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The Best (And Weirdest) Festival In Every State

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best festivals in the us
Uproxx

We love festivals at Uproxx. From music to food to the odd, every so once in awhile, eclipse festival, we’re into them all. Because festivals, no matter the subject of their celebration, can be an incredibly joyful way to experience the culture of a place. And the best annual ones give you a chance to look forward to them every year, plan larger events like campouts, and road trip across America. It’s always great to head to a concert or to a museum exhibit in a new city, but festivals are a unique way to get a multi-layered microcosm experience — there’s food, music, art, and the vibe of a city all packed into one park or street.

With that in mind, we’ve curated a list of some of the best and coolest festivals in each state in the U.S., from Alabama to Wyoming. These, we feel, are festivals that are worth traveling to for the experience. There are the obvious music festivals, but there are also film, food, and sport fests that are completely stellar. In addition to each of these events, we also picked a weird one for each state. Yep, that means UFOs, Bigfoot-like creatures, fire ants, blueberries, and vinegar are all getting celebrated somewhere.

Whether it’s the sun beating down on you while you scream in the front row of the crowd or the wind biting through your ski clothes as you work the slopes before taking in a live band, these are the kinds of experiences that will stay with you and show you a snapshot of a place at its happiest.

ALABAMA — ROCK THE SOUTH

Called the “biggest party in the South,” Rock the South was originally intended to be a one-year celebration of recovery from the tornadoes that ripped across the state in April of 2011. Instead, the festival has grown into a huge celebration of Alabama and Southern Culture. Billboard named it one of the best country music festivals in the United States. Plus, the festival donates a lot of money to the local community, so you get to party and feel good about where your money is going. Since 2012, it has given over $639,000 to a number of community partners.

Date: May 31 – June 1
Cost: General Admission: $89, Platinum: $159, VIP: $329, Ultimate VIP: $629
Visit the website for more.

If you’re looking for something weirder: The Peanut Butter Festival in Brundidge includes the construction of the state’s largest PB&J, a recipe contest, and a 5k Peanut Butter Run.

ALASKA — GIRDWOOD FOREST FAIR

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Founded in 1975 by a group of artists looking to sell their wares, the Forest Fair has been held in the same location since its inception. Crowds have grown steadily each year with people pouring into town from across the state just to attend. And why wouldn’t they? It’s a festival that highlights arts, crafts, and music. There’s even a Forest Fair Parade on Saturday featuring anyone who wants to bring a costume and/or a float. As for the music and performances, there’s a wide variety. Tightrope walkers and fire dancers have been featured, as have bands playing rap, folk, jazz, country, Irish, and more. And the Forest Fair has a few rules: no dogs, no politics, and no religious orders. We can get behind these.

Date: July 5 – July 7
Cost: Free
Visit the website for more.

If you’re looking for something weirder: The Cordova Ice Worm Festival began as a way to break up the long winter and now includes a beard contest, a paper plane competition, and the crowning of Miss Ice Worm.

ARIZONA — PHOENIX FILM FESTIVAL

Named one of The 25 Coolest Film Festivals, as well as Top 50 Worth the Entry Fee, by MovieMaker Magazine, the Phoenix Film Festival has proven a consistent hit with film buffs since 2000. Many consider it one of the most filmmaker-friendly fests out there. In the past, the Phoenix Film Festival has included over 300 screenings, filmmaking seminars to audiences as large as 28,000, and some killer parties.

Date: April 4 – 14
Cost: Single Ticket: $15, Golden Ticket: $25, Flex: $45, Super Flex: $120, Festival: $200, VIP: $400, Platinum: $450
Visit the website for more.

If you’re looking for something weirder: The Tucson Fringe Festival is an uncensored performing arts festival where you are sure to find the strange, the unique, and the moving.

ARKANSAS — BACKWOODS MUSIC FESTIVAL

The fine people who run the Backwoods Festival at Mulberry Mountain point to the following philosophy: Good music. Good people. Good times. This is what drives the event. And it’s working for them because this festival has distinguished itself as one of the best places in Middle America to see amazing independent bands and nationally recognized musicians. It makes for a completely unique weekend — especially when you factor in the gorgeous landscape surrounding the venue to camp in. Plus, in addition to seeing various acts, festival goers can also take yoga classes, participate in interactive art installations, and a ton of other activities.

Date: May 31 – June 2
Cost: General Admission with Primitive Car Camping: $213, General Admission with Primitive Shade Camping: $233, VIP Weekend Ticket with Primitive Shade Camping: $349
Visit the website for more.

If you’re looking for something weirder: The Ozark UFO Conference is the place to go. They feature lectures by both researchers and people who have had firsthand dealings with UFOs.

CALIFORNIA — COACHELLA VALLEY MUSIC AND ARTS FESTIVAL

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Come on, you knew this was gonna be Coachella. We could subvert the expectation and pick another event for the sake of being different, but the reality is, Coachella is still the coolest festival in the state. With its iconic ferris wheel, amazing art installations, and a line up of artists that is unmatched in its variety and star power, Coachella is a total experience.

Date: April 12 – 14 and April 19 – 21
Cost: General Admission: $429, General Admission and Shuttle: $509, VIP: $999
Visit the website for more.

