MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Great summer festivals

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

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.

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 2014.

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 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 22–26.

Dylan Days in Hibbing, MN Bob's hometown celebrates his 73rd birthday with a film festival, singer-songwriter contest, jam session at Zimmy's and a Bobby Zimmerman bus tour. May 22–25.

World's Largest Brat Fest in Madison, WI There's music on four stages, 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 23–26.

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 23–24.

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 23–26.

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 24–25.

BobFest in Spring Green, WI The Spring Green General Store in this artistic town on the Wisconsin River celebrates Bob Dylan's 73rd birthday with free outdoor music. May 25.

A steamboat float in Winona's Steamboat Days parade.

© Beth Gauper

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

Last weekend in May/First weekend in June

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 30–31.

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, sporting and home and garden. A parade starts at 9:30 a.m. from Grand and Dale. June 1.

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. June 1.

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 1.

Fans listen to music at the Winnipeg Folk Festival.

© Beth Gauper

Fans listen to music at the Winnipeg Folk Festival.

First full weekend in June

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 5–8.

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.   June 6–8.

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 6–15.

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 6–7.

Taste of Traverse City in Traverse City, MI There's a Grub Crawl, a Foodie Film Festival and sampling and chef demonstrations at Taste. June 6–8.

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 6–8.

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 6–8.

Edina Art Fair in Edina, MN The juried show in this posh southern Minneapolis suburb draws 375 exhibitors and 60,000 people. June 6–8. 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 6–8.

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 6–8.

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 6–8.

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 6–8.

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 7.

Milwaukee Highland Games in Wauwatosa, WI Listen to bagpipe bands, eat Scottish food and watch sheepdogs, Highland dancers and athletes. 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 8.

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 10–15.

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 6–15.

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 10–15.

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 11–15.

Irish Festival in Oshkosh, WI This festival in Riverside Park on the Fox River includes Irish music, food and dancing. June 12–15.

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 12–15.

Blues Festival in Chicago, IL This is the largest of Chicago's free music festivals, drawing 750,000 people to Grant Park. June 13–15.

Polish Fest in Milwaukee, WI This big festival on the lakefront features lots of rollicking, zydeco-laced polka and hearty food. June 13–15.

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 13–15.

Balloon Rally in Monroe, WI The capital of cheese country hosts Wisconsin's longest-running rally. There's a balloon launch and glow Friday evening and a 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. launch Saturday, as well as an arts and crafts fair, classic-car show, live music, games and food. June 13–14.

Stone Arch Bridge Festival in Minneapolis, MN 250 artists show their wares on the banks of the Mississippi at St. Anthony Main. There are also three stages, art for kids and a car show. June 13–15.

Winstock Country Festival in Winsted, MN Toby Keith and Rascal Flatts headline this festival just west of Minneapolis. June 13–14.

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 14–15. Wells Street website

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 17–22.

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

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 17–22.

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 19–22.

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 19–22.

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 20–22.

Fyr Bal Festival in Ephraim, WI It's the 50th 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 21.

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 21–22.

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 21–22.

Custer's Last Stand 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 21–22.

Country USA in Oshkosh, WI Carrie Underwood, Florida Georgia Line, Gary Allan, Brantley Gilbert and Luke Bryan are the headliners of this year's big festival. June 24–28.

Scottville Clown Band.

© Beth Gauper

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

Fourth weekend in June

Country USA in Oshkosh, WI Carrie Underwood, Florida Georgia Line, Gary Allan, Brantley Gilbert and Luke Bryan are the headliners of this year's big festival. June 24–28.

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 25–29.

National Women's Music Festival in Middleton, WI In addition to concerts, this musical and cultural festival at the Marriott Madison West features comedy, theater, film and writers' workshops. June 26–29.

Country Fest in Cadott, WI This year's big outdoor festival near Chippewa Falls features Blake Shelton, Carrie Underwood, Brad Paisley and Florida Georgia Line. June 26–29.

Lakes Jam in Brainerd, MN Bret Michaels headlines this music-and-camping festival at Brainerd International Raceway. June 26–28.

Water Ski Days in Lake City, MN There's music, an arts and crafts fair and, on Sunday, a 2 p.m. parade followed by a water-ski show on Lake Pepin, where water-skiing was invented. June 27–29.

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 27–29.

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 27–28.

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. June 27–29.

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 27–28. 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 28–29.

Rhythm & Booms in Madison, WI In Warner Park on Lake Mendota, there's a carnival, music, bicycle parade and fireworks. June 28.

