Are you looking to plan a family festival trip that incorporates music, spirits, food, kids’ activities, and more? Check out a dozen uniquely entertaining festivals landing in the West and beyond in the coming months.
February 17 – 19 in Ellensburg, Washington
This annual celebration is designed to preserve the cowboy spirit. The entirety of downtown Ellensburg plays host to live poetry, songwriter showcases, dancing, and even a competition among fiddlers. Eats and goods are available via dozens of vendors selling everything from custom leather wares to homemade cowboy hats. And, best of all, youth attendees are actively encouraged to take part and learn about the culture being celebrated.
March 9 – 11 in Cartersville, Georgia
The Booth Western Art Museum brings the glorious art and tradition of the West to Cartersville, Georgia, and serves as a home base for the town’s annual cowboy gathering. In addition to exhibits, children’s activities, and concerts, there’s a special emphasis on the methods of chuck wagon cooking. Judged competitions in categories ranging from beans and bread to overall wagon design help to keep the old traditions alive.
April 5 – 9 in Vail, Colorado
A family doesn’t need a specific reason to visit Vail during ski months, being that it’s one of the most beautiful and adventure-filled mountain destinations in the country. But every spring, the food- and wine-centric fest Taste of Vail brings together the town’s best restaurants and wineries for an all-out sample party. It’s a beloved, iconic fest that helps to punctuate the town’s active resort season.
April 8 – 9 in Scottsdale, Arizona
This isn’t the average tasting festival with a simple lineup of restaurant booths. There’s so much more to the two-day event. Think three stages of live music, demos by chefs, wine seminars, specialty beverage areas, and a kid-friendly zone with carnival games. Bonus are the warm days and comfortably cool nights of Arizona in April.
May 23 – 28 in Bishop, California
Forget horses — the mule is king when it comes to this annual fest on the slope of the Sierra Nevada. You — and more than 700 mules, with their trainers, riders, and packers — will be among the 30,000 fans getting packing season underway in style. But that’s not all. Aside from all the mule-friendly fun, there are country music performances, barbecues, arts and crafts vendors, and the longest running non-motorized parade in the country.
May 26 – 29 in Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Jackson Hole’s Memorial Day weekend is packed with daily festival events honoring Old West history and tradition. The slate includes a chuck wagon dinner on Friday, a parade on Saturday, and cowboy church on Sunday, along with stagecoach rides and dramatic shootout shows on the town square. Get lost in another time and place.
June 9 – 12 in Oklahoma City
This annual celebration of American Indian culture, now embarking on its 31st edition, turns the spotlight on both performing and visual arts. Visitors can take in music and dance performances or shop and peruse traditional pottery, sculpture, beadwork, basketry, attire, and more. A parade and plenty of children’s activities are also woven into the schedule.
July 2 – 4 in St. Louis
Celebrate America’s birthday in the “Gateway to the West.” Thousands will gather in St. Louis’ Forest Park for first-class live music, kids’ entertainment, watersports shows, fireworks, and more. And there’s no charge for entry, which means more money for hot dogs and other fair foods.
July 7 – 9 in Butte, Montana
Through an online crowdfunding effort, organizers of this free-to-attend fest have vowed that they will continue to offer the culturally rich summer event. That means there will once again be live folk performers on multiple stages, a cornucopia of fest-friendly and international foods, a family play area, and demonstrations of the folk-life traditions that shaped Montana’s history.
July 26 – 30 in Portland, Oregon
You don’t need an advance ticket to enter this beloved Portland beer fest — only a $7 tasting mug and a few $1 tokens. One token will get you a small sample; four will get you a full beer. And there will be dozens of heady concoctions to try from Oregon breweries who take their craft very seriously. Don’t worry if you are bringing the whole family — there’s live music every day of the festival, and kids (or designated drivers) can enjoy free crafted sodas or get their faces painted.
July 27 – 30 in Alpine, Fort Davis, Marfa, and Marathon, Texas
Think of this as a mobile festival experience. You could spend a few summer days hopping around between venues in four picturesque and laid-back West Texas towns. Go on picnics and partake in shopping and family activities during the day; listen to live music from dozens of notable performers at night. There are shuttles that run between Alpine and Marfa at night, or you can hit the roads and take in the beautiful mountain views on your own schedule.
Dates TBA in Nashville
Eat all day, jam out to country and Americana performances at night — that’s the way to do it at Nashville’s premier food-tasting festival. Hundreds of food and beverage vendors will be on hand, and while tasting the goodies you can also watch chef demos and get cookbooks signed. The city’s culinary stars will be perfectly balanced out by highlight acts from the always-blooming Nashville music scene.
From the February/March 2017 issue.