Minnesota is the largest of the Great Lakes states in the United States, bordering Canada and Lake Superior, and the state’s beautiful natural beauty is complemented by several urban centers full of business and cultural activity. The most famous are the “Twin Cities” of Minneapolis and the state capital of St. Paul, where visitors can find an impressive array of top-notch museums, stores, restaurants and entertainment venues.
Minnesota hosts a large number of festivals and fairs each year, and Minneapolis is the center of its busy annual calendar. If you’re planning a trip to one of the Midwestern states and want to attend one of the popular events during your stay, we’ve picked out 20 of the best to check out.
St. Paul Winter Carnival
Now in its 135th year, this annual carnival celebrates Minnesota’s most popular season of the year – winter. Legend has it that the festival began in 1886 as a way to prove wrong two East Coast journalists who said “Minnesota is another Siberia, unfit for human habitation. Today, thousands of people flock to the city for ice fishing tournaments, ice sculpture parks, carnival music, rides and annual parades. Carnival takes over the city, but the biggest attractions, including the St. Paul Scavenger Hunt, can be found at Rice Park.
January 28 to February 7, 2021
Spring Festival, an Arts and Crafts event
After getting some inspiration, artisans should head to Shakopee for the annual Spring Festival. Every year hundreds of the country’s finest artists and artisans set up booths in Canterbury Park to display and sell their handmade creations. It also has a great reputation – Sunshine
Artist Magazine named it one of the top 100 art fairs in the country. In addition to shopping opportunities, the fair has entertainment, gift cards every hour, holiday treats and more family fun.
Location: Canterbury Park, April 9-11, 2021
Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival
The Minneapolis st. Paul International Film Festival (MSPIFF) is one of the oldest and most anticipated film festivals in the United States, attracting over 40,000 attendees each year. Each spring, MSPIFF hosts over seventeen days of events, bringing over 250 international independent films from 70 different countries to the Twin Cities for the film event.
Location St. Anthony’s Grand Theatre, Minneapolis Dates May 13-23, 2021
For more than 50 years, this popular community celebration has kicked off the summer with a special family weekend. This annual event is a three-day event with a wide variety of programming, including carnival rides, a zoo, magic shows, band performances, car shows and karaoke contests. Don’t miss the good-natured “Not So Ugly Dog Contest,” where special prizes will be awarded to the best owner-like dog and the not-so-ugly dog.
Location: Aquato Park, Bryan Dates June 5-7, 2021
Weinstock Country Music Festival
Nashville may have earned the undisputed title of country music capital, but fans in the Upper Midwest need not despair if they can’t make it to the South for a little country music. The Weinstock Country Music Festival is the premier outdoor country music and camping festival, attracting 15,000 visitors each day. This event often scores an impressive lineup with headliners including Luke Coombs and Darius Rucker. The festival takes place on the festival grounds and visitors have the option of camping on site to ensure they don’t miss out.
June 18-19, 2021
Stone Arch Bridge Festival
This annual festival offers everything a family-friendly weekend should face-paintings, live music, food trucks, an art market, and beer samples from local breweries. But what really sets it apart is its backdrop. The festival takes place at one of the city’s most iconic landmarks, the Stone Arch Bridge, which offers unparalleled views of the Minneapolis River across the river. There’s nothing quite like an early summer evening on the river.
Location Hydropower Park, Minneapolis Dates June 18-20
Twin Cities Pride
Raise the banner of equality and celebrate the large LGBTQ+ community in Minneapolis St. Louis. Paul’s Pride in the Twin Cities. This annual celebration is the third largest Pride festival in the United States. A number of different events, including a gay parade, precede the main march, which attracts more than 400,000 people each year. loring Park tends to host a number of large events, including Pride Family Fun Day and Pride Fest. The latter features over 400 exhibitors, fireworks displays and four stages that have hosted such notable artists as the Pointer Sisters, Adore Delano and The Phoneix Philosophy.
Location Loring Park, Minneapolis June 26-27, 2021
International Arts Festival
Worthington is one of the region’s most diverse communities and proud of it. For the past 27 years, the city has celebrated its rich cultural heritage by hosting the International Festival of the Arts. The two-day celebration features talent competitions, live music and cuisine from around the world. Performances in previous years have included Scandinavian ensembles, bar mitzvah demonstrations and macramé performances. This is just a small part of the city’s population, which represents 80 different countries.
Location Noble County Government Center Lawn, Downtown Worthington Dates 9-10 July 2021
With 22 lakes, wetlands, the Mississippi River, creeks and waterfalls, Minneapolis is not a city short of water. Considering that the city owes much of its economic growth to this defining feature, it was necessary to honor it with an entire festival. Started in 1940, the Arquette commemoration has grown into a multi-day outdoor event that includes a parade, cooking contest, marathon and live music performances. Unsurprisingly, there are also plenty of water activities, like watching the brave balancing act of the Twin Cities water skiing show. Don’t miss the fireworks displays, which have been voted in the top five annual fireworks shows in the United States.