If you’re looking for something weirder: Since 1979, people have flocked to the Gilroy Garlic Festival to celebrate garlic, and it gets used in ways you might not expect. Try the ice cream for sure.

COLORADO — HOT AIR BALLOON RODEO

For people who want their events to be both entertaining and full of visual spectacle that translates to increased Instagram likes and comments, hot air balloon events are magic. Once the summer sky fills with the colorful balloons, taking a good pic won’t be a problem. In fact, you would have to actively try to get a bad one. In addition to the opportunities to thrill social media followers, this festival is noteworthy because it has the rodeo component. Do we even need to list a weirder festival?

Date: July 13 – 14
Cost: Free
Visit the website for more.

But if you’re still looking for something weirder: The Ullr Festival is Viking inspired, and people in horned hats hit the slopes and fling frying pans competitively. Though, hopefully not at the same time.

CONNECTICUT — SAILFEST

Sailfest really distinguishes itself because it delivers on a lot of the activities that people associate with a state fair, without charging guests an admission fee. This means you save the money. Or you reinvest it in beef-fat fries and frozen lemonade. We vote for option #2. There are over 200 vendors at this event, so you could also spend that money on local, hand-made crafts, art, jewelry, and other goods. They also have multiple stages featuring music from a grip of genres and an immense firework display).

Date: July 12 – 14
Cost: Free
Visit the website for more.

If you’re looking for something weirder: For people into fiber crafts and livestock, the Connecticut Sheep, Wool, and Fiber Festival has a lot going for it, including sheepdog trials and shearing displays.

DELAWARE — FIREFLY MUSIC FESTIVAL

Delaware may be a relatively small state, but it is home to the East Coast’s largest music and camping festival, the Firefly Music Festival. Since 2012, the woodlands of Dover have served as the home of a festival that features live performances on nine stages and offers a one-of-a-kind onsite camping experience that many call the Great Atlantic Campout. People who aren’t down with schlepping their gear into one of the tent campsites can opt for pre-set camping or glamping. The 2019 lineup includes: Panic! at the Disco, Tyler the Creator, and Passion Pit.

Date: June 21 – 23
Cost: Single Day General Admission: $109, Single Day VIP: $269, Weekend General Admission $309, Weekend VIP $699
Visit the website for more.

If you’re looking for something weirder: Each October, retired greyhound racers and their owners gather on Dewey Beach for the Greyhounds Reach the Beach Festival. People looking to pet doggos are encouraged to attend.

FLORIDA — ELECTRIC DAISY CARNIVAL ORLANDO

A lot of people are familiar with the Electric Daisy Carnival festival series. The event in Las Vegas is seriously iconic. It might be a bit surprising that we would pick the Orlando arm of the series given the wealth of EDM festival options in Florida. The three-day ULTRA Music Festival, for example, is world renowned. But what we think tips the scale in favor of EDC is that it takes place in November. While most of the nation is shivering away, attendees will be watching the biggest names in EDM, house, and techno under the warm Florida sun. Plus, the grounds of Tinker Field include a lake, a zipline, rollercoasters, and other amusements.

Date: November 8-10
Cost: General Admission: $179, VIP: $359
Visit the website for more.

If you’re looking for something weirder: Good luck finding an event other than the Fellsmere Frog Leg Festival that dedicates four days to amphibious entrees.

GEORGIA — HELEN OKTOBERFEST

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If you haven’t taken some time to get drunk at an Oktoberfest celebration of some kind, you should. And one of our favorites happens in the Bavarian Alpine village of Helen, Georgia. It’s no wonder that this is the longest running Oktoberfest in the United States, the city is completely quaint and filled with German-inspired architecture. When those streets are filled with people repping in lederhosen and dirndls, it’s a completely unique experience that feels like being on a movie set.

Date: Thursday through Sunday during September and daily October 1-28
Cost: During the week: $8, Saturdays: $10, Sundays: free
Visit the website for more.

If you’re looking for something weirder: Most people avoid fire ants, but the fine people of Ashburn spend the fourth weekend in March celebrating them at the Fire Ant Festival.

HAWAII — MERRIE MONARCH FESTIVAL

Considered “Hula’s Olympics,” this festival turns the normally quiet city of Hilo into an epicenter of Hawaiian culture. Thousands of people show up from all over the world to celebrate the culture and the art of hula. The festival is named after Hawaii’s last reigning king, Kalakua, who was known as the Merrie Monarch; he was a big fan of Hawaii’s traditions and helped to popularize hula once more. Festival attendees get to grub down on a variety of food, check out an artisan craft fair, enjoy live music and dancing, and watch three nights of hula competition.

Date: April 21 – 27
Cost: Most of the festival is free, but tickets are needed to attend the competition. General Admission: $20, Reserved Seating: $30-45
Visit the website for more.

If you’re looking for something weirder: The Waikiki Spam Jam is a street festival that honors love of the processed meat.

IDAHO — GODDESS FEST

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For the past 25 years, the Goddess Fest has been a “celebration of the sacredness, spirituality, and diversity of both the masculine and feminine.” That’s a pretty esoteric mission statement, but in practice, the event encourages attendees to participate in workshops, songs, dances, rituals, meditations, prayers, and exercises in creativity as a way to build love and positive awareness for the Earth and their communities. In addition, there is a ton of good food, live music, and entertainment. This is the kind of festival that takes most people out of their comfort zone, but it also helps open-minded folks to learn and grow in beneficial ways.

