Top 10 Midwest Summer Events

Ferris wheel at the Minnesota State Fair
Ferris wheel at the Minnesota State Fair

Photo by Natalie Hall

With an abundance of county fairs, art and music festivals, and foodie events happening around the Upper Midwest this summer, we’ve narrowed it down to the top 10 can’t-miss celebrations.


Chicago Blues Festival – Chicago, IL

Groove with some of the greatest blues artists at Chicago’s largest music festival. Join more than 500,000 listeners at Millennium Park for this free blues festival with performances on four stages.


Art on the Red – Grand Forks, ND

Over 100 artists and makers line the streets of downtown Grand Forks to sell their creations. Visitors can browse while listening to live music and eating amazing food, and kids will love the crafts corner.

People rowing an American flag themed cardboard boat at Oahe Days in South Dakota
Oahe Days Cardboard Boat Race

Photo courtesy South Dakota Department of Tourism


Oahe Days – Pierre, SD

Oahe Days caters to kids and adults with live music, good food and drinks, and art vendors. Visitors can hop on carnival rides, rent a paddle board, and even take a sunset cruise on the Missouri River.


Freedom Festival – Cedar Rapids, IA

Over 40 family-friendly events lead up to the largest fireworks show in Iowa on the Fourth of July. Watch the fireworks on the Second or Third Avenue bridges for the best views, plus enjoy music, food, face painting, and more.

Crowds of people gather for an outdoor concert at Summerfest in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Briggs & Stratton Big Backyard at Summerfest

Courtesy Summerfest

6/26-30, 7/2-7

Summerfest – Milwaukee, WI

Sing and dance to over 800 acts at this epic music festival that attracts more than 900,000 fans each year. Headliners include Bon Iver, Thomas Rhett, The Killers, and Ozzy Osborne.


National Cherry Festival – Traverse City, MI

A local tradition since 1926, the National Cherry Festival celebrates cherries and Traverse City, one of Michigan’s most beautiful beach towns. There are parades, an air show, kids activities, and plenty of cherry pie, of course. If you’re feeling competitive, try the cherry pit spitting contest.


Taste of Chicago – Chicago, IL

Bring your appetite for Chicago’s premier outdoor food festival in Grant Park. With free admission, you can see cooking demonstrations, dance performances, and a large-scale puppet parade among other events.

Fandazzi Fire performer at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival
Fire performer at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival

Photo by Lizzie Danich, courtesy of Explore Minnesota


Minnesota Renaissance Festival – Shakopee, MN

Seven themed weekends make up the largest Renaissance Festival in the U.S. Open rain or shine, this event allows you to browse handmade goods, munch on a turkey leg, walk through an enchanted forest, and be transported back to medieval times. Visitors are encouraged to dress up.


Minnesota State Fair – St. Paul, MN

Also known as the Great Minnesota Get-Together, this two-week affair attracts about 2 million people every year. Enjoy all the fried food you can imagine, carnival rides and games, an animal barn, plus live music (with ticket purchase) on the Gandstand Stage, featuring Hootie & the Blowfish, Lionel Richie, and Brandi Carlile.


Taste of Madison – Madison, WI

Over 80 restaurants and 27 beverage stands serve up delectable food and drinks along closed streets in downtown Madison, while concerts entertain crowds on three stages in front of the Capitol building. The event raises $60,000 annually for local nonprofit and charitable organizations.