The Midwest offers numerous festivals all year-round that is worth both your time and money. Read on to discover the most incredible Midwest festivals, some of which are as fascinating as they are weird.
Whether you want to have fun during summer or on the coldest days of winter, the Midwest has enough spicy festivals for every season. Right from music festivals, and BBQ festivals to some weird Duck Tape Festival in Ohio, it has plenty of unique festivals all year round.
If you are tired of the local festivals and wish to explore beyond, the Midwest is sure to offer you some experiences of a lifetime. But, we know it’s never easy to plan for that trip or easily come up with the best festival among the numerous offerings. That is why we compiled a list of the best Midwest festivals you should check out for.
Best Festivals in the Midwest
Whether you wish to celebrate your heritage or just party and dance the entire night, these Midwest festivals will make it happen.
Summer Solstice Indie Music Festival: Yorkville, Illinois
June is the month if you wish to attend one of these incredible Midwest music festivals. The Summer Solstice is one of the most hyped-for events in Illinois, and it is for a solid reason. This music festival has in the past, brought some of the most revered artists and bands on stage, like:
- Norah Jones
- Sturgill Simpson
- the Vega bonds
- Desert voices
The event, which Rogue Barrister Records strives to make successful each year, presents a unique collection of indie, and alt-country rock to give the mammoth crowd a time to remember. It is the best festival to be in, while in the Fox River.
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Summerfest: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
The festival, which takes place in late June and early July, is one of the world’s largest festivals for music lovers. Summerfest boasts 11 days of pure music fun, throughout late June and extending to early July.
The fact that this festival is split into two weekends makes it quite ideal for most people. This is because you can always attend one if your schedule doesn’t allow for both.
Summerfest is held on Lake Michigan beaches and promises incredible moments in all its ten stages spread throughout the grounds. And to make it even better, your single ticket allows you to access all ten stages.
With numerous big names like Lionel Richie, Jason Aldean, Jennifer Lopez, and Bon Iver performing, expect the next one to be even better each year. In Milwaukee, you’ll have more than just a music festival. Beyond music, there are multiple famous restaurants and shopping marketplaces all lined up for you to offer the best Midwest cuisines and shopping opportunities.
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Electric Forest Festival: Rothbury, Michigan
For all electric-music lovers, this is certainly the festival for you. It is a multi-genre music event that focuses mainly on electronic music for four consecutive days. The event, which takes place in Rothbury, Michigan, offers unforgettable experiences with new charm every time.
And music isn’t the only thing to enjoy here. The artwork present in these festivals is terrific. You’ll even have a chance to create and display your own. It is organized by Madison House Presents in conjunction with Insomniac Events, and it’s a festival worth traveling for.
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The Des Moines Arts Festival: Iowa
Another incredibly famous Midwest festival is the ‘Des Moines Arts festival.” Happening in late June of every year, the festival features over 100 artists and live bands to keep you all lit throughout the weekend.
Better still, there’s room for your children – it offers engaging kid’s zones that help keep the little ones all excited. When it comes to artwork and having fun, Des Moines is a place that never disappoints. The festival even took home the highly coveted “International Festivals & Events Association Grand Pinnacle Award” for nine years in a row. That’s not luck!
This three-day event usually attracts over 200,000 attendees each year, earning a slot among the most famous festivals in the US. Check out these other best places to visit in the Midwest during your visit.
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Soundset Music Festival: Minnesota
For hip-hop die-hards, this might just be what you’re looking for. This hip-hop music festival is held in the Twin Cities each year on the weekend, coinciding with Memorial Day.
The event attracts over 30,000 people yearly from all over the country and beyond, just to get a taste of this irresistible fun. Since its inception in 2008, with its first performance in a parking lot, this music festival has grown to be one of the most recognized Midwest Festivals.
People throng the Twin Cities each year, from as far as Puerto Rico, New Zealand, and Africa, to get a first-hand experience from hip-hop bigwigs that always crown the event. For your next summer vacation, make sure you include this on your to-do list.
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Tri-City BBQ Fest: Denison, Iowa
This is another summer festival you should certainly try out. A summer visit to Denison, Iowa, won’t be complete without attending this Crawford County’s signature event. Each year, three neighboring metros converge for a barbeque competition, with the victor taking home the coveted “Best Metro” trophy.
For visitors, this event presents some of the best food, music, and other entertainment in the region. Imagine an entire weekend of non-stop, day and night pure fun.
Get all that this small town has to offer, from fiery entertainment, delicious grilled food, and top-notch Iowa beer. This is undoubtedly one of the premier Midwest BBQ festivals to crown your summer vacation.
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Winter Festivals in the Midwest
The cold of winter doesn’t halt festivals in the Midwest. In fact, there are many big events in the Midwest during winter, as there are in summer.
Some of the most famous ones include:
Winter Wonderfest: Chicago, IL
If you can’t travel during the summer, you need not worry. Even winter presents its fair share of fun in the Midwest, especially in Chicago. Winter Wonderfest is one such incredible event you should consider checking out.
The festivals which happen throughout December and into some early days of January, offer more seasonal attractions and entertainment than anyone would ask for.
