10 summer music festivals within driving distance of MSP

Fans at Louisville’s Forecastle Music Festival // Photo by Chelsea Kornse

Summer and outdoor music go together like a burger fresh off the grill and a crisp IPA. There’s something about the way music sounds in the open air that makes this combination particularly special. The sunshine, the sore feet, that neon glow as the sun sets behind the stage—it’s all part of a larger experience that brings music fans together.

It turns out people are catching onto this blissful combination, with summer music festivals cropping up all over the nation in recent years. We’re witnessing the golden age of outdoor music, and the Midwest is right at the heart of it all. Here are 10 summer music festivals within driving distance of Minneapolis–St. Paul, from nearest to farthest.

Basilica Block Party • Minneapolis, MN • July 7–8 • 0 Miles

Basilica Block Party // Photo by Coppersmith Photography




The Basilica of Saint Mary has become a fixture within the greater Minneapolis community, and its annual summer block party has only contributed to that fact. Located nearby Loring Park, attendees are in for two nights of music set against the stunning backdrop of the Minneapolis skyline and the historic church’s domed steeple. This year’s lineup is as wide-ranging as ever, with headliners like Brandi Carlile, The Shins, Walk the Moon, and AWOLNATION, supported by local favorites like Night Moves, Enemy Planes, and others.

Info: Basilica of Saint Mary, 88 North 17th Street, Minneapolis, MN; $60–$65/one-day, $110/two-day (tickets and more info here)

Rock the Garden • Minneapolis, MN • July 22 • 0 miles

Rock the Garden // Photo courtesy of Walker Art Center

After relocating to Boom Island Park during a year of renovations at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, Rock the Garden returns to the Walker Art Center’s backyard this summer with possibly its most exciting lineup to date. Something about The Revolution performing near Spoonbridge and Cherry at an event sponsored by The Current screams peak Minnesota. Other performers on this stacked bill will include local-ish auto-crooner Bon Iver, gritty garage-rocker Benjamin Booker, the witty indie rock of Car Seat Headrest, and the Dave Simonett-led Dead Man Winter, among others. For those lucky enough to have scored tickets, be sure to arrive early and catch the incendiary Babes in Toyland–inspired trio Bruise Violet.

Info: Walker Art Center and Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, 725 Vineland Place, Minneapolis, MN;
$69 regular (sold out), $300 VIP (sold out) (tickets and more info here)

Eaux Claires • Eau Claire, WI • June 16–17 • 91 Miles

Eaux Claires // Photo by Kevin Kramer, The Growler

Justin Vernon turned his brooding project Bon Iver into a Grammy-winning phenomenon, and he’s now in year three of turning his rural Wisconsin home into a can’t-miss stop on the summer music festival circuit. There’s no question that everything this man touches turns to gold, and his ability to network with (and befriend) other artists is nothing short of legendary. Besides Bon Iver, this year’s Eaux Claires lineup will feature big names like Chance the Rapper, Francis and the Lights, Wilco, Danny Brown, and Feist.

Info: Foster Farm, 3443 Crescent Avenue, Eau Claire, WI; $90/one-day, $169/two-day (tickets and more info here)

Related Post – Great (music) outdoors: Making the most of your summer festival season

80/35 • Des Moines, IA • July 7–8 • 245 Miles

80/35 Music Festival // Photo by Jeremy Kim

For those willing to venture a little farther outside the immediate Twin Cities area, Des Moines’ music scene has blossomed in recent years. Part of that is thanks to 80/35, a two-day gathering organized by the Des Moines Music Coalition with the goal of growing the area’s already bustling music community. Now in its 10th year, this summer’s festival will feature artists like The Shins, MGMT, Action Bronson, The Suburbs, Bad Bad Hats, ZULUZULUU, and others.

Info: Locust Street & 12th Street, Des Moines, IA; $42/one-day, $65/two-day advance pass (tickets and more info here)

Hinterland • Saint Charles, IA • August 4–5 • 274 Miles

Hinterland // Photo by Lucas Moser

Located on the rural outskirts of Iowa’s capital, Hinterland is a music haven where rock and folk music merge in the form of a two-day camping excursion. Not only does this festival offer a weekend outdoors with a great lineup of Americana groups and singer-songwriters, Hinterland is kid-friendly to boot. Through its Hinterkids program, families have the option to get their kids involved with the festival by making arts and crafts of their own. This year’s music lineup includes alt-J, Ryan Adams, Gary Clark Jr., The Head and the Heart, Foxygen, and more.

