge Walk in Sault Ste. Marie, MI It's the biggest week of the year for boat nerds at the Soo Locks. Friday is the Engineers Day open house (people can walk across the locks). Saturday is the 2.8-mile International Bridge Walk (people can walk to Canada).   June 26–27. Bridge Walk site

Strawberry Festival in Cedarburg, WI During this popular event in an old mill town north of Milwaukee, there's music, kids' games, shortcake-eating and bubblegum-blowing contests and strawberries in everything — brats, wine, slush.  June 27–28.

Afton Strawberry Festival in Afton, MN This village on the St. Croix River revives an old tradition with a European-style flea market, art fair, music and children's activities.   June 27–28.

Cardboard Cup Regatta in Crystal Lake, IL Watch or enter the cardboard-boat races on Main Beach, where prizes are awarded in many categories. June 27.

Shake the Lake in Madison, WI This pre-Fourth festival on the shores of Lake Monona replaces Rhythm & Booms and includes live bands, bike polo, a roller-derby exhibition and fireworks. June 27.

Fourth of July weekend

Summerfest in Milwaukee, WI They call this the world's largest music festival. More than 800 acts perform on 11 stages along Lake Michigan. June 30–July 5.

Eyes to the Skies Festival in Lisle, IL This large festival on the west edge of Chicago features a daily hot-air balloon launches, glows and fireworks shows, plus children's activities and a craft fair. July 1–5.

Petunia Festival in Dixon, IL This festival in the Hometown of Ronald Reagan features music, a carnival, fireworks and a Sunday parade. July 1–5.

Riverfest in La Crosse, WI This big riverfront festival includes water-ski and air shows, an arts and crafts fair, a lip-sync contest, a dragon-boat race, Venetian and family parades and music on four stages. July 1–4.

Sawdust Days in Oshkosh, WI This festival in Menominee Park, next to Lake Winnebago, celebrates the logging era, when Oshkosh was known as Sawdust City. It includes a historic village, flea market, carnival, Fourth of July fireworks and music on four stages, including Sabor-a-Mexico. July 1–5.

National Women's Music Festival in Middleton, WI Headliners include Holly Near, Cris Williamson and Tret Fure. In addition to concerts, this musical and cultural festival at the Marriott Madison West features comedy, theater, film and writers' workshops. July 2–5.

Hodag Country Festival in Rhinelander, WI This year, performers at this big fest include Ronnie Milsap, Scotty McCreery, Wynonna & the Big Noise and Cassadee Pope. There's a band contest, too. July 2–12.

Iowa City Jazz Festival in Iowa City, IA This downtown festival features a Culinary Row, Fun Zone for kids and Sunday fireworks in addition to music. July 2–4.

Ribfest in Naperville, IL Big-name bands perform in Knoch Park, where there's also magic shows, kids' games, food and fireworks on the last evening. July 2–5.

Taste of Minnesota in Waconia, MN This free family festival features food, music, games and fireworks at the Carver County Fairgrounds in this southwest Minneapolis exurb. July 2–5.

Blues Festival in Thunder Bay, ON This festival has a scenic location in Marina Park, on the Lake Superior waterfront. July 3–5.

Red White and Boom in Minneapolis, MN On Thursday, there's the Hot Dam 5K fun fun, followed by music and a movie. On Friday, there's a half-marathon in the morning, and music and family activities from 6 to 10 p.m., followed by fireworks. Festivities are along the riverfront downtown.   July 3–4.

National Cherry Festival in Traverse City, MI This town on Lake Michigan attracts half a million people to events that include air shows, an arts fair, music, races, the big Cherry Royale Parade and many contests, including pie-eating and pit-spitting. July 4–11.

Fourth Fest in Duluth, MN Duluth claims to have Minnesota's largest fireworks show, part of festivities in Bayfront Festival Park. July 4.

Perkinstown Outhouse Race in Medford, WI Bring your own throne to this race at Perkinstown Park. Teams of four pushers and one squatter compete for the titles "hardest pushers'' and "prettiest potty.'' July 4.

Dragon boats in Grand Marais.

© Visit Cook County

Paddlers get ready to race at the North Shore Dragon Boat Festival in Grand Marais.

