The Best Festivals & Fairs in Colorado this Summer
by Paul Joseph | Published May 17, 2016
Summertime in Colorado sees beautiful, sun-filled days combined with cool, comfortable evenings – the perfect climate to enjoy the array of outdoor festivals and fairs that take place each year across the western state. Below are 12 of our favourites.
Yampa River Festival
Yampa River Downtown, 3 – 5 June
Not for the faint-hearted, but certainly for the big-hearted, the Yampa River Festival has a strong altruistic goal – namely, to raise awareness and help protect the 270-mile river that runs through northwest Colorado. The last remaining major, wild tributary in the Colorado River basin, its endangered status is particularly meaningful to the people who spend time on it, either for work or recreation. Among the latter are kayakers, and it is the high-octane water sport that serves as the focal point of the festival, with slalom and downriver races, as well as tubing and raft races, among the activities. For those who prefer to stay on dry land, there’s also two parties – one in Strawberry Park and another at a sushi restaurant on the banks of the river. (Photo: Kent Vertrees))
The Ride Festival
Telluride, 9 – 10 July
If you’re the type that likes to enjoy rock music in an intimate outdoor setting, then this festival is guaranteed to please. Taking place at Telluride Town Park, surrounded by the beautiful 14,000 foot San Juan Mountains, Telluride offers one of the most stunning outdoor stage settings in the world. Guests attending the popular music event, which has been running since 2012, will be immersed in iconic and emerging rock music this year with Pearl Jam headlining on the Saturday and Cage the Elephant on the Sunday. Also on the line-up are The Dirty Knobs, The Temperance Movement, Jerry Joseph & The Jackmormons, along with many other up-and-coming artists. Visitors can take the free Gondola from Telluride to Mountain Village for an epic view of both towns and the San Juan Mountains. The RIDE Festival has garnered a strong reputation over the past four years for showcasing renowned artists such as David Byrne, Ben Harper, Steve Earle, Thievery, Joan Osborne and more – and this year is no different. Outside the festival, visitors can take advantage of the area’s natural beauty by partaking in hiking, biking, fishing, swimming in hot springs, camping, rafting, and much more. (Photo: Kirsten Cohen)
Manitou Springs Colorado Wine Festival
Memorial Park, 4 June
Colorado’s fledgling wine industry has exploded in the last 20 years. Home to the highest altitude vineyards in the United States, it is perhaps surprising that the fertile soil of the iconic Rocky Mountains was not capitalised upon sooner. But the 80-plus wineries in operation in Colorado today are certainly making up for lost time – as is the Manitou Springs Wine Festival, which returns for its latest edition this June. Held over one day in Memorial Park, the festival draws 25 Colorado wineries who serve tastings and sell their wine-related wares at the event. There’s also food booths, plus live music to keep your toes tapping. Ticket prices include admission to wine tastings and a complimentary Colorado Wine Festival glass. (Photo: Manitou Springs Colorado Wine Festival)
Telluride Bluegrass Festival
Telluride, 16-19 June
There are two events in Colorado each year that herald the start of summer: first there’s the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, and then there’s the hugely popular Telluride Bluegrass Festival. Now in its 43rd year, the festival is held over four days in the picturesque town of Telluride, set against the majestic backdrop of the San Juan Mountains, and celebrates the rich heritage of Americana roots music through main-stage performances, workshops, song-writing contests, late-night concerts at in-door venues across the town, and jam sessions on sidewalks and throughout the festival campgrounds. Some of the standout musical names featuring in 2016 include Sam Bush Band, Neil Finn, Emmylou Harris and John Prine. (Photo: Rob Lee via Flickr)
The Divide Music Festival
Winter Park,22 – 24 July
The Divide Music Festival is yet another must-attend outdoor music festival in Colorado, this one just a short ride from Denver. Held over three days, it revives the rich history of music in the Rockies and over the years has featured A-list acts such as Kid Cudi, Edwarde Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, The Fray, Cake, Passion Pit and more, along with the best of Colorado’s local music scene. Throw in to the mix the city’s best and brightest craft beer breweries, along with local food artisans, and the success of Divide becomes clear. Visitors can relax as they camp under the stars with the Rocky Mountains and the Continental Divide as a backdrop, helping to make the event every music lovers and outdoor enthusiasts’ dream. (Photo: The Divide Music Festival)
Burning Can Festival
Lyons, 4 June
