MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Music festivals 2016


  • (Feb. 3 – 6)Winter Dance Party

    Clear Lake, IA

    The Surf Ballroom marks the 57th anniversary of the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly with concerts, luncheons, dance lessons and crash-site tours.


  • (Apr. 8 – 10)Roots and Bluegrass Festival

    River Falls, WI

    Hear music at half a dozen venues in the downtown of this western Wisconsin college town.

  • (Apr. 28 – 30)Mid West Music Fest

    Winona, MN

    More than 75 musical groups in all genres play in museums, galleries, cafes and arts centers across town. There are arts workshops for children, too.



  • (May 1 – 8)Homegrown Music Festival

    Duluth, MN

    More than 100 musical acts will perform in venues around the Twin Ports, and there also will be film, visual arts and craft beer.

  • (May 22 – 29)Duluth Dylan Festival

    Duluth, MN

    The town in which Bob Dylan was born celebrates the singer's 75th birthday with a Blood on the Tracks train ride, a singer-songwriter contest, a bus tour, films, music and a trivia contest.




  • (May 26 – 30)North Iowa Band Festival

    Mason City, IA

    There's a carnival, craft show and car cruise, but don't miss the 10 a.m. Saturday band parade in this northern Iowa town, which Meredith Willson made famous in "The Music Man.''

  • (May 27 – 30)World's Largest Brat Fest

    Madison, WI

    There's music on four stages, with headliners including Travis Tritt, plus kids' games, a sports zone, carnival rides and Sunday fireworks. Admission is free. Outside the Alliant Energy Center.

  • (May 27 – 30)Chicago Gaelic Park Irish Festival

    Oak Forest, IL

    In this west Chicago suburb, there's lots of music, plus a petting zoo, hurling, theater, Irish dog and pony exhibits and red hair, freckle and bonnie baby contests.

  • (May 29)BobFest

    Spring Green, WI

    The Spring Green General Store in this artistic town on the Wisconsin River celebrates Bob Dylan's 75th birthday with free outdoor music.

  • (May 29)Soundset

    St. Paul, MN

    This hiphop festival will be held at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds this year.


  • (Jun 3 – 4)Gospel Festival

    Chicago, IL

    This free music festival Millennium Park also includes an art fair and a kids' activity zone.

  • (Jun 9 – 12)Steel Bridge SongFest

    Sturgeon Bay, WI

    More than 150 musicians and songwriters perform in more than 15 venues around town to benefit the historic Michigan Avenue canal bridge.

  • (Jun 9 – 11)Blue Ox Music Festival

    Eau Claire, WI

    Pert Near Sandstone, Sam Bush Band, Leftover Salmon and Railroad Earth are among the headliners at this family-friendly acoustic festival near Eau Claire.

    There's camping onsite.

  • (Jun 10 – 12)Blues Festival

    Chicago, IL

    The largest of Chicago's free music festivals draws 750,000 people to Grant Park. Headliners include Shemekia Copeland with guest Curtis Salgado, Lil' Ed and the Blues Imperials with guest Corky Siegel and Irma Thomas.

  • (Jun 10 – 11)Stamman Scandinavian Folk Festival

    Nisswa, MN

    This festival in the Brainerd Lakes area features visiting musicians from Denmark, Sweden and Norway as well as many North American folk musicians.

  • (Jun 10 – 12)Ribfest Chicago

    Chicago, IL

    This street festival in the Northcenter neighborhood, on Lincoln Avenue between Irving Park Road and Warner Avenue, features barbecue plus indie, roots, rock and alt country music.

    There's a Kids Square with games and a rib-eating contest Friday with professional eaters.

  • (Jun 10 – 11)Winstock Country Festival

    Winsted, MN

    Brad Paisley and Lee Brice headline this festival just west of Minneapolis.

  • (Jun 10 – 12)2 Rivers Wine & Jazz Festival

    Ottawa, IL

    The festival in this town on the Fox and Illinois rivers features wine from 25 Illinois vineyards and jazz and blues in Washington Park.

  • (Jun 10 – 11)America's River Festival

    Dubuque, IA

    This riverside music festival includes a motocross show, movie tent and children's games and rides.

  • (Jun 10 – 11)Northwoods Bluegrass Festival

    Ladysmith, WI

    Six bluegrass bands play at this festival at the Washburn County Fairgrounds. On-site camping is available.

  • (Jun 14 – 18)Country USA

    Oshkosh, WI

    Dierks Bentley, Sam Hunt and Luke Bryan are among the headliners of this year's big festival at Ford Festival Park.

  • (Jun 14 – 18)Grant Park Music Festival

    Chicago, IL

    Professional musicians, many of them world-famous, offer free classical concerts in Millennium Park's beautiful Pritzker Pavilion.

