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The 50 Best Things to Do This Summer in All 50 States: The Midwest

By Sarah Purkrabek

May 21, 2015

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Summer is coming, and with it comes tons of great summer events. Every state has more than enough to do, but what can you absolutely not miss? We’ve collected iconic, quirky, and just plain fun things to do this summer from every state. Here, the best of the best in every state in the Midwest.

Where? Detroit, Michigan
What? Detroit River Days
When? June 19–21
Why Go? This riverfront festival celebrates Detroit’s nautical culture with jet skiing, boat tours, professionally made sand sculptures, live concerts, and samples of the areas best seafood. From $3. riverdays.com.

Where? Milwaukee, Wisconsin
What? Summerfest
When? June 24–28 & June 30–July 5
Why Go? Summerfest touts itself as the world’s largest music festival. Fair enough, we say. With over 800 acts attracting almost a million people over the 11 days of the event, we’d be hard-pressed to find a more massive event. For the price, this Wisconsin fest couldn’t be a better deal. From $19 per day. summerfest.com.

Where? Avon, Indiana
What? Hendricks County Rib-Fest
When? June 27th
Why Go? Every year, over 5,000 people come out to try some of Hendricks County’s best ribs. At Rib-Fest, local Indiana restaurants compete for the title of “Best Ribs”—a tough contest in a town that takes them so seriously. Free to attend. avonchamber.org.

Taste of Chicago Photo by star5112 (flickr.com/photos/johnjoh)

Taste of Chicago. Photo by star5112.


Where? Chicago, Illinois
What? Taste of Chicago
When? July 8th-12th
Why Go? There isn’t anything quite like summer in Chicago, when the city comes to life. Taste of Chicago is a cornerstone of the summer experience. In fact, it’s Chicago’s biggest event, drawing in 1.5 million visitors each year to celebrate (and sample) the eclectic food culture of the Windy City. Free to attend. tasteofchicago.us.

Basilica Block Party Photo by Quazie (flickr.com/photos/quazie)

Basilica Block Party. Photo by Quazie.

Where? Minneapolis, Minnesota
What? Basilica Block Party
When? July 10–11
Why Go? The Basilica of Saint Mary in Minneapolis is America’s first basilica. It’s also home to the Basilica Block Party, a two-day rock show where you can sing along to the likes of Weezer, Wilco, and Echosmith. This is possibly the coolest fundraiser ever, with ticket sales going back to restore the Basilica. From $50 per day. basilicablockparty.org.

Where? Wayne, Nebraska
What? Wayne Chicken Show
When? July 10–12
Why Go? This year, the theme of the Wayne Chicken Show is “Chicken Selfie”—which, honestly, is reason enough for us to attend. But if you need more, the Chicken Show is also the site of the world’s largest chicken dance (bring your dancing boots) and the National Cluck-Off, where participants cluck like a chicken for a prize of $400. Free to attend. chickenshow.com.

Where? Rapid City, South Dakota
What? Cruiser Car Show
When? July 12
Why Go? This laid-back car show comes with an afternoon concert, food vendors, a NASCAR display and a champion drag racer. Cars will be judged in several categories throughout the day as well. Free to attend, $25 to register a car day-of. mainstreetsquarerc.com.

Where? Topeka, Kansas
What? Fiesta Mexicana
When? July 14–18
Why Go? This over 80-year-old celebration of Hispanic heritage in Topeka includes a professional carnival, a wide variety of vendors, and some of the best local and international Latin musicians. If you like it hot, enter the jalapeno eating contest—the winner is whoever can stomach the most raw jalapenos before the timer runs out. Free to attend. olg-parish.org/fiesta.

Iowa State fair Photo by Carol VanHook (flickr.com/photos/librariesrock)

Iowa State fair. Photo by Carol VanHook.

Where? Des Moines, Iowa
What? Iowa State Fair
When? August 13–23
Why Go? The Iowa State Fair regularly expects over a million visitors, probably partially because it earned a spot on the NY Times “1000 Places to See Before You Die.” It also boasts the world’s largest livestock show (you’ll have to see it to believe it), the state’s largest art show, and daily schedules packed with contests and activities, all on 160 acres. From $8 per day for adults. iowastatefair.org.

Where? St. Louis, Missouri
What? Festival of Nations
When? August 29–30
Why Go? The Festival of Nations is a multicultural celebration like no other in the region, with over 40 ethnic food booths and an international market with souvenirs from around the world available for purchase. Free to attend. festivalofnationsstl.org.


Where? Minot, North Dakota
What? Motor Magic
When? September 4–7
Why Go? This classic car show features races—both drag racing and dirt track racing—a car auction, and displays of historic military vehicles as well as radio controlled trucks and airplanes. Whether you’re a classic car buff or are just interested in how the world once was, Motor Magic is the place to be. Free to attend. motormagic.net.

Young the Giant Courtesy of the Cosmopolitan Las Vegas

Young the Giant. Courtesy of the Cosmopolitan Las Vegas.

Where? Columbus, Ohio
What? Fashion Meets Music Festival
When? September 5–6
Why Go? Every music festival has its own unofficial style, but at FMMF, the fashion and the music work hand in hand. The fest has three stages of music and one fashion tent, where designers will showcase their looks. As far as the musical vibe, you’re in for acts like Young the Giant, Awolnation, and Taking Back Sunday. From $89 for the weekend. fmmf.us.

Check out our picks for the best things to do in the Northeast, Southwest, West, and Southeast

Top photo: Detroit, by James.

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