Date: July 27 – 28
Cost: Free
Visit the website for more.

If you’re looking for something weirder: Looking to celebrate Idaho’s renowned vegetable, then Idaho Spud Days is the festival for you and your love of starch.

ILLINOIS — CHICAGO SOUTHLAND DRAGON BOAT FESTIVAL

Dragon boat festivals take place across the globe because the need for stamina, communication, and synchronization make the sport unmatched in team building. Plus, people who participate in dragon boat races genuinely find the sport fun. This event is hosted by the Blue Island Park District, which facilitates both competitive races and practice runs. In addition, there are craft beer stalls, food, and live music for people to enjoy when they aren’t paddling or cheering on paddlers. And all of this is dope, but it is the famously wild after party that makes this one of the coolest festivals out there. Seriously, dragon boat racers get raucous.

Date: June 1
Cost: Attendance is free, but there is a charge to register a dragon boat team for the event.
Visit the website for more.

If you’re looking for something weirder: The Epic Mississippi Tug of War is a literal tug of war between people in Port Byron, Illinois and Le Claire, Iowa, who battle it out in teams of 20 across the Mississippi River.

INDIANA — CIRCUS CITY FESTIVAL

For nine days every summer, the city of Peru transforms into an amusement park with all the games, rides, food, and entertainment you would expect. This isn’t a tiny undertaking. To help define the scope of this, the parade that marks the event’s conclusion is one of the largest in the state and the only circus heritage parade in the country. There are circus wagons, calliopes, wild animals, clowns, band, and floats. It’s a big deal, as is the rest of this festival.

Date: July 13 – 20
Cost: Free
Visit the website for more.

If you’re looking for something weirder: Have you even been to the Marshall County Blueberry Festival if you haven’t been cornered by a person in a blueberry mascot costume?

IOWA — CHEROKEE JAZZ AND BLUES FESTIVAL

Originally conceived as a great way to break up the monotony of winter, the Jazz and Blues Festival was first held in 1992. It has grown a lot since that time and now offers the best blues and jazz in the state. People looking to spend a night watching live music, having some strong drinks, and closing the night with a pub crawl that includes the performers will find this festival to be ideal. There are even after hours breakfasts served at Tammy’s between 11 pm and the early morning hours. The night can stretch pretty far for event attendees, which is exactly what you want.

Date: January 18 – 19
Cost: $25
Visit the website for more.

If you’re looking for something weirder: There’s nothing quite like the Maple Syrup Festival, where you can sample the delicious syrup in a variety of dishes.

KANSAS — TUMBLEWEED MUSIC FESTIVAL

Known as America’s Real Country Music and Camping Festival, Tumbleweed likes to boast it is the country’s number one country music festival. It’s a big boast, but they do pull in some huge acts, and they offer a number of activities like horse drawn carriages, canoe trips, ziplining, archery, helicopter rides, and hot air balloon rides. It’s obvious why people who love authentic country music flock here each summer. Also, this is the only major music festival in the United States that offers free tickets to veterans, active duty military, 911 operators, and first responders who register early. That’s pretty freaking cool.

Date: May 30 – June 1
Cost: Single Day General Admission: $59.99, Three Day General Admission: $89.99, Three Day VIP: $199, Three Day Super VIP: $449.99
Visit the website for more.

If you’re looking for something weirder: Vegetarians beware, Beef Empire Days in Garden City is a salute to the pioneers of the beef industry with rodeos, square dancing, tractor pulls, and beef trivia.

KENTUCKY — FORECASTLE FEST

Founded in 2002 by a Louisville native named JK McKnight, Forecastle has developed into one of the country’s coolest summer music festivals, which is quite an achievement (as it started as a small event for the community). Now, tens of thousands of people fill the city’s 85-acre Waterfront Park to see acts like Jack White, Outkast, Beck, and more. The festival also makes it a point to shout out local artists, outdoor recreation, and environmental activism. And it’s Louisville, so there’s a Bourbon Lodge where guests can eat and drink. Attend one of the tastings if you can.

Date: July 12 – 14
Cost: General Admission: $ 199.50, Yacht Club: $274.50, and VIP: $449.50
Visit the website for more.

If you’re looking for something weirder: Lebowski Fest in Louisville celebrates The Dude with a film screening, a bowling party, concerts, comedy acts, costume contests, and trivia competitions.

LOUISIANA — FRENCH QUARTER FEST

Look, clearly, the answer here should be Mardi Gras, but let’s be real, you know all about it already. So we opted to provide an alternate pick. Thus, we present the French Quarter Festival, the largest free music event in the United States. With more than 20 stages and over 400 hours of live entertainment, this festival is certainly a deal. But it is also a really good music festival. You can expect representation for most musical genres, including funk, folk, brass bands, Zydeco, and R&B. And bring your appetite because the food vendors at this thing are unreal. The signature event of the festival is the “world’s largest jazz brunch,” so get in on that for sure.