Second weekend in July

Hodag Country Festival in Rhinelander, WI This year, performers at this big fest include Ronnie Milsap, Scotty McCreery, Wynonna & the Big Noise and Cassadee Pope. There's a band contest, too. July 2–12.

National Cherry Festival in Traverse City, MI This town on Lake Michigan attracts half a million people to events that include air shows, an arts fair, music, races, the big Cherry Royale Parade and many contests, including pie-eating and pit-spitting. July 4–11.

Taste of Chicago in Chicago, IL The big free festival in Grant Park offers lots of food and music. July 8–12.

Karl Oskar Days in Lindstrom, MN The festival in this Swedish town just north of the Twin Cities features fireworks, a car show and a parade. July 8–12.

Winnipeg Folk Festival in Winnipeg, MB This easy-going, family-friendly festival features 70 performers, food and hand-made art from around the world plus a fun play area for children. Many people camp on-site at Birds Hill Provincial Park. Tickets are cheapest when bought in advance. July 9–12.

Bastille Days in Milwaukee, WI Look for minstrels, beignets, French lessons, a Mardi Gras celebration and a 43-foot replica of the Eiffel Tower in Cathedral Square Park. July 9–12.

Heart of the North Rodeo in Spooner, WI Look for the four R's in this western Wisconsin town: roping, bull riding, steer wrestling and barrel racing. A parade is on Saturday. July 9–11.

Iola Old Car Show in Iola, WI This show and swap meet brings up to 130,000 people to this village east of Stevens Point. July 9–11.

Windmill City Festival in Batavia, IL There's a carnival, pet parade, ice-cream eating contest and live bands in the town on the Fox River. July 9–12.

Balloon Rally/Ribfest/Chalkfest in Wausau, WI At the airport, Balloon Rally & Glow features barnstormer plane rides, kite-flying, pig-racing, music and fireworks. Also at the airport, the Big Bull Falls BBQ Ribfest is Thursday through Saturday. On Saturday and Sunday, artists decorate downtown during Chalkfest. July 9–12.

Laura Ingalls Wilder pageant in Walnut Grove, MN The festival in this western Minnesota town revolves around the book "On the Banks of Plum Creek.'' Family Festivals are held each Saturday. July 10–11.

Square Roots Festival in Chicago, IL The Old Town School of Folk Music presents this Lincoln Square festival, which includes more than 60 acts on four stages plus 30 local and regional craft beers and food from neighborhood restaurants. July 10–12.

Northwest Water Carnival in Detroit Lakes, MN This big festival celebrates its 81st year with a sand-castle contest, water fights, ship-building (in less than 30 minutes), beer tasting, watermelon feed, bike tour and more. On the last day, there's a big parade at 1 p.m. July 10–19.

Basilica Block Party in Minneapolis, MN This family-friendly outdoor rock festival on the grounds of the Basilica of St. Mary benefits its restoration and outreach programs.   July 10–11.

80/35 Music Festival in Des Moines, IA This indie and jam music festival (named for the junction of two interstates) is at Western Gateway Park. July 10–11.

Blissfest in Cross Village, MI This family-friendly folk and roots festival on a farm includes reggae, country, zydeco, jazz and Celtic music on three stages and four workshop areas. There's also a juried arts and crafts fair. Rustic camping is available. July 10–12.

Wild Rice Festival in Deer River, MN This northern town near Grand Rapids offers a powwow Friday, wild-rice lunch, bike rodeo, sawdust scramble, singing competition and fireworks Saturday and a parade Sunday. July 10–12.

Fiesta Days in McHenry, IL There's a Music Fest, carnival and car and motorcycle s Petersen Park the first weekend and a children's ice cream social, Shakespeare Festival, arts and crafts fair and a Sunday parade the second weekend in Veteran's Memorial Park. July 10–19.

Bicycle, Blues and BBQ Festival in Clear Lake, IA There are professional races plus a tour and family fun rides at this festival based in City Park. July 10–12.

South Shore Frolics in Milwaukee, WI This festival in Bay View's South Shore Park includes bands, games, a car show, nightly fireworks and a parade Saturday. July 10–12.

