Summer in Colorado equals time to get outdoors and enjoy all that the Centennial State has to offer. It seems every weekend from Memorial Day to Labor Day there’s a festival in the works somewhere close-by, and there are festivities to suit anyone’s tastes.
From celebrations of wine and craft brews, to classic Shakespeare and Renaissance fests, Colorado has plenty to offer all summer long. Here’s a run-down of some quirky and entertaining summer fairs and festivals:
Best Summer Events in Colorado
It seems summer never lasts long enough, and that’s especially true in Colorado. There’s just so much to see, do and experience, and there’s just 12 weeks to do it before the weather changes.
It’s hard to whittle the list down to a few, because there are just so many great events across the state. Music and arts festivals, fairs and rodeos, celebrations of cultures: The list goes on and on.
1. Colorado Shakespeare Festival – June-August, various dates
Summer nights in Boulder create the perfect ambiance for outdoor theater, and there isn’t a better venue than the historic Mary Rippon Outdoor Theatre on the University of Colorado campus. Each year, the Colorado Shakespeare Festival and its company of renowned theater artists stage a variety of classic Shakespearean plays, from the Bard’s laugh-out-loud comedies to his more dramatic productions.
This year, the season includes The Comedy of Error, Equivocation, Troilus and Cressida, Cymbeline. Cost: Tickets are $10 to $64 for adults
2. Greeley Stampede – June 23–July 4, 2017
Since the late 1800s, summer has been rodeo season in Greeley, and each year, it’s one of the best places to be on the Fourth of July. This cow town, centrally located an hour north of Denver, turns into a cowboy mecca in late June and early July every year, and it’s one heck of a party.
There’s a bit of everything over the week-and-a-half long Greeley Stampede. From big-name country concerts, featuring the likes of The Band Perry and Kenny Rogers, to traditional rodeo favorites like PRCA Xtreme Bulls riding and a demolition derby, there’s entertainment for everyone. Cost: Free to attend; some events are ticketed
3. Cherry Creek Arts Festival – July 1-3, 2017Now in its 27th year, the Cherry Creek Arts Festival has grown into a world-class destination for a showcase of the region and country’s culinary, performing and visual artists. Last year, attendance to the three-day festival exploded, as the festival drew roughly 350,000 people to Denver.
This year, you won’t want to miss it. The festival features work from local, regional and international artists, patrons can sample tasty culinary treats, and there’s a great line-up of live music on three stages. Cost: Free to attend; Opening Gala and VIP passes are available
4. Hot Air Balloon Rodeo – July 8 & 9, 2017Photographers love the annual Hot Air Balloon Rodeo. Each year, balloon pilots from around the country take flight over Bald Eagle Lake in Steamboat Springs, providing impressive and vibrant photo opportunities of the colorful aircraft in flight.
But this isn’t your average balloon festival: There’s also a little bit of rodeo in the mix, with pilots competing in races and performing tricks, like dipping into the lake. Plus, don’t miss the Art in the Park event, which runs throughout the weekend – where you can browse the wares of expert craftsmen. Cost: Free to attend
5. Colorado Freeride Festival – July 27-30, 2017
As the largest freeride festival in the U.S., the Colorado Freeride Festival is a must-attend for mountain bike aficionados. Throughout the weekend, spectators can watch some of the world’s best mountain bike pros compete in a range of events, including downhill races, slopestyle competitions, and the fan-favorite Intergalactic Pond Crossing (essentially a six-inch thick balance beam for bicycles over water).
Yet, this isn’t just a festival for the fans. There are plenty of opportunities for freeriders to ripe the singletrack. Trestle Bike Park – one of the country’s preeminent mountain biking parks – will be open throughout the weekend for visitors. Plus, you can catch family-friendly events, kids’ bike clinics, product demos and athlete meet-and-greets in Winter Park Village. Cost: Base area events are free; some may require purchase of a lift ticket. Tickets to Trestle Bike Park start at $36
6. Summer BrewFest at Mile High Station – July 28 & 29, 2017
There’s nothing like sipping a cold beer on hot summer day and you can do plenty of that at the Summer BrewFest in Denver. Held downtown each year, the event draws brewers from Colorado and beyond, and attendees can sample the suds, grab a bite to eat and while away the evening with friends.