Date: April 11-14
Cost: Free
Visit the website for more.

If you’re looking for something weirder: For fans of swamp creatures, the Alligator Festival in St. Charles Parish is a dream; play with baby alligators pick up some alligator themed arts and crafts and dance the night away.

MAINE — REGGAE FEST

We acknowledge that a lot of the festivals we have chosen are music ones and that’s due, in part, to how cool they all happen to be. We think Reggae Fest, specifically, is rad. It is obviously all about reggae and it takes place at Sugarloaf, the 4,237-foot mountain that the people of Maine treat as a winter playground. That makes this a real departure from the summer fests with their short shorts and tank tops. Reggae Fest tickets come with a lift pass, so you’re hearing some first-rate music while spending time on the slopes with the wind whipping across your cheeks. It’s the biggest winter music event in the entire state for a reason.

Date: April 11-14
Cost: One Night Only Pass: $20-39, Good Vibes Pass: $50, Baxter VIP Pass: $100
Website

If you’re looking for something weirder: Moxie may be considered an acquired taste, but the Moxie Festival shows that there are a ton of people who not only developed a taste for the soda, they came to love it.

MARYLAND — MARYLAND DEATHFEST

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There are multiple Deathfests across the globe in places like Sweden and Canada, but there are only two events in the United States, and one of them is in Baltimore. Essentially, the goal of these events is to showcase the best and most extreme artists the underground music scene has to offer. There is no single genre that is highlighted, but it’s definitely hard rock oriented with a lot of grindcore, metal, experimental, and thrash. Both up and comers and legends end up on the Deathfest stage, so audiences get to hear an eclectic variety of quality music. Bonus: local bars often become the site of after parties, and they are amazing.

Date: May 3-26
Cost: Single Night: $33-54, Rams Head VIP: $125, Rams Head Three Day Pass: $157, Four-Day Pass All Venues: $249
Visit the website for more.

If you’re looking for something weirder: Plant-based diet enthusiasts rejoice because Maryland’s Vegan SoulFest is serving up meat alternatives with a side of animal rights. Plus, presentations about the overall health of a meat-free diet.

MASSACHUSETTS — CLUSTERTRUCK FOOD FESTIVAL

Massachusetts has some great festivals, specifically the historical ones like Patriots Day, which includes a marathon that all of Boston attends. However, we think hanging out for an afternoon with more than 25 food trucks beats having to fight for space at one of the larger events. You still get great craft beer, live music, and artisan goods like you would at most festivals, but (again) there are tons of food trucks. Who doesn’t want the best locally sourced beer, a choice from over 100 cannoli flavors, Mexican street corn, poutine, wild game, or brick oven pizza? We certainly do, which is why this festival really is amongst the raddest in the state.

Date: August 24
Cost: General Admission: $5, VIP: $30
Visit the website for more.

If you’re looking for something weirder: The people of Templeton were in peak decision making form when they began holding the Mac ‘N Cheese Festival — complete with a rock climbing wall, tug of war, and multiple vendors.

MICHIGAN — ELECTRIC FOREST FESTIVAL

Tickets for the Electric Forest Festival sell out as far as seven months in advance because this is one of the most popular music festivals in the country. It is truly bucket list quality. Tens of thousands of fans from across the globe descend on the Double JJ Ranch in Rothbury for a whole lot of camping and music. There is a sense of shared community that gives this fest a special vibe, and attendees return time and time again. There are of course the bands that play, but there are also performing artists, imaginatively themed environments, creative interactive characters and storylines, and meticulously crafted art installations.

Date: June 27-30
Cost: Ticket Prices Aren’t Posted
Visit the website for more.

If you’re looking for something weirder: Does the Mermaid MegaFest raise awareness about preserving aquatic ecosystems? Sure. But the real treat is being a mermaid or merman for the day.

MINNESOTA — MAYDAY PARADE, CEREMONY, AND FESTIVAL

This festival isn’t all about doing mushrooms while you break it down to some EDM. Because though we love some psychedelics and a strong beat, we also think the quieter festivals are cool. This MayDay event has been in place for 45 years and it draws upwards of 50,000 people for its unique fun. In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre hosts the fest, which includes thousands of hand-built puppets and masks. They actually host 16 community building workshops leading up to the event so people can make something for the parade. Seeing all the creations is unreal.

Date: May 5
Cost: Free
Visit the website for more.

If you’re looking for something weirder: The movie Grumpy Old Men is set in Wabasha, where a festival in its honor is held annually. Included is the Grumpy Plunge, which asks brave attendees to hop into the freezing Mississippi River.

MISSISSIPPI — TUPELO ELVIS FESTIVAL

Elvis Presley was born in Tupelo (for people wondering why we loved up on a Mississippi Elvis event and not a Tennessee one). This annual celebration does the very most with their central theme, including an Elvis Tribute Artist Contest. There are also a ton of performances by local, regional, and national artists, as well as a Sunday gospel concert. But it isn’t just about music. There are also food vendors, carnival rides, a 5k run, exhibits, and a pet parade and beauty pageant. Prizes go to the best pet/owner lookalike, best Elvis lookalike, most unusual and the best in show. Pets dressed like Elvis are hard to beat.

