MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Great summer festivals

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

Scottville Clown Band.

© Beth Gauper

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

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 2016.

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

Duluth Dylan Festival 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 22–29.

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 26–29.

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 26–30.

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 27–30.

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 27–30.

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 28–29.

BobFest in Spring Green, WI The Spring Green General Store in this artistic town on the Wisconsin River celebrates Bob Dylan's 75th birthday with free outdoor music. May 29.

Soundset in St. Paul, MN This hiphop festival will be held at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds this year. May 29.

First weekend in June

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 Saturday. June 2–5.

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. June 3–4.

Gospel Festival in Chicago, IL This free music festival Millennium Park also includes an art fair and a kids' activity zone. June 3–4.

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 3–5.

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 3–5.

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 3–5.

Edina Art Fair in Edina, MN The juried show in this posh southern Minneapolis suburb draws 375 exhibitors and 60,000 people. June 3–5. 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 3–5.

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 3–5.

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 3–12.

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 4.

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. June 4.

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 4–5.

Outta Sight Kite Flight in Kenosha, WI Fly kites along Lake Michigan in Kennedy Park. June 4–5.

Rivertown Art Festival in Stillwater, MN More than 100 artists set up along the St. Croix River for the valley's largest art fair. June 4–5.

Grand Old Day in St. Paul, MN When the weather's nice, more than a quarter million people turn out for this street fair, during which Grand Avenue is divided into "districts'': entertainment, arts, family fun and sports. A parade starts at 9:30 a.m. from Grand and Dale. June 5.

Ride for the Arts in Milwaukee, WI This bicycle ride along the Lake Michigan lakefront includes routes of 5, 12, 25, 40 and 66 miles. 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. June 5.

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 5.

Fourth of July on Madeline Island.

© Beth Gauper

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

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 3–12.

Wizard of Oz Festival in Grand Rapids, MN Judy Garland's hometown will offer such events as a trivia game, costume and singing contests, a petting zoo, a picnic, talks and a free showing of the famous movie under the stars. June 9–11.

Blue Ox Music Festival in Eau Claire, WI Pert Near Sandstone, Sam Bush Band, Leftover Salmon and Railroad Earth are among the headliners at this family-friendly acoustic festival near Eau Claire. There's camping onsite. June 9–11.

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 9–12.

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 Sunday. June 9–12.

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 10–11.

Winstock Country Festival in Winsted, MN Brad Paisley and Lee Brice headline this festival just west of Minneapolis. June 10–11.

America's River Festival in Dubuque, IA This riverside music festival includes a motocross show, movie tent and children's games and rides. June 10–11.

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 10–12.

Blues Festival in Chicago, IL The largest of Chicago's free music festivals draws 750,000 people to Grant Park. June 10–12.

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 to the public April 4; some tours sell out quickly. June 10–12.

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 10–12.

Wine & Food Festival in Leland, MI Sample local wines and listen to music at this festival on the Leelanau Peninsula. June 11.

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 11–12. Wells Street website

Country USA in Oshkosh, WI Dierks Bentley, Sam Hunt and Luke Bryan are among the headliners of this year's big festival at Ford Festival Park. June 14–18.

Third weekend in June

Country USA in Oshkosh, WI Dierks Bentley, Sam Hunt and Luke Bryan are among the headliners of this year's big festival at Ford Festival Park. June 14–18.

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 15–19.

Musky Fest in Hayward, WI There will be a carnival, crafts, ice cream-eating contest and lots of festivities downtown, capped by the 1:30 p.m. Sunday parade. June 16–19.

Country Fest in Cadott, WI This year's big outdoor festival near Chippewa Falls features Kenny Chesney, Carrie Underwood, Dierks Bentley and Sam Hunt. June 16–19.

Steamboat Days in Burlington, IA There's a carnival, music on two stages, a parade Saturday and a Sunday art fair on Snake Alley. June 16–19.

Harborfest in South Haven, MI There will be a wooden boat show, dragon-boat racing, kids' activities, music and a craft fair. June 16–19.

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 17–18.

Polish Fest in Milwaukee, WI This big festival on the lakefront features lots of hearty food, a piano contest, storytelling, vodka-tasting, folks arts and polka dancing. June 17–19.

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, and there are Wine Flights on Saturday. June 17–19.

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 17–19.

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 17–19.

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 17–19.

Fyr Bal Festival in Ephraim, WI It's the 52nd annual Scandinavian midsummer festival in this Door County village. There's a regatta, historic walking tours, artisan market, trolley rides, Fur Ball pet parade, cake walk and ice-cream and cherry-pie eating contests. June 18.

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 18.

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 18–19.

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 18–19.

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 21–26.

