Set against a diverse landscape of arid desert, river canyons and snow-covered mountains, Colorado plays host to a huge number of great festivals and fairs every year.
Whether your penchant is for art, music, film, gastronomy, history or anything else, you’re certain to find an event in Colorado to satisfy your tastes. If you’re planning a visit to the western state and would like to see what’s likely to be on during your stay, we’ve picked out 20 of the best annual festivals and fairs that take place across Colorado, including in the state capital of Denver, from east to west.
Durango Bluegrass Meltdown
One of the most eagerly awaited festivals on southwest Colorado’s cultural calendar, this hugely popular celebration of traditional bluegrass music is packed full of concerts, as well as special events such as a barn dance, a Saturday night ‘Celtdown’, and live music in local restaurants and bars. Indeed, festivalgoers can pick and choose from a huge variety of performances at indoor and outdoor venues around the city, and those who fancy themselves as an entertainer even have a chance to jam in public spaces too.
Venues across Durango / April each year
There can be few more impressive backdrops than that offered to revellers at the annual RIDE Festival, which takes place in the scenic mountain ranges of Telluride. One of the newer additions to Colorado’s festival landscape having launched in 2012, it is held at Town Park and other venues across the former Victorian mining town, and features a stellar cast of rock and roll bands and solo artists who perform in front of large crowds at a packed schedule of outdoor daytime concerts as well as late night events. Adding to the occasion are an array of vendors selling everything from clothing and art to food and beer.
Venues across Telluride / July each year
Telluride Fire Festival
Two Telluriders and seasoned Burning Man attendees produce the annual Telluride Fire Festival in Telluride each year. The family-friendly Festival offers an interactive fire art experience for all. Multi-storied, fire emitting art cars, and other larger-than-life, animated, fiery art installations, fire dancers along with an indoor circus and dance performance, and free workshops are all on the weekend schedule. Produced by the Rocky Mountain Arts, a 501c3 organization, the festival’s mission is to create and sustain interactive and performing arts, providing a platform for artists to entertain, educate and promote their work.
Telluride Arts District, Telluride / December each year
5Point Film Festival
Approaching its 10th anniversary, this travelling film festival pitches up in Carbondale each April with the mission of providing a platform for makers of inspiring adventure films to demonstrate their talents. More than 50 film screenings take place across the 4-day event, along with live podcast recording, panel discussions, spoken word and dance performances, special guest cameos, book signings, family activities, live art demos, and plenty more, all designed to champion creativity and authentic storytelling.
Carbondale / April each year
Cinco de Mayo Festival
Versions of this popular Mexican celebration, which commemorates the Battle of Puebla, where the Mexicans defeated the French in 1862, take place across the world, and among the most fervent can be found here in Carbondale. The one-day festivities include live bands, parties, parades, lashings of Mexican-style food, and other fun-packed activities such as craft stalls, cooking workshops, and more. For refreshment, vendors selling Mexican beer and soda will be on hand to keep visitors well oiled.
Carbondale / May each year
Crested Butte Wildflower Festival
The Crested Butte Wildflower Festival is an annual 10-day Festival offering over 200 workshops in wildflower expertise each July, be it painting, pollination, photography, culinary arts, or leading hikes into the wild beyond in the heart of the Wildflower Capital of Colorado, Crested Butte. The 501(c)3 nonprofit organisation was founded in 1986 to celebrate the beauty of the montane and alpine wildflower environments in and around the Gunnison Valley. Today they continue to advocate for the preservation and appreciation of wildflowers and instill both awareness and admiration of our interdependence with our natural wildflower habitats.
Venues across Crested Butte / July each year
Aspen Film Shortsfest
An internationally recognised film festival, the Aspen Film Shortsfest showcases and celebrates the very best in ‘short but sweet’ movie creations that creep in under the 40-minute mark. Films receiving awards at the festival can qualify for the hugely prestigious Oscars, ensuring it’s always a hotly-contested affair. As well as a diverse programme of public screenings, there are also panels, workshops, and other festivities that shine a spotlight on the art and craft of short movie-making.
Aspen / April each year
MusicFest at Steamboat
To kick off the new year, the snow-swept peaks of Colorado are the scene of an acclaimed music festival that’s been drawing thousands of ski and music lovers to Steamboat Springs for over three decades. Taking place in the picturesque environs of the Steamboat Ski Resort, one of the region’s finest skiing destinations, the event features some 80 bands and live performers who strut their stuff against a stunning mountainous backdrop. The resort’s facilities are fully open for the duration of the festival, meaning revellers can ski by day and kick back and enjoy the music at night.
Steamboat Ski Resort, Steamboat Springs, Yampa Valley / January each year
Big Beers, Belgians & Barleywines Festival
An acclaimed beer festival taking place in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, this fun-filled and exceedingly boozy festival features hundreds of big, Belgian style, and experimental beers. Visitors can explore beer and food pairings, and learn from an impressive array of brewmasters and industry experts over an action-packed three-day weekend. There are also celebrity beer pairing dinners, and beer and brewing seminars for those keen to try their hand at making their own home brews.