It is an all-around indoor event that caters to the entertainment needs of everyone. From the over 500 hundred trees decorate with more than 25,000 ornaments, the carnival rides, to giant slides, the place surely offers heaven on earth.
If you haven’t tried this one, you need to seriously plan for it. And don’t fear the freezing weather out there – almost the entire festival happens indoors.
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St. Paul Winter Carnival
Yet another event that has rightfully acquired a place in the list of top Midwest festivals. Since its unveiling in 1886, this Winter Carnival can boast of its numerous family-friendly events that have seen it become the pride of Saint Paul.
If you want to celebrate winter like a Minnesotan, this festival gives you just the best way to do it. The cross-city special events and fun activities that accompany the festival offers you an incredible chance to enjoy the culture and heritage of the Twin Cities.
Activities such as beer tasting, snowplow competition, and parades are part of what makes the whole event exciting. People can concentrate on the beauty of the city, like the impressive ice structures, and forget the freezing, unbearable weather.
This Winter Carnival can certainly be listed among the big events in the Midwestern United States, with an annual attendance of over 250,000 people. You’ll get a great Minnesota gift as a souvenir to bring home. Check out these top Minnesota museums if you are visiting from out of town.
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The Big Chill: Racine, WI
The snow doesn’t have to make life all gloomy. There are numerous fun things to do during this weather, and the Big Chill Festival offers just the right opportunity. For the past 26 years, the snow sculpting competition has been a major local and tourist attraction in downtown Racine, Wisconsin.
The festival, which lasts for three consecutive days, sees numerous snow sculptors display their talents by creating impressive artwork from ice blocks. The sculptors will start with a huge snow block that weighs around 30,000 pounds, standing 10 ft tall and 6 ft wide.
But, by the end of this competition, they’ll have come up with the most amazing pieces of ice art you’ve ever seen. The three-day festival also sees ramps being set up for skiers, snowboarders, and all other types of riders.
Both novices and pro riders have a chance to enjoy themselves on the ramps, or even hold some competitions. It is a festival for everyone.
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Rochester WinterFest: Minnesota
Unlike most other Midwest Festivals that are only meant for fun, this WinterFest is different. There are plenty of things to do in Rochester and this festival only adds to the activity.
The festival is designed to offer maximum fun opportunities for attendees, as well as create awareness and raise money for local nonprofit organizations. In the past, over $400,000 has been raised for these festivals through various events such as Snoball Softball, Polar Plunge, and Dueling Pianos.
There are also other numerous fun activities, including Baconfest, Boogie night, Candlelight Yoga, and food tasting to keep the family entertained.
If you plan to visit Minnesota during winter, this is a festival that you should consider. The best thing is that you’ll not only be having fun but also assisting in growing the community and the local nonprofits.
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Weird Midwest Festivals
Although quite normal to locals, some of the festivals in the Midwest can seem particularly weird to outsiders. Here are the most exciting ones:
Mattoon Bagelfest: Mattoon, IL
This festival is funny and weird in all sorts of ways. Firstly, its inception was accidental. Lender’s Bagels never intended for it to become an annual event. In fact, it was a one-time thing when they offered that free bagel breakfast 30 years back.
However, that one free meal got the locals so infatuated that they made it an annual festival. The four-day festival is entirely dedicated to the celebration of phenomenal breakfast food. Some of the major events during this festival include:
- A Bagel Baby Contest
- A carnival
- Live entertainment
- The Bagelfest Parade
And to crown the festivals, a Free Bagel Breakfast takes place on the morning of the fourth day. If you want to participate in this weird festival, make a point of visiting Mattoon, IL, in your next mid-July vacation.
Imagine a whole 4-day festival dedicated in honor of bagels!
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Avon Heritage Duck Tape Festival: Avon, Ohio
As if bagels festival is not weird enough, people in Avon, OH, on the other hand, holds an annual festival dedicated to Duck Tape.
Since Avon, OH is the home to the famous Duck Tape, a product of duct tape, they might have gotten so proud of it that they decided to celebrate the brand with a whole weekend annual festival.
Numerous events take place during this festival, which is usually held on Father’s day weekend. These include things like Duck Tape Parades and fashion shows. The whole idea is to celebrate the product through fashion, artistic sculptures, and other crafts.
Entertainment and food are also in abundance, and you even have a chance to buy some of the most amazing Duck Tape artwork.
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Just as the name indicates, this is a festival that takes place yearly in various towns in the US, and whose order of the day is testicle consumption (animal testicles, of course).
Some of the towns famous for this festival in the Midwest include Byron, Illinois; Deerfield, Michigan; and Olean, Missouri. As bizarre as it might sound, people travel for thousands of miles to get a taste of this delicacy, which is usually served either fried or battered.
In Olean, Missouri, deep-fried turkey and Rocky Mountain Oyster’s testicles are the main attraction. However, there’s more to the festival, as you can enjoy various other events including:
- Local music
- Family events and games
- Local cuisines
Again, if the testicles don’t turn out to be your favorite, there are numerous food vendors offering other food delicacies.