Phelps Mill Festival in Phelps, MN There's a juried arts and crafts fair, children's activities and music in this bucolic, tucked-away park along the Otter Tail River, next to an 1889 brick and clapboard mill that's open for tours. The hamlet of Phelps is just west of Otter Tail Lake and north of Underwood. July 11–12.

Art Fair On/Off the Square in Madison, WI Nearly 500 artists from around the nation will be selling on Capitol Square and 140 Wisconsin artists around Monona Terrace, attracting more than 200,000 people. July 11–12. On the Square website

Grand Marais Arts Festival in Grand Marais, MN This juried art show along the Lake Superior harbor includes children's activities, art demonstrations, a pie social and live music. July 11–12.

Rock USA in Oshkosh, WI This big rock festival is held in Ford Festival Park. July 15–18.

A steamboat float in Winona's Steamboat Days parade.

© Beth Gauper

Winona royalty rides a float during the town's Steamboat Days.

Third weekend in July

Northwest Water Carnival in Detroit Lakes, MN This big festival celebrates its 81st year with a sand-castle contest, water fights, ship-building (in less than 30 minutes), beer tasting, watermelon feed, bike tour and more. On the last day, there's a big parade at 1 p.m. July 10–19.

Fiesta Days in McHenry, IL There's a Music Fest, carnival and car and motorcycle s Petersen Park the first weekend and a children's ice cream social, Shakespeare Festival, arts and crafts fair and a Sunday parade the second weekend in Veteran's Memorial Park. July 10–19.

Rock USA in Oshkosh, WI This big rock festival is held in Ford Festival Park. July 15–18.

Rock Fest in Cadott, WI This year's big outdoor festival near Chippewa Falls features top national musicians. July 16–19.

Moondance Jam in Walker, MN This big classic-rock and camping festival celebrates its 24th year. Headliners include Nickelback and the Doobie Brothers. July 16–18.

Bavarian Blast in New Ulm, MN "Das Fest Mit Fun'' features German music, food and beer at the Brown County Fair Grounds in this Minnesota River Valley town. The big parade is Sunday. July 17–19.

Laura Ingalls Wilder pageant in Walnut Grove, MN The festival in this western Minnesota town revolves around the book "On the Banks of Plum Creek.'' Family Festivals are held each Saturday. July 17–18.

Highland Fest in St. Paul, MN This street fair in St. Paul's Highland Park neighborhood includes an arts fair, music, carnival rides, wiener-dog races and an all-Ford car and truck show. July 17–19.

Festa Italiana in Milwaukee, WI At the lakefront Henry Maier Festival Park, there's cannoli-eating and pizza-making contests, celebrity chefs, a bocce ball tournament, parades at 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, nightly fireworks and music and dance on five stages and an opera tent. July 17–19.

RiverSong Music Festival in Hutchinson, MN This family-friendly festival on the Crow River, west of the Twin Cities, features folk, blues, jazz and other grassroots music on three stages, including one for children. There's onsite camping and food. July 17–18.

Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago, IL This indie and alt-rock festival is in Union Park. July 17–19.

Stillwater Log Jam in Stillwater, MN The festival in this St. Croix River town features historical pontoon-boat tours, vintage baseball, lumberjack demonstrations, a fishing contest, music and a parade. July 17–19.

Hiawatha Traditional Music Festival in Marquette, MI This folk music festival in Tourist Park also features a juried arts and crafts show and camping on-site. July 17–19.

Eaux Claires Music Festival in Eau Claire, WI This new festival features 40 acts, including Bon Iver, the National, Spoon, Sufjan Stevens, Haley Bonar, Polica, Doomtree, the Blind Boys of Alabama and the Indigo Girls. There's camping on-site. July 17–18.

Honor the Earth Pow-wow in Hayward, WI The Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa hold one of the largest powwows in North America, with dancing, singing and crafts plus a cooking contest, run/walk and softball tournament. July 17–19.

Stockholm Art Fair in Stockholm, WI This hamlet on Lake Pepin, a favorite day trip destination for Twin Citians, becomes a shopping mecca during this big fair. July 18.

Bayfront Reggae & World Music Festival in Duluth, MN Hear island music on Lake Superior, from Bayfront Festival Park. July 18.