An entertainer at the Phelps Mill Festival.

© Beth Gauper

An aerialist entertains children and their parents at Phelps Mill Festival in Minnesota.

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 21–26.

Twin Cities Jazz Festival in St. Paul, MN Listen to jazz in Mears Park, in St. Paul's Lowertown. June 23–25.

Lakes Jam in Brainerd, MN Toby Keith headlines this music-and-camping festival at Brainerd International Raceway. June 23–25.

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 24–25. Bridge Walk site

Northwoods Blues Festival in Spooner, WI Blues bands perform at the fairgrounds in this lakes town, and there's on-site camping. June 24–25.

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 24–26.

Summer Feast in Sun Prairie, WI This festival in Angell Park has three parts: the Fiery Foods Festival on Friday; the all-you-can-eat Bacon, Brew & BBQ Fest on Saturday; and the World Food Fest on Sunday. Admission is free on Friday and Sunday, when there will be family activities, live music, cooking classes and Junior Chef competitions. June 24–26.

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 25–26.

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, games, raptor demos and a strawberry shortcake-eating contest.   June 25–26.

Spring Iowa Barn Tour in Northeast, IA This year's tour of historic barns is in Dubuque County. June 25–26.

Fire eaters perform in a parade.

© Beth Gauper

In Minneapolis, fire eaters perform in the Aquatennial Torchlight Parade.

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 29–July 3.

National Women's Music Festival in Middleton, WI Headliners include Alive, Sharon Katz and the Peace Train, Suede and Vickie Shaw. In addition to concerts, this musical and cultural festival at the Marriott Madison West features comedy, theater, film and writers' workshops. June 30–July 3.

Petunia Festival in Dixon, IL This festival in the Hometown of Ronald Reagan features music, a carnival, fireworks and a Sunday parade. June 30–July 4.

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.

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 2–9.

Second weekend in July

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 2–9.

Summerfest in Milwaukee, WI They call this the world's largest music festival. More than 800 acts perform on 11 stages along Lake Michigan. July 5–10.

Taste of Chicago in Chicago, IL The big free festival in Grant Park offers lots of food and music. July 6–10.

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 6–10.

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 7–9.

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 7–9.

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 7–10.

Hodag Country Festival in Rhinelander, WI This year, performers at this big fest include Mickey Gilley, Thomas Rhett, Jake Owen and Neal McCoy. There's a band contest, too. July 7–10.

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 7–10.

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 8–9.

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 8–9.

Basilica Block Party in Minneapolis, MN Praise the Loud at this ticketed rock-music fest at the Basilica of St. Mary on the edge of downtown. July 8–9.

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 8–10.

Blues Festival in Thunder Bay, ON This festival has a scenic location in Marina Park, on the Lake Superior waterfront. July 8–10.

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 8–10.

Sub Fest in Manitowoc, WI The second annual fest at the Wisconsin Maritime Museum, home of the USS Cobia, features a sub-eating contest, music, movies, a parade of boats and fireworks on Saturday and a water-ski show on Sunday. July 8–10.

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 8–17.

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 9.

Driftless Music Festival in Viroqua, WI This free folk and roots festival is in Viroqua's Eckhart Park. July 9.

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 9–10.

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 9–10. 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 9–10.

Belly dancers at Bastille Days.

© Beth Gauper

Belly dancers perform at Bastille Days in Milwaukee.

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 8–17.

Sinclair Lewis Days in Sauk Centre, MN The hometown of the Nobel Prize-winning author celebrates with turtle races, bicycle stunts, a hot dog-eating contest, a craft fair, music and a parade at 7 p.m. Saturday. July 13–17.

Rock Fest in Cadott, WI This year's big outdoor festival near Chippewa Falls features top national musicians. July 14–16.

Rock USA in Oshkosh, WI This big rock festival is held in Ford Festival Park. July 14–16.

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 14–17.

Tall Ships in Bay City, MI The tall ships return to Lake Huron, with cruises, deck tours, music and family activities. Reserve early. Festivities start with a Parade of Sail. July 14–17.

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 15–16.

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 15–16.

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 15–17.

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 15–17.

Fiesta Days in McHenry, IL There's a Music Fest, carnival and car and motorcycle show in Petersen Park the first weekend and a children's ice cream social, arts and crafts fair and a 1:30 p.m. Sunday parade the second weekend in Veteran's Memorial Park. July 15–24.

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 16.

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 16.

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 16–17.

Charlevoix Venetian Festival in Charlevoix, MI A week of music and games winds up with an 11 a.m. street parade and, at dusk, a lighted boat parade followed by fireworks. July 16–23.

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 16–17.

