The 29 Can’t-Miss Summer Festivals of 2016
Get out and enjoy the summer sun—we’ve compiled a list of the best ways to enjoy the summer splendor across North America
What would summer be without a fantastic festival? Whether it’s chowing down on hot dogs or haggling with a vendor selling Victorian furniture at an antique show, there’s a plethora of summer festivals you won’t want to miss. We’ve taken care of the guesswork, rounding up the top 29 festivals of the season.
The Brimfield Antiques Show
July 12-17, 2016; September 6-11, 2016
A one-mile stretch on Route 20 in Brimfield, MA.
Put your haggle face on. For more than 50 years, collectors have convened at The Brimfield Antiques Show, the largest outdoor antiques show in the country. You’ll find over 5,000 dealers from around the globe selling everything from inexpensive jewelry and 1920s French postcards to luxury Victorian furniture. Don’t forget to bring cash—haggling works better with bills in hand. Your best bet is to arrive early, and be prepared to brace the crowds—the rural New England town’s population of 3,000 swells to more than 250,000 during the show. Be sure to check out the New England Motel, which hosts the largest and most popular food court, complete with lobster rolls, BBQ and falafel.
Admission: Most fields are free, but some require an entrance fee about $5. Visit brimfieldshow.com.
May 27 – June 12, 2016
17 days of world-class performing arts. More than 150 performances. 33 chamber concerts. 13 historic venues. One festival has it all: Spoleto, one of the world’s premier arts festivals. Founded by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Gian Carlo Menotti in an attempt to create an American counterpart to Italy’s Festival of Two Worlds, the music-heavy festival is now in its 40th season, with more than 200 world or American premieres to its merit—Creve Coeur by Tennessee Williams and The American Clock by Arthur Miller, to name a few. This year, take in the festival’s first performance of Porgy and Bess or watch the US premier of opera The Little Match Girl. Or simply take in the charm of Charleston and listen to world-renowned chamber musicians in the beautiful Dock Street Theatre.
Admission: Tickets vary according to event. Visit spoletousa.org.
Philly Beer Week
June 3-12, 2016
Beer enthusiasts won’t want to miss Philly Beer Week, the largest beer week in one of the country’s best brew cities. Sure, plenty of beer festivals around the country offer beer dinners and tap takeovers, but how many pour more than 2,000 beers from around the world? Add to the list multiple collaboration beers made exclusively for the festival, debuts of new ales, and over 1,000 quirky events, like bar Olympics, a pie eating contest and palm readings. The celebration of hops kicks off June 3 when a mysterious Honorary Tapper will pop open a keg at the Opening Tap, the festival’s first event.
Admission: Free or Pay as You Go for specific events. Visit phillybeerweek.org.
Omaha Summer Arts Festival
June 10-12, 2016
Back in 1975, a group of volunteers took $6,000 and created an arts festival in the Old Market showcasing nearly 200 artists. Today, that festival has become Summer Arts, a non-profit, community celebration of visual and performing arts—the only festival of its kind in the state of Nebraska—attracting 80,000 people. This isn't your average stuffy, often elitist art show. Rather, Summer Arts has something for everyone—not just those who can afford expensive pieces. Despite the fact that the selection is heavily juried (135 artists are selected from more than 400 applicants from 27 states), there's something for every taste. Kids should get a kick out of the festival, too, thanks to its Young Artists Exhibition, which features more than 300 works of art created by Omaha-area students in grades 6-12.
Admission: FREE. Visit summerarts.org.
Colantha Walker Dairy Festival
June 12, 2016
Traverse City, MI
Colantha Walker produced 200,114 pounds of milk and 7,525 pounds of butterfat over the course of her career, a feat which makes her the highest producing cow in the world. The cow was so amazing that she inspired an entire festival. The Colantha Walker Dairy Festival celebrates this miraculous bovine with farmers' markets and cooking demos. This year, it's Colantha’s 100th birthday party. Don’t be surprised if you see fellow attendees in farm gear and cow suits; the parade is meant for everyone to join in, walking the route behind a cow cart all the way to Colantha’s headstone, where poems are recited, flowers laid and “moos” belted out.
Admission: FREE; some foods items at extra cost. Visit thevillagetc.com/traverse-colantha-walker-dairy-festival.