Charlevoix Venetian Festival in Charlevoix, MI A week of music and games winds up with an 11 a.m. street parade and 10 p.m. lighted boat parade, followed by fireworks. July 18–25.

Ethnic Arts Festival in Evanston, IL Dawes Park on Lake Michigan turns into a global village for this celebration of music, dance, arts and food. July 18–19.

Minnesota Scottish Fair & Highland Games in Eagan, MN This fest south of St. Paul features Celtic music, a British car show, a harp competition and heavy games -- hammer throwing, sheaf tossing, caber turning and the stone put. July 18.

Port Fish Day in Port Washington, WI The world's largest one-day outdoor fish fry also includes classic car and arts and crafts shows, soccer water fights, a smoked-fish eating contest, music on three stages, a parade and fireworks. July 18.

Driftless Music Festival in Viroqua, WI This free folk and roots festival is in Viroqua's Eckhart Park. July 18.

Agate Days in Moose Lake, MN See the beautiful stones on display, then dig for them at 2 p.m. Saturday during the Agate Stampede, when a load of rocks seeded with 400 pounds agates and $400 in quarters is dumped downtown. There's also music and an art fair. July 18–19.

Woodstock Folk Festival in Woodstock, IL Listen to music on the square in this town just over the Wisconsin border from Lake Geneva. July 19.

Chinatown Summer Fair in Chicago, IL There's a Lion Dance, Chinese classical dance and music, demonstrations of martial arts and displays of ancient art forms and disciplines plus a petting zoo, pony rides and cutest baby and a "hot legs" contest for men. July 19.

EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, WI This huge Experimental Aircraft Association festival includes air shows, fireworks, big-name concerts, children's activities, workshops, exhibits and rides in historic aircraft. Reserve lodgings early; it fills rooms within a 60-mile radius. July 20–26.

Waterama in Glenwood, MN This festival on the shores of Lake Minnewaska is famous for its lighted pontoon parade, followed by fireworks. On Sunday, there's a parade on land, followed by a water-ski show. July 21–26.

A dragon boat races past Fairlawn Mansion in Superior.

© Beth Gauper

A boat races past Fairlawn Mansion at the Lake Superior Dragon Boat Festival in Superior.

Fourth weekend in July

Charlevoix Venetian Festival in Charlevoix, MI A week of music and games winds up with an 11 a.m. street parade and 10 p.m. lighted boat parade, followed by fireworks. July 18–25.

EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, WI This huge Experimental Aircraft Association festival includes air shows, fireworks, big-name concerts, children's activities, workshops, exhibits and rides in historic aircraft. Reserve lodgings early; it fills rooms within a 60-mile radius. July 20–26.

Waterama in Glenwood, MN This festival on the shores of Lake Minnewaska is famous for its lighted pontoon parade, followed by fireworks. On Sunday, there's a parade on land, followed by a water-ski show. July 21–26.

Nordic Fest in Decorah, IA Ole and Lena host this friendly, authentic, very fun and very large festival of Scandinavian culture. The parade, one of the region's best, is at 10:30 a.m. Saturday. July 23–25.

Great River Days in Muscatine, IA This festival in Riverfront Park includes paddlewheeler rides, a carnival, battle of the bands, wiener-dog dash, main-stage evening concerts and a parade the last day. July 23–Aug. 1.

Lumberjack World Championships in Hayward, WI You can't see this kind of thing just anywhere: cut-throat log rolling, boom running, springboard chopping and speed climbing. July 23–25.

North Star Stampede in Effie, MN The rodeo in this town of 90 is a good excuse to explore the Edge of the Wilderness Scenic Byway, which winds through Chippewa National Forest north of Grand Rapids. July 24–26.

Pierogi Fest in Whiting, IN This suburb of Chicago exalts the plump Eastern European dumplings, filled with cheese, mashed potatoes or sauerkraut, with pierogi eating and tossing contests, a Mr. Pierogi songfest and a Polka Parade. July 24–26.

Laura Ingalls Wilder pageant in Walnut Grove, MN The festival in this western Minnesota town revolves around the book "On the Banks of Plum Creek.'' Family Festivals are held each Saturday. July 24–25.