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. July 1–6.

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 3–6.

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 3–5.

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, including Cheap Trick. 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.

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 3–6.

80/35 Music Festival in Des Moines, IA This rock festival (named for the junction of two interstates) is at Western Gateway Park. July 4–5.

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 5–12.

A kids' ride at the Minnesota State Fair.

© Beth Gauper

The Minnesota State Fair includes rides on the Kidway.

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 5–12.

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 9–13.

Taste of Chicago in Chicago, IL The big free festival in Grant Park continues with national headliners but a shorter length and more emphasis on food. July 9–13.

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 10–13.

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 10–12.

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 10–13.

Hodag Country Festival in Rhinelander, WI This year, performers at this big fest include Kenny Rogers, Kellie Pickler and Sara Evans. There's a band contest, too. July 10–13.

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 10–13.

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 11–12.

Northwest Water Carnival in Detroit Lakes, MN This big festival celebrates its 79th year with a sand-castle contest, water fights, ship-building (in less than 30 minutes), beer tasting, hat hunt, bike tour and more. On the last day, there's a big parade at 1 p.m. July 11–20.

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 11–12.

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 12–13.

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 12–13. 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 12–13.

Rock USA in Oshkosh, WI This big rock festival is held in Ford Festival Park. July 16–19.

Pirates in Port Washington.

© Pendragon Photography

In June, pirates invade Port Washington, Wis.

Third weekend in July

Northwest Water Carnival in Detroit Lakes, MN This big festival celebrates its 79th year with a sand-castle contest, water fights, ship-building (in less than 30 minutes), beer tasting, hat hunt, bike tour and more. On the last day, there's a big parade at 1 p.m. July 11–20.

Rock USA in Oshkosh, WI This big rock festival is held in Ford Festival Park. July 16–19.

Moondance Jam in Walker, MN This big classic-rock and camping festival celebrates its 23nd year. Headliners include REO Speedwagon, Foreigner, Styx and George Thorogood. July 17–19.

Rock Fest in Cadott, WI This year's big outdoor festival near Chippewa Falls features top national musicians. July 17–20.

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 18–19.

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 18–20.

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 5:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and music and dance on six stages and an opera tent. July 18–20.

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 18–20.

Aquatennial in Minneapolis, MN Among the highlights of this big festival are the Lake Calhoun milk-carton boat races and sandcastle contest, the Hennepin Avenue Torchlight Parade and Mississippi River fireworks show. July 18–26.

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 19.

Oregon Trail Days in Oregon, IL This town on the Rock River celebrates its heritage with an American Indian encampment and cowboy and frontier acts, with Wild West activities for kids and canoe rides. It's in Lowden State Park, and tipis are available to camp in. Proceeds go to restore Oregon's 48-foot statue of Chief Black Hawk, made in 1911. July 19–20.

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 19–26.

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 19–20.

Woodstock Folk Festival in Woodstock, IL Music on the square in this town not far over the Wisconsin border from Lake Geneva. July 20.

Little girls dance on a stage at Luverne's Buffalo Days.

© Beth Gauper

At Buffalo Days in Luverne, Minn., tiny dancers perform to the tune "On the Good Ship Lollipop.''

Fourth weekend in July

Aquatennial in Minneapolis, MN Among the highlights of this big festival are the Lake Calhoun milk-carton boat races and sandcastle contest, the Hennepin Avenue Torchlight Parade and Mississippi River fireworks show. July 18–26.

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 19–26.

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 24–26.

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 24–27.

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 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 25–26.

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 25–26.

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 25–26.

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 25–27.

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 25–27.

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 25–Aug. 2.

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 25–Aug. 3.

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 at 1 p.m. Aug. 3. July 25–Aug. 3.

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 26.

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 28–Aug. 3.

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. July 29–Aug. 3.

A lumberjack on a boom run.

© Beth Gauper

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

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 25–Aug. 2.

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 25–Aug. 3.

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 at 1 p.m. Aug. 3. July 25–Aug. 3.

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 28–Aug. 3.

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. July 29–Aug. 3.

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 31–Aug. 3.

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. July 31–Aug. 10.

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 31–Aug. 2.

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. 1.

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. 1–3.

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. Aug. 1–3.

Uptown Art Fair in Minneapolis, MN This large juried art fair in the Uptown neighborhood draws crowds. Take the Art Hop bus to avoid congestion and to get to the two other art fairs in south Minneapolis. Aug. 1–3.

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.     Aug. 1–3.