June 29-July 3, 2016; July 5-10, 2016
Henry Maier Festival Park; Milwaukee, WI
It’s no wonder nearly one million people flock to Summerfest, the world’s largest music festival, every year. Claims of its grandeur are true—the event has been certified by the Guinness World Records since 1999. Where else can you find more than 800 acts and 1,000 performances on a 75-acre lakefront park? This year’s headliners include Pitbull, Blink-182, Paul McCartney and Blake Shelton. With 11 stages, including a 23,000-capacity amphitheater, Summerfest has been around since the 1960s, when former Mayor Maier created the event as a spin-off on Munich’s Oktoberfest. Kids are welcome, too; interactive exhibits, children’s performers, pro sports demonstrations, and 45 food vendors are sure to please to whole family.
Admission: General Admission tickets are $20, but weekday admission is only $13. Multi-day passes are available for $48 (three days), $75 (five days) and $90 (11 days). Visit summerfest.com.
Telluride Wine Festival
June 23-26, 2016
There aren’t many places where you can sip and swirl dozens of wines in an 8,000-foot high canyon. But at the Telluride Wine Festival, Colorado’s longest standing wine festival, you can do just that. Don’t miss the fan favorite event, the Toast of Telluride; perhaps the best way to explore the charming mountain town. Wineries set up camp in local bookstores, art galleries, restaurants and parks as attendees stroll through town with their official festival wine glass getting a sample and story at each stop. Though the primary focus is wine, you won’t want to miss the cooking demos, seminars and special dinners led by celebrity chefs like Georges Perrier, who will recreate dishes from the movie King Georges, and cheese expert Max McCalman, who will properly pair wine with matching cheeses.
Admission: Tickets $20 to $1,600, with options for various bundles and single events.Visit telluridewinefestival.com.
July 27-31, 2016
The Blue Ridge Mountains; Floyd, VA
What started as a downtown cantina known for its underground music scene and 'Appalachian-latino' cuisine has since become one of the continent’s few international festivals marrying music and nature. Not only does this year’s lineup include more than 100 bands in nearly every genre (expect The Congress, Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats, Greensky Bluegrass and the Dave Eggar Trio), but FloydFest offers an equally impressive outdoor adventure program, complete with a 19-mile guided mountain bike tour, river floats and canoes, beekeeping lessons, easy whitewater rafting, and a nine-hole disc golf course; all set against the scenic backdrop of the Blue Ridge Parkway, the longest linear national park in America. Though once known as a “hippie festival,” today the event teems with families passionate about music and spending time in the great outdoors. Take note of the impressive stages; each platform has its own unique story, like the beautiful handcrafted timber frame Dreaming Creek Main Stage, giving attendees the feel of ten small festivals in one.
Admission: Single-day passes are $95; Three-day passes $205-$235; Four-day passes $220-$1,080; Five-day passes $240-$1,160; $30 for kids. Visit floydfest.com.
Maine Lobster Festival
August 3-7, 2016
Rockland’s Harbor Park; Rockland, ME
Where better to satisfy your craving for summer shellfish than the quaint harbor town of Rockland? Home of the world's largest lobster cooker, it's also the land of the Maine Lobster Festival, now in its 69th year. Attendees will not only have access to 20,000 pounds of lobster and clams, shrimp and mussels, but they’ll also have a chance to participate in seafood-themed games, from a lobster crate race and codfish carry to a seafood cooking contest (winners get $200). Kids will love the marine tent, where they can see and touch animals plucked straight from the ocean. Don’t miss Hometown and Family Fun Day, where admission is free for all ages.
Admission: $5 per adult, $2 per child (ages six-12 yrs) on Wednesday, opening day. Thursday through Saturday admission is $8 per adult, $2 per child; kids under five are free. Sunday is free for all visitors. Visit mainelobsterfestival.com.
Kimball Arts Festival
August 12-14, 2016
Main Street; Park City, UT
Ski resort towns are often overlooked during the hot summer months, but locals would tell you that’s a mistake. In fact, summer is Park City’s best-kept secret. The hotel rooms are cheaper, the crowds have diminished and the beautiful warm weather brings bursts of wildflowers to the spectacular landscape. As if you needed another reason to go, consider the Kimball Arts Festival. Known for its art-loving, hippie founders who hung a shingle out in the early days to sell their tie-dyed wares, the festival, now in its 47th year—it’s the longest running arts festival in the West—features hundreds of artists in categories from ceramics and drawing to glass, sculpture and photography, all on the city’s historic Main Street. More good news: the city shuts the street down for the event and offers free shuttles around town, coupled with discounts and promotions at area restaurants.
Admission: $12 for adult weekend passes; $5 for kids aged 6-17; Children under 5 are free. Visit parkcitykimballartsfestival.org.
