Northwest Minnesota Takes Center Stage

By Erica Wacker

Performing arts abound in Minnesota, and it’s not just Twin Cities venues that have audiences cheering. In the northwest part of the state, orchestras, choirs, theater groups and concert halls have a full calendar of impressive performances lined up all year long. Whether you’re headed to Bemidji, Moorhead, Walker, Detroit Lakes, Park Rapids or Thief River Falls, consider adding a live show to your must-see list.

All Genres of Music

Bemidji Symphony Orchestra.jpg Music fans have their pick of performances in various genres throughout the region. The Bemidji Symphony Orchestra (pictured at right) holds a series of six concerts between October and May, as well as a summer pops show. Concerts are held at the Bemidji High School Auditorium and feature post-show conversations with the artists.

Northeast of Moorhead in Ulen, the Top Hat Theatre brings performers from Minnesota and beyond to the auditorium at Ulen-Hitterdal Public School from fall through spring. Further north, Roseau and Thief River Falls both host annual concert series at the local high schools.

Outdoor entertainment is a big draw in the summer, and often combines camping with some of the biggest names in music. Major festivals include WE Fest (country music) in Detroit Lakes, Moondance Jam (hard rock) and Moondance Jammin Country Fest in Walker, and Kick’n Up Kountry in Karlstad.

All summer long, Moorhead’s Bluestem Amphitheater hosts major acts in its 3,000-seat outdoor venue, with recent headliners ranging from Boyz II Men to Weezer. Also look for some of your favorite artists performing at Bemidji’s Sanford Center.

Dramas, Comedies & Musicals

Several area theater groups keep locals and visitors entertained with a mix of original and internationally known productions. In Bemidji, the popular Paul Bunyan Playhouse stages five summer shows at The Historic Chief Theater (the Bemidji Community Theater puts on other productions here throughout the year).


In Park Rapids, the Northern Light Opera Company specializes in Broadway favorites, and Jasper’s Theater serves up its own brand of music, magic and comedy in a converted barn. Nearby, the tiny town of Hubbard is home to the Long Lake Theater and its wide range of comedies, dramas and musicals.

Additional entertainment options include the Thief River Falls Area Community Theater, Trollwood Performing Arts School in Moorhead, the Historic Holmes Theatre in Detroit Lakes and the Minnesota Folklore Theater in Walker.

Find more information and upcoming performances in our Northwest Minnesota performing arts listings.