National Balloon Classic in Indianola, IA This giant hot-air balloon festival includes daily flights, rides for the public, music, night glows, fireworks and a parade. July 24–Aug. 1.

German Fest in Milwaukee, WI Look for dachshunds, dirndls and lots of oompah music at this big party at Henry Maier Festival Park on Lake Michigan. July 24–26.

Coast Guard Festival in Grand Haven, MI There's nightly entertainment on the waterfront, a downtown carnival, tours of Coast Guard cutters, a Grand Parade and fireworks. July 24–Aug. 2.

Riverboat Days in Wabasha, MN There's a lighted boat parade Friday, and on Saturday an arts fair, firemen's water fight, waterfront carriage rides and a 6 p.m. Grande Parade. July 24–25.

Air and Water Show in Milwaukee, WI This show, between Bradford and McKinley beaches on the lakefront, features many aerobatics. July 25–26.

Circus Celebration Day in Baraboo, WI In the downtown square, there will be circus-themed performances, walking tours, music, children's activities and a Big Top parade. July 25.

Lowertown Blues Festival in St. Paul, MN Elvin Bishop and Walter Trout headline this free, all-ages festival in Mears Park. July 25.

boats sail under lift bridge in Houghton, Mich.

© Beth Gauper

The Portage Lake Lift Bridge connects Houghton and Hancock on the Keweenaw Peninsula.

First weekend in August

Great River Days in Muscatine, IA This festival in Riverfront Park includes paddlewheeler rides, a carnival, battle of the bands, wiener-dog dash, main-stage evening concerts and a parade the last day. July 23–Aug. 1.

National Balloon Classic in Indianola, IA This giant hot-air balloon festival includes daily flights, rides for the public, music, night glows, fireworks and a parade. July 24–Aug. 1.

Coast Guard Festival in Grand Haven, MI There's nightly entertainment on the waterfront, a downtown carnival, tours of Coast Guard cutters, a Grand Parade and fireworks. July 24–Aug. 2.

Riverfest in Ottawa, IL At the confluence of the Fox River with the Illinois, there's a carnival, paddleboat races, Art in the Park, Taste of Ottawa, live bands and a parade on the last day. July 29–Aug. 2.

Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival in Davenport, IA Since 1972, fans of this Jazz Age cornetist and composer have held this festival in his hometown on the Mississippi. July 30–Aug. 2.

Riverfest in Niles, MI This festival along the St. Joseph River features dragon-boat races, fan boat rides and raft races, plus music, arts and a car and truck show. July 30–Aug. 2.

Brat Days in Sheboygan, WI This town on Lake Michigan is sausage central. There's music, a carnival, beer and, of course, a brat-eating contest. The parade is Saturday. July 30–Aug. 1.

Fisherman's Picnic in Grand Marais, MN There's a lot going on at the North Shore's biggest festival, including loon-calling, log-rolling, herring-eating and rock-skipping contests; Saturday fireworks; and the grand parade at 1 p.m. Sunday. July 30–Aug. 2.

River City Days in Red Wing, MN In this Mississippi River town, there's music, food and games in Bay Point Park and an arts show in Levee Park. There's a Venetian boat parade at dusk Saturday and the grand parade Sunday. July 31–Aug. 2.

Buffalo Bill Days in Lanesboro, MN Ride the Root River State Trail then enjoy music, games and food in this bluff-country burg. A parade is Sunday. July 31–Aug. 2.

Lollapalooza in Chicago, IL This big music festival features dozens of bands and, unlike other Grant Park festivals, is not free: Three-day passes are $175-$215. Reserve rooms far in advance.     July 31–Aug. 2.

Taste of Wisconsin in Kenosha, WI This free harborfront festival features locally produced specialties as well as cooking demonstrations, gardening workshops and music on three stages. July 31–Aug. 2.

Prairie Dog Blues Festival in Prairie du Chien, WI This Mississippi River festival on historic St. Feriole Island features 12 bands on two stages, with onsite camping. July 31–Aug. 1.

Blues on the Chippewa in Durand, WI Just up the Chippewa River from Lake Pepin, this free blues festival in Memorial Park features 16 bands. July 31–Aug. 2.