August 12-21, 2016
Whistler, British Columbia, Canada
Celebrate more than a decade of bike culture at Crankworx, a 10-day freeride mountain bike festival where world-class riders race in downhill, slopestyle and enduro formats. You don’t have to bike yourself to enjoy Crankworx. Not only can you watch—many of the world's best World Cup Downhill race athletes converge here to test their skill on the Canadian Open DH track—but there are also bike demos and an expo featuring outfitters. Whether you prefer to participate or spectate, serious slopestyle enthusiasts won’t want to miss the Red Bull Joyride, an invitational event along a man-made course and one of only three Diamond events on the Freeride Mountain Bike World Tour.
Admission: Prices to be announced. Visit crankworx.com.
August 28, 2016
White River State Park; Indianapolis, IN
Seven years ago, a small team of agriculture visionaries put on a five-course dinner showcasing Indiana’s freshest locally grown ingredients. Little did they know this dinner was laying the groundwork for Dig IN, a full-day celebration of Indiana cuisine from 18 breweries and more than 40 chefs. As you walk around the 250-acre urban state park, which offers unparalleled views of the Indianapolis skyline, going from taste testing station to cooking demo, you’ll finally bridge the gap between “farm gate and dinner plate,” walking away with a plethora of ideas for how to make the most of summer’s bounty.
Admission: $35-$99. Visit digindiana.org.
September 2-4, 2016
Paramount Pictures Studios; Los Angeles, CA
Those who’ve been following along with the LA Times’ food coverage won’t want to miss its acclaimed festival, The Taste. Highlighting local farms, cocktail culture, beer dinners and the flavors of the City of Angels, The Taste is a celebration of Southern California’s culinary scene, complete with cooking challenges and contests, seminars and unlimited tastings included in the price of admission. Each event is led by a member of the paper’s food staff and a local “culinary luminary” (that’s code for chef or bartender); last year’s festival included a Sunday brunch and barbecue.
Admission: Tickets will go on sale later this summer. Visit events.latimes.com/taste.
September 2-4, 2016
Seattle Center; Seattle, WA
Seattle has long been a stomping ground for creative types, so it's no wonder that the Emerald City is home to Bumbershoot, North America’s largest urban arts festival. Now in its 45th year, the three-day event combines music, theater, comedy and visual arts. Bumbershoot is set in the heart of downtown Seattle, right under the Space Needle no less, and this year’s lineup features more than 100 performances, including concerts starring Death Cab for Cutie, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Third Eye Blind and Porter Robinson.
Admission: Three-day passes start at $180. Visit bumbershoot.org.
Toronto International Film Festival
September 8-18, 2016
Not only can you rub elbows with today’s hottest celebrities at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), but you also get to see exclusive showings of Oscar-winning movies before everyone else. That’s right—TIFF premiered films like The King’s Speech and Slumdog Millionaire, providing attendees with unprecedented viewing access. What's more, the actors and directors themselves are often in attendance. With more than 300 films from 60 countries, TIFF is the largest public film festival in the world offering a behind-the-scenes look at the film industry, complete with galas and red carpet premieres.
Admission: Prices to be announced. Visit tiff.net.
International Folk Art Market
July 8-10, 2016
Santa Fe, NM
Nearly 200 artists from more than 60 countries join forces in Santa Fe for the world’s largest international folk market shopping extravaganza. Forty percent of the artists at this year's festival are there for the first time. Others arrive as returning special guests and some have never left the small villages where they produce their wares. About 20,000 visitors will be able to shop for handcrafted, one-of-a-kind jewelry, beadwork, basketry, carvings, ceramics, glasswork, metalwork, paintings, mixed media, sculpture, textiles, musical instruments, and more. Ninety percent of the proceeds go home with the artists, who have used the money to better their communities by building schools and homes, funding wells for clean water, and more.
Admission: Tickets range from $10 to $225. Visit folkartalliance.org.
International Jugglers’ Association Festival
July 25-31, 2016
El Paso, TX
Learn to juggle from the best at this weeklong festival of throwing and tossing entertainment. With around-the-clock open juggling, workshops, competitions and international performers (like Nelli Kujansivu from Finland and Bernard Hazen from Israel), entertainers of all ages and skill level will walk away from the week with a new appreciation for the sport. Anyone who wants to practice can hit the open gym each day. Learn about new twists on the sport at different events like joggling (juggling three to seven balls while jogging), Xjuggling (a fast-paced tricks competition with a live DJ), and fire juggling with torches, poi, staffs, ropes, hoops and more.