Woodstock Folk Festival in Woodstock, IL Listen to music on the square in this town just over the Wisconsin border from Lake Geneva. July 17.

A kids' ride at the Minnesota State Fair.

© Beth Gauper

The Minnesota State Fair includes rides on the Kidway.

Fourth weekend in July

Fiesta Days in McHenry, IL There's a Music Fest, carnival and car and motorcycle show in Petersen Park the first weekend and a children's ice cream social, arts and crafts fair and a 1:30 p.m. Sunday parade the second weekend in Veteran's Memorial Park. July 15–24.

Charlevoix Venetian Festival in Charlevoix, MI A week of music and games winds up with an 11 a.m. street parade and, at dusk, a lighted boat parade followed by fireworks. July 16–23.

Aquatennial in Minneapolis, MN The City of Lakes holds a Torchlight Parade, water-ski shows and Saturday fireworks. July 20–23.

Moondance Jam in Walker, MN This big classic-rock and camping festival celebrates its 25th year. Headliners include Loverboy. July 21–23.

Burning Cow Music Festival in Sturgeon Bay, WI This second annual fest features 17 emerging and established rock, bluegrass and alt country bands. There's on-site camping. July 21–23.

Sweet Corn Days in Elkader, IA In addition to free sweet corn, there will be Friday fireworks, a doughnut-hole eating contest, a kiddie tractor pull, carnival rides and a parade at 1:30 p.m. Saturday. July 21–24.

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 22–23.

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 22–24.

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 22–24.

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 25–31.

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 26–31.

Fans listen to music at the Winnipeg Folk Festival.

© Beth Gauper

Fans listen to music at the Winnipeg Folk Festival.

Fifth weekend in July

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 25–31.

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 26–31.

Tall Ships Chicago in Chicago, IL More than 15 tall ships return to Navy Pier, with cruises, deck tours, music and family activities. Reserve early. The festival starts Wednesday with a Parade of Sail. July 27–31.

Nordic Fest in Decorah, IA It's the 50th year of 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 28–30.

Lollapalooza in Chicago, IL This big music festival features dozens of bands and, unlike other Grant Park festivals, is not free. Reserve rooms far in advance.     July 28–31.

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 28–30.

Blueberry Festival in Marquette, MI Eat blueberry pizza and drink blueberry beer while listening to live music and watching dancers and medieval armored combat. There are also pony rides and games for kids. July 29.

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 29–30.

Riverboat Days in Wabasha, MN There's a lighted boat parade Friday, and on Saturday an arts fair, duck derby, skateboard tournament and Grande Parade. July 29–30.

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 29–31.

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 29–31.

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 29–Aug. 6.

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 29–Aug. 7.

Ride the Drive in Madison, WI Ride, walk or skate a car-free five-mile loop along Lake Monona, around the State Capitol and through downtown. There are also activity villages, food and music. July 31.

Mississippi Valley Fair in Davenport, IA There are chainsaw artists and alligator shows as well as a carnival and grandstand acts that include national country musicians. Aug. 2–7.

A steamboat float in Winona's Steamboat Days parade.

© Beth Gauper

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

First weekend in August

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 29–Aug. 6.

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 29–Aug. 7.

Mississippi Valley Fair in Davenport, IA There are chainsaw artists and alligator shows as well as a carnival and grandstand acts that include national country musicians. Aug. 2–7.

WE Fest in Detroit Lakes, MN Eric Church, Tim McGraw, Kid Rock and Lee Brice are among the headliners at this big country festival in west-central Minnesota. Aug. 4–6.

Country on the River in Prairie du Chien, WI Kid Rock and Lee Brice are among the headliners performing on two stages on St. Feriole Island. Aug. 4–6.

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. Aug. 4–7.

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. Aug. 4–7.

Mile of Music in Appleton, WI More than 180 singer-songwriters perform at more than 40 venues along College Avenue downtown. Aug. 4–7.

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. 4–14.

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. 5.

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. Aug. 5–7.

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 to avoid congestion and to get to the two other art fairs in south Minneapolis. Aug. 5–7.

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. Aug. 5–7.

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. 5–7.

Tall Ships in Green Bay, WI The tall ships return to the western Great Lakes, with cruises, deck tours, music and family activities. Reserve early. Aug. 5–7.

Lakeshore Weekend in Manitowoc, WI This Lake Michigan town offers dragon-boat racing Saturday, plus children's games and music. Aug. 5–7.

Powderhorn Art Fair in Minneapolis, MN This smaller festival in Powderhorn Park, in south Minneapolis, is not far from the big Uptown Art Fair. Aug. 6–7.

boats sail under lift bridge in Houghton, Mich.

© Beth Gauper

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

Second weekend in August

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. 4–14.

