On Air
0:00
0:00
Open In Popup
MPR News

Summer full of festivals: Your guide to music fests around Minnesota

Share story

The crowd watches Bon Iver.
The crowd watches Bon Iver at the 2017 Rock the Garden music festival.
Emmet Kowler for MPR 2017

Dust off your sensible shoes or boots and grab the sunscreen, a good hat and maybe a rain poncho. It's music festival time!

If you like country: WE Fest

The well-known celebration of all things country music is gearing up for its 36th year. The all-ages festival will be going on, rain or shine, Thursday, Aug. 2 through Saturday, Aug. 4. You can purchase tickets for each day or a three-day pass. Reserve a campsite to not miss one second of the fun. Each person and vehicle will be charged when camping. The line-up will include Jason Aldean, Carrie Underwood, Florida Georgia Line and more.

Bonus: If you're looking for a true country experience on a slightly smaller scale, head down to Farmington on Sept. 14 and 15 to round out the summer at Ramble Jam. The line up is still to be determined, but you can still buy tickets and reserve your camping spot at the Dakota County Fairgrounds.

If you like jazz: Twin Cities Jazz Festival

The 20th annual jazz fest is set for June 21-23 at over 20 locations around Lowertown in St. Paul. The event is free and open to the public, but you can purchase a VIP pass at $100 for a day or $175 for both days. The pass gives you special access to otherwise off-limits areas in the festival as well as refreshments. They also accept donations. Saxophonist Tia Fuller, Houston Person and the Emmet Cohen Trio and Nayo Jones are just a few of the headliners, but dozens of other artists will be performing all weekend long.

Twin Cities Jazz Festival
Twin Cities Jazz Festival 2009.
Chris McDuffie for MPR 2009

If you like feel-good music: Shangri-La

If you want to get in touch with nature as well as shake it up, Shangri-La might be for you. Held at Harmony Park over Labor Day weekend, the outdoor festival will feature a variety of genres with headliners including Wookiefoot, Arrested Development and The Polish Ambassador and The Diplomatic Scandal. Camping is a big part of the festival, as is the effort to keep the event clean and green. Guidelines for cutting down on waste are posted on the event's website. Tickets are already in their fourth round of sales at $140 each.

If you like films (with your music): Square Lake Film and Music Festival

Split your day between great local bands and great local films at this festival taking place Aug. 11, just outside of Square Lake County Park. General advance tickets are $35 — kids 12 and under are free — however, if you're confident in your biking skills, you can pre-register to bike to the event from the Twin Cities. As part of the official schedule bikers plan to leave from The Hub Bike Co-op in Minneapolis and Cycles for Change in St. Paul at 10 a.m., gates open at 2 p.m. After you get there, enjoy a day full of original films and musical stylings from Lovers on the Balcony, Night Moves, Lady Midnight and more.

If you like funk: Sociable Summer Presents Funk Fest

Get funky for free at Funk Fest this Sunday, June 10. You read right, the event is free — unless you're planning to drink, in which case wristbands are $5. A few other things to keep in mind before heading over to Fillmore Street Northeast in Minneapolis for the show, the entire event is cash only so make sure you make a stop at the bank beforehand. But if you do forget, don't sweat, there will be ATMs at the venue. The event will be hosted by Sean McPherson of The Current and feature musical acts by New Sound Underground, ASTRALBLAK FKA ZULUZULUU, Alex Rossi and Nooky Jones. The show will go on regardless of weather, so check the forecast before you go.

If you like variety: Rock the Garden

This one-day music festival will feature big names and big sounds from Chastity Brown, Feist and Father John Misty — just to name a few. Presented by The Walker Arts Center and our friends over at The Current, the event will take place overlooking the recently renovated Walker Sculpture Garden on June 16. Tickets are $74 dollars — VIP tickets are $300 and give you access to the Walker's rooftop terraces among other goodies.

Rock the Garden Bon Iver Emmet Kowler
The scene of Rock the Garden in 2017.
Emmet Kowler for MPR

If you like food with your music: Music in Mears

Throughout the month of June, Music in Mears will be pairing local food and brews with local tunes. Held at Mears Park in St. Paul, the music series is held every Thursday June through August — with the exception of July 5. Music and refreshment sales start at 6 p.m. and go until 9:30 p.m., the shows themselves are free. These are outdoor concerts so in the case of inclament weather, you'll want to check their official Facebook page for possible cancelations. You can find a list of bands and food vendors on their website. Come hungry and try it all!