Admission: Packages range from $189 to $259; a la carte registration is available at the festival. Visit ym.juggle.org.
Printers Row Lit Fest
June 11-12, 2016
The largest literary festival in the Midwest began in 1985 in Printers Row, Chicago’s former bookmaking hub. The neighborhood celebration has grown to encompass five blocks and brings more than 200 booksellers, more than 200 authors, and more than 150,000 book lovers to the city every year for the two-day celebration. Headlining authors this year include R.L. Stine of Goosebumps fame, Pulitzer Prize winner Marilynne Robinson, New York Times bestselling author Terry McMillan and actor and novelist Ethan Hawke. Foodies will enjoy cooking demos by celebrity chefs and presentations from several journalists.
Admission: FREE. Visit printersrowlitfest.org.
Gilroy Garlic Festival
July 29-31, 2016
Grab a garlic ice cream and head down Gourmet Alley, the heart of Gilroy Garlic Festival. It’s a giant outdoor kitchen lined with “pyro chefs” who make garlic calamari, scampi and more in giant iron skillets that flare up for a fire show while cooking. Add in live music, cooking demonstrations and contests, arts and crafts, and a kids’ area, and the 38th annual festival will keep the whole family busy (and bad-breathed) for the entire weekend. Each year, 100,000 attendees eat more than two tons of fresh garlic with proceeds going to benefit more than 140 community non-profits. New this year is a cooking contest between first responders—a $3,000 prize will go to the charity of the winner’s choice.
Admission: General admission is $20; children ages 6-12, seniors over 60 and active duty military are $15; ages 6 and below are free. Parking costs $10. Visit gilroygarlicfestival.com.
Chicago Hot Dog Fest
August 5-7, 2016
Try Chicago’s most famous cased meat at the fourth annual Hot Dog Fest. Top hot dog vendors from throughout the city join forces to serve up the best Vienna Beef sausages in the standard Chicago style—with yellow mustard, white onions, neon green relish, a pickle spear, tomatoes, sport peppers and celery salt. They may even let you shirk tradition and put (gasp) KETCHUP on your hot dog. Live music will be on all day, hot dog historians and restaurateurs will host multiple presentations and lectures, kids will have a dedicated area to themselves, and a whole tent will be dedicated to guests’ canine companions.
Admission: FREE. Visit chicagohotdogfest.com.
Cheyenne Frontier Days
July 22-31, 2016
As the largest outdoor rodeo in the world, Cheyenne Frontier Days pulls out all the stops for its annual event. Since 1897, cowboys and cowgirls have been gathering in Wyoming’s state capital for the nine-day festival, which includes daily rodeo events featuring some of the world’s top ropers, barrel racers and bull riders competing for more than $1 million in cash and prizes. The fun doesn’t end when the sun sets—that's when acts like Kenny Chesney, KISS, Fall Out Boy and other headliners take the stage as part of Frontier Nights. And if you know as much about mutton bustin’ as the average city slicker, don’t despair. CFD is chock full of other events like a chuck wagon cook-off, carnival, grand parade, airshow, pancake breakfast and art sale to keep you busy.
Admission: Rodeo tickets start at $17 and concerts start at $27. Package deals are also available. Visit cfdrodeo.com.
Bat Fest ATX
August 20, 2016
A colony of some 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats call the Anne W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin home, and every evening throughout the summer they leave their roosts inside the bridge’s crevices in search of a meal. As a way to celebrate the world’s largest urban bat colony, Austin does what it does best: live music. And the 12th-annual ATX Bat Fest's lineup doesn’t disappoint. On the docket so far are American Authors, The Mowgli’s and Coleman Hell. In between sets, make your way to the 75 arts and crafts vendors or grab a bite at one of the many food stands. Additional activities include a bat costume contest and children’s activities.
Admission: $19 early-bird tickets are available now or pay $25 at the gate. Kids eight and under are free with a paying adult. Visit www.roadwayevents.com/event/bat-fest.
San Francisco Black Film Festival
June 16-19, 2016
San Francisco, CA
Discussions about racial inequality have taken center stage in Hollywood as of late. But don't give up the film industry altogether: Consider the San Francisco Black Film Festival (SFBFF) as an antidote. Every year for the past 18 years, the multi-day event, which was founded by Ave Montague as a forum to showcase black independent films, has been premiering some of the best movies by black filmmakers, screenwriters and actors. This year's lineup is no exception. Expect films focused on a multitude of subjects, including colorism in Cuba, professional skateboarding and protest poetry from the last half century. In addition to multiple daily screenings, the festival will feature panel and roundtable discussions with directors and other talent.