  • (Jun 16 – 19)Country Fest

    Cadott, WI

    This year's big outdoor festival near Chippewa Falls features Kenny Chesney, Carrie Underwood, Dierks Bentley and Sam Hunt.

  • (Jun 17 – 18)Blues on the Fox

    Aurora, IL

    Blues artists perform at the festival grounds on the Fox River, in the town where Chicago blues musicians recorded for RCA's Bluebird label in the 1930s.

  • (Jun 23 – 25)Twin Cities Jazz Festival

    St. Paul, MN

    Listen to jazz in Mears Park, in St. Paul's Lowertown. Headliners include Michael Franti, pianist Ellis Marsalis, trombonist Delfeayo Marsalis and guitarists Russell Malone and John Pizzarelli.

  • (Jun 23 – 25)Lakes Jam

    Brainerd, MN

    Toby Keith headlines this music-and-camping festival at Brainerd International Raceway.

  • (Jun 24 – 26)Cedar Basin Jazz Festival

    Cedar Falls, IA

    There will be 42 hours of free entertainment in Sturgis Park, including a Sunday morning gospel set and a jazz brunch.

  • (Jun 24 – 25)Northwoods Blues Festival

    Spooner, WI

    Blues bands perform at the fairgrounds in this lakes town, and there's on-site camping.

  • (Jun 29 – Jul 3)Summerfest

    Milwaukee, WI

    They call this the world's largest music festival. More than 800 acts perform on 11 stages along Lake Michigan, including Sting, Peter Gabriel, Weezer, Selena Gomez, Def Leppard, REO Speedwagon, Tesla, Blake Shelton and Luke Bryan.

  • (Jun 30 – Jul 3)National Women's Music Festival

    Middleton, WI

    Headliners include Alive, Sharon Katz and the Peace Train, Suede and Vickie Shaw. In addition to concerts, this musical and cultural festival at the Marriott Madison West features comedy, theater, film and writers' workshops.


  • (Jul 1 – 2)Mississippi Valley Blues Festival

    Davenport, IA

    In LeClaire Park on the river, blues musicians celebrate the music that traveled up the Mississippi.

  • (Jul 1 – 3)Iowa City Jazz Festival

    Iowa City, IA

    This downtown festival features a Culinary Row, Fun Zone for kids and Sunday fireworks in addition to music.

  • (Jul 1 – 3)Ribfest

    Naperville, IL

    Headliners include Sheryl Crow, Lee Brice, 3 Doors Down and the Gin Blossoms in Knoch Park, where there's also magic shows, kids' games, food and fireworks on the last evening.

  • (Jul 7 – 10)Winnipeg Folk Festival

    Winnipeg, MB

    This easy-going, family-friendly festival features 70 performers, food and hand-made art from around the world plus a fun play area for children.

    Many people camp on-site at Birds Hill Provincial Park. Tickets are cheapest when bought in advance.

  • (Jul 7 – 10)Hodag Country Festival

    Rhinelander, WI

    This year, performers at this big fest include Mickey Gilley, Thomas Rhett, Jake Owen and Neal McCoy. There's a band contest, too.

  • (Jul 8 – 10)Blues Festival

    Thunder Bay, ON

    This festival has a scenic location in Marina Park, on the Lake Superior waterfront.

  • (Jul 8 – 9)80/35 Music Festival

    Des Moines, IA

    This indie and jam music festival (named for the junction of two interstates) is at Western Gateway Park.

  • (Jul 8 – 10)Blissfest

    Cross Village, MI

    This family-friendly folk and roots festival on a farm includes reggae, country, zydeco, jazz and Celtic music on three stages and four workshop areas. There's also a juried arts and crafts fair. Rustic camping is available.

  • (Jul 8 – 10)Square Roots Festival

    Chicago, IL

    The Old Town School of Folk Music presents this Lincoln Square festival, which includes more than 60 acts on four stages plus 30 local and regional craft beers and food from neighborhood restaurants.

  • (Jul 8 – 9)Basilica Block Party

    Minneapolis, MN

    Praise the Loud at this ticketed rock-music fest at the Basilica of St. Mary on the edge of downtown.

  • (Jul 9)Driftless Music Festival

    Viroqua, WI

    This free folk and roots festival is in Viroqua's Eckhart Park.

  • (Jul 14 – 16)Rock Fest

    Cadott, WI

    This year's big outdoor festival near Chippewa Falls features top national musicians.

  • (Jul 14 – 16)Rock USA

    Oshkosh, WI

    This big rock festival is held in Ford Festival Park.

  • (Jul 15 – 16)RiverSong Music Festival

    Hutchinson, MN

    This family-friendly festival on the Crow River, west of the Twin Cities, features folk, blues, jazz and other grassroots music on three stages, including one for children. There's onsite camping and food.