Date: June 5-9
Cost: $15-23
Visit the website for more.

If you’re looking for something weirder: The Leland Frogfest is (oddly) a festival organized to pay tribute to Jim Henson, the creator of the Muppets, and it includes a chili cook-off.

MISSOURI — PYROMANIA

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This is a bit of an odd entry as Pyromania is unlike anything else on the list. Yes, the event includes a car show, some K-9 demonstrations, a huge corn maze, and live music, but the attendees are really there for the fireworks show that closes out the evening. The largest display in the region, Pyromania is the work of top fireworks choreographers who come to St. Louis to use their skills to create “pyromusicals” combining pyrotechnics and music artfully in competition.

Date: September 21
Cost: General Admission: $25, VIP Admission: $120
Visit the website for more.

If you’re looking for something weirder: The Ozarks Bacon Fest in Springfield is not only a tribute to bacon (there’s a bacon eating contest) but to bourbon and beer too.

MONTANA — DARBY LOGGER DAYS

Montana hosts a ton of festivals, but none of them have the scope of a Coachella or Electric Daisy Carnival event. Therefore, we went with a small-town festival that celebrates the skill and the bravery of those who work in logging. The festival includes 17 traditional logging competitions, including pole climbing, ax throwing, crosscut sawing, and log rolling. You haven’t lived until you have seen people successfully log roll. It’s magic. There’s also live music so it’s not all about watching logging feats of strength. But even if it was, this would still be insanely cool.

Date: July 19-21
Cost: Friday: $15, Saturday: $20
Visit the website for more.

If you’re looking for something weirder: Montana has more than one Testicle Festival, but the Testy Festy in Clinton brings in the most people and offers the most fun. And it’s 21 and over so no fighting families to get to the testes.

NEBRASKA — ANIME NEBRASKON

The longest running anime convention in the state, Anime Nebraskon started in the student union at the University of Nebraska and had to relocate to Omaha when that space could no longer accommodate the attendees, which grew from a few hundred to thousands. It’s a 24-hour festival with games, dances, a cosplay masquerade, video rooms, and panels for guests to enjoy, and a lot of the activities help the event raise money for charitable partners. There have even been weddings at the fest. That’s how seriously people take their anime.

Date: November 1-3
Cost: Three Day Badge: $40
Visit the website for more.

If you’re looking for something weirder: For a few days each year, Nebraska becomes the Apple Capital of the World with the AppleJack Festival in Nebraska City. Nary an apple dream will remain unrealized.

NEVADA — BURNING MAN

This likely comes as no surprise because during the last few decades, Burning Man has become one of the few festivals that is part of the general cultural lexicon. People know the festival, in part, because so many amazing pictures come from the event. With its focus on community and art, Burning Man has an aesthetic that makes for great images. Whether it’s shots of attendees belly dancing or a group of six-foot tall flowers erected for the event, it’s a visual feast. Also, as one of the central tenets is individual self-expression, you have so many chances to challenge who you are and how you present yourself, and that leads to some really cool experiences.

Date: August 25-September 2
Cost: Admission: $425, Vehicle Pass: $100
Visit the website for more.

If you’re looking for something weirder: The Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly weekend is a large festival with burlesque classes, a tattoo lounge, car shows, bowling, and a guitar festival. It’s out of sight, daddy-o.

NEW HAMPSHIRE — KEENE PUMPKIN FESTIVAL

A pumpkin festival doesn’t seem particularly cool, but the event held in Keene is undoubtedly rad. You may remember it from 2014 when police with pepper spray and tear gas had to disperse the crowd that attended the festival because people went so buck wild. But we aren’t suggesting you head to Keene to let out pent up aggression. Go for the pumpkin bowling and the costume parade and the lighting of the jack-o-lanterns (they light tens of thousands and set world records). Halloween is the best holiday, and this festival highlights that with its traditional activities and the ever-present threat of another riot.

Date: October 27
Cost: Free
Visit the website for more.

If you’re looking for something weirder: If you attend the Fairy House Festival in Portsmouth, you can go on the world’s largest fairy house tour, with houses built by professionals and community members.

NEW JERSEY — THE ATLANTIC CITY BEER AND MUSIC FESTIVAL

Also known as the Celebration of Suds, the Atlantic City Beer and Music Festival features beer from over 90 different breweries from across the country. Most of them specialize in craft beer, and it’s one of the largest celebrations of beer in America. Chefs from the region are on hand to delight attendees with some regional cuisine as well. There’s also a 5k called the Hops Trot that takes runners past some noteworthy beer locations, and a lot of people choose to wear costumes while they navigate the course. That’s pretty fun.

Date: March 28-29
Cost: General Admission: $60
Visit the website for more.

If you’re looking for something weirder: New Jersey literally has a festival in Ocean City called Weird Week; drop on by and try your hand at French fry sculpting, ear wriggling, or giant cookie sculpting.

NEW MEXICO — ALBUQUERQUE INTERNATIONAL BALLOON FIESTA

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The world’s most photographed event, the Albuquerque International Balloon Festival has an estimated 23 million pictures taken during the week it’s held. The balloons are part of the appeal, but the clear blue skies and lack of nighttime light pollution don’t hurt. And in addition to the high volume of photography at the festival, it’s also the largest ballooning event on the planet and the largest international event held in America. Plus, when the balloons are off the field, there is a music fiesta that hosts some of the hottest musical acts.

