10 Unique Summer Festivals Worth a Road Trip
Cities across the U.S. are rolling out their lineups of free summer concerts and craft fairs, but for something you can't find just anywhere, take a road trip to one of the quirky summer festivals.
Photo By: Newman Public Relations
Photo By: Tourism Santa Fe
Photo By: Piscataquis Chamber of Commerce
Photo By: Shenandoah County Tourism
Photo By: Rochelle Nehring
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Underwater Music Festival, Big Pine Key, FL
On July 7, Big Pine Key will host an underwater concert fit for merpeople. In past years, hundreds of snorkelers and divers have shown up—in costume—to the Underwater Music Festival to dance to ocean-themed music played on underwater speakers (think "Yellow Submarine" and the songs from The Little Mermaid). Some attempt to play along on instruments you’d expect to find in an underwater kingdom, with apt names such as the "clambourine," "fluke-a-lele" and "trombone fish," made by Florida Keys artist August Powers.
The Burning of Zozobra in Santa Fe, NM
Bring your worries to the Burning of Zozobra and watch them go up in flames. Every year since 1924, Santa Fe has stuffed its gloom—in the form of divorce papers, report cards, notes from exes, pink slips, you name it—inside this effigy and lit it on fire, cheering as "Old Man Gloom" burns along with the bad. The Burning of Zozobra started out as a six-foot-tall wooden sculpture by artist Will Shuster, but it’s grown a bit since then—today’s sculptures, which are functioning marionettes, tower over 50 feet. The burning takes place on Friday, Aug. 31, but Old Man Gloom will be stuffed with bad memories at the ZozoFest art festival from Aug. 25 to 26.
Whoopie Pie Festival, Dover-Foxcroft, ME
If you’ve never had a whoopie pie, you are missing out. These chocolate cake sandwiches with marshmallow fluff in the middle are so good it’s impossible to have just one. Thank goodness for Maine’s Whoopie Pie Festival, June 23, which celebrate’s the official state treat. Those with truly insatiable sweet teeth can enter the whoopie pie eating competition, while those a little more active-minded can join in the "Earn Your Whoopie Pie 3k."
Route 11 Yard Crawl, Shenandoah County, VA
Whatever it is that you need, you will almost certainly find it at the Route 11 Yard Crawl. For nearly 45 miles down the scenic Route 11 highway, you’ll find a sprawling stretch of yard sales and flea markets, open on Aug. 11 from "7 a.m. until you drop." Take your time—you never know when a real treasure (perhaps something worth flipping?) might be just around the corner. And when you need a break, hit the vineyard. The Yard Crawl goes through some of Virginia’s prettiest small towns, all of which have top-notch wineries to offer.
Kamloops International Buskers Festival, British Columbia, Canada
From July 26 to 29, Kamloops, British Columbia, will host street performers from all over the world. Trapeze artists, magicians, balloon artists, jugglers, circus comedians and more will take over downtown Kamloops for perhaps the most eclectic festival you’ll ever find. The Kamloops International Buskers Festival (previously held in Victoria, B.C.) is free to attend but, of course, the performers will be accepting tips.
Lebowski Fest, Louisville, KY
If you frequently quote The Big Lebowski, then Lebowski Fest, a natural, zesty enterprise, was literally made for you, man. On July 20 and 21 this year, impersonators of The Dude, also known as "Achievers," will flock to Louisville, Kentucky for a mass screening of the movie and unlimited bowling. Can’t make it? You’ll have a second chance Sept. 14 and 15 when Lebowski Fest goes to Chicago for more bowling, trivia and a screening at Lincoln Park Zoo. Just don't go over the line.
Bacon and Bourbon Festival, Keystone, CO
Indulge in all things bacon at Keystone’s Bacon and Bourbon Festival June 23 and 24. Not only can you eat tons of bacony goodness—paired with Jim Beam bourbon—you can also become a "Master Swinelier" at the Bacon Education Center. Free concerts will help you dance off the calories.
River Tubing at Float Fest in San Marcos, TX
Take two days this summer to float the San Marcos River in between concerts from some of your favorite artists. Float Fest, July 21 and 22, is the ultimate lazy river party—camp out and float in the morning to make it back in time to watch performances from Snoop Dogg, Modest Mouse, White Denim, Lil Wayne, Cashmere Cat and more.
Traditional Dancing at Midway Swiss Days in Midway, UT
Ever since the 1940s, this small Utah town has transformed itself once a year into a massive celebration of Swiss heritage. Midway Swiss Days is the second-biggest festival in Utah, featuring a Swiss Day Parade complete with dirndls and lederhosen. There’s a handmade craft fair as well as a smorgasbord of traditional Swiss food, so be sure to bring your appetite. This year, the festival will be Aug. 31 and Sept. 1.
Attack of the Killer Tomato Festival, Atlanta, GA
At the Attack of the Killer Tomato Festival on July 15, everything is tomato—the drinks, the snacks and even the desserts. Some of the city’s most revered chefs and mixologists will serve up all the tomato treats. The festival was created by renowned chef Ford Fry and benefits Georgia Organics, which works to improve access to organic food throughout communities in Georgia.