  • (Jul 15 – 17)Pitchfork Music Festival

    Chicago, IL

    FKA twigs, Carly Rae Jepsen and Brian Wilson are among the headliners of this indie and alt-rock festival in Union Park.

  • (Jul 16)Bayfront Reggae & World Music Festival

    Duluth, MN

    Hear island music on Lake Superior, from Bayfront Festival Park.

  • (Jul 16)Roots, Rock & Deep Blues Festival

    Minneapolis, MN

    This music and arts festival in the Longfellow neighborhood, near Harriet Brewery and Midtown light-rail station, features five stages and 20 bands, including Charlie Parr, "Spider'' John Koerner, Black Eyed Snakes and Crankshaft & the Gear Grinders. 

  • (Jul 17)Woodstock Folk Festival

    Woodstock, IL

    Listen to music on the square in this town just over the Wisconsin border from Lake Geneva.

  • (Jul 21 – 23)Moondance Jam

    Walker, MN

    This big classic-rock and camping festival celebrates its 25th year. Headliners include Loverboy.

  • (Jul 21 – 23)Burning Cow Music Festival

    Sturgeon Bay, WI

    This second annual fest features 17 emerging and established rock, bluegrass and alt country bands. There's on-site camping.

  • (Jul 21 – 23)Country Jam

    Eau Claire, WI

    Jason Aldean, The Band Perry, Florida Georgia Line and Jake Owen are among the headliners of this fest. There's camping on-site.

  • (Jul 22 – 24)Hiawatha Traditional Music Festival

    Marquette, MI

    This folk music festival in Tourist Park also features a juried arts and crafts show and camping on-site.

  • (Jul 22 – 23)Lowertown Blues Festival

    St. Paul, MN

    Booker T Jones, Bernard Allison and Corey Stevens are among the headliners at this free, all-ages festival in Mears Park.

  • (Jul 28 – 31)Lollapalooza

    Chicago, IL

    This big music festival features dozens of bands and, unlike other Grant Park festivals, is not free. Reserve rooms far in advance.



  • (Jul 29 – 30)Prairie Dog Blues Festival

    Prairie du Chien, WI

    This Mississippi River festival on historic St. Feriole Island features 12 bands on two stages, with onsite camping.


  • (Aug. 4 – 6)Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival

    Davenport, IA

    Since 1972, fans of this Jazz Age cornetist and composer have held this festival in his hometown on the Mississippi.

  • (Aug. 4 – 6)WE Fest

    Detroit Lakes, MN

    Eric Church, Tim McGraw, Kid Rock and Lee Brice are among the headliners at this big country festival in west-central Minnesota.

  • (Aug. 4 – 6)Country on the River

    Prairie du Chien, WI

    Kid Rock and Lee Brice are among the headliners performing on two stages on St. Feriole Island.

  • (Aug. 4 – 7)Mile of Music

    Appleton, WI

    More than 180 singer-songwriters perform at more than 40 venues along College Avenue downtown.

  • (Aug. 5 – 7)Blues on the Chippewa

    Durand, WI

    Just up the Chippewa River from Lake Pepin, this free blues festival in Memorial Park features 16 bands.

  • (Aug. 5 – 7)Live From the Rock

    Red Rock, ON

    This folk festival is on the shores of Lake Superior, east of Thunder Bay near Nipigon. Camping is on-site.

  • (Aug. 11 – 14)Minnesota Bluegrass & Old-Time Music Festival

    Richmond, MN

    This 37th annual family-friendly festival includes music on five stages and workshops at El Rancho Mañana Campground, 20 miles west of St. Cloud.

  • (Aug. 11 – 13)Ashley for the Arts music festival

    Arcadia, WI

    This nonprofit festival is in the southwest Wisconsin bluffs, half an hour north of Winona, Minn.

    Headliners include Chicago and Kellie Pickler. Tickets for all three days are $10. In addition to music, there will be a hot-air balloon launch, car show, arts, children's activities and Saturday fireworks.

  • (Aug. 12 – 14)Bayfront Blues Festival

    Duluth, MN

    The 28th annual music fest on the Lake Superior harbor showcases national and regional acts on three stages.

  • (Aug. 12 – 13)Eaux Claires Music Festival

    Eau Claire, WI

    Bon Iver returns for a second year with new acts, including Beach House, Erykah Badu and Jenny Lewis. There's camping on-site.

  • (Aug. 18 – 21)Boundary Waters Blues Festival

    Ely, MN

    Ten bands play Friday and Saturday on Fall Lake, five miles east of Ely. There's camping on-site.

  • (Aug. 19 – 20)Big Bull Falls Blues Fest

    Wausau, WI

    Enjoy national and local blues musicians in Fern Island Park. There's a beer garden, of course.

