48 Essential Minnesota Events

By Erica Wacker

Whether you're into art, animals or ice fishing, you're sure to find an event worth traveling to this year in Minnesota. Find even more fun in the Festivals & Events calendar.

JANUARY

Bear Grease Sled Dog marathon

Mankato Craft Beer Expo

Learn about how beer is made and taste samples from more than 40 breweries from Minnesota and beyond.

Saint Paul Winter Carnival

Parades, snow sculptures, ice palaces and an outdoor beer festival are among the highlights of this 130-year-old seasonal celebration.

John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon

The longest sled dog race in the lower 48, the nearly 400-mile event starts in Duluth and is a qualifier for the Iditarod in Alaska.

FEBRUARY

Lakes Loppet ski race Minneapolis

City of Lakes Loppet

Cross-country skiers of all ages can participate in the City of Lakes Loppet Ski Festival in Minneapolis, which also features skijoring (skiing with dogs) and a fat tire bike race.

Winterfest on Lake Bemidji

Curling, pond hockey, cornhole and more are among the family-friendly festivities at this annual celebration on the ice.

International Eelpout Festival

One of the ugliest fish in the world draws more than 10,000 people to attend its namesake festival on Leech Lake, complete with eelpout curling, a polar plunge and nightly fish fries.

Grumpy Old Men Festival

Ice fishing, minnow races and a hot dish luncheon anchor an event named after the beloved Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon film.

Gull Lake Frozen Fore

Use your snowmobile as a golf cart and play nine holes on Gull Lake, followed by a tent party with live music and an ice bar.

MARCH

International Owl Cente, Houston_Pam Dimeler
Photo by Pam Dimeler

Celtic Festival

Celebrate traditional Celtic culture, food, music and more at the Hjemkomst Center in Moorhead, where bagpipes and kilts are par for the course.

International Festival of Owls

Owl lovers flock to this Houston festival to get up close with live owls, eat owl-themed treats and watch the kids hooting contest.

APRIL

piglets

Farm Babies

Piglets, goat kids, chicks and bunnies up the cute factor at the Minnesota Zoo’s family farm every day in April.

World Festival

Held in Rochester, an annual celebration of world cultures includes a parade, fashion show, stage performances and foods from around the globe.

MAY

cinco de mayo

100-Mile Garage Sale

More than a dozen towns between Hastings and Winona come together to collectively sell their treasures the first weekend in May.

Homegrown Music Festival

A weeklong music festival featuring 200 local acts at venues around Duluth. The music is supplemented by art shows, poetry slams and a kickball tourney.

Cinco de Mayo

St. Paul celebrates Hispanic/Latino culture with a family-friendly festival spanning six blocks known as the District del Sol.

Preston Trout Days

A parade, family bike ride, petting zoo and pancake breakfast add to the fun of this trout-themed festival in southeast Minnesota.

Detroit Lakes Festival of Birds

Detroit Mountain serves as headquarters for birding workshops, field trips, exhibitors and more during the annual spring migration.

JUNE

Water Ski Days,  Lake City_Ben Threinen
Photo by Ben Threinen

The Wizard of Oz Festival

Judy Garland’s hometown of Grand Rapids sings her praises year-round, but especially during the annual festival that pays homage to her most famous film.

Perham Turtle Fest

A pet parade, train rides, medallion hunt and, of course, turtle races, make this central Minnesota festival a family favorite.

Water Ski Days

The birthplace of waterskiing, Lake City, celebrates its popular invention with water ski shows, a parade and three days of festivities.

Twin Cities Pride Festival

Minneapolis welcomes revelers from all walks of life for a GLBT-proud celebration with a family picnic, festival, parade and rainbow run in Loring Park.

Granite City Days

Check out St. Cloud’s annual celebration of summer sun and warm weather, which includes a 5K, fishing derby, classic car show and historic pub crawls.

Paul Bunyan Days

Pay homage to everyone’s favorite lumberjack with a Paul Bunyan lookalike contest, art show, minnow races and more in downtown Akeley.

JULY

X Games Austin_Matt Morning ESPN Images
Photo by Matt Morning / ESPN Images

X Games

The Olympics of extreme sports will play out at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, with four days of skateboarding, BMX riding, Moto X jumping and other exciting entertainment.

