MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Music festivals 2018

January

  • (Jan. 31 – Feb 3)Winter Dance Party

    Clear Lake, IA

    The Surf Ballroom marks the 59th anniversary of the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, with concerts, luncheons, dance lessons and crash-site tours.


April

  • (Apr. 13 – 15)Roots and Bluegrass Festival

    River Falls, WI

    Hear music at half a dozen venues in the downtown of this western Wisconsin college town.


  • (Apr. 20 – 21)Eau Claire Jazz Festival

    Eau Claire, WI

    Headliners play the State Theatre, and on Friday, more than 50 bands play acoustic jazz, ragtime, big-band and blues along Barstow Street downtown, recreating New York's 52nd Street.


  • (Apr. 27 – 28)Midwest Music Fest

    Winona, MN

    Dozens of musical groups in all genres play in museums, galleries, cafes and arts centers across town. There are arts workshops for children, too.


  • (Apr. 29 – May 6)Homegrown Music Festival

    Duluth, MN

    More than 100 musical acts will perform in venues around the Twin Ports, and there also will be film, visual arts and craft beer.


May

  • (May 12)Reggae Fest

    Trempealeau, WI

    The Trempealeau Hotel hosts this easygoing festival on the banks of the Mississippi. 


  • (May 19 – 27)Duluth Dylan Festival

    Duluth, MN

    The town in which Bob Dylan was born celebrates the singer's 76th birthday with a Blood on the Tracks train ride, a singer-songwriter contest, a bus tour, films, music and a trivia contest.

     

     

     


  • (May 24 – 28)North Iowa Band Festival

    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 25 – 28)World's Largest Brat Fest

    Madison, WI

    There's music on four stages, plus kids' games, a sports zone, carnival rides and Sunday fireworks. Admission is free. Outside the Alliant Energy Center.


  • (May 25 – 28)Chicago Gaelic Park Irish Festival

    Oak Forest, IL

    In this south Chicago suburb, there's music on five stages, plus a petting zoo, hurling, theater, Irish dog and pony exhibits and red hair, freckle and bonnie baby contests.


  • (May 27)BobFest

    Spring Green, WI

    The Spring Green General Store in this artistic town on the Wisconsin River celebrates Bob Dylan's 77th birthday with free outdoor music.


  • (May 27)Soundset

    St. Paul, MN

    This hiphop festival is at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds.


June

  • (Jun 1 – 2)Gospel Festival

    Chicago, IL

    This free music festival is in Millennium Park and across the street at the Cultural Center.


  • (Jun 1 – 3)2 Rivers Wine & Jazz Festival

    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.


  • (Jun 8 – 10)Blues Festival

    Chicago, IL

    The largest of Chicago's free music festivals draws 750,000 people to Millennium Park. 


  • (Jun 8 – 9)Stamman Scandinavian Folk Festival

    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.


  • (Jun 8 – 10)Ribfest Chicago

    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.


  • (Jun 8 – 9)Winstock Country Festival

    Winsted, MN

    Dierks Bentley and Miranda Lambert headline this festival just west of Minneapolis.


  • (Jun 8 – 9)America's River Festival

    Dubuque, IA

    This riverside music festival includes a motocross show, movie tent and children's games and rides. 


  • (Jun 8 – 9)Northwoods Bluegrass Festival

    Ladysmith, WI

    Six bluegrass bands play at this festival at the Rusk County Fairgrounds. On-site camping is available.


  • (Jun 14 – 17)Steel Bridge SongFest

    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.


  • (Jun 14 – 16)Blue Ox Music Festival

    Eau Claire, WI

    This family-friendly acoustic festival is near Eau Claire.

    There's camping onsite.


  • (Jun 15 – 16)Blues on the Fox

    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.


  • (Jun 19 – 23)Country USA

    Oshkosh, WI

    Jason Aldean, Brantley Gilbert and Keith Urban are among the headliners of this year's big festival at Ford Festival Park.


  • (Jun 21 – 23)Twin Cities Jazz Festival

    St. Paul, MN

    Listen to jazz in Mears Park, in St. Paul's Lowertown.


  • (Jun 21 – 24)Country Fest

    Cadott, WI

    This year's big outdoor festival near Chippewa Falls features Jason Aldean, Brantley Gilbert and Brad Paisley.


  • (Jun 21 – 23)Lakes Jam

    Brainerd, MN

    Brantley Gilbert and George Thorogood are among the headliners at this music-and-camping festival at Brainerd International Raceway.


  • (Jun 22 – 24)Cedar Basin Jazz Festival

    Cedar Falls, IA

    There will be 42 hours of free entertainment in Sturgis Park, including a Sunday morning gospel set and a jazz brunch.


  • (Jun 27 – Jul 1)Summerfest

    Milwaukee, WI

    They call this the world's largest music festival. More than 800 acts perform on 11 stages along Lake Michigan.


