Best known as one of America’s finest skiing destinations, the western state of Utah also plays host to a huge number of festivals and fairs throughout the year.
Bordering Idaho and Wyoming in the north, Colorado in the east, Arizona in the south, Nevada in the west, and New Mexico at a single point at the ‘Four Corners Monument’, what landlocked Utah lacks in coastal areas it certainly makes up for in festivals and fairs held in towns and cities the length and breadth of the state each year. If you’re planning a trip to Utah and would like to find out what festivals and fairs are taking place during your dates of travel, we’ve picked out 20 of the best.
Sundance Film Festival
Having begun life in Salt Lake City back in 1978 as part of a wider effort to attract more filmmakers to Utah, Sundance has grown to become one of America’s most respected and celebrated film festivals. Held over ten days each January, the festival sees storytellers and audiences gather together at venues across Park City for a diverse program of movie, documentary and short film screenings, along with daily filmmaker conversations, panel discussions, and other events.
Venues across Park City / January each year
Bryce Canyon Winter Festival
There are few better ways to stave off a cold Utah winter than by assembling en masse for an action-packed festival. For three days each winter, the charming Ruby’s Inn and the dramatic expanse of Bryce Canyon National Park play host to a huge array of winter-themed events and activities that are sure to warm the cockles. Among them are cross country skiing, a people-powered sled race and ice skating, while cookie decorating, crafts, and watercolour classes give the festival an artsy twist.
Ruby’s Inn & Bryce Canyon National Park / February each year
The Green River Watermelon Crawl
Each year, large numbers of UTV (Utility Terrain Vehicles) enthusiasts welcome in the spring season by riding the Green River Watermelon Crawl. Created to highlight and promote the incredible trails of the Green River area and the San Rafael Swell, the event sees hundreds of participants gather and split into guided groups to hit the trails. As well as guided rides along the scenic trails, there are also plenty of prizes and giveaways made possible by event sponsors.
Green River / March each year
Green River Rock and Mineral Festival
This weekend-long event takes place outside the John Wesley Powell Museum in the picturesque surroundings of Green River and sees vendors, experts, and guides come together to celebrate the inspirational beauty and fascinating geology of the Colorado Plateau. There are talks by special guests, pop-up markets selling minerals and crafts, and a range of guided field trips that invite visitors of all ages to discover the majesty of the region for themselves.
Green River / March-April each year
Scandinavian Heritage Festival
As with most of the state’s other immigrants from northern Europe, Utah’s Scandinavians and their descendants are largely the fruit of over a century of Mormon proselyting abroad. Today Utah celebrates this rich heritage with an annual festival featuring Scandinavian food, wares, music and more. Free to enter, visitors can look forward to such events and activities as a parade, a quilt show, a ceramic workshop, athletic competitions, demonstrations of Scandinavian traditions, and a car show.
Venues across Ephraim / Memorial Day Weekend each year
Established in 1921, Utah’s longest continually running rodeo celebrated its centennial last year and continues to go from strength to strength. Themed around the delectable strawberry, the event is held during prime strawberry-growing season, all set against the magnificent backdrop of Mount Timpanogos in Pleasant Grove. Visitors are offered the chance to enjoy fresh strawberries while watching an old-fashioned rodeo, colourful carnival, craft fair, street parade, concerts and much more.
Venues across Pleasant Grove / June each year
Orem Summerfest has been going strong for over 80 years. Orem is known as Family City USA and this festival provides opportunities for friends and families to get out together in the beautiful Utah summer weather. The week-long event includes concerts, a community swim party, a car show with over 100 vehicles, a family BBQ, and a full three day carnival. It wraps up with one of the only evening parades in Utah and a spectacular fireworks show.
Venues across Orem / June each year
Utah Arts Festival
Utah has a thriving art scene and at its heart is this hugely popular annual festival – the largest of its kind anywhere across the state. Drawing over 70,000 visitors every year, the festival features more than 150 visual artists selling a wide variety of pieces spanning 2D/3D mixed media, ceramics, digital, drawing and pastels, fibre, glass, jewellery, metalwork, painting, photography, sculpture, and wearable art. As well as the art on display, there are also live music and theatre performances, slam poetry competitions, storytelling sessions, and a Makers Faire.
Library & Washington Square, Downtown Salt Lake City / June each year
Utah Blues Festival
Utah’s largest gathering of Blues acts and fans from around the country is solely dedicated to increasing awareness of a uniquely American musical and cultural art form – which many consider to be the foundation of all other American music to follow. By showcasing a large line-up of both national and local Blues artists, as well as a Youth Showcase and Workshops, the festival serves to provide a unique experience for Utahns to meet and connect around all things Blues.
The Gallivan Center, 239 South Main Street, Downtown Salt Lake City / June each year
Utah Festival Opera
Keen fans of opera and musical theatre who find themselves in the Utah city of Logan in June or August are in for a treat thanks to this five-week festival consisting of over 100 events including productions of grand opera, operetta, light opera, and/or rarely-seen Broadway-style musical theatre. But that’s not all – visitors can also enjoy a host of offerings such as orchestral and vocal concerts, pre-performance discussions, backstage tours, Breakfast with the Stars and plenty more.
