MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Without reservation

If there's a big festival in your future, stake out space as soon as possible.

Tulips and the windmill in Pella.

© Beth Gauper

In Pella, thousands of tulips bloom during Tulip Time.

In summer, only the foolhardy travel without reservations.

Big events can eat up every room and campsite in an entire region, especially if the event is in a small town.

In central Iowa, more than 100,000 people go to Pella Tulip Time in May (pictured), which the American Bus Association regularly chooses as one of the Top 100 Events in North America.

In northeast Iowa, 75,000 people go to Decorah for Nordic Fest in July, filling rooms between Lanesboro and La Crosse.

Bigger cities can absorb more people. Still, plan ahead for the Chicago Air & Water Show in August; it attracts 2.2 million people. In Milwaukee, 1 million people go to Summerfest in late June and early July. And more than 200,000 people browse through Madison's Art Fair on the Square in July.

If you're going through eastern Wisconsin in late Juuly, you'd better know about the EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, which draws 700,000 to 750,000 people and fills every hotel room.

Or maybe you're planning a vacation in the Black Hills in August  so are 250,000 people on Harleys, in the area for the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

These festivals got so big, of course, because they're fun and people like them. So go, but plan ahead (for tips, see Serious reservations).

For a list of the best and biggest events in summer, see Great summer festivals. For food festivals, see A feast of festivals.

For ethnic festivals, see Celebrating roots.

For other seasons, see Great spring festivals and Great fall festivals.

Last updated on March 18, 2011