Date: October 5-13
Cost: General Admission: $10, Park and Ride: $12-15, Gondola Club: $110, Chasers’ Club: $45
Visit the website for more.

If you’re looking for something weirder: When your state includes the city of Roswell, you are for sure going to have a Roswell UFO Festival.

NEW YORK — AFROPUNK FESTIVAL

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In 2005, James Spooner and Matthew Morgan co-founded the Afropunk Festival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. It was inspired by a 2003 documentary Spooner made about black punks, and the event attempted to provide attendees with a chance to build a community within a largely white subculture, as well as provide a stage for black alternative artists who were not being recognized by the mainstream. Now, musical acts represent multiple genres that are linked with African-American culture, and the fest includes live art, a craft market, food trucks, and more.

Date: August 24-25
Cost: Single Day: $60, Two Day: $110
Visit the website for more.

If you’re looking for something weirder: In January, people in New York deal with freezing temperatures to participate in the No Pants Subway Ride.

NORTH CAROLINA — PIRATEFEST

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Sure, pirates did some terrible things and had flawed morals and worse hygiene, but playing pirate can be a lot of fun — especially if you are doing it somewhere like PirateFest in Greenville. There are a ton of costumed pirates, a carnival, food vendors, art for sale, live music stages, a BMX stunt show, a beer and wine garden, sword fighting, a hotdog eating contest, mermaids, and an actual pirate encampment. It is everything you expect from a community festival with a giant helping of swashbuckling. Plus, for the 2019 event, Biz Markie and Tone Loc are performing, and we desperately hope they do it dressed as pirates.

Date: April 12-13
Cost: Free
Visit the website for more.

If you’re looking for something weirder: Sure, there are barbeque festivals, but do they really top the yum that is the NC Pickle Fest?

NORTH DAKOTA — NORSK HOSTFEST

There are a lot of Oktoberfests celebrating various wursts and a hefty quantity of German beer, but in North Dakota, where the Scandinavian roots run deep, the Norsk Hostfest makes more sense. And as it is one of the most popular events in the state (and the largest Scandinavian festival in North America), they have certainly hit on something relevant with a fest that they call “pure scandamonium.” It’s a great way to talk with artisans keeping ancient traditions alive, try some unique culinary options like the Spud Hog, or take a trip to the past in a Viking village. Plus, every night there are free dances that run from eight to midnight, so you can work off all the lefse and rice pudding.

Date: September 25-28
Cost: Free
Visit the website for more.

If you’re looking for something weirder: The name Goosefest made us think of a celebration of all things geese, but the $50,000 in prizes for the best marksmen to bag geese makes that thinking a little off the mark.

OHIO — TASTE OF CINCINNATI

As food lovers, we enjoy a culinary festival, and this one is the nation’s longest running free food fest, having started in 1979. The first event drew a crowd of 5,000 and now roughly 550,000 people clamor for tasty eats, making this one of the largest street festivals out there. The festival includes treats from more than 50 restaurants and food trucks. They spend the weeks leading up to the fest having menu items previewed and judged for the coveted Best of Taste Awards. Taste of Cincinnati is also a music festival with ongoing live entertainment from local and national artists performing on a variety of stages.

Date: May 25-27
Cost: Free
Visit the website for more.

If you’re looking for something weirder: There’s no question whether Duck Tape is impressive, but the Duck Tape Festival recognizes that on a level most could not imagine. Think floats and costumes made entirely from the versatile tape.

OKLAHOMA — FESTIVAL OF THE ARTS

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Since 1967, the Festival of the Arts has been a rite of spring. The community celebration of the visual, culinary, and performing arts regularly draws over 750,000 attendees who are excited to see the work of nearly 200 artists from across the country. There’s photography, mixed media, and even jewelry to check out. And there is a culinary arts tent with demonstrations and tastings, so if food is more your preferred medium, it’s there in abundance.

Date: April 23-28
Cost: Free
Visit the website for more.

If you’re looking for something weirder: Fried Onion Burger Day Festival is wildly specific and includes the cooking of the world’s largest fried onion hamburger and a burger eating contest.

OREGON — OREGON COUNTRY FAIR

For people who want the hippie vibe of Burning Man without having to drive to Nevada and sleep in the desert, there is the Oregon Country Fair, a fest known as much for the partying that happens as it is for being a counter culture good time. The event takes place in the woods and the festival pretty much sets up its own village, bringing in water, communication systems, a recycling service, a security team, and much, much more. The Fair is a non-profit and they actually own the land on which the event is held, so it’s not a huge deal for them to create their own utopia each summer.

Date: July 12-14
Cost: Day of Event: $28-36, Advance Tickets: $25-32, Three Day Tickets: $70
Visit the website for more.

If you’re looking for something weirder: If you thought Portlandia made up the Quiet Music Festival, you are wrong; it’s very real and people love going to it and falling asleep during the low-volume performances.