Venues across Logan / June-August each year
Green River Utah Sky Lantern Festival
For one night only each September, the Utah skies above the mighty Green River become festooned with thousands of eye-catching lanterns. One of the most magical occasions of the year, the event attracts large numbers of visitors who gather with family and friends at sundown around a fire pit to make S’mores and listen to music as lanterns decorate the night sky. During the evening, revellers are invited to collectively release their wishes, hopes, and dreams for the future into the universe.
Green River / September each year
Utah Shakespeare Festival
Founded in 1961, this is one of the oldest and largest Shakespeare festivals in North America. Visitors strolling through the tree-lined courtyard of the festival venue on the campus of Southern Utah University are greeted by lively music that beckons you to explore further. Within the same grounds, the grand Engelstad outdoor theatre sees Elizabethan costumed actors take to the stage to perform Shakespearean plays and other classics, as well as works by more contemporary dramatists, creating a magical evening under the stars.
Beverley Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts, Southern Utah University, Cedar City / Summer each year
Held in the picture-postcard environs of Green River – home of delectable watermelons, cantaloupe, canaries and honeydew – this popular weekend-long event celebrates the area’s famously tasty melon varieties and their assortment of growers. There’s also a live music concert, softball tournaments, vendors, a street parade, duck races, and a whole lot more to keep revellers entertained.
Green River / Each September
First held all the way back in 1904 to give local farmers some respite from the arduous harvest season, this event celebrates Utah’s long-standing reputation for peach-growing. Drawing over 35,000 spectators, as well as more peaches than you can shake a stick it, the fun-filled weekend features two parades, a Jr. Peach Queen Pageant, a carnival, a motorcycle and car show, hundreds of craft and food vendors, and a Saturday night music concert by a notable local performer.
Venues across Brigham City / Each September
Midway Swiss Days Festival
Attracting roughly 100,000 attendees yearly, this festival celebrates the Swiss pioneers who came to Midway and the Heber Valley, and were taken aback by its similarity to their homeland. Offering a lively experience in honour of these forebears, the event rings with the sound of yodelling and alp horns, along with the smell of cinnamon scones filling the air. It’s a huge event for the community and Utahns at large, with many locals camping out to secure the best spots for viewing the main parade and gaining access to the 180+ purveyors of arts, crafts, and food.
Venues across Berne, Indiana & Midway / Labor Day Weekend each year
Having originated in Germany in the early 19th-century, Oktoberfest celebrations are now held in cities across America. Among the biggest takes place in the small Utah skiing town of Snowbird, which attracts more than 60,000 visitors each year with its offering of family-friendly activities, food, live music, arts & crafts, and, of course, brews every weekend between mid-August and mid-October. For many, it’s the beer that’s the big draw, with the chance to sample everything from American pale ale to stout made with a wide variety of hops and brew methods.
Snowbird ski and summer resort, Snowbird / September-October each year
Heber Valley Music & Cowboy Poetry Gathering
One of the nation’s largest Cowboy Poetry gatherings sees performers from across America travel to Utah to perform in front of audiences across nine Heber Valley venues with the aim of embracing and celebrating Western culture. There are booths selling Western arts, crafts, and cowboy gear, plus a mountain man camp, a cowboy church, and nonstop entertainment. Meanwhile, cowboy poets are on hand to tell tales of the Western life through rhythm and rhyme and singers share stories through songs.
Wasatch High School, Heber City / October each year
Park City Wine Festival
This is a premier event where master winemakers, culinary greats, and distinguished guests gather to play, wine, and dine in beautiful Park City. Those lucky enough to make it into one of the festival’s many events can experience more than 100 wineries, breweries, distilleries, epicurean purveyors, and locally-made products. Whether you’re a full-fledged foodie or an emerging gourmand, there’s something for everyone – from food and wine tastings, to seminars and luncheons, to outdoor gastronomic adventures.
Venues across Park City / October each year
Moab Folk Festival
A gateway to massive red rock formations in Arches National Park, the city of Moab makes for a stunning setting for one of the region’s finest live music events. Held over three days each November, the festival features a quality line-up of artists performing folk, Americana, roots and global music across a number of intimate venues, all set against an amazing red rock backdrop. Beer, wine, food and arts vendors are also aplenty.
Moab City Ballpark, Moab / November each year
Far more than just another festive craft show, this unique entertainment and shopping event invites visitors to step back into the Victorian Era and experience what Christmas was like during the time of Dickens. As you wander through the streets of Olde London, you’ll see vendors in vintage booths dressed in authentic Victorian attire. There are also fortune tellers, actors role-playing as orphans and royalty, and Father Christmas himself to add to the evocative atmosphere.
Dixie Convention Center, St. George / November- December each year