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
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. Admission is required; Mixed days, June 5-August 9, 2020
This year, the season includes:
- A Midsummer Night’s Dream – by William Shakespeare: Jun 5-Aug 9, 2020
- All’s Well That Ends Well – by William Shakespeare: Jun 19-Aug 8, 2020
- The Odyssey – By Homer, adapted by Mary Zimmerman: Jul 3-Aug 8, 2020
- Coriolanus – by William Shakespeare: Jul 17-Aug 9, 2020
- Pericles – by William Shakespeare: Aug 2, 2020
2. Greeley Stampede
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; Wednesday to Sunday, June 24th to July 5th, 2020
3. Cherry Creek Arts Festival
Now in its 30th 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; Fri-Sun, July 3-5, 2020
4. Hot Air Balloon Rodeo
Photographers 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; Sat-Sun, July 11-12, 2020
5. Summer BrewFest at Mile High Station
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. VIP passes available; Sat, July 25, 2020
6. Crested Butte Arts Festival
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 48th 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, awesome bands will rock out on the Ragged Mountain Stage. Cost: Free to attend; Fri-Sun, July 31-August 2, 2020
7. Leadville Boom Days
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; Fri-Sun, August 7-9, 2020
8.Telluride Jazz Festival
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 and three-day passes available, plus, free shows throughout; Fri-Sun, August 7-9, 2020
9. Bohemian Nights at NewWestFest
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. Previous years’ bands included 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; Fri-Sun, Aug 14-16, 2020
10. Palisade Peach Fest
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 WineFest 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. Admission required. Thur-Sat, August 13-15, 2020
11. Colorado State Fair
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. Admission required sold as day passes; additional tickets required for special events; Fri-Mon, August 28-September 7, 2020
12. A Taste of Colorado
Denver’s Civic Center Park is the place to be every Labor Day Weekend, as , 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; Sat-Mon, September 5-7, 2020
13. Longs Peak Scottish-Irish Highland Festival
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: Admission required; Special ticketing for some events; Fri-Sun, September 11-13, 2020
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?