Fishermen's Picnic in Grand Marais, MN There's a lot going on at the North Shore's biggest festival, including loon-calling, log-rolling, doughnut-racing and rock-skipping contests; Saturday fireworks; and the grand parade at 1 p.m. Sunday. Aug. 1–3.

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. 2–3. Loring Park Art Festival

African World Festival in Milwaukee, WI This heritage fest at the lakefront Henry Maier Festival Park features music on three stages and cultural and children's villages. Aug. 2–3.

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. 3.

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. 3–16.

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. July 31–Aug. 10.

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. 3–16.

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 16, Iowa 11.) There's also a parade, fireworks, children's games, concerts and carnival rides. Aug. 7–9. Event website/Port Byron

WE Fest in Detroit Lakes, MN This big fest in west-central Minnesota snags the biggest names in country music . Headliners this year include Brad Paisley, Jason Aldean and the Zac Brown Band. There's camping onsite. Aug. 7–9.

Country on the River in Prairie du Chien, WI Jason Aldean and The Band Perry headline the national acts performing on two stages on St. Feriole Island. Aug. 7–9.

Minnesota Bluegrass & Old-Time Music Festival in Richmond, MN This 35th annual family-friendly festival includes music on five stages and workshops at El Rancho Mañana Campground, 20 miles west of St. Cloud. Aug. 7–10.

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. 7–10.

Mile of Music in Appleton, WI More than 100 singer-songwriters perform at more than 40 venues along College Avenue downtown. Aug. 7–10.

Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, IA See a diaper derby, outhouse races and mullet contest, and don't miss the butter sculptures. Aug. 7–17.

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. 8–9.

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. 8–10.

Bayfront Blues Festival in Duluth, MN The 26th annual music fest on the Lake Superior harbor showcases national and regional acts on three stages. Aug. 8–10.

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. 8–10.

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. 8–10.

Ship & Shore Festival in New Buffalo, MI In this Lake Michigan beach town, there's a lighted boat parade, fireworks, microbrew-sampling, an art fair and ice-cream and watermelon-eating contests. Aug. 8–10.

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. 8–10.

Civil War Days in Pipestone, MN In the southwest corner of Minnesota, this festival includes quilting bees, etiquette and ballroom dance lessons, camp tours, children's games, band concerts and a grand ball. Battle re-enactments are held both days. Aug. 9–10.

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. 13–17.

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. 3–16.

Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, IA See a diaper derby, outhouse races and mullet contest, and don't miss the butter sculptures. Aug. 7–17.

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. 13–17.

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. 14–17.

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. 15–16.

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. 15–17.

HarborPark Jazz & Blues Festival in Kenosha, WI This free festival is in the lakefront Celebration Place. Aug. 16.

Air & Water Show in Chicago, IL The 56th annual free show features aerobatics, extreme flying and parachuting off North Avenue Beach. Aug. 16–17.

Milk-carton races at Aquatennial.

© Beth Gauper

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

Fourth weekend in August

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. 21–Sept. 1.

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. 22–23.

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. 22–23.

Artstreet in Green Bay, WI Artists, performers and craft and food stands fill streets downtown near the Fox River. Aug. 22–24.

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. 22–24.

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. 22–24.

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. 23–24.

National Old Time Country Bluegrass Festival in LeMars, IA More than 600 musicians perform on 10 stages in this town in northwest Iowa. Aug. 25–31.

Interpreters at Grand Portage.

© Torsten Muller

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

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. 21–Sept. 1.

National Old Time Country Bluegrass Festival in LeMars, IA More than 600 musicians perform on 10 stages in this town in northwest Iowa. Aug. 25–31.

Chicago Jazz Festival in Chicago, IL This free festival features music at the Chicago Cultural Center and  Millennium Park. Aug. 28–31.

International Tug of War Championships in Madison, WI See world-class tugging at the pulling grounds in Madison. Aug. 28–31.

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. Aug. 29–30.

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. 29–30.

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. Aug. 29–31.

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 2014, the show will feature steam shovels and other construction equipment. Aug. 29–Sept. 1.

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. Aug. 30–31.

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. Aug. 30–Sept. 1.

Marquette Area Blues Fest in Marquette, MI Two days of music in Mattson Lower Harbor Park on Lake Superior. Aug. 30–31.

Fox Valley Folk Music & Storytelling Festival in Geneva, IL Musicians and storytellers perform on eight stages at this festival in Island Park on the Fox River. Aug. 31–Sept. 1.

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. 1.

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


Last updated on January 22, 2014
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