July 21-24, 2021
Those who have experienced some serious barbecue don’t want to miss RibFest! Although vegetarians may feel a bit overlooked, for 27 years this annual festival has celebrated the rib-eating frenzy that draws the best Ribbers to Mankato from across the United States. Contestants can compete for awards such as Best Rib, Best Hand-Tossed Pork and People’s Choice based on sight, smell and taste. Head to the Whetstone Amphitheater to find the juiciest joint in the country. Past winners include Porky Chicks and Big Boned BBQ.
Location Wheatstone Amphitheater, Mankato Time August 5-8, 2021
Minnesota Fringe Festival
The third largest Fringe Festival in North America, the Minnesota Fringe Festival has been running for nearly 30 years. The self-proclaimed “art disruptor” aims to connect adventurous artists with adventurous audiences, and has been successful. The event attracts more than 50,000 visitors each year and includes the work of more than 1,000 artists from 20 disciplines. The Minnesota Fringe is a lively arts festival, from modern twists on classical tales to pantomime performances to political satire, that brings audiences back to this raucous festival each year.
August 5-15, 2021
Swift County Fair
Appleton is home to a plethora of popular festivals throughout the year, but the Swift County Fair is the most famous. Every year in mid-August, hundreds of visitors flock to the Swift County Fairgrounds for carnival rides, beer gardens, live entertainment and the infamous demolition derby. Visitors from further afield can even camp out at one of the 128 all-electric venues at the festival. Appleton is also affectionately known as the “Honorary Veterans Home” due to the renaming of every street and avenue
after the fall of a war hero in 1947.
Location: Swift County Fairgrounds August 18-22, 2021
Minnesota Renaissance Festival
Bravo! A festival that turns the city southwest of downtown Minneapolis into a 16th century European village? It doesn’t sound like it should work on any level – but now. This annual event began in 1971 and attracts more than 300,000 visitors each year. More
More than 250 merchants (artisans) are invited to the kingdom to sell their wares, along with fire-breathers, falcons and knights. Some 16 live entertainment areas offer live music and dance performances, while eight dining areas boast food fit for a king.
August 21 to October 3, 2021
Minnesota State Fairgrounds
If you find yourself in St. Paul at the end of August, there’s no way you’ll avoid the Minnesota State Fairgrounds, nor will you want to. It’s the largest state fair in the United States and has been held almost every year since its inception in 1854. Every year, thousands of people gather at the open-air market for rides, concerts, more than 500 food stands, logging contests, festivals and parades. Don’t miss the decades-long tradition of carving “Princess Kay of the Milky Way” out of a 90-pound piece of salted butter.
Location Minnesota State Fairgrounds, St. Paul Dates August 26 – September 6, 2021
Who’s talking about the County Fair?
This annual fair has been held since 1873 and is affectionately known as the “Little Minnesota Fair”. Highlights of the four-day festival include a beer garden, carnival rides, a Minnesota State High School rodeo and an $8,000 competition winner’s derby demonstration. Other more unusual events include a diaper contest, a vegetable race and a rabbit show. Visitors can also enjoy live performances by local artists and local food stands featuring everything from foot-long hot dogs to fried Oreo cookies.
Parle County Fairgrounds, Madison Dates September 9-12, 2021
About 15,000 visitors travel to Erie, a small town in St. Louis, each year to celebrate the September Equinox Festival. The three-day festival is filled with arts and crafts, food and live entertainment. About 125 local artists set up booths to display and sell their artwork,
demonstrations by local artisans, book signings by local authors, and musical stories for children. The festival is held annually at Whiteside Park on the first weekend after Labor Day. Admission is free.
Location: Whiteside Park, September 10-12, 2021
Another record for the city of Appleton in Swift County, this time in honor of its namesake. This fun-filled three-day festival includes a car show, flea market and parade, and the Miss Appleton and Little Appleton pageants. Throughout the weekend, visitors can also enjoy live musical performances, children’s inflatables, a baking contest, art exhibits, a large barbecue and more.
Location Swift County Fairgrounds, Appleton Dates September 17-19, 2021
Tri-State Band Music Festival
More than 2,500 students from Minnesota, Iowa and South Dakota participated in the Tri-State Band Festival in Luverne. This is the longest running music festival in the region, having been held successfully for more than 70 years. The parade marched down Main Street, where students were judged on their level of spectacle, choreography, organization and musicianship. The tour lasts about three hours and usually features 29 bands.
Luverne Date: September 25, 2021
Montgomery Torchlight Parade
For the people of Montgomery, the countdown to Christmas begins with the Montgomery Torchlight Parade. The annual parade runs along First Street in the historic district and culminates in a grand fireworks display to the south. The parade includes about 50 colorful vehicles decorated with Christmas decorations and the much-loved Grand Prize Medallion Hunting Parade. Local schools compete each year to design a symbolic button, and the winning design is used as the theme for the float and is reproduced as a souvenir.
Downtown Montgomery December 2, 2021
Women in the Arts Festival
The Women’s Art Festival provides a welcoming and inclusive space for women artists to showcase and sell their work to the local community. Local artists, including first-time exhibitors and seasoned professionals, are welcome to exhibit their work. This
festival was founded in 1992 by Sue Zieke with a handful of artists and now has more than 130 artists participating. One of the Twin Cities’ most popular holiday shopping events, the festival also features live music by female performers throughout the day, as well as local women-owned food stores.
Location: Colin Powell Youth Leadership Center, Minneapolis, December date each year