What do you get if you combine lashings of beer with outdoor games? It might sound like an accident waiting to happen, but in the case of Burning Can Festival, it all adds up to an action-packed day of activities and music – all lubricated by the constant flow of more than 200 beers served up by an assortment of local craft breweries. Taking place in the town of Lyons, the fun and games include a beer relay – a team-trail running and beer-drinking event – along with a mountain bike freeriding display and a salmon kayak competition. Live tunes will be delivered by headline act Dirty Dozen Brass Band, a hugely influential New Orleans-based band that incorporates funk and bebop into its music. (Photo: Burning Can Festival)
Colorado Medieval Festival
Loveland, 3 -5 June
If you’ve ever harboured a secret desire to dress up as a medieval knight or maiden, but have never found a suitable excuse for doing so, then the Colorado Medieval Festival offers the chance to role-play with impunity. Now into its second year, the festival takes place in the unique location of Savage Woods in the city of Loveland, set against the dramatic backdrop of the Devil’s Backbone open space. The event offers a weekend of swordsmanship, artisan crafts and as much food and drink you can shake a sheath at, while several stages host musical acts and other entertainment. More than 120 artisans and merchants will also be on hand to demonstrate their crafts, helping to keep alive the arts of the medieval period. Families with young children are welcome. (Photo: Focus Music Festival)
Jazz Fest & Art Walk
Estes Park, 4 – 5 June
For two full days each year, the mountains overlooking Estes Park are alive with the sounds of great jazz, eye-catching art and family activities at the Estes Park Jazz fest. Presenting the finest national and regional Jazz artists, the festival features a stellar line-ups of performers, representing the roots of Jazz through to its thriving and diverse present, as well as offering a glimpse into the genre’s future with new and emerging performers. As well as playing host to seven Jazz bands and musicians, the festival also offers an array of other attractions, including a wine garden and art galleries dotted throughout the village. Kids will also have the opportunity to contribute to the festival sounds with handmade instruments, including plastic egg shakers, jingling tambourines and French horns. (Photo: Jazz Fest & Art Walk)
Boulder, 9 – 12 June
The array of benefits offered by the physical, mental, and spiritual practice of yoga are enjoyed by young and old alike. Such is its popularity that one yoga organisation in Colorado decided it needed its own festival. The result is Hanuman Festival, a community-oriented yoga and music event that creates a safe and inclusive space designed to inspire people to “uplift the world”. While the majority of participants are drawn from the local community, visitors are also welcome to join in the invigorating festival weekend which promises world-class yoga instructors, mind-blowing music and inspirational experiences. (Photo: Hanuman Festival)
Colorado Brewer’s Festival
Llandudno, 30 April – 2 May
The award-winning Colorado Brewers’ Festival returns to Washington Park in Downtown Fort Collins this June for a fun-filled weekend featuring 90+ Colorado beers, 40+ Colorado breweries and an interactive Beer School with tastings and demonstrations. The event also serves as a platform for some of Northern Colorado’s finest musicians, vendors and food trucks. There’s no admission charge to enter the festival grounds, but guests keen to indulge in the locally-brewed refreshments can purchase a tasting package which includes a commemorative Govino “Go-Anywhere” 16-ounce beer glass and 10 Taster Tickets redeemable for food and beer. (Photo: Colorado Brewer’s Festival)
ARISE Music Festival
Sunrise Ranch, 5 – 7 August
ARISE is back for another summer in Colorado, founded on the acronym Activate/ Reconnect/Interact/Synchronize/Empower. The goal of ARISE is to do just that, through yoga intensives, art installations, interactive workshops, a mini documentary film festival, and – most importantly – music. Over the years, the festival has cultivated a one-of-a-kind experience designed for both veterans of the event and adventurous families looking to spice up their summer camping trip. Headliners in 2016 include Ziggy Marley, Jurassic 5 and The New Mastersounds, while also on the line-up are Del the Funky Homosapien, Everyone Orchestra and The Travelin’ McCourys. (Photo: Arise Music Festival)
Vail International Dance Festival
Vail, 30 July – 13 August
Entering its 27th season in 2016, the Vail International Dance Festival is led by Artistic Director Damian Woetzel. An all-encompassing celebration of dance in all its rich and diverse guises, the festival boasts an international reputation and a dedicated following. Renowned artists and groups to have performed at the festival include New York City Ballet MOVES, BalletX, Martha Graham Dance Company, Paul Taylor Dane Company, Pacific Northwest Ballet, New York City Ballet, America Ballet Theater, Alvin Ailey Dance Company, the Moscow Stanislavsky Ballet, Hamburg Ballet and Harlem Dance Company. (Photo: Erin Baiano)
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