PENNSYLVANIA — MADE IN AMERICA FESTIVAL

In 2012, rapper and business mogul Jay-Z founded the Made in America Festival, which was the subject of a documentary that shared the same name. The massive music celebration happens in Benjamin Franklin Parkway each Labor Day weekend and is largely considered a “can’t miss” event. With Jay-Z picking a lineup of both newcomers and established artists, attendees know they are in for a dope time. Sometimes, Jay-Z can even be spotted in the crowd enjoying a set. He also performs on occasion as has Beyonce.

Date: August 31-September 1
Cost: General Admission: $175, VIP General Admission: $725
Visit the website for more.

If you’re looking for something weirder: Stinkfest sets up some expectations that this annual leek festival may not deliver on. Leeks just aren’t that stinky.

RHODE ISLAND — NEWPORT FOLK FESTIVAL

As a counterpoint to the Newport Jazz Festival, the Newport Folk Festival was established in 1959, and it is considered by many to be one of the first modern music fests in the nation. Although folk may seem a little hippie dippie to some people, a lot of the headliners are people with considerable radio airplay and popularity. Fleet Foxes, Regina Spektor, Flight of the Conchords, Father John Misty, and Patti Smith have all taken the stage in recent years. This fest has an established cred and a roster of artists that make it pretty damn cool, but the vendors and food options don’t hurt.

Date: July 26-28
Cost: One Day: $90, Two Days: $170, Three Days: $210
Visit the website for more.

If you’re looking for something weirder: People who need more eldritch horrors in their life will be overjoyed to hit up the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival, which began in Portland, OR but has spread to cities like Providence.

SOUTH CAROLINA — CRIMSON SCREEN HORROR FILM FEST

This is the first and largest film fest in the state dedicated to the horror genre, and it takes place over three days in Charleston. Jo Bob Briggs declared it something special — no doubt in part because of the Crimmys, a series of awards given out by the festival’s organizers. And the trophies that go with a Crimmy win were designed by special effects artist Tony Rosen, who crafted the Annabelle doll used in the film of the same name. It has been voted the second favorite horror fest in the nation, and one of the top ten festivals in the state. If you attend, make sure you go to the Fears and Beers afterparty to mingle.

Date: May 24-26
Cost: One Day Pass: $20, VIP Three Day Pass: $45
Visit the website for more.

If you’re looking for something weirder: Thanks to a local newspaper contest, the Ayden Collard Festival narrowly avoided being the Ayden Cucumber Festival; people in the collard eating contest are probably conflicted about that.

SOUTH DAKOTA — STURGIS MOTORCYCLE RALLY

One of the most famous motorcycle rallies in the world takes place in the town of Sturgis in the southwest part of the state. It’s the largest biker rally in the nation, as well as the oldest. With over 500,000 attendees, Sturgis Motorcycle Rally certainly highlights how many people share a love of cycling and partying. It literally raises the population of South Dakota by 50 percent, which is wild.

Date: August 2-11
Cost: Free
Visit the website for more.

If you’re looking for something weirder: If you like your snacks on the tart side, the International Vinegar Festival will provide you with all the puckering action a person could ask for, and you can take pics with a giant pickle. Win-win.

TENNESSEE — BONNAROO MUSIC AND ARTS FESTIVAL

Each year, over 80,000 fans make their way to Manchester for Bonnaroo, a four day festival that includes more than 150 musical performances, as well as comedy, sustainability workshops, cinema, and Silent Disco (everyone gets headphones that are linked to the DJ, so it looks like people are dancing without music). The musical styles of the performers really vary, which is good for music lovers looking to explore new sounds and acts. And with sets lasting until 3 in the morning, it makes for a full day of new experiences.

Date: June 13-16
Cost: Four Day General Admission: $279-339, Four Day VIP: $825
Visit the website for more.

If you’re looking for something weirder: The Spring Hill Country Ham Festival makes a lot of sense because people really love ham. Who doesn’t love ham?

TEXAS — SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST

South by Southwest is one of the largest annual festivals in the world, and it focuses on three major creative arts — comedy, music, and film. Artists, performers, industry professionals, and fans travel from across the globe to participate in the week-long array of activities and events. The music part of the festival is the largest of its kind in the world; there were more than 2,000 acts as of 2014, and the fest has only been growing. In addition, there is an awesome film festival that celebrates innovation and emerging talent.

Date: March 8-17
Cost: This information is not currently available for the next session in 2020.
Visit the website for more.

If you’re looking for something weirder: The Luling Watermelon Thump was organized to bring attention to the local watermelon industry and includes activities like watermelon eating and seed-spitting contests.

UTAH — SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL

Sure, this is a bit of a gimme because it is the most prominent festival in the state of Utah, but it is also completely cool. There’s a reason industry insiders and fans from around the world make a point to be in Park City every year for the fest. The Robert Redford founded event is a great place to discover a new independent film. When you aren’t checking out awesome new cinema, you will have ample opportunity to do some celeb sighting. Give your Instagram a glow up with a pic alongside a Hollywood legend.

Date: January 24-February 3
Cost: Grand Theatre Pass: $300, Off-Peak Pass: $500, Eccles Theatre Pass (Second Half): $2,000, Eccles Theatre Pass (First Half): $3,000, Express Pass (First Half): $4,000, Express Pass (Second Half): $3,500
Visit the website for more.

