MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Music festivals 2015


  • (Jan. 28 – 31)Winter Dance Party

    Clear Lake, IA

    The Surf Ballroom marks the 56th anniversary of the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly with concerts, luncheons, dance lessons and crash-site tours.


  • (Apr. 10 – 12)Roots and Bluegrass Festival

    River Falls, WI

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

  • (Apr. 23 – 25)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.


  • (Apr. 26 – May 3)Homegrown Music Festival

    Duluth, MN

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


  • (May 17 – 24)North Country Dylan Celebration

    Duluth, MN

    The town in which Bob Dylan was born its native son with pub trivia, a poetry showcase, a Blood on the Tracks Express rolling musical revue on Thursday, a singer-songwriter contest Friday and, on Saturday, a bus tour to Hibbing and back and an evening acoustic salute to Dylan.




  • (May 21 – 25)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 22 – 25)World's Largest Brat Fest

    Madison, WI

    There's music on four stages, with headliners including the Charlie Daniels Band, plus the world's largest touring grill (a Johnsonville semi that can cook 750 brats at a time), the Oscar Meyer Wienermobile,  carnival rides and Sunday fireworks. Admission is free. Outside the Alliant Energy Center.

  • (May 22 – 25)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 24)BobFest

    Spring Green, WI

    The Spring Green General Store in this artistic town on the Wisconsin River celebrates Bob Dylan's 74th birthday with free outdoor music.

  • (May 28 – 31)Bluegrass Festival

    Niles, MI

    Listen to American roots music on two stages along the banks of the St. Joseph River. There's also a carnival, arts show and games.

  • (May 29 – 31)Gospel Festival

    Chicago, IL

    This free festival opens in Millennium Park, moves to the Chicago Cultural Center on Friday and is in Ellis Park on the weekend.


  • (Jun 2 – 5)National Women's Music Festival

    Middleton, WI

    Headliners include Holly Near, Cris Williamson and Tret Fure. In addition to concerts, this musical and cultural festival at the Marriott Madison West features comedy, theater, film and writers' workshops.

  • (Jun 5 – 7)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 11 – 14)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 12 – 14)Blues Festival

    Chicago, IL

    Local bluesman Buddy Guy headlines the largest of Chicago's free music festivals, drawing 750,000 people to Grant Park.

  • (Jun 12 – 13)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 12 – 14)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 12 – 13)Winstock Country Festival

    Winsted, MN

    Alabama and Jake Owen headline this festival just west of Minneapolis.

  • (Jun 12 – 13)America's River Festival

    Dubuque, IA

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

  • (Jun 12 – 13)Northwoods Bluegrass Festival

    Ladysmith, WI

    Six bluegrass bands perform at the fairgrounds in this Blue Hills town, and there's on-site camping.

  • (Jun 19 – 20)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 19 – 20)Gentlemen of the Road

    Waverly, IA

    Mumford & Sons bring one of their Stopover Festivals to northeast Iowa. Headliners also include the Flaming Lips, Dawes and Jenny Lewis. There's free tent camping on-site.

  • (Jun 23 – 27)Country USA

    Oshkosh, WI

    Miranda Lambert, Tim McGraw, Lee Brice, Eric Church and the Eli Young Band are the headliners of this year's big festival.

  • (Jun 25 – 27)Twin Cities Jazz Festival

    St. Paul, MN

    Listen to jazz in Mears Park, in St. Paul's Lowertown.

  • (Jun 25 – 28)Country Fest

    Cadott, WI

    This year's big outdoor festival near Chippewa Falls features Toby Keith, Keith Urban, Tim McGraw and Rascal Flatts.

  • (Jun 25 – 27)Lakes Jam

    Brainerd, MN

    Lee Brice headlines this music-and-camping festival at Brainerd International Raceway.

  • (Jun 26 – 27)Northwoods Blues Festival

    Spooner, WI

    Marcia Ball and Devon Allman headline this festival at the Washburn County Fairgrounds. On-site camping is available.

  • (Jun 30 – Jul 5)Summerfest

    Milwaukee, WI

    They call this the world's largest music festival. More than 800 acts perform on 11 stages along Lake Michigan.


  • (Jul 2 – 12)Hodag Country Festival

    Rhinelander, WI

    This year, performers at this big fest include Ronnie Milsap, Scotty McCreery, Wynonna & the Big Noise and Cassadee Pope. There's a band contest, too.

  • (Jul 2 – 4)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 2 – 5)Ribfest

    Naperville, IL

    Big-name bands perform in Knoch Park, where there's also magic shows, kids' games, food and fireworks on the last evening.

