13 Best Midwest Festivals Worth Traveling To

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Aerial View of Lollapalooza Chicago, one of the best festivals in the Midwest

The Midwest offers numerous festivals all year round that are worth 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. 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 will offer you some life experiences.

But we know it’s never easy to plan for that trip or develop the best festival among the numerous offerings. That is why we compiled a list of the best Midwest festivals you should check out.

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 Festivals

Summer Solstice Indie Music Festival: Yorkville, Illinois

Summer Solstice festival

If you wish to attend one of these incredible Midwest music festivals, June is the month. 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 a while in the Fox River.

See Related: Best Hotels in the Midwest

Summerfest: Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Summerfest Milwaukee

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 extends to early July. This festival is split into two weekends, making it ideal for most people. 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, multiple famous restaurants and shopping marketplaces are lined up for you to offer the best Midwest cuisines and shopping opportunities.

See Related: Minnesota vs. Wisconsin

Electric Forest Festival: Rothbury, Michigan

Midwest festivals: Electric Forest Festival
photo courtesy of electricforestfestival.com

For all electric-music lovers, this is undoubtedly the festival for you. It is a multi-genre music event focusing 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 at these festivals is terrific. You’ll even have a chance to create and display your own. Madison House organizes its Presents in conjunction with Insomniac Events, and it’s a festival worth traveling for.

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The Des Moines Arts Festival: Iowa

Crowd attending The Des Moines Arts Festival
The Des Moines Arts Festival / Facebook

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 kids’ zones to excite the lRegardingnes. Regarding 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. That’s not luck!

This three-day event attracts over 200,000 attendees annually, earning a slot among the most famous festivals in the US. Check out these other amazing things to do in the Midwest during your stay.

See Related: Best Midwest Road Trip Ideas

Soundset Music Festival: Minnesota

Soundset Music Festival in Twin Cities, Minnesota
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

For hip-hop die-hards, this might 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 to get a taste of this irresistible fun. Since its inception in 2008, this music festival has become 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 their next summer vacation; make sure you include this on your to-do list.

See Related: Best Hotels in Minneapolis

Tri-City BBQ Fest: Denison, Iowa

Tri-City BBQ Fest

This is another summer festival you should certainly try out. A summer visit to Denison, Iowa, won’t be complete without attending Crawford County’s signature event. Three neighboring metros converge yearly for a barbeque competition, with the victor taking home the coveted “Best Metro” trophy.

For this region’s visitors, this event presents some of the best entertainment in the area. Imagine an entire weekend of nop, day and night pure fun.

Get all these small-town offers, from fiery entertainment to delicious grilled food and top-notch Iowa beer. This is undoubtedly one of the premier Midwest BBQ festivals to crown your summer vacation.

See Related: Day Trips from Des Moines, Iowa

Winter Festivals in the Midwest

The cold of winter doesn’t halt festivals in the Midwest. There are many significant events in the Midwest during winter, as in summer. Some of the most famous ones include:

Winter Wonderfest: Chicago, IL

Inside Chicago's Winter Wonderfest
Mignon Pelletier / Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

If you can’t travel during summer, you need not worry. 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.

This all-around indoor event caters to the entertainment needs of decorated. From the over 500 hundred trees decorated with more than 25,000 ornaments, the carnival rides, to giant slides, the place indeed offers heaven on earth. To plan for it seriously, you must prepare for the freezing weather – almost the entire festival happens indoors.

Grab the Chicago CityPASS to get all-inclusive access to what you can see and do. Read more about the pass in our Chicago CityPASS review. Like what you are hearing? Check out these other Chicago travel guides:

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Winter Carnival: St. Paul, MN

Ice Castle in Saint Paul Winter Carnival
Kendrick Erickson from Saint Paul, MN, USA / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 2.0

Yet another event 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 the best way. The cross-city offers special events that accompany the festival and offers you an incredible chance to enjoy the culture and heritage of the Twin Cities.

Activities such as beer tasting, snowplow competitions, and parades make the event exciting. People can concentrate on the city’s beauty, like the impressive ice structures, and forget the cold weather.

This Winter Carnival is among the significant 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 visit from out of town.

See Related: Best Parks in Saint Paul, Minnesota

The Big Chill: Racine, WI

The Big Chill, Racine, Wisconsin Snow sculpture
The Big Chill / Facebook

The snow doesn’t have to make life all gloomy. There are numerous fun things to do during the winter, and the Big Chill Festival offers 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 lasts for three consecutive days, and numerous snow sculptors display their talents by creating impressive artwork from ice blocks. The sculptors will start with a big 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 can enjoy themselves on the ramps or even hold some competitions.

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Rochester WinterFest: Rochester, MN

Midwest festivals: Rochester WinterFest

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, create awareness, and raise money for local nonprofit organizations. In the past, over $400,000 has been submitted for these snowballs through various events such as Snowball Softball.

They include numerous fun activities, including Baconfest, Boogie Night, Candlelight Yoga, and food tasting to keep the family entertained.

Suppose you plan to visit Minnesota during winter. In that case, this is a festival in that you should be having fun, and you’ll be having fun and assisting in growing the community and the local nonprofits. Like what you are hearing? Check out these guides to make the most of a visit to Rochester, Minnesota:

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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

Crowd attending the Mattoon Bagelfest in Mattoon, Illinois
Mattoon Bagelfest / Facebook

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. It was a one-time thing when they offered that free bagel breakfast 30 years back.

However, the meal fascinated the locals, making it an annual festival. The four-day festival is entirely dedicated to the celebration of phenomenal breakfast food. Some of the significant 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, visit Mattoon, IL, in your next mid-July vacation. Imagine a whole 4-day festival dedicated in honor of bagels!

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Duck Tape Festival: Avon, Ohio

Stage at Duck Tape Festival in Avon, Ohio
Duck Tape Festival / Duck Tape Festival

As if the bagels festival is not weird enough, people in Avon, OH, on the other hand, hold 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 become so proud of it that they decided to celebrate the brand with an annual weekend festival.

Numerous events occur during this festival, usually on Father’s Day weekend. These include things like Duck Tape Parades and fashion shows. Celebrating the product through fashion, artistic sculptures, and other crafts is the idea. Entertainment and food are abundant, and you can buy some of the most amazing Duck Tape artwork.

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Testicle Festival

Turkey Testicle Festival Sign in Byron, Illinois
CJD / Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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 testicles, of course).

Midwest towns famous for this festival include Byron, Illinois; Deerfield, Michigan; and Olean, Missouri. As bad as it might sound, people travel thousands of miles to taste delicacies, usually 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, and local cuisines. Again, if the testicles don’t turn out to be your favorite, numerous food vendors are offering other food delicacies.

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Blake
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Blake

Blake is a highly experienced travel writer working for a number of publications providing insights about his experiences around the world.

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