If you’re looking for something weirder: When people hear Utah, they think Mormons, but the state is also home to one of the largest Holi color festivals in the world; check it out at the Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple.

VERMONT — FRENDLY GATHERING

Created by six pro snowboarders known as the “Frends Crew,” this festival is capped at 3,000 attendees. Its goal is to bring together people who want to share a passionate love for snowboarding, music, and the outdoors. The first year, it was a mini-gathering with 250 people, and now it’s a three-day fest, which organizers believe shows the need for their message and event. Guests are invited to leave the real world behind and to enjoy nature and music in the company of “frends” both old and new. You literally won’t find anything like this anywhere else, and we think that makes it amazing.

Date: June 28-30
Cost: Day Pass: $90, Two Day General Admission Pass: $160
Visit the website for more.

If you’re looking for something weirder: The Northeastern Primitive Rendezvous gives attendees ample opportunity to get historical as clothing, lodges, and accouterments must all be from the period between 1640 and 1840.

VIRGINIA – EAST COAST SURFING CHAMPIONSHIPS

North America’s oldest surf contest and the second longest continuously run surf contest in the world, the East Coast Surfing Championships is a big deal that attracts nearly 1,000 contestants across 35 divisions. But it’s not just surfing that goes on. Each year, the ECSC hosts fun activities like skateboarding, beach volleyball, and skimboarding. Live music is also on offer, as is a swimsuit pageant. Whether you surf or not, watching people at the top of their game shred is awe inspiring.

Date: August 18-25
Cost: Free
Visit the website for more.

If you’re looking for something weirder: The Woodbooger Festival celebrates the Bigfoot-like creature of local legend with food, drink, games, and hayrides.

WASHINGTON — BUMBERSHOOT

Sasquatch! Is probably the most well-known music festival in Washington, as it is respected worldwide for its gorgeous setting and killer line-ups. However, the festival isn’t being held in 2019, so we went with Bumbershoot, one of Seattle’s biggest cultural landmarks. It is one of the largest and most treasured contemporary festivals in the country, but it is also pure Pacific Northwest in its spirit and innovation. Held at the Seattle Center, which was built for the 1962 World’s Fair, the festival has both indoor and outdoor stages and spaces for art and vendors. This is a great fest for discovering local talent poised to take the national stage.

Date: August 10-September 1
Cost: Early Bird Three Day General Admission: $199, Early Bird Three Day VIP: $450, Early Bird Emerald: $750
Visit the website for more.

If you’re looking for something weirder: The city of Poulsbo has a genuine neighborhood made to look like a Scandinavian Village and it is here that Vikingfest takes place complete with eating competitions, delicious food, and hats with horns on them.

WEST VIRGINIA — WANDERLUST FESTIVAL SNOWSHOE

Snowshoe Mountain Resort is made for adventurers with its bike trails, rafting, rock climbing, and camping. Surrounded by breathtaking views of the Appalachian hills and valleys, the resort is also made for relaxation. Wanderlust marries the two to help attendees live an inspired and healthy life. There are hand-selected, globally-recognized guides including experts, creators, musicians, and teachers, on hand throughout to help guide attendees through a variety of rich experiences. It’s a pretty unusual event that attracts meditation and yoga instructors, as well as other people interested in a more holistic approach to living.

Date: June 6-9
Cost: One Day General Admission: $116.08-156.08, Three Day General Admission: $356.08, Four Day Premium Pass: $2,850-3,160
Visit the website for more.

If you’re looking for something weirder: You may not have given much thought to the water that you drink, but the people at the International Water Tasting Festival sure have, and they are ready to debate who has the best tap, bottled, and purified water.

WISCONSIN — SUMMERFEST

Summerfest is the largest festival attraction in the state, and it draws in hundreds of thousands of attendees to listen to hundreds of acts. All genres find themselves featured at this huge event, so it’s a great chance to hear music you already love and find new music you will grow to love. Held at the 75-acre Henry Maier Festival Park, Summerfest is right along the lakefront, making it a gorgeous place to chill and enjoy some sounds. Also included are shopping vendors, comedy acts, fireworks, and other special attractions.

Date: June 26-30 and July 2-7
Cost: Single Day General Admission: $23, Three Day Pass: $ 57, Power Pass: $120
Visit the website for more.

If you’re looking for something weirder: You may not know that a piece of the Sputnik IV satellite crash landed in Manitowoc, but the residents sure do, and that’s why they celebrate with Sputnikfest, a spacey, alien-laden fest for everyone.

WYOMING — CODY ICE FEST

With ice clinics and world-class instruction, the Cody Ice Festival is the perfect place for both experts and novices to learn more about ice climbing in one of the best venues in the world. Plus, it’s a great chance to connect with a community of climbers that is only growing as time passes. Top sponsors provide demo gear and nightly speakers include the most accomplished and inspiring alpinists and climbers alive. There are also films and slide shows related to ice climbing and the Tough Axe awards. For people who enjoy extreme winter sports, this is a great fest option.

Date: February 7-10
Cost: Free
Visit the website for more.

If you’re looking for something weirder: The Cheyenne Zombie Fest gives participants a chance to shuffle about and moan with fellow undead enthusiasts.

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