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. There's also a parade, fireworks, children's games, concerts and carnival rides. Aug. 11–13. Event website/Port Byron

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 $10. In addition to music, there will be a hot-air balloon launch, car show, arts, a youth obstacle course and Saturday fireworks. Aug. 11–13.

Minnesota Bluegrass & Old-Time Music Festival in Richmond, MN This 37th annual family-friendly festival includes music on five stages and workshops at El Rancho Mañana Campground, 20 miles west of St. Cloud. Aug. 11–14.

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. 11–14.

Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, IA See a diaper derby, outhouse races and mullet contest, and don't miss the butter sculptures. Aug. 11–21.

Eaux Claires Music Festival in Eau Claire, WI Bon Iver returns for a second year with new acts. There's camping on-site. Aug. 12–13.

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. 12–14.

Bayfront Blues Festival in Duluth, MN The 28th annual music fest on the Lake Superior harbor showcases national and regional acts on three stages. Aug. 12–14.

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. 12–14.

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. 12–14.

A lumberjack on a boom run.

© Beth Gauper

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

Third 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. 11–21.

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. 17–21.

Irish Fest in Milwaukee, WI The nation's largest Irish festival features 100 acts on 16 stages, plus children's activities, red hair and freckle contests and demonstrations by Irish dog breeds. In Henry Maier Festival Park. Aug. 18–21.

Boundary Waters Blues Festival in Ely, MN Ten bands play Friday and Saturday on Fall Lake, five miles east of Ely. There's camping on-site. Aug. 18–21.

Tall Ships in Duluth, MN The tall ships return to Lake Superior, with cruises, deck tours, music and family activities. Reserve early. Festivities start with a Parade of Sail. Aug. 18–21.

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. 19–20.

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. 19–21.

HarborPark Jazz & Blues Festival in Kenosha, WI This free festival is in the lakefront Celebration Place. Aug. 20.

Square Lake Film & Music Festival in Stillwater, MN This festival near Square Lake County Park, north of Stillwater, alternates short independent films with live music. Festgoers arriving by bicycle get half-price tickets, which sell out in advance. Aug. 20.

Air & Water Show in Chicago, IL The 58th annual free show features aerobatics, extreme flying and parachuting off North Avenue Beach. Aug. 20–21.

A tugboat in the Soo Locks.

© Beth Gauper

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

Fourth weekend in August

Minnesota State Fair in St. Paul, MN Try flights at the Craft Beer Hall, eat food on a stick, listen to free concerts and watch the 2 p.m. daily parade. Aug. 25–Sept. 5.

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. 26–27.

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. 26–27.

River Roots Live in Davenport, IA This music festival in LeClaire Park, on the banks of the Mississippi, also features Rib Festival.   Aug. 26–27.

Artstreet in Green Bay, WI Artists, performers and craft and food stands fill streets downtown near the Fox River. Aug. 26–28.

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. 26–28.

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. 26–28.

Great River Folk Festival in La Crosse, WI This festival in Riverside Park includes children's activities, a traditional arts and crafts fair and music performances and workshops. Aug. 26–28.

Crossroads Blues Festival in Rockford, IL Enjoy a day of blues in Lyran Park, with food from local restaurants. Aug. 27.

National Old Time Country Bluegrass Festival in LeMars, IA More than 600 musicians perform on 10 stages in this town in northwest Iowa. Aug. 29–Sept. 4.

Labor Day weekend

Minnesota State Fair in St. Paul, MN Try flights at the Craft Beer Hall, eat food on a stick, listen to free concerts and watch the 2 p.m. daily parade. Aug. 25–Sept. 5.

National Old Time Country Bluegrass Festival in LeMars, IA More than 600 musicians perform on 10 stages in this town in northwest Iowa. Aug. 29–Sept. 4.

Chicago Jazz Festival in Chicago, IL This free festival features music at the Chicago Cultural Center and  Millennium Park. Sept. 1–4.

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. 2–3.

Marquette Area Blues Fest in Marquette, MI Enjoy two days of music in Mattson Lower Harbor Park on Lake Superior. Sept. 2–4.

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. 2–4.

Wisconsin Highland Games in Waukesha, WI In addition to heavy athletics — throwing weights, hammers, logs and sacks of hay — there will be piping, drumming, dancing, longbow competitions, dog demonstrations and traditional Scottish food. Sept. 2–4.

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 2016, the show will feature the Great Minneapolis Line. Sept. 2–5.

Taste of Madison in Madison, WI This free benefit festival on Capitol Square includes 200 menu items from more than 80 restaurants, all priced at $1-$4. There's also music on three stages.   Sept. 3–4.

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. 5.

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




Last updated on January 5, 2016

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