  • (Jul 3 – 5)Blues Festival

    Thunder Bay, ON

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

  • (Jul 9 – 12)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 10 – 11)Basilica Block Party

    Minneapolis, MN

    This family-friendly outdoor rock festival on the grounds of the Basilica of St. Mary benefits its restoration and outreach programs.


  • (Jul 10 – 11)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 10 – 12)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 10 – 12)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 15 – 18)Rock USA

    Oshkosh, WI

    This big rock festival is held in Ford Festival Park.

  • (Jul 16 – 19)Rock Fest

    Cadott, WI

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

  • (Jul 16 – 18)Moondance Jam

    Walker, MN

    This big classic-rock and camping festival celebrates its 24th year. Headliners include Nickelback and the Doobie Brothers.

  • (Jul 17 – 18)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 17 – 19)Pitchfork Music Festival

    Chicago, IL

    This indie and alt-rock festival is in Union Park.

  • (Jul 17 – 19)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 17 – 18)Eaux Claires Music Festival

    Eau Claire, WI

    This new festival features 40 acts, including Bon Iver, the National, Spoon, Sufjan Stevens, Haley Bonar, Polica, Doomtree, the Blind Boys of Alabama and the Indigo Girls. There's camping on-site.

  • (Jul 18)Bayfront Reggae & World Music Festival

    Duluth, MN

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

  • (Jul 18)Driftless Music Festival

    Viroqua, WI

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

  • (Jul 19)Woodstock Folk Festival

    Woodstock, IL

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

  • (Jul 25)Lowertown Blues Festival

    St. Paul, MN

    Elvin Bishop and Walter Trout headline this free, all-ages festival in Mears Park.

  • (Jul 31 – Aug 2)Lollapalooza

    Chicago, IL

    This big music festival features dozens of bands and, unlike other Grant Park festivals, is not free: Three-day passes are $175-$215. Reserve rooms far in advance.



  • (Jul 31 – Aug 1)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.

  • (Jul 31 – Aug 2)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. 6 – 9)Minnesota Bluegrass & Old-Time Music Festival

    Richmond, MN

    This 36th annual family-friendly festival includes music on five stages and workshops at El Rancho Mañana Campground, 20 miles west of St. Cloud.

  • (Aug. 6 – 8)WE Fest

    Detroit Lakes, MN

    This big fest in west-central Minnesota snags the biggest names in country music.

  • (Aug. 6 – 8)Country on the River

    Prairie du Chien, WI

    Dierks Bentley is among the headliners performing on two stages on St. Feriole Island.

  • (Aug. 6 – 9)Mile of Music

    Appleton, WI

    More than 100 singer-songwriters perform at more than 40 venues along College Avenue downtown.

  • (Aug. 6 – 8)Ashley for the Arts music festival

    Arcadia, WI

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

    Tickets are $5. In addition to music, there will be a hot-air balloon launch, car show, arts, a youth obstacle course and Saturday fireworks.

  • (Aug. 7 – 9)Bayfront Blues Festival

    Duluth, MN

    The 27th annual music fest on the Lake Superior harbor showcases national and regional acts on three stages.

  • (Aug. 7 – 9)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. 14 – 15)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. 15)HarborPark Jazz & Blues Festival

    Kenosha, WI

    This free festival is in the lakefront Celebration Place.

  • (Aug. 21 – 22)Summer Microbrew & Music Festival

    Traverse City, MI

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

  • (Aug. 26 – 30)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 35 bluegrass shows and free workshops.

  • (Aug. 28 – 30)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. 28 – 29)River Roots Live

    Davenport, IA

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


  • (Aug. 28 – 30)Great River Folk Festival

    La Crosse, WI

    This festival in Riverside Park includes children's activities and craft demonstrations.

  • (Aug. 29)Crossroads Blues Festival

    Byron, IL

    A day of blues downtown, with food from local restaurants.

  • (Aug. 31 – Sep 6)National Old Time Country Bluegrass Festival

    LeMars, IA

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


  • (Sep. 3 – 6)Chicago Jazz Festival

    Chicago, IL

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

  • (Sep. 5 – 6)Marquette Area Blues Fest

    Marquette, MI

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

  • (Sep. 5 – 6)Mississippi Valley Blues Festival

    Davenport, IA

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

  • (Sep. 11 – 22)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. 12 – 13)Rock Bend Folk Festival

    St. Peter, MN

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

  • (Sep. 12)Sun Prairie Blues Fest

    Sun Prairie, WI

    There's a whole day of blues at Angell Park in this little town just northeast of Madison.

  • (Sep. 12)Washington County Bluegrass Festival

    Lake Elmo, MN

    Monroe Crossing and other 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. 17 – 20)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. 24 – 27)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.