The US Fairs and Festivals Worth Adding to Your Bucket List
There’s something about sharing a cool experience with others that makes it even better.
With that logic in mind, hundreds of thousands of people flock to the many wondrous fairs and festivals that are held in the US each year, with something out there for every interest.
What are the best fairs and festivals in the US? The US has a wide variety of festivals in all categories, including music, food, and culture.
Some of the most popular events are Lollapalooza, Coachella, The Great New York State Fair, Boston Seafood Festival, and Alabama Blueberry Festival.
If you’re planning a trip and want to center it around one of these fairs and festivals, you’ve got a lot of options to pick from.
We’ve rounded up some of the coolest, quaintest, and most unusual events that occur in this country of ours, so your choice is made a little easier.
The 11 Best Fairs and Festivals That the US Has to See
America has an abundance of fairs and festivals for you to enjoy, and there’s no better way than enjoying some of your favorite things than with thousands of other people.
No matter your interest or location, we’ve got some of the coolest fairs and festivals worth adding to your bucket list.
#1 The Great New York State Fair
This Syracuse-based fair is one of the biggest in terms of length, and it’s been running since 1841.
The Great New York State Fair aims to pack as much fun and entertainment as possible, and it’s usually held for around two weeks, with dates ranging from 13 to 18 days where they try and pack all of the fun they possibly can into this time.
Spending a few days at the Fair will see you enjoy music concerts at Chevy Park, sideshow attractions, international cuisine, midway rides, and real-life animals.
It’s like your average county fair on steroids and if you happen to be in New York from the end of August to the start of September in 2022, you’ll want to check it out.
#2 Festival of the Dead
What better place to hold a creepy festival about all things paranormal than Salem, Massachusetts, home of the famous witch trials.
The Festival of the Dead runs for the entire month of October and celebrates all things strange, cooky, and paranormal, with a few major events happening throughout.
The most notable events you’ll want to see are the Graveyard Conjure where you can learn how to speak to the dead, The Dumb Supper: Dinner With the Dead, or the Official Witches Ball which promises to be a night you’ll never forget.
Many visitors to Salem like to time their visit to coincide with the festival and it’s especially entertaining for kids and those with an interest in the paranormal.
When you think back to classic 90s music festivals, none are as famous as Lollapalooza.
The first iteration of this famous event was in 1991 when Jane’s Addiction frontman Perry Farrel was planning a spot for the band to play their farewell tour.
Although it began as a touring attraction, the four-day music festival found its permanent home in Grant Park, Chicago.
Over the years, there have been on and off periods where the festival is held, but it always stays true to its alternative routes.
The genres most commonly heard here including punk rock, heavy metal, and hip hop, and after The Simpsons famously based an episode on the festival it received its cult status, it never failed to attract a crowd.
#4 Donkey Derby Days
The Donkey Derby Days festival is now in its 90th year and if you’ve never paid a visit to Cripple Creek, Colorado to check it out, we recommend it.
The world-famous festival is held in the small town that gives it its charm, and many of the donkeys that race in the famous main event have descendants that go back to the goldrush days.
Over the August weekend, events include the famous Donkey Derby Races, a pancake breakfast, street parade, artist markets, and a whole host of bluegrass and country bands that set the mood.
If you’re after a wholesome weekend of fun and want to check out what else Cripple Creek has to offer, Donkey Derby Days is one to visit, but you’ll want to get in quick because accommodation in the town is limited.
#5 Mardi Gras Festival
The New Orleans Mardi Gras Festival would have to be one of the most famous in the world, and not just the US, deserving a place on our list.
This event is held through the state of Louisiana but gains the most attention in New Orleans, including the famous street parade that runs through the town.
The very first Mardi Gras Festival was held at the mouth of the Mississippi River and is believed to have dated back to 1699, making it one of the oldest events this country celebrates.
In 2022, Mardi Gras Day will be held on March 1st, and although a visit to New Orleans at this time is hectic, it’s well worth it.
To get into the spirit, bring a bag along so you can take home some of the beads and other trinkets that you catch from the parade.
#6 Alabama Blueberry Festival
The renowned Alabama Blueberry Festival is now entering its 40th year of celebrations, and it promises to be a fun and wholesome time for all ages.
Usually held mid-year, the festival takes place at Brewton, which is in south-central Alabama, and focuses predominantly on blueberries but with plenty of other stuff to do as well.
While you’re there, you’ll want to see what else Alabama has to offer, including beaches, valleys, and cities to enjoy.
