The Best Festivals & Fairs in Baltimore & Maryland

by Paul Joseph  |  Published January 18, 2017

The Mid-Atlantic state of Maryland is dotted with copious waterways and seaboards that line the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean. Its cities are also some of the most idiosyncratic in the US and none more so than Baltimore.

So rich in history and culture is this part of America, it is no surprise that across Baltimore – and Maryland as a whole – a huge number of festivals and fairs are held here every year, each celebrating a particular theme that helps to characterise the region. Below are 20 of the best taking place in 2017.

An atmospheric shot of a secluded rural house in Maryland (Photo: mokastet via Flickr)

January 2017

Winter Wine Showcase

If you think ‘Dry January’ is for puritans and wimps, then this event is sure to please you. Hosted in the historic B&O Railroad Museum, visitors can taste and learn about the very best wine that Maryland has to offer in a small, exclusive and unique setting. There’s also live music and an opportunity to mingle with the leading figures in the Maryland wine industry, all the while surrounded by the largest antique train collection in the country. Now that’s how to see in the New Year in style. WHEN 26 January WHERE B&O Railroad Museum, Baltimore

February 2017

Frozen Harbor Music Festival

What better to get the toes tapping and warm the cockles during the icy cold month of February than some red hot music. That’s precisely what’s on offer at the Frozen Harbor Music Festival which invites some of the best local acts from around Maryland to entertain the crowds with their distinctive sounds. Rock, hip hop and funk bands are all on the billing to perform across multiple outdoor stages throughout Baltimore’s Harbor District for two full days.WHEN 17 – 18 February WHERE Baltimore Harbor District

Frozen Harbor Music Festival

A pulsating performance at the Frozen Harbor Music Festival (Photo: Steve Goodman via Flickr)

March 2017

Baltimore Jewish Film Festival

One of North America’s longest running celebrations of Jewish-themed movies, this internationally renowned film festival has been running for over a quarter-of-a-century and continues to flourish. This, of course, is due largely to the efforts of the myriad directors, script-writers, producers and actors and many others on the front line of movie-making who help to create the fabulous films that are shown at the Gordon Center for Performing Arts each year. But there are unsung heroes too, including the Film Festival Director and volunteer film committee who help curate the event. For 2017, the festival is putting on another stellar line-up, including Awake Zion, a documentary that explores the unsuspecting connections between Rasta, Reggae, and Judaism, and The Women’s Balcony, a movie centred around an Orthodox Synagogue in Jerusalem. Quite simply, when it comes to honouring Jewish life and culture on the silver screen, this is as good as it gets. WHEN 19 March – 30 April WHERE Gordon Center for Performing Arts, Baltimore

Baltimore Jewish Film Festival

A shot from one of the movies to be showcased at the 2017 Baltimore Jewish Film Festival (Photo: Baltimore Jewish Film Festival)

Light City Baltimore

The bright lights of Baltimore are given a whole new dimension for one week in April when the city stages a stunning festival of light, music and innovation. Art instillations, live performances and concerts, and informative talks are held at the Inner Harbor, attracting hundreds and thousands of festival-goers keen to see the city lit up in the most visually arresting way. The inaugural event was held last year, with an animatronic peacock, hundreds of illuminated sculptures resembling a flotilla of paper boats, and “lighted” cotton candy among the highlights. WHEN 31 March – 8 April WHERE Baltimore waterfront

April 2017

Beer, Bourbon & BBQ Festival

If the title isn’t enticing enough for you, there may be no hope. But in case you need any more convincing, here’s a taste of what you can expect at this orgy of culinary and imbibing pleasures. As the name suggests, you’ll find world class beer, bourbon and barbeque vendors on site, with tastings and samples in ample supply. Provided you’re not too weighed down with food and drink, there’s even a games area offering fun activities to keep you entertained. And if that’s not enough, the festival also serves up a great offering of live music, including rock and bluegrass bands. WHEN 1 – 2 April WHERE Maryland State Fairgrounds

May 2017

Charm City Comedy Festival

There’s laughs-a-plenty at this annual comedy festival which invites premier local and national acts to tickle the funny bones of live audiences at the Zissimos Bar in Baltimore. Stand up, improv and sketch shows all feature, as well as practical workshops for those who want to fine-tune their own comedy talents. The event is held over two weekends, so festival-goers arriving from outside Baltimore get two bites at the cherry if they miss the first one. And if you’d like to pitch yourself to perform, you can even drop an application in to the organisers. WHEN tbc WHERE Zissimos Bar, Baltimore