Folklorama in Winnipeg, MB This Manitoba prairie town celebrates its heritage with pavilions representing 44 nationalities, offering music, dance and food at many venues. Aug. 2–15.

Taste of Dorset in Dorset, MN Ride the Heartland State Trail to this tiny "burp in the road'' near Park Rapids, then eat your way down the street. And don't forget to vote (or run) for mayor. Food is served 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 2.

Mississippi Valley Fair in Davenport, IA There are chainsaw artists, a zip line and alligator and bear shows as well as a carnival and grandstand acts that include national country musicians. Aug. 4–9.

A lumberjack on a boom run.

© Beth Gauper

A boom runner competes in Hayward's Lumberjack World Championships.

Second weekend in August

Folklorama in Winnipeg, MB This Manitoba prairie town celebrates its heritage with pavilions representing 44 nationalities, offering music, dance and food at many venues. Aug. 2–15.

Mississippi Valley Fair in Davenport, IA There are chainsaw artists, a zip line and alligator and bear shows as well as a carnival and grandstand acts that include national country musicians. Aug. 4–9.

Wisconsin State Fair in West Allis, WI The fair in this Milwaukee suburb features lots of contests, including hog-calling, cookie-stacking and cream puff-eating. Aug. 6–16.

Minnesota Bluegrass & Old-Time Music Festival in Richmond, MN This 36th annual family-friendly festival includes music on five stages and workshops at El Rancho Mañana Campground, 20 miles west of St. Cloud. Aug. 6–9.

WE Fest in Detroit Lakes, MN This big fest in west-central Minnesota snags the biggest names in country music. Aug. 6–8.

National Blueberry Festival in South Haven, MI Eat until you're blue in the face during the festival in this Lake Michigan beach town. There's a pie-eating contest, riverfront concerts , an arts fair and a big parade on Saturday. Aug. 6–9.

Country on the River in Prairie du Chien, WI Dierks Bentley is among the headliners performing on two stages on St. Feriole Island. Aug. 6–8.

Sweet Corn Festival in Mendota, IL The festival in this town between Rochelle and La Salle features nearly 50 tons of free buttered corn, live music, a flea market, a carnival and a parade. Aug. 6–9.

Mile of Music in Appleton, WI More than 100 singer-songwriters perform at more than 40 venues along College Avenue downtown. Aug. 6–9.

Ashley for the Arts music festival in Arcadia, WI This nonprofit festival is in the southwest Wisconsin bluffs, half an hour north of Winona, Minn. Tickets are $5. In addition to music, there will be a hot-air balloon launch, car show, arts, a youth obstacle course and Saturday fireworks. Aug. 6–8.

Pie Day in Braham, MN Minnesota's official Pie Capital near Cambridge holds pie-eating contests, a pie trivia contest and performances of the Pie-Alleuia Chorus. Aug. 7.

Bayfront Blues Festival in Duluth, MN The 27th annual music fest on the Lake Superior harbor showcases national and regional acts on three stages. Aug. 7–9.

Irish Fair in St. Paul, MN This big heritage fest on the banks of the Mississippi includes Irish Got Talent and best legs in a kilt contests, hurling demonstrations, dancing and lots of music. Aug. 7–9.

Uptown Art Fair in Minneapolis, MN This large juried art fair in the Uptown neighborhood draws crowds. Use a Nice Ride bike or download a free bus/train pass, www.metrotransit.org/artpass, to avoid congestion and to get to the two other art fairs in south Minneapolis. Aug. 7–9.

Cache Ba$h in West Bend, WI This town north of Milwaukee calls itself the Geocache Capital of the Midwest. For the festival, it hides 50 new caches and gives away $1,000 in cash prizes. Aug. 7–8.

Twin Cities Polish Festival in Minneapolis, MN This celebration of Polish culture is on the St. Anthony Main riverfront across from downtown, with music, art, food and free polka lessons. Aug. 7–9.

Live From the Rock in Red Rock, ON This folk festival is on the shores of Lake Superior, east of Thunder Bay near Nipigon. Camping is on-site. Aug. 7–9.