Admission: Movie tickets are $10 for each film ($10-20 for the premiere) and wristbands for all shows are available for $75, visit http://sfbff.org/wordpress.
Colorado Dragon Boat Festival
July 30-31, 2016
For two days this summer, the calm waters of Sloan Lake just west of downtown Denver become a battleground during the 16th-annual Colorado Dragon Boat Festival. Dragon boat racing has been a part of Chinese culture for more than 2,000 years, and more recently has been adopted as an international sport by countries worldwide, including the United States. During this year’s event, 52 teams made up of paddlers, drummers and sweepers will race across the water in brightly painted boats to fight for the championship title. After cheering them on, take a walk through the Asian Marketplace and browse the vendors selling Asian wares or grab lunch at one of two food courts serving an array of cuisines, including Chinese, Vietnamese, Hawaiian and Laotian.
Admission: Free, for more information visit www.cdbf.org.
Winnipeg Folk Festival
July 7-10, 2016
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
If you missed out on snagging tickets to the sold-out Newport Folk Festival, don’t fret. The Winnipeg Folk Festival, hosted by America’s neighbor to the north, is just the ticket if you’re craving some live folk music this summer. With concerts spread out over four days and campsites still available to rent, it’s easy to find a show that fits your schedule. This year’s lineup includes performances by nearly 70 acts including Basia Bulat, Hubby Jenkins, Matthew Byrne, Moulettes, Parsonsfield, Ryan Adams and the Shining, and Steve Dawson. Several of the acts are also performing at Newport, so consider Winnipeg your second chance to see them perform.
Admission: Day passes start at $50 and increase depending on the date. Full four-day tickets start at $138. Children are free. For more information visit www.winnipegfolkfestival.ca.
Electric Daisy Carnival
June 17-19, 2016
Las Vegas, NV
Celebrate 20 years of this carnival, under the electric sky in Las Vegas. Electric Daisy Carnival is an event fueled by art, music and creativity, lighting up the night with carnival rides, fireworks, luminous art, huge light displays and continuous concerts. The grounds are separated into eight distinct stages, each designed around a different element. Be sure to check out artCARS—handmade mobile machines that roll around all day, some playing music of their own—and some of the many performances throughout the weekend from dancers to stilt-walkers to aerialists. Everything here is based around light and color, so get ready to stay out all night and glow.
Admission: General admission tickets are sold out, but some VIP packages remain for $699 plus taxes and fees. Visit lasvegas.electricdaisycarnival.com.
Pageant of the Masters
July 7-August 31, 2016
Laguna Beach, CA
Gilmore Girls fans, rejoice—the Festival of Living Pictures is an actual thing. It’s called the Pageant of the Masters, held every year as the main event of the Festival of Arts of Laguna Beach. And it’s just as glorious as the TV show suggests, featuring real people, costumed and made up to look exactly like some of the most famous paintings in history. The show lasts 90 minutes and features a professional orchestra playing an original score and live narration. Check it out every evening throughout the festival season at 8:30 after spending the afternoon browsing galleries and exhibitions of the paint-only kind.
Admission: Tickets range from $15 to $230. Visit foapom.com/pageant-of-the-masters.
The Mermaid Parade
June 18, 2016
Coney Island, NY
Coney Island pageantry comes to life at the Mermaid Parade, an annual gathering of more than 3,000 participants who march through the area in the country’s largest art parade. The event originally began as a way for residents on Neptune and Mermaid Streets to embrace mythology, but has become a venue in which creative New Yorkers to express their talents in an otherwise disregarded neighborhood. Every year, King Neptune and Queen Mermaid are crowned and parade through the streets with costumed and body painted revelers feeling the aquatic love.
Admission: FREE to watch, $25 to march. Visit coneyisland.com/programs/mermaid-parade.
Boston Contemporary Dance Festival
August 13, 2016
After a one-year hiatus, this festival of all things contemporary dance is back to take Boston to the stage. More than 100 dancers apply and if chosen, come from across the U.S. to participate. This year’s festival features Urbanity Dance, a dance company that strives to showcase amazing technical performances while enacting change in the dance world by promoting accessibility to the arts. When they're not watching dancers get down, attendees can participate in workshops and mix and mingle with national dance community leaders, critics, photographers and producers.
Admission: Tickets range from $25 to $70. Visit bostoncontemporarydance.org.