  • (Aug. 20)HarborPark Jazz & Blues Festival

    Kenosha, WI

    This free festival is in the lakefront Celebration Place.

  • (Aug. 20)Square Lake Film & Music Festival

    Stillwater, MN

    This festival near Square Lake County Park, north of Stillwater, alternates short independent films with live music. Festgoers arriving by bicycle get half-price tickets, which sell out in advance.

  • (Aug. 24 – 28)Lakes Bluegrass Festival

    Pine River, MN

    This family-friendly festival at the Cass County Fairgrounds, just off the Paul Bunyan State Trail, features more than 40 bluegrass shows and free workshops.

  • (Aug. 26 – 28)Porcupine Mountains Music Festival

    Silver City, MI

    Few settings are more beautiful than Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park on Lake Superior; 25 national and regional blues, folk and bluegrass acts perform.

  • (Aug. 26 – 27)River Roots Live

    Davenport, IA

    This music festival in LeClaire Park, on the banks of the Mississippi, also features Rib Festival.


  • (Aug. 26 – 28)Great River Folk Festival

    La Crosse, WI

    This festival in Riverside Park includes children's activities, a traditional arts and crafts fair and music performances and workshops.

  • (Aug. 26 – 27)Summer Microbrew & Music Festival

    Traverse City, MI

    This festival at Grand Traverse Commons features music and more than 200 craft beers.

  • (Aug. 27)Crossroads Blues Festival

    Rockford, IL

    Enjoy a day of blues in Lyran Park, with food from local restaurants.

  • (Aug. 29 – Sep 4)National Old Time Country Bluegrass Festival

    LeMars, IA

    More than 600 musicians perform on 10 stages in this town in northwest Iowa.


  • (Sep. 1 – 4)Chicago Jazz Festival

    Chicago, IL

    This free festival features music at the Chicago Cultural Center and  Millennium Park.

  • (Sep. 2 – 4)Marquette Area Blues Fest

    Marquette, MI

    Enjoy two days of music in Mattson Lower Harbor Park on Lake Superior.

  • (Sep. 3 – 4)Fox Jazz Festival

    Menasha, WI

    This free Fox Cities jazz festival is in Jefferson Park, on the shores of Lake Winnebago.

  • (Sep. 4 – 5)Fox Valley Folk Music & Storytelling Festival

    Geneva, IL

    Musicians and storytellers perform on eight stages at this festival in Island Park on the Fox River.

  • (Sep. 9 – 25)World Music Festival

    Chicago, IL

    There will be more than 80 artists performing at more than 30 venues across the city, with some performances free and some ticketed.

  • (Sep. 9 – 11)Radio Waves Music Festival

    Grand Marais, MN

    WTIP, North Shore Community Radio, hosts this outdoor fest of more than 25 local and regional music acts next to the municipal campground.

  • (Sep. 10)Rock Bend Folk Festival

    St. Peter, MN

    This free, easygoing festival in this Minnesota River town's Minnesota Square Park includes local favorites The Divers.

  • (Sep. 10)Washington County Bluegrass Festival

    Lake Elmo, MN

    Bluegrass bands will play at this family festival at Lake Elmo Park Reserve, free with $5 vehicle permit. There also will be camping and food vendors.

  • (Sep. 10 – 11)East Troy Bluegrass Festival

    East Troy, WI

    Listen to bluegrass bands and contests in the historic village square. There's also a food court and marketplace.

  • (Sep. 15 – 18)Michigan Irish Music Festival

    Muskegon, MI

    There's music on three stages, plus dance and session tents, a cultural village, Celtic Kitchen and limerick contest.

  • (Sep. 15 – 17)World Music Festival

    Madison, WI

    Wisconsin Memorial Union hosts free concerts by bands from Tibet, Israel Sudan, India, Zanzibar, Italy, Argentina and Mexico.

  • (Sep. 16 – 18)Riot Fest

    Chicago, IL

    This Douglas Park music festival also features a circus sideshow revue and carnival.

  • (Sep. 22 – 25)Boats and Bluegrass

    Winona, MN

    This family-oriented festival in Prairie Island Park, on the Mississippi River, features disc golf, paddling and airplane rides as well as music. A weekend pass includes camping and canoeing, and kids under 16 are free with an adult ticket.

  • (Sep. 24 – 25)Hyde Park Jazz Festival

    Chicago, IL

    Listen to non-stop music during this free festival at venues in and around Midway Plaisance, near the Museum of Science and Industry and Lake Michigan.



  • (Nov. 4 – 5)Witching Hour Festival

    Iowa City, IA

    This festival features the creative processes of musicians, artists, comedians, writers, thinkers, scientists, magicians. Russian activists Pussy Riot will speak, and musicians include Wu Fei and the Duluth band Low.