Info: Avenue of the Saints Amphitheater, 3357 St. Charles Rd, St. Charles, IA; $49/Friday, $59/Saturday, $95/two-day (tickets and more info here)

Maha Music Festival • Omaha, NE • August 19 • 382 Miles

Maha Music Festival // Photo by Ben Semisch

Now in its ninth year, the Maha Music Festival functions as a nonprofit that collaborates with other nonprofits in the Omaha area to bring attendees the best possible festival experience and the opportunity to support causes they care about. And for a one-day event, Maha sure knows how to curate a lineup. Rap renaissance men Run the Jewels and indie rock veterans Belle and Sebastian headline this year’s festival, with support from supergroup The New Pornographers, noise industrialists Sleigh Bells, and up-and-comers Priests, among others.

Info: Maha Music Festival, 6628 Center Street, Omaha, NE; $55/general admission, $185/VIP (sold out) (tickets and more info here)

Pitchfork Music Festival • Chicago, IL • July 14–16 • 407 Miles

Pitchfork Music Festival // Photo by Matt Lief Anderson

In the 20 years since Pitchfork was founded right here in the Twin Cities, the indie tastemaker has made leaps and bounds in establishing itself as this generation’s Rolling Stone. Along the way they’ve managed to put together a damn fine music festival in Chicago that features an eclectic lineup year after year. This is a music junkie’s festival at its core, bringing together a lineup of classic hitmakers, cult favorites, and rising rookie artists. This year will include A Tribe Called Quest, LCD Soundsystem, Solange, Dirty Projectors, George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic, and more.

Info: Union Park, 1501 West Randolph Street, Chicago, IL; $75/one-day, $175/three-day (tickets and more info here)

Lollapalooza • Chicago, IL • August 3–6 • 410 Miles

Lollapalooza // Photo by Roger Ho

Lollapalooza, Chicago’s other marquee music festival, has also made big waves in the summer festival market over the years. So much so, that it added a fourth day of music last year in commemoration of its 25th anniversary. Not many festivals in the country are capable of putting together four days of live music from noon until night, but the Lolla organizers have turned Grant Park into a concert mecca over the years, not meant for the faint of heart. The lineup this year consists of The Killers, Lorde, Arcade Fire, Chance the Rapper, The xx, and many more.

Info: Grant Park, 337 East Randolph Street, Chicago, IL; $120/one-day (sold out), $335/four-day (sold out) (tickets and more info here)

Winnipeg Folk Festival • Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada • July 6–9 • 473 Miles

Winnipeg Folk Festival // Photo by Dave McKnight

If your passport’s up to date and you’ve got air in your tires, then consider hitting up Winnipeg Folk Festival for four days of music and camping across miles of beautiful Manitoba landscape. This fest is any folkie’s dream with its stringent environmental sustainability program and its communal food philosophy, not to mention the curation of the finest folk music around. Some of the big names at this year’s festival include Feist, Barenaked Ladies, The Shins, Brandi Carlile, and Damien Jurado.

Info: Birds Hill Provincial Park, St. Clements, MB R0E 0K0, Canada; Adults: $68–$93/one-day, $229–$249/four-day; Youth/Seniors: $53–$73/one-day, $145–$155/four-day; Camping options also available (tickets and more info here)

Forecastle • Louisville, KY • July 14–16 • 710 Miles

Forecastle // Photo by courtesy of Forecastle

If you’re truly willing to hit the road in order to find some quality live music, Louisville hosts one of the festival circuit’s best kept secrets: Forecastle. Each year, it boasts all the big musical acts making the festival rounds and a ton of great bourbon and food, all without the saturated metropolis atmosphere. That’s tough to beat if you’re able to trek nearly 11 hours on the road from the Twin Cities to get there. But with this year’s lineup featuring LCD Soundsystem, Spoon, Sturgill Simpson, and Phantogram, this one will be tough to miss.

Info: Louisville Waterfront Park, 300 River Road, Louisville, KY; $59.50-$79.50/one-day, $169.50-$189.50/three-day (tickets and more info here)