Organizers bill this as an “intimate” affair, and as such, tickets do tend to sell out. Plus, the event features live music and a line-up of food trucks, making this a fun festival to spend a couple nights. Cost: Single-day passes from $35; two-day passes from $55
7. Crested Butte Arts Festival – August 4-6, 2017
Each year, Crested Butte’s historic Elk Avenue is invaded by artists from around the world, during the annual Crested Butte Arts Festival. Now in its 45th year, the festival has something for everyone, from art lovers, to foodies and music fans. Featuring work from dozens of renowned artists, craft brewers and culinary artists, it’s truly a celebration of the arts – and the location couldn’t be any more charming.
This year, there is plenty in store for visitors, like the Art Auction, where attendees can bid on works from festival artisans, and the Arts Alley, where kids can get their hands dirty with arts and crafts projects. Also, bands like Free the Honey and Gypsy Jazz Social Club will rock out on the Ragged Mountain Stage. Cost: Free to attend
8. Leadville Boom Days – August 4-6, 2017
When it was a thriving mining town in the late 1800s, Leadville was almost named the capital of Colorado. Each year, that Wild West heritage is celebrated during Leadville Boom Days. During the weekend-long event, festival attendees are treated to a range of unique, Old West-inspired events, including reenactments, mining competitions and a parade. There are modern activities, as well, like the festival’s annual car show, bungee jumping, arts & crafts exhibits and live music.
One signature event, though, is the Leadville Boom Days International Pack Burro Race, a mining traditional. During the race – the second leg of the Pack Burro Racing’s Triple Crown (yes, it’s a thing) – participants guide their burros along the race course, which starts and ends in Leadville’s historic downtown. It’s part foot race, part donkey race, and definitely a sight to be behold. Cost: Free to attend
9.Telluride Jazz Festival – August 4-6, 2017
With its laid-back vibe and some of the best jazz, funk and soul artists from the around the world, the Telluride Jazz Festival is a must-attend for music lovers. Throughout the weekend, shows pop-up in venues all over town, and educational events and film screenings are added into the mix.
If you can only make it to one day – don’t miss the final New Orleans-themed finale. You’ll be treated to a Mardi Gras-inspired parade down Telluride’s Main Street and a great line-up of talented musicians. Cost: Single day tickets from $57; three-day passes from $140. Plus, free shows throughout
10. Steamboat Wine Festival – August 9-13, 2017
If you’re a wine connoisseur, you don’t want to miss the 14th Steamboat Wine Festival. Start tasting at Thursday’s Wine on the Mountain party, and then spend Friday learning about local history (while sipping wine, of course) during the Stroll of Steamboat tour of downtown and the Yampa River.
Everyone, though, looks forward to Saturday’s Grand Tasting, when more than 500 wines are available to whet your palate. Plus, there are wine-themed guided hikes, free concerts and craft cocktail events throughout the weekend. Costs: Event prices vary
11. Bohemian Nights at NewWestFest – August 11-13, 2017
Colorado’s vibrant music scene takes center stage at the Bohemian Nights festival in downtown Fort Collins. The three-day fest’s line-up is a showcase of strictly Colorado-based new, up-and-coming and established acts, and they rock out on eight stages all within walking distance of one another. If you support the local music scene, you can’t miss this festival. Not to mention all the shows are free, including headline performances by Flobots and Rodrigo y Gabriella.