Beaver Run Resort & Conference Center, Breckenridge / January each year
Breckenridge Wine Classic
Playing host to a top-notch line up of master sommeliers, gourmet chefs and seasoned winemakers, this weekend of wine and food indulgence in the heart of the Tenmile mountain range is a gastronome’s paradise. Highlights include a Grand Tasting event, wine pairing dinners and educational seminars that offer a chance to grow your knowledge of how world-class wine is made. Events and activities take place in local restaurants, classrooms, and at various spots around town.
Venues across Breckenridge / September each year
Taste of Vail
Epicureans who find themselves near the small town of Vail in April are in for a treat thanks to the annual hosting of one of America’s premier food and wine festivals. Taking place within the scenic setting of a renowned ski resort, the event sees world class restaurants and winemakers hailing from near and far descend for four days of gastronomic indulgence. Tastings, workshops and cook-offs are aplenty, and there are also interactive seminars, dancing, and a live auction to keep visitors entertained.
Vail Marriott Mountain Resort , Vail / April each year
Dating back to 1949, America’s oldest whitewater festival is an action-packed event that takes place on the waters and banks of the Arkansas River in downtown Salida’s Riverside Park. A renowned kayaking destination, thrill-seekers can hit the water to compete in an array of aquatic-based competitions and activities, including the Slalom Race, Crazy River Dog, and the Hooligan Race. Back on dry land, there’s food, arts and crafts, a beer tent, a carnival, and a state-of-the art amphitheatre hosting a top-notch line-up of musical acts.
Riverside Park, Salida / June each year
Evergreen Jazz Festival
Known internationally for its combination of world-class bands, intimate venues and dramatic mountainous setting, the Evergreen Jazz Festival presents some 80 hours of live Dixieland, blues, swing, ragtime and boogie-woogie performed by musicians from across New York, Nashville, New Orleans, California and Colorado. Performances take place across several distinctive venues including a bar and grill, a church, the beautiful Evergreen Lake House, and the Evergreen Elks Lodge ballroom and patio, each providing an up-close-and-personal listening experience, in which dancers are welcomed and encouraged.
Venues across Evergreen / July each year
Denver International Wine Festival
The Rocky Mountains are more than just pretty look at and explore – they also feature a climate tailor-made for wine production. Each year the Denver International Wine Festival celebrates Colorado’s wine-making prowess with four full days of wine and food-themed escapades. As well as the chance to taste up to 400 local, international and domestic wines, beers and spirits, guests can also take part in educational wine seminars, attend lavish dinners, listen to live music and entertainment, and join tours of local wineries and distilleries.
Denver Marriott Westminster, Westminster / November each year
Denver Arts Festival
A free-to-enter annual festival featuring more than 150 Colorado-based and national artists, the Denver Arts Festival is a major event on the state’s arts calendar. Held in the large expanse of Conservatory Green every year since 1999, it places a strong focus on supporting local artists while also showcasing a select group from further afield. As for the works on display, visitors will find a huge array of eclectic fine arts and crafts to peruse (and purchase) at their leisure.
Conservatory Green, Central Park, Denver / September each year
For more than half-a-century Denver has been the scene of one of America’s most fervently celebrated Oktoberfests. Originating in Bavaria, Germany back in the 19th century, these high-octane, beer-fuelled events have become something of global phenomenon, and the Denver interpretation stays loyal to many of its traditional characteristics, with lashings of beer, food, live music, and even much-cherished quirky activities like keg bowling and Stein hoisting competitions.
Downtown Denver / September each year
Denver BBQ Festival
Like in so many areas of the US, barbecue cuisine is a seriously big deal in Colorado – and nowhere more so than in Denver. This mouth-watering festival assembles a killer roll-call of award-winning BBQ legends who come to Empower Field at Mile High for the ultimate Father’s Day weekend, where they proceed to serve you the food that made them famous. Visitors can chow down on their hearty grub while enjoying a cold drink and some great live music. VIP passes are also available.
Empower Field at Mile High, Denver / September each year
Denver Film Festival
Another regular inclusion on Colorado’s impressive roster of annual film festivals is the Denver Film Festival. Presenting around 250 films over twelve days – spanning new international feature releases, independently produced fiction films and documentaries, animation, experimental works, children’s programs, short subjects and music videos – the award-winning event is the focus of great media attention thanks to its notable track-record of showcasing movies that would go onto achieve global success. There’s also a large dash of glitz and glamour, with celebrity-strewn red carpets aplenty.
Sie FilmCenter, Denver / November each year
Those keen to get in the festive spirit are invited to come and experience an Old World Christmas at the annual Denver Christkindl Market. An annual holiday tradition, the market brings German and European flare to downtown Denver through live music, dancing, and local and European craft vendors ensconced in cosy wooden huts, each decorated for the season. Bavarian-style beers, pretzels and homemade Goulasch are available to warm the cockles and there’s also a skate rink located just outside the market.
Civic Center Park, Denver / November-December each year
Colorado Arts Festival
Major concerts, contemporary art displays, a classic car show, a custom motorcycle show, a family 5k run, a food garden, and dozens of other fun attractions are just some of what you can expect at this popular arts festival. Held over two separate weekends in August – one in Westminster Park and the other in Centennial Park – the event draws large numbers of fun-seekers from far and wide. National recording artists perform throughout the afternoon and evening on the main stage, while juried visual artists present their depictions of the heritage and the culture of the area.
Westminster City Park, Westminster & Centennial Center Park, Centennial / August each year