  • (Jun 29 – Jul 1)Iowa City Jazz Festival

    Iowa City, IA

    This downtown festival features a Culinary Row, Fun Zone for kids and Sunday fireworks in addition to music.


  • (Jun 29 – 30)Northwoods Blues Festival

    Chippewa Falls, WI

    The blues festival is at Northern Wisconsin State Fairgrounds. There's camping on-site.


July

  • (Jul 4 – 7)Ribfest

    Naperville, IL

    Headliners include Jake Owen and Steven Tyler in Knoch Park, where there's also magic shows, kids' games, food and fireworks on the last evening.


  • (Jul 5 – 8)Winnipeg Folk Festival

    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.


  • (Jul 5 – 8)National Women's Music Festival

    Middleton, WI

    In addition to concerts, this musical and cultural festival at the Marriott Madison West features comedy, theater, film and writers' workshops.


  • (Jul 6 – 8)Blues Festival

    Thunder Bay, ON

    This festival has a scenic location in Marina Park, on the Lake Superior waterfront.


  • (Jul 6 – 7)Mississippi Valley Blues Festival

    Davenport, IA

    In LeClaire Park on the river, blues musicians celebrate the music that traveled up the Mississippi. Headliners will be Walter Trout and Jonny Lang.


  • (Jul 6 – 7)80/35 Music Festival

    Des Moines, IA

    This indie and jam music festival (named for the junction of two interstates) is at Western Gateway Park.


  • (Jul 6 – 7)Eaux Claires Music Festival

    Eau Claire, WI

    Bon Iver returns for a fourth year with new acts. There's camping on-site.


  • (Jul 6 – 7)Basilica Block Party

    Minneapolis, MN

    Praise the Loud at this ticketed rock-music fest at the Basilica of St. Mary on the edge of downtown. 


  • (Jul 12 – 15)Hodag Country Festival

    Rhinelander, WI

    This year, performers at this big fest include Clint Black and Toby Keith. There's a band contest, too.


  • (Jul 12 – 14)Rock Fest

    Cadott, WI

    This year's big outdoor festival near Chippewa Falls features top national musicians.


  • (Jul 12 – 14)Rock USA

    Oshkosh, WI

    This big rock festival is held in Ford Festival Park.


  • (Jul 13 – 15)Blissfest

    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.


  • (Jul 13 – 14)RiverSong Music Festival

    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.


  • (Jul 13 – 15)Square Roots Festival

    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.


  • (Jul 14)Driftless Music Festival

    Viroqua, WI

    This free folk and roots festival is in Viroqua's Eckhart Park.


  • (Jul 15)Woodstock Folk Festival

    Woodstock, IL

    Listen to music on the square in this town just over the Wisconsin border from Lake Geneva.


  • (Jul 19 – 21)Country Jam

    Eau Claire, WI

    Blake Shelton, Alabama and Locash are  among the headliners of this fest. There's camping on-site.


  • (Jul 20 – 22)Pitchfork Music Festival

    Chicago, IL

    This indie and alt-rock festival is in Union Park.


  • (Jul 20 – 21)Lowertown Blues & Funk Festival

    St. Paul, MN

    This free, all-ages festival is in Mears Park.


  • (Jul 21)Bayfront Reggae & World Music Festival

    Duluth, MN

    Hear island music on Lake Superior, from Bayfront Festival Park.


  • (Jul 26 – 28)Burning Cow Music Festival

    Sturgeon Bay, WI

    This fourth annual fest features emerging and established rock, bluegrass and alt country bands. There's on-site camping.


  • (Jul 27 – 28)Prairie Dog Blues Festival

    Prairie du Chien, WI

    This Mississippi River festival on historic St. Feriole Island features 12 bands on two stages, with onsite camping.


August

  • (Aug. 2 – 4)Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival

    Davenport, IA

    Since 1972, fans of this Jazz Age cornetist and composer have held this festival in his hometown on the Mississippi.


  • (Aug. 2 – 4)WE Fest

    Detroit Lakes, MN

    Carrie Underwood and Jason Aldean are among the headliners at this big country festival in west-central Minnesota.


  • (Aug. 2 – 5)Lollapalooza

    Chicago, IL

    This big music festival features dozens of bands and, unlike other Grant Park festivals, is not free. Reserve rooms far in advance.


  • (Aug. 2 – 5)Mile of Music

    Appleton, WI

    More than 180 singer-songwriters perform at more than 40 venues along College Avenue downtown.


  • (Aug. 3 – 5)Blues on the Chippewa

    Durand, WI

    Just up the Chippewa River from Lake Pepin, this free blues festival in Memorial Park features 16 bands.


