21 Top Midwest Events in July | Midwest Living

21 Top Midwest Events in July

Summer celebrations include music and art festivals, a sand castle building contest, outdoor theater and a Native American pow-wow.


Bruce Munro: LIGHT, Rockford Through November 5 Savor the warm summer nights and stroll among eight illuminated large-scale sculptures by the internationally acclaimed artist at an evening exhibit at Nicholas Conservatory and Gardens (nicholasconservatory.com). 

Windy City Smokeout, Chicago July 14–16 Beer, country music and barbecue from 13 pitmasters star at this homage to summer’s saucy specialty, staged beside the Chicago River. Consider a bib for the BBQ Brunch, but remember to take it off before the Lee Brice concert (windycitysmokeout.com). 

Windy City Smokeout

Windy City Smokeout. Photo courtesy of Jeff Marini.


Chocolate Tasting Train, French Lick July 15 Food just tastes better when paired with a view. Get them both on a French Lick Scenic Railway ride. Sample chocolate treats and boozy concoctions as the train chugs through scenic landscape (frenchlickscenicrailway.org).

Marsh Symphony on the Prairie: Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Fishers July 28–29 You aren’t the only one who cranked a Big Bad Voodoo Daddy CD on repeat in 1998. Groove to the band’s signature swing-meets-Dixieland sound at the Conner Prairie Amphitheatre during back-to-back shows (indianapolissymphony.org).


A Very Vintage Market, Burlington July 15 In 2016, the little market drew 6,000 shoppers for its inaugural event. This year, planners expect even more vendors along Jefferson Street, all selling architectural salvage, upcycled wares and charmingly chipped decor (greaterburlington.com). 

National Balloon Classic, Indianola July 28–August 5 Oohs and aahs abound at this nine-day airborne affair, where nearly 100 hot-air balloons float over Iowa cornfields. Take a ride, watch fireworks or experience the night glow, when balloons show their colors against the darkening sky (nationalballoonclassic.com).


Cider Mill Century Bicycle Tour, Louisburg July 23 Take a two-wheeled tour of eastern Kansas. Starting at Louisburg Cider Mill, choose routes between 25 and 104 miles through the bucolic countryside of Miami and Linn counties—complete with historic buildings, classic red barns and amber waves of grain (cyclingkc.org).

Steve Miller Band with Peter Frampton, Park City July 25 A space cowboy and a British guitar player walk into Hartman Arena. That’s no joke this summer, as Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Miller and Frampton are touring together, bringing unforgettable riffs and lyrics to the stage (hartmanarena.com).


Blue Water SandFest, Port Huron July 14–16 And you thought your kid’s sand castle was cool. Pros compete in this premier championship, where in past years, dinosaurs and princesses have flanked Fort Gratiot Lighthouse (bluewatersandfest.com).

Ann Arbor Art Fair, Ann Arbor July 20–23 Top-quality art, along with street performances, art demos and food booths, creates a colorful splash on downtown streets when four unique art fairs join forces (visitannarbor.org).


X Games, Minneapolis July 13–16 A major shot of adrenaline is headed to the Twin Cities. ESPN’s premier action sports competition will pit pro against pro in televised events like BMX, skateboarding and Moto X at the new U.S. Bank Stadium. Concerts and meet-and-greets will accompany the competitive events (usbankstadium.com).


Battle of the Bands on the Battlefield, Lexington July 14 At the Battle of Lexington State Historic Site, mics and guitars will be the weapons of choice as two local bands go head-to-head. The group that garners the biggest ruckus wins (mostateparks.com).


GermanFest 2017, Syracuse July 8 Come for the brews (picture a two-block beer garden), and stay for the dachshund races, a car show, a street dance, a parade and games (gosyracusene.com).

Living History Days, York July 15–16 At Wessels Living History Farm, visitors can always see restored buildings and vintage machines—but the 145-acre farm truly comes alive during this event with animal visits, demonstrations and wagon rides (ne150.org).

North Dakota

Taylor Horse-Fest , Taylor July 29–30 Horses are the guests of honor at this 24th-annual commemoration of the state’s equine heritage. Festivities include a street dance, a pie social, farming demonstrations, and a parade of horses, carriages and wagons (taylorhorsefest.com).


Great Mohican Pow-Wow, Loudonville July 7–9, September 15–17 Listen to a storyteller or flute music and watch tomahawk-throwing and fire-starting demonstrations at Mohican Reservation Campgrounds (mohicanpowwow.com).

Lilyfest, Rockbridge July 14–16 Bask in the blossoms at Bishop Educational Gardens for two days of art, music, food and flowers. Taste Chef Moe’s strawberry salad, sway to Celtic music, take a garden tour and soak up summer (lilyfest.com). 

The Berlin Painter and His World, Toledo July 8–October 1 Dive into ancient history at the Toledo Museum of Art through a traveling exhibition of works by the Berlin Painter, an anonymous artist who specialized in Athenian vase painting during the fifth century B.C. (toledomuseum.org).

South Dakota

Laura Ingalls Wilder Pageant, De Smet July 7–9, 14–16, 21–23 Amid tall grass and blue sky at the Theater on the Prairie, this outdoor performance will transport you into scenes from Little Town on the Prairie (desmetpageant.org).

Sioux Falls JazzFest, Sioux Falls July 13–15 A three-day jubilee brings top jazz acts to Yankton Trail Park. This year’s headliners include MarchFourth, The Robert Cray Band and Jonny Lang (siouxfallsjazzfest.com).


Blooming Butterflies, Madison July 20–August 13 There’s a butterfly! And another one! Hundreds of the mesmerizing insects flit among tropical plants (and alight on visitors’ shoulders) in the conservatory at Olbrich Botanical Gardens (olbrich.org).


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