Loring and Powderhorn arts festivals in Minneapolis, MN These smaller festivals in Powderhorn Park, in south Minneapolis, and Loring Park, on the edge of downtown, are not far from the Uptown Art Fair. All are easily reached by bus shuttle or by bicycle on the Midtown Greenway. Aug. 8–9. Loring Park Art Festival

A tugboat in the Soo Locks.

© Beth Gauper

A tugboat passes through the Soo Locks during the annual tugboat parade.

Third weekend in August

Folklorama in Winnipeg, MB This Manitoba prairie town celebrates its heritage with pavilions representing 44 nationalities, offering music, dance and food at many venues. Aug. 2–15.

Wisconsin State Fair in West Allis, WI The fair in this Milwaukee suburb features lots of contests, including hog-calling, cookie-stacking and cream puff-eating. Aug. 6–16.

Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, IA See a diaper derby, outhouse races and mullet contest, and don't miss the butter sculptures. Aug. 13–23.

Tug Fest in LeClaire and Port Byron, IAIL The two towns stretch a 680-pound, 2,400-foot rope across the Mississippi River for the ultimate tug of war. (Over 27 years, the score is Illinois 17, Iowa 11.) There's also a parade, fireworks, children's games, concerts and carnival rides. Aug. 13–15. Event website/Port Byron

Irish Fest in Milwaukee, WI The nation's largest Irish festival features more than 300 entertainers on 17 stages, plus children's activities and demonstrations by Irish dog breeds. In Henry Maier Festival Park. Aug. 13–16.

Oronoco Gold Rush in Oronoco, MN The antiques show and flea market in this friendly little village just north of Rochester off U.S. 52 includes more than 400 vendors and 1,200 booths. There's also pancakes for breakfast, homemade pie and music. Aug. 14–16.

Grand Portage Powwow & Rendezvous in Grand Portage, MN Re-enactors from across the continent gather at Grand Portage National Monument for the annual fur-trade rendezvous; next door, the  Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa holds a powwow. Reserve lodgings far in advance. Aug. 14–16.

Maritime Heritage Festival in Port Washington, WI Watch cardboard-boat races, listen to music, ride a Ferris wheel and cruise the harbor. Aug. 14–16.

Big Bull Falls Blues Fest in Wausau, WI Enjoy national and local blues musicians in Fern Island Park. There's a beer garden, of course. Aug. 14–15.

Air & Water Show in Chicago, IL The 57th annual free show features aerobatics, extreme flying and parachuting off North Avenue Beach. Aug. 15–16.

HarborPark Jazz & Blues Festival in Kenosha, WI This free festival is in the lakefront Celebration Place. Aug. 15.

Milk-carton races at Aquatennial.

© Beth Gauper

Milk-carton boat races on Lake Calhoun are part of Aquatennial in Minneapolis.

Fourth weekend in August

Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, IA See a diaper derby, outhouse races and mullet contest, and don't miss the butter sculptures. Aug. 13–23.

Venetian Festival in Lake Geneva, WI In this southeast Wisconsin vacation area, the festival includes a carnival, arts and crafts fair, firefighter water fight and, on Sunday, a water-ski show followed by a lighted boat parade and fireworks. Aug. 19–23.

Mexican Fiesta in Milwaukee, WI Enjoy the best of Mexican culture at the Henry Maier Festival Park: mariachi, arts and crafts, spicy foods and contests: dance, costume, jalapeno-eating and el grito, or shouting. Aug. 21–23.

Lake Superior Dragon Boat Festival in Superior, WI The festival on Barker's Island begins Friday with a parade of teams, fireworks and a concert and continues Saturday with races in the harbor and family entertainment. Aug. 21–22.

Summer Microbrew & Music Festival in Traverse City, MI This festival at Grand Traverse Commons features more than 200 craft beers. Aug. 21–22.

Interpreters at Grand Portage.

© Torsten Muller

Interpreters at Grand Portage National Monument re-enact the fur-trade era.

Fifth weekend in August

Lakes Bluegrass Festival in Pine River, MN This family-friendly festival at the Cass County Fairgrounds, just off the Paul Bunyan State Trail, features more than 35 bluegrass shows and free workshops. Aug. 26–30.