  • (Aug. 8)Grant Park Music Festival

    Chicago, IL

    Professional musicians, many of them world-famous, offer free classical concerts in Millennium Park's beautiful Pritzker Pavilion.


  • (Aug. 9 – 12)Minnesota Bluegrass & Old-Time Music Festival

    Richmond, MN

    This 39th annual family-friendly festival includes music on five stages and workshops at El Rancho Mañana Campground, 20 miles west of St. Cloud.


  • (Aug. 9 – 11)Ashley for the Arts music festival

    Arcadia, WI

    This nonprofit festival is in the southwest Wisconsin bluffs, half an hour north of Winona, Minn.

    Headliners include Chris Janson and Andy Grammer. Tickets for all three days are $10. In addition to music, there will be a hot-air balloon launch, car show, arts, children's activities and Saturday fireworks.


  • (Aug. 10 – 12)Bayfront Blues Festival

    Duluth, MN

    The 30th annual music fest on the Lake Superior harbor showcases national and regional acts on three stages.


  • (Aug. 10 – 12)Live From the Rock

    Red Rock, ON

    This folk festival is on the shores of Lake Superior, east of Thunder Bay near Nipigon. Camping is on-site.


  • (Aug. 10 – 11)Tall Tales Music Festival

    Burlington, WI

    This free festival celebrates storytelling through music, with performances by national as well as regional musicians. In addition, workshops are offered for people of all ages.


  • (Aug. 10 – 12)Shawano Folk Music Festival

    Shawano, WI

    The family-friendly festival in this northwoods town includes dance, crafts, children's activities and instruction on four stages in Mielke Park, plus indoor evening concerts.


  • (Aug. 17 – 18)Big Bull Falls Blues Fest

    Wausau, WI

    Enjoy national and local blues musicians in Fern Island Park. There's a beer garden, of course.


  • (Aug. 18)HarborPark Jazz & Blues Festival

    Kenosha, WI

    This free festival is in the lakefront Celebration Place.


  • (Aug. 23 – 26)Lakes Bluegrass Festival

    Pine River, MN

    This family-friendly festival at the Cass County Fairgrounds, just off the Paul Bunyan State Trail, features more than 40 bluegrass shows and free workshops.


  • (Aug. 24 – 26)Porcupine Mountains Music Festival

    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. 24 – 26)Great River Folk Festival

    La Crosse, WI

    This festival in Riverside Park includes children's activities, a traditional arts and crafts fair and music performances and workshops.


  • (Aug. 25)Crossroads Blues Festival

    Rockford, IL

    Enjoy a day of blues in Lyran Park, with food from local restaurants.


  • (Aug. 30 – Sep 2)Chicago Jazz Festival

    Chicago, IL

    This free festival features music at the Chicago Cultural Center and  Millennium Park.


  • (Aug. 31 – Sep 2)Marquette Area Blues Fest

    Marquette, MI

    Enjoy a weekend of music in Mattson Lower Harbor Park on Lake Superior.


  • (Aug. 31 – Sep 1)Boundary Waters Blues Festival

    Ely, MN

    Ten bands play Friday and Saturday on Fall Lake, five miles east of Ely. There's camping on-site.


September

  • (Sep. 1 – 2)Fox Jazz Festival

    Menasha, WI

    This free Fox Cities jazz festival is in Jefferson Park, on the shores of Lake Winnebago.


  • (Sep. 1 – 2)Los Dells

    Mauston, WI

    This Latin-music festival features on-site tent camping and shuttles from hotels in the Wisconsin Dells.


  • (Sep. 7 – 23)World Music Festival

    Chicago, IL

    There will be more than 80 artists performing at more than 30 venues across the city, including the Chicago Cultural Center. Admission is free.


  • (Sep. 8)Washington County Bluegrass Festival

    Lake Elmo, MN

    Bluegrass bands will play at this family festival at Lake Elmo Park Reserve at the eastern edge of the Twin Cities, free with $5 vehicle permit. There also will be camping and food vendors.


  • (Sep. 13 – 16)Michigan Irish Music Festival

    Muskegon, MI

    There's music on three stages, plus dance and session tents, a cultural village, Celtic Kitchen and limerick contest.


  • (Sep. 14 – 16)Riot Fest

    Chicago, IL

    This Douglas Park music festival also features a circus sideshow revue and carnival.


  • (Sep. 27 – 30)Boats and Bluegrass

    Winona, MN

    This family-oriented festival in Prairie Island Park, on the Mississippi River, features disc golf, paddling and airplane rides as well as music. A weekend pass includes camping and canoeing, and kids under 16 are free with an adult ticket.


  • (Sep. 29 – 30)Hyde Park Jazz Festival

    Chicago, IL

    Listen to non-stop music during this free festival at venues in and around Midway Plaisance, near the Museum of Science and Industry and Lake Michigan.


October