Charm City Comedy Festival

Performers at the Charm City Comedy Festival strike amusing poses for a group photo (Photo: Charm City Comedy Festival)


The Preakness Stakes in Baltimore is one of America’s most prestigious horse racing events and each year it is preceded by a fantastic music festival called Infieldfest. Held at the same venue as the horse racing, the festival boasts an impressive line-up that spans a variety of genres ranging from hip-hop and pop rock to country and EDM. Past performers include Lorde, Macklemore, Bruno Mars, Maroon 5, Zac Brown, Wiz Khalifa, Pitbull and many others. WHEN 20 May WHERE Pimlico Race Course, Baltimore

Maryland Deathfest

Don’t fear – this festival isn’t quite as menacing as it sounds. Celebrating ‘extreme’ music, this internationally renowned event brings together bands that perform on the outer reaches of the alternative music scene. The very best in death metal, grindcore, doom, thrash, hardcore, black metal, and experimental bands from all around the world all feature here, giving the event a truly eclectic feel. In fact, the diversity of the line-up is only surpassed by the diversity of the festival’s rabid fan base, who travel from all over the world for a weekend of high-octane fun, excitement and amazing sounds. WHEN 25 – 28 May WHERE Rayne

Maryland Deathfest

A gleeful crowdsurfer at Maryland Deathfest (Photo: Anna Piranha via Flickr)

Naptown barBAYq Contest & Music Festival

Taking place in the small coastal town of Crownsville, this popular music festival attracts thousands of revellers each year who come to enjoy the array of live music, great food and – perhaps the star of the whole event – a barbeque competition that invites aficionados of the great American culinary tradition to come and pit their smoking grill skills against each other. The event is also extremely family friendly, with a number of free kids’ activities, as well as arts and crafts vendors and cooking demonstrations. WHEN tbc WHERE Anne Arundel County Fairgrounds, Crownsville, Maryland

Naptown barBAYq Contest & Music Festival

Guitarists giving it full throttle at the Naptown barBAYq Contest & Music Festival (Photo: Naptown barBAYq Contest & Music Festival)

June 2017

Capital Jazz Fest

Jazz has always been a polarising musical genre, but those who love it do so with a passion that can only be admired. Each year in early June, tens of thousands of music lovers from across America flock to this weekend of cool jazz and soul, which has grown to become one of the country’s most popular outdoor music festivals. As well as showcasing some of the best jazz and soul music on the planet, it also features amazing food and drink, shopping opportunities, arts and crafts, and educational workshops. After the show, there’s also late night events hosted at local hotels. WHEN 2 – 4 June WHERE Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia, Maryland

Capital Jazz Fest

A band mid-performance at the Capital Jazz Fest (Photo: Bernard Flagg)

Chesapeake Crab & Beer Festival

Legend has it that enough crab is consumed at this event to stretch all the way across Baltimore Harbor and back again – and it’s easy to see why that could be true. Now in its 4th year, this annual festival is an all-you-can-eat extravaganza featuring over 30,000 crabs, lashings of beer, arts & crafts, live music, family fun and plenty more besides. Thousands of tables and chairs along with huge tents ensure the 22,000 people who descend here each year are comfortably accommodated. WHEN 24 June WHERE Rash Field, Inner Harbor, Baltimore

July 2017

Baltimore African American Festival

With its huge African American community, it seems only fitting for Baltimore to host a festival celebrating the rich and deeply-embedded heritage of so many of its residents. The largest cultural festival on the entire East Coast, the city welcomes over 350,000 attendees annually to the event, which places a huge emphasis on music, attracting top musical acts as well as showcasing emerging local talent. There are also segments of the show that focus on wellness, beauty and technology, all with an African American slant. WHEN 2 – 3 July WHERE Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore

Baltimore African American Festival

A young girl getting sprayed with water on the street during the Baltimore African American Festival (Photo: images by illume via Flickr)

Baltimore Improv Festival

Baltimore has always been fertile breeding ground for gifted comedians and this heritage is both celebrated and enhanced each year at the Baltimore Improv Festival. The event is dedicated to advancing the art and appreciation of improvisational theatre in the greater Baltimore community through a dynamic programme of performance, instruction, and outreach, showcasing a variety of local, regional and nationally-known improv groups in shows and workshops across the city. WHEN 25 – 31 July WHERE Baltimore’s Theatre Project & the Mercury Theater

