There are plenty of reasons to look forward to summer, not the least of which is the endless variety of festivals that take place in every state in the country. From music and film festivals to celebrations of aviation and automobiles, the summer is teeming with block parties and lawn concerts, street fairs and food trucks. It’s festival season, and here are some of the very best themed gatherings from across the United States.
Monica Beyer contributed to this story.
Alabama: Secret Stages Music Discovery Festival
The Secret Stages Music Discovery Festival runs Aug. 2-3 in Birmingham. Because of its meticulously curated collection of indie and regional bands, the festival has been mentioned along with the likes of Next Big Nashville and SXSW. Day passes start at $35 and weekend passes start at $40 for the festival, which is gaining traction as a top Southeast music festival by filling seats without booking acts that have already made it big.
Alaska: Midnight Sun Festival
The Midnight Sun Festival in downtown Fairbanks is in its 38th year — and the surreal, nature-bending spectacle now draws 30,000 people. This year, they’ll party from noon to midnight on June 23, which is the Sunday closest to the 2019 summer solstice. Vendors line the streets hawking Alaskan cuisine, crafts, art, jewelry, pottery, and clothing. All of this takes place in broad daylight, which burns bright for nearly 24 hours.
Arizona: Flagstaff Blues and Brews
Flagstaff Blues and Brews is all about great music and great wine and beer in a picture-perfect outdoor setting. Catch acts like Innocent Joe & the Hostile Witnesses and the Jeremiah Johnson Band at the event, which runs from June 7-8. General admission tickets start at $30, and brews include Sierra Nevada, Mother Road, and Odell Brewing Co.
Arkansas: Bradley County Pink Tomato Festival
One of the oldest continuously running festivals in Arkansas, the Bradley County Pink Tomato Festival in Warren will be celebrating its 63rd anniversary this year. The event has become a state tradition, having welcomed every Arkansas governor since 1956. Live music, fireworks, an all-tomato luncheon and street dance, turtle races, a tomato-packing competition, and a carnival are just some of the events packed into the June 14-15 festival.
California: Riviera Village Summer Festival
The Riviera Village Summer Festival in Redondo Beach doesn’t cost a dime to attend. For this year’s 42nd annual party, crowds will be treated to constant live entertainment for all ages, carnival rides, an international food court, and more than 200 booths featuring a wide variety of high-end arts and crafts — plus free parking and free shuttle service. The festival runs June 29-30.
Colorado: Scandinavian Midsummer Festival
Connecticut: International Festival of Arts & Ideas
Delaware: Firefly Music Festival
Some of the biggest names in music will perform at the Firefly Music Festival in the Woodlands of Dover from June 21-23. Headliners include Panic! At the Disco, Travis Scott, and Post Malone, who will perform live at what has become the East Coast’s biggest music and camping festival.
District of Columbia: Smithsonian Folklife Festival
Florida: Key West Pride Week
Georgia: AthFest Music and Arts Festival
The college town of Athens is one of the coolest cities in the Southeast, and the AthFest Music and Arts Festival is proof of that. More than 100 bands grace three outdoor stages from June 20-23 at no charge to the public. Those who choose, however, can purchase a pub crawl bracelet, which gains you entry to 14 top Athens music venues. The sprawling event includes dance parties with DJs and proceeds benefit the nonprofit AthFest Educates, which supports music and arts education.
Hawaii: Pan-Pacific Festival
Celebrating the vibrant history and culture of Hawaii, the Pan-Pacific Festival takes place June 7-9 in Honolulu with a number of free events. The festival strives to bring people together with demonstrations, amazing food booths, a performing arts showcase, a hula festival, and a parade.
Idaho: Festival at Sandpoint
Jackson Browne and Kool & the Gang are just two of the big-name acts performing Aug. 1-11 at the Festival at Sandpoint. The nonprofit festival has been going strong since 1983. There are two full bars and 13 vendors, but you’re welcome to bring your own food and beverages, including alcohol, from home. Grab a lawn chair and park yourself in the field or grab a general admission seat in the grandstand. Either way, you’re in for 11 days of music, food, fun, culture.
Illinois: Chicago Blues Festival
Indiana: Crawfordsville Strawberry Festival
Iowa: Hawkeye Downs Summer Festival
Kansas: Festival on the Trails
Festival on the Trails in Gardner packs free entertainment, music, a car show, a color run, and crafts into just a single day — Saturday, June 8. The event features a Chat-Fest, giving attendees an opportunity to talk to distinguished citizens about the area and family history. More than 10,000 people are expected to attend this year, making it a hot, but not ticketed event.