Spending the weekend at the Alabama Blueberry Festival will let you experience live music, entertainment, car shows, market stalls, a children’s section, and lots of arts and crafts.
For the blue fruit obsessed, you can sample and take home everything from blueberry cobbler to blueberry ice cream, all made with the state’s local produce, and there’s no shortage of blueberry-themed souvenirs to grab.
#7 Groundhog Day
The festival made famous by the Bill Murray movie first began in 1887, centered on the main event which occurs on the 2nd of February each year.
Held in Punxsutawney in Pennsylvania and observed in both Canada and North America, the town waits for its resident groundhog meteorologist, Punxsutawney Phil to predict the upcoming weather.
Although it might sound strange waiting for a sem-mythical rodent to tell us what the weather is going to do, it’s a great excuse for a festival and one of the most bizarre events to attend.
The Groundhog Day Celebration includes lots of family-friendly events like market stalls, live music, chainsaw carving, arts and crafts, and scavenger hunts for the kids.
Although Punxsutawney Phil and his meteorology skills are the main attraction, you’ll have plenty of other fun stuff to keep you busy.
#8 Burning Man
Burning Man itself claims not to be a festival but a city, and if you want to step into what feels more like an alternate universe, it’s worth checking out.
The event is usually held at Black Rock City found in the Black Rock Desert which is just northeast of Reno and it originated in 1986 when it was just a small function, paling in comparison to the nine-day mammoth event that it now is.
There are a few guiding principles that all attendees must follow, including ‘leave no trace’ and ‘radical inclusion, and it attracts many unique and out-there individuals.
With around 80,000 guests per year and a focus on music and large-scale art installations, the highlight of the event is when the large wooden effigy of “the Man” is burned, so it’s not to be missed.
#9 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival
Any celebrity worth their salt wants to be captured at Coachella, but as well as being one of the trendiest festivals to attend, it also attracts some of the biggest names in music.
Held at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, California, it’s become hugely popular, with some of the more recent headliners being Beyonce, Eminem, AC/DC, Radiohead, Daft Punk, and Madonna.
The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival features loads of local and international music acts, art installations, and sculptures, all held over multiple stages and areas.
Its origins can be traced back to 1993 when Pearl Jam held a concert at the same polo club, but the festival today would be unrecognizable for those who first attended.
From there, it grew exponentially and is now a consecutive three days weekend festival that sees around 250,000 people attend from across the globe.
#10 Boston Seafood Festival
Food lovers of the world unite and make sure you head to Boston for their annual seafood festival.
The Boston Seafood Festival has become a legend in its own right, even though it only started in 2012, which makes it a lot younger than others on our list.
The first iteration was a small group of people from the Boston seafood industry who wanted to share their passion, and today, it sees thousands of people attend.
The Boston Seafood Festival is now held once a year at the Boston Fish Pier, and it offers events for adults and children alike.
You’ll get to witness world-class entertainers, loads of seafood vendors, and the best chefs in the country displaying what they’re capable of with the fresh, delicious locally sourced seafood.
Better still, a visit to this festival is supporting the preservation and sustainability of the waters that surround it, thanks to the Boston Fisheries Foundation.
#11 South by Southwest Festival
If you’re after a little more than your average music festival, consider adding South by Southwest to your bucket list.
Commonly known as South By or SXSW, the annual event combines the best parts of music, film, and interactive media and puts them on display for the world to see in Austin, Texas.
Unlike other festivals, this is more than just sitting down and watching some cool bands perform, as you’ll get to take part in interactive displays, see what’s on at the film festival, or attend talks by some creative industry leaders.
The festival occurs in March every year and is a must for anyone with a creative mind, giving you something out of the box compared to the other music festivals that go on.
The US has no shortage of cool fairs and festivals to attend, whether you’re interested in music or seeing who can grow the largest pumpkins.
To learn more about some of the other popular events you can attend in North America so you can plan your visit, check out these FAQs and our helpful answers.
What is the Biggest Musical Festival in the US?
The Milwaukee festival Summerfest is currently the largest musical festival in the US, based on attendance numbers in recent years.
Each year, the event attracts around 800,000 people which makes it tower over the competition, with another popular music festival Lollapalooza only having 400,000 guests in comparison.
How Much Does Austin City Limits Cost?
Entry to Austin City Limits varies in price each year, but you can expect to spend between $250 and $300 for a ticket for a three-day weekend pass.
In addition to the ticket price, guests can expect to spend money on accommodation, food, and drinks, as well as any souvenirs or experiences they want to enjoy at the festival.