Plus, more than 250 vendors, artisans and food trucks set-up shop in downtown, so there’s something to do when you’ve had your fill of tunes. For families, there are two areas for the kiddos, the Kids Music Adventure and Kids’ World, so you can bring the little ones. Cost: Free to attend
12. Palisade Peach Fest – August 17-20, 2017
Head over to the “Peach Capital of Colorado,” in August for the annual Palisade Peach Fest. The town, which is situated near Grand Junction, produces some of the world’s best peaches (and great wine too that’s celebrated during a festival in September). Each year, the festival celebrates a bountiful harvest. Featuring a range of peach-themed events on the festival grounds in Palisade’s Riverbend Park, this festival is fun for the whole family.
If you’re interested in learning more about Palisade’s fruit and wine producers, consider a self-guided fruit and wine tour. For the foodies, you’ll want to attend the Feast in the Fields sponsored dinners. Plus, there’s music throughout the weekend on the Peach Jamming Stage. One must-see event: The peach eating contest on Sunday, where contests stuff their faces with the town’s famous fruit. Cost: Tickets from $7
13. NedFest – August 25-27, 2017
Nederland – located about 20 minutes, and 3,000 feet above Boulder – is a funky, off-the-beaten-path mountain town, and each year, music fans make the trek for the Nederland Music and Arts Festival, aka NedFest. The three-day festival is a celebration of summer, featuring a line-up of up-and-coming bluegrass and rock bands. This year, Chris Robinson Brotherhood will headline, which is a bluesy rock band formed by the frontman of The Black Crowes.
NedFest opens the gates on Friday at Barker Reservior in Nederland, and camping passes are available for Friday and Saturday. While you’re there, you can browse wares from local artisans, sample local and regional craft brews, and laze away under the mountain sun. But be aware, this isn’t a crowded summer camping/music festival. Attendance is capped at 2,000. Although that creates a communal, we’re-all-friends-here atmosphere, the festival does tend to sell out. So get tickets soon while they’re still available. Cost: Single-day tickets from $45, three-day passes from $128. Two-day tent camping is $32
14. Colorado State Fair – August 25-September 4, 2017
State fairs are a summertime tradition, and Colorado is home to one of the largest fairs in the Mountain West. Since 1869, Pueblo has hosted the Colorado State Fair, which is one of the state’s largest summer events. This is as kid-friendly as they come, but there’s fun for everyone, including Craft Brew and Home Brew competitions, food and vendors, and agriculture and cooking demonstrations.
Plus, you’ll find all of those fair favorites: Funnel cakes, carnival rides, and demolition derby. And as the fair serves as one of the largest agriculture exhibitions in the state – behind only Denver’s National Western Stock Show and Rodeo – you can expect to see all of those rodeo events, like barrel racing, bull riding and more. Finally, there’s a solid line-up of country and rock artists, with Three Days Grace headlining. Cost: Day passes from $10 per day; additional tickets required for special events
15. A Taste of Colorado – September 1-4, 2017
Denver’s Civic Center Park is the place to be every Labor Day Weekend, as A Taste of Colorado, the city’s most-looked-forward-to foodie festival takes over. More than a half million people attend each year, and they’re treated to tons of tasty bites from more than 50 local and regional restaurants.
In addition, local artisans and vendors set up shop, and there are seven stages featuring electric music and entertaining educational shows. Simply put, A Taste of Colorado is one of the best ways to close out summer. Cost: Free to attend
16. Longs Peak Scottish-Irish Highland Festival – September 7-10, 2017
Celtic pride is on full display in Estes Park during the Longs Peak Scottish-Irish Festival. It’s a vibrant celebration of Scottish and Irish culture, featuring more than 50 events, from Celtic music, to cooking demonstrations, traditional Scottish athletic competitions, and tons of other fun events.
But don’t be discouraged, if don’t have Scottish or Irish blood, that’s no matter, the festival features such a welcoming vibe and it’s a jolly good time for everyone. Be sure to check out the parade, which runs through downtown Estes and features tons of great Celtic, brass, fife and drum bands. Plus, you don’t want to miss the Scottish jousting or the special nightly Tattoo Estes, which is a traditional military performance. Cost: Day passes start at $25; Special ticketing for some events
These are just a few favorite Colorado summertime festivals. Is there something on the list that we missed? What are you looking forward to attending?