Kentucky: Kentucky Bourbon Festival
Louisiana: Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival
Maine: Old Port Festival
Seven stages of live entertainment and a parade join plenty of food, craft, and art vendors — and all things Maine — for the Old Port Festival on June 9. The city of Portland’s biggest one-day event, the festival has everything from a Ferris wheel to a rock climbing wall.
Maryland: Ocean City Air Show
Massachusetts: Dragon Boat Festival
Michigan: Jackson Blues Festival
The Jackson Blues Festival runs June 13-15 at the Jackson County Airport. Not only is it a great way to catch talented blues musicians performing live, but admission is cheap — just $5 for the first day and $10 for days two and three, but kids under 12 are free. As a bonus, the first 100 kids on the second day receive a free T-shirt, harmonica, and sunglasses.
Minnesota: Open Streets Minneapolis
Forget what your parents said — in Minnesota, you can play in the street. Open Streets Minneapolis is a series of non-consecutive festivals that take place on different summer days throughout different parts of the city. They all have the same theme, however: the streets are closed to motor traffic and instead are filled with merchants, artists, musicians, vendors, residents, and visitors, all of whom come to eat, drink, sell, buy, mingle, and party. Lyndale gets in on the action on June 2, Lake and Minnehaha on July 21, Northeast on Aug. 4, Franklin on Aug. 25, University of Minnesota and Motley on Sept. 8, West Broadway on Sept. 14, and Nicollet on Sept. 22.
Mississippi: Tupelo Elvis Festival
The Tupelo Elvis Festival celebrates the life, legacy, and music of Tupelo’s favorite native son, the King himself, Elvis Presley. Now in its 21st year, the festival runs from June 5-9. While the music, of course, focuses on Presley, his many hits, and the legions of covers and impersonators he spawned, there’s also a significant portion dedicated to the music that inspired Elvis, like country, Southern gospel, and blues. Much of the event is free and kids are welcome to join in the party.
Missouri: Kansas City Ethnic Enrichment Festival
Montana: Montana Folk Festival
Nebraska: Nebrasakland Days
Nevada: Hot August Nights
New Hampshire: Stratham Fair
Established in 1967 to celebrate the town’s 250th anniversary, the Stratham Fair has taken place every year since and maintains the feel and vibe of an old country fair. Fair attendees enjoy a lobster bake, horse pulls, midway rides, a pie-eating contest, 4-H exhibits, fireworks, entertainment, a beer tent, and more July 18-21. $10 for adults, $5 for kids ages 6-12 and adults ages 65 and older — kids under six get in free.
New Jersey: Festival of Ballooning
New Mexico: UFO Festival
New York: Great New York State Fair
North Carolina: 7th-Inning Stretch Festival
North Dakota: Mandan Rodeo Days
Oklahoma: Rush Springs Watermelon Festival
Celebrating summertime’s most iconic fruit, the Rush Springs Watermelon Festival serves watermelon to more than 20,000 visitors. The free event boasts an interesting range of watermelon-themed activities, an arts and crafts fair, classic car show, carnival rides, and live music. Held annually since 1948 — this year it’s Aug. 10 — it has become one of the most popular summer events in Oklahoma.
Oregon: Waterfront Blues Festival
Pennsylvania: Big Butler Fair
Rhode Island: Blessing of the Fleet Weekend
South Carolina: Chautauqua History Alive Festival
South Dakota: JazzFest
Tennessee: Music City Hot Chicken Festival
Fans of the spicy stuff will want to catch the 12th annual Music City Hot Chicken Festival in Nashville this year. Free to attend, this fun summer fest not only serves up some of Nashville’s finest famous hot chicken — never to be confused with Buffalo chicken — but also offers entertainment, an amateur cooking contest, and a fire truck parade. Free samples are limited to the first 500 guests, so arrive early on July 4.
Texas: Bat Fest
Utah: Days of ’47
Vermont: Festival of Fools
The Festival of Fools is all about comedy — with a side of art and music. From Aug. 2-4, more than 100 music and comedy acts are scheduled to perform, as the street performance festival takes over most of Downtown Burlington. Fostering a truly festive atmosphere, the event is complete with circus acts, acrobatics, and other lively performances, both in the streets and in venues across town. Now a major celebration, the festival is expected to draw more than 100,000 people.
Virginia: Norfolk Harborfest
The Norfolk Harborfest is an annual event that holds the distinction being the largest and longest-running free maritime festival in America. Live performances, festival food and drinks, the Parade of Sails, three days of tall ships, and one of the biggest fireworks displays on the East Coast are just part of the fun. Watch as more than 200 vessels sail down the Elizabeth River, each one representing one of Coastal Virginia’s 200 years of naval history.
Washington: Seattle Street Food Festival
West Virginia: West Virginia Blackberry Festival
Wisconsin: Waukesha County Fair
Wyoming: Cheyenne Frontier Days
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