Artscape Festival

Said to be America’s largest free arts festival, Artscape attracts an eye-popping 350,000 visitors each year. Held over three days, the event features more than 150 fine artists, fashion designers and craftspeople who come together to present visual art exhibits, exhibitions, outdoor sculptures, art cars and photography. There’s also a full schedule of performing arts including dance, opera, theatre, film, experimental music and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, all strutting their stuff on several outdoor stages. Families with little ones are made welcome by hands-on projects, demonstrations, competitions, children’s entertainers and street theatre. WHEN 21 – 23 July WHERE Venues across Baltimore

August 2017

Moonrise Festival

Electronic dance lovers planning a trip to Baltimore next August are in for a treat if their visit happens to coincide with the annual Moonrise Festival. Founded in 2013, the festival features a whole host of distinguished acts from the electronic dance music scene, with a smattering of hip-hop performers adding to the eclectic vibe. As has become tradition, each evening of the two-day festival is brought to a climax with a moving celebration of the rising moon. WHEN 6 – 7 August WHERE Pimlico Race Course, Baltimore

Moonrise Festival

Revelers browse stalls at the Moonrise Festival (Photo: Jo Taylor via Flickr)

Vegan SoulFest

With veganism surging in popularity around the globe due to increasing concerns about both sustainability and animal welfare, it’s no surprise that this festival has grown exponentially too. Each year visitors get to browse and sample a huge range of locally-sourced vegan products, as well as speak to non-profit exhibitors about issues such as health, social justice and animal rights. The festival also features guest speakers discussing the benefits of a vegan lifestyle including how it can enhance our relationship with animals and the environment. Meanwhile there’s also cooking demos and live music and entertainment for all the family. WHEN tbc WHERE Baltimore City Community College

Vegan SoulFest

Stallholders at the Vegan SoulFest (Photo: Vegan SoulFest)

September 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con

Comic-Cons are now some of the biggest pop culture events that take place anywhere across the world and the Baltimore edition is one of the very best. Founded in 2000, the show offers comic lovers the chance to meet marquee-name comic book creators past and present, publishers and vendor booths offering genre-related items, including comic book back-issues, limited edition collectibles, comic-themed clothing, videos and DVDs, Meanwhile panel discussions throughout the show feature industry names conversing on past hallmarks in comic book history, and offering general information on the industry and how to be a part of it. WHEN 22 – 24 September WHERE Baltimore Convention Center

Baltimore Seafood Festival

If there’s one thing Baltimore natives love to chow down on more than anything, it’s seafood. The city’s edible oceanic plunder is legendary, with its crab cakes, crab soup, shrimp salad, local oysters, and of course, Maryland blue crabs just some of the dishes that are treated as something approaching regional treasures. It seems fitting, therefore, that the city hosts a waterfront festival showcasing some of Baltimore’s favourite restaurants serving their signature seafood dishes. Throw into the mix live music, cooking demos, and an area for families with toys, games, face painting and more, and you have one of the city’s most eagerly awaited events on the annual calendar. WHEN 17 September WHERE Canton Waterfront Park

Baltimore Book Festival

This is one of the biggest and most popular book festivals in America, featuring appearances by hundreds of local, celebrity and nationally known authors, book signings, as well as more than 100 exhibitors and booksellers showcasing their literary wares. There’s also readings on multiple stages, workshops, panel discussions, storytellers and hands-on projects for kids. If you’re visiting with anyone less passionate about books, then there’s also cooking demos by top chefs, live music, and a curated food, craft beer and wine programme to keep them entertained. WHEN 22 – 24 September WHERE Baltimore Inner Harbor

Baltimore Book Festival

A T-shirt emblazoned with a mischievous slogan displayed at the Baltimore Book Festival (Photo: Wali via Flickr)

November 2017

Maryland STEM Festival

Making learning fun is the modus operandi of the Maryland STEM Festival. Held over ten full days in venues across Maryland, the festival provides inspirational, educational and accessible programming in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) for visitors young and old. Through collaborative, interactive, and dynamic events and activities, the event offers a superb opportunity for parents to drag their kids away from their X-Box and Snapchat to really engage with real-life learning in a meaningful way. Who knows, it could be the first step towards greatness for your little cherubs… WHEN 3 – 12 November WHERE Venues across Maryland

Baltimore Book Festival

Children enjoying a computer-based activity at the Maryland STEM Festival (Photo: Maryland STEM Festival)