If you like rock: Moondance Jam

If you're ready to rock — and camp — head to the 27th annual Moondance Jam in Walker, Minn., on July 18-21. The "Pre-Jam Party" will feature headliner Hairball, with Bret Michaels, Kansas, Kid Rock and Tesla playing the following days. You can choose from a variety of ticket packages with general admission tickets priced at $130 in advance — keep in mind there is also a fee for bringing your own lawn chair. Camping and parking can, and probably should, be purchased in advance if you want to have a battle plan ready.

If you like blues: Bayfront Blues Festival

Catch a refreshing breeze off the blue(ish) waters of Lake Superior while you enjoy over 20 performers at this annual celebration of the blues. In its 30th year, the festival goes from Aug. 10-12 at the Bayfront Festival Park. Again, you can pick from a variety of ticket packages, with one-day general admission tickets on sale for $45. Headliners include Don Bryant featuring the Bo-Keys, William Bell and Bernard Allison.  

If you like classical: Minnesota Beethoven Festival

Classical fans don't just get a weekend, but a whole month of music. The festival celebrating Ludwig van Beethoven will consist of nine separate performances at different venues across Winona. The first performance is July 2 — the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra — and the festival finishes with a July 22 performance from the Minnesota Orchestra with Osmo Vanska. You can buy single tickets for each of the events you want to attend, $25, or $21 for students and seniors. Or you can buy packages that contain tickets to 8, 7 or 6 of the concerts. There will also be a free concert by the Minnesota Orchestra at Lake Park on July 15 — tis tradition.

Orpheus Chamber Orchestra in Winona
Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and piano soloist Nobuyuki Tsujii performing at the 2016 Minnesota Beethoven Festival in Winona, Minn., on June 25, 2016.
Kirk Fratzke for MPR 2016

If you like big band: Vintage Music Festival

It'll be horns galore at this July 28 festival in Northfield. Southside Aces, Twin Cities Brass Band and the Metro Brass will be new arrivals at the event, but several fan favorites will be returning, including the Minnesota State Band — the only remaining State Band in the U.S. Bring your dancing shoes since many of the bands will be serving up jazz and swing as well as big band. The event is free and will be rocking downtown from 9 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Bring on the brass!

If you like bluegrass: Minnesota Bluegrass & Old-Time Music Festival

Held at El Rancho Manana Campground and Riding Stable in Richfield, this festival, running from August 9-12, offers great music as well as workshops. Featuring Becky Buller Band, Chris Jones and the Night Drivers, Henhouse Prowlers and more, early-bird tickets are now available for $85-$95, ages 12 and under get in for free. If you have your own banjo, fiddle, bass, guitar or mandolin bring it with and learn something new at the workshops being held during the festival — only seven pre-registered musicians can attend. You can sign up after entering the grounds, which allows for camping during the event as well.

Bonus: If you want more activity with your festival, float on down to the banks of Prairie Island Park for the Boats and Bluegrass Festival Sept. 27-30. As the name implies, there will be boats! Guided canoe trips will head towards the backwaters Friday and Saturday during the festival — boats and life jackets provided. This fest has a heavy focus on fun and keeping the area clean after the fans leave. They also have "zero tolerance for stupidity," so make sure you read the rules before you go. They are on their second tier of ticket sales, but weekend passes include camping and kids 16 and under are free.

If you like roadtrips: Some festivals happening outside of Minnesota

• Pitchfork Music Festival at Union Park in Chicago, July 20-22.

• Lollapalooza at Grant Park in Chicago, July 21-22.

• Rock Fest in Cadott Wis., July 12-14.

• Blue Ox Music Festival in Eau Clare, Wis.

• Hinterland Music Festival in St. Charles Iowa, Aug. 3-4.

• Rushmore Music Festival in Spearfish and Rapid City, S.D., July 1-15.

• North Dakota Country Fest in New Salem, N.D., July 12-14.