Minnesota State Fair in St. Paul, MN See the Luminarium, try beer flights at the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild, eat food on a stick and listen to free concerts. Aug. 27–Sept. 7.

Artstreet in Green Bay, WI Artists, performers and craft and food stands fill streets downtown near the Fox River. Aug. 28–30.

Potato Days in Barnesville, MN This goofy central-Minnesota festival features mashed-potato wrestling, a golden potato hunt, potato car races, peeling and eating contests and a Saturday parade. Aug. 28–29.

Porcupine Mountains Music Festival in Silver City, MI Few settings are more beautiful than Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park on Lake Superior; 25 national and regional blues, folk and bluegrass acts perform. Aug. 28–30.

Vinton Boomtown in Vinton, IA Fireworks provided by the Iowa Pyrotechnic Association are the centerpiece for this fest, which includes arts & crafts, food and kids' activities. Aug. 28–29.

River Roots Live in Davenport, IA This free music festival in LeClaire Park, on the banks of the Mississippi, also features Rib Festival and the paddling festival Floatzilla.   Aug. 28–29.

Festival of the Horse in Mackinac Island, MI There's a carriage parade, saddle-horse parade, horseback riding and driving demos, historic stable tours and pony rides. Aug. 28–29.

Great River Folk Festival in La Crosse, WI This festival in Riverside Park includes children's activities and craft demonstrations. Aug. 28–30.

Crossroads Blues Festival in Byron, IL A day of blues downtown, with food from local restaurants. Aug. 29.

Festival in the Pines in Eau Claire, WI There's music on two stages, children's games, a petting zoo and an arts fair in Carson Park. Entry to Paul Bunyan Logging Camp and Chippewa Valley Museum is included. Aug. 29–30.

National Old Time Country Bluegrass Festival in LeMars, IA More than 600 musicians perform on 10 stages in this town in northwest Iowa. Aug. 31–Sept. 6.

Labor Day weekend

Minnesota State Fair in St. Paul, MN See the Luminarium, try beer flights at the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild, eat food on a stick and listen to free concerts. Aug. 27–Sept. 7.

National Old Time Country Bluegrass Festival in LeMars, IA More than 600 musicians perform on 10 stages in this town in northwest Iowa. Aug. 31–Sept. 6.

Chicago Jazz Festival in Chicago, IL This free festival features music at the Chicago Cultural Center and  Millennium Park. Sept. 3–6.

Wisconsin State Cow Chip Throw in Prairie du Sac, WI There's chip-chucking contests in this Wisconsin River town, but also music, kids' games and an arts and crafts fair. The Tournament of Chips parade is at noon Saturday. Sept. 4–5.

Wilhelm Tell Festival in New Glarus, WI This Swiss town near Madison has been putting on an outdoor William Tell pageant since 1938. Festivities include a children's lantern parade, yodeling, an arts show and ethnic fashions. Sept. 4–6.

Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion in Rollag, MN Revel in the past during this show of antique machinery, which includes rides on trains and a carousel, square dancing, roving musicians and nightly jamborees. In 2015, the show will feature blacksmithing. Sept. 4–7.

Mississippi Valley Blues Festival in Davenport, IA In LeClaire Park on the river, blues musicians celebrate the music that traveled up the Mississippi. Sept. 5–6.

Taste of Madison in Madison, WI This free benefit festival on Capitol Square includes 300 menu items from more than 80 restaurants, all priced at $1-$4. There's also music on three stages. On Sunday, there's a lighted boat parade on Lake Mendota, followed by fireworks. Sept. 5–6.

Frankfort Fall Festival in Frankfort, IL The festival in this southern suburb of Chicago features more than 300 artisans, entertainment, a carnival and a parade at 1 p.m. Sunday. Sept. 5–7.

Marquette Area Blues Fest in Marquette, MI Two days of music in Mattson Lower Harbor Park on Lake Superior. Sept. 5–6.

Mackinac Bridge Walk in Mackinaw City, MI Once a year, on Labor Day, people can walk across the five-mile span, the third-longest suspension bridge in the world. Sept. 7.

For the best events in autumn, see Great fall festivals.


Last updated on January 14, 2015

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