Nevis Pig Races

Cheer for your favorite costumed porker in this fun race, accompanied by a beer garden and activities for the kids.

Sinclair Lewis Days

The Nobel Prize-winning author’s hometown of Sauk Centre hosts five full days of activities, including a treasure hunt, concerts in the park and the Miss Sauk Centre Pageant.

Wilder Pageant

Another famous Minnesota author, Laura Ingalls Wilder, is the subject of live outdoor performances for three weekends in July.

New London Water Days

Festivities at the annual community festival in central Minnesota range from canoe and kayak races to a hog roast and tennis tournament.

Blueberry Art Festival

Peruse original art and handcrafted items from more than 250 exhibitors at this outdoor festival in Ely, which also features blueberry pie and pancakes, and activities for the kids.

AUGUST

state fair

Antique Car Run

Starting in New London and ending in New Brighton, a 120-mile drive features pre-1916 vehicles, including cars, bikes and motorcycles, with special events before and after the ride.

Heritage Days

Celebrate the history and culture of the Red River Valley in East Grand Forks with an antique tractor pull, parade and historical reenactments.

Renaissance Festival

Journey back in time at this longstanding, seven-week festival in Shakopee, where revelers will be in good company among mermaids, knights, fairies, pirates and other colorful characters.

Minnesota State Fair

The granddaddy of them all, the Minnesota State Fair in St. Paul is the second-largest state fair in the country, renowned for its exhibits, grandstand performances and just about any food you can think of served on a stick.

SEPTEMBER

steam thresher

Steam Threshers Reunion

Taking place every Labor Day weekend since 1954 in Rollag, this celebration honors the good ol’ days of steam engines, gas tractors and threshing machines.

Defeat of Jesse James Days

Witness a thrilling reenactment of the attempted bank raid that led to the demise of the notorious James-Younger Gang in downtown Northfield.

Taste of the Root River Trail

Explore the towns along the Root River Trail, which include Fountain, Lanesboro, Peterson and Houston, on three Saturdays in September, where you can sample local fare and partake in other activities.

Grape Stomp & Fall Festival

Held at Carlos Creek Winery in Alexandria, the fall harvest celebration centers around a grape stomp competition, with live bands, art and food vendors, and a “man cave” for the beer drinkers.

Mahkato Pow Wow

A three-day event honoring the Dakota people with traditional music and dancers, food and handicrafts in Mankato’s Land of Memories Park.

OCTOBER

marathon

Twin Cities Marathon

Considered one of the prettiest urban marathons in the country, the annual race is worth the trip even if you’re just a spectator.

Oktoberfest

New Ulm hosts one of the best Oktoberfests in the country, with two full weekends of Schell's beer, live polka and German food.

Anoka Halloween

Known as the “Halloween Capital of the World,” Anoka celebrates the Oct. 31 holiday all month long with ghost and cemetery tours, a haunted house, pumpkin-carving contest, parade and much more.

NOVEMBER

bentleyville

Bentleyville Tour of Lights

A 128-foot animated tree, dozens of light displays and visits from Santa bring 200,000 people to Duluth’s Bayfront Festival Park between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve.

Holidazzle

A holiday celebration on Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis features free family entertainment and a European-inspired holiday market selling gifts, mulled wine and German fare.

Night We Light

Known as the first city on the Mississippi, Bemidji brightens up the winter nights with an illuminated parade and tree-lighting ceremony the day after Thanksgiving.

Frost Fest

Kick off the holiday season in Baudette with a craft fair, downtown window walk and a light parade featuring floats and fish houses.

DECEMBER

northfield shops

Winterfest

Find handmade gifts at the craft show and take in performances at the historic Palace Theatre in southern Luverne the first weekend in December.

Winter Walk

Stroll through charming downtown Northfield by candlelight, where you’ll find Santa, Rudolph, horse-drawn wagon rides, carolers and holiday shopping galore.

Ice Candle Celebration

A holiday gathering with food, kids crafts and fellowship takes place in the Iron Range town of Embarrass, where ice candles are lit to remember loved ones in the Finnish tradition.