There are so many amazing events in Minnesota that take place throughout the year.
These annual activities are some of the best things to do in Minnesota and should be added to your Midwest bucket list.
Whether you want to eat delicious food, learn about different cultures, or have fun on carnival rides, there are Minnesota festivals for your interests!
From popular festivals in big cities to small-town traditions, there are so many cool Minnesota events with all sorts of themes and attractions.
Let’s take a look at the top festivals and events in Minnesota!
15 Best Events in Minnesota Not to Miss
Minnesota State Fair
The Minnesota State Fair takes place in St. Paul each summer. As the second-largest state fair in the country, this is one of the best fun things to do in MN for the whole family!
There is so much to do during this week-long event. Have a blast on rides like the Ferris wheel, carousel, SkyRider, Tilt-A-Whirl, and so much more.
Kids will love devouring classic fair food while adults sip on craft beers and cocktails.
Other attractions include livestock exhibits, live music on multiple stages, the Fine Arts Exhibition, the Milk Run 5K Race, and an assortment of other shows and educational exhibits.
Twin Cities Pride Festival
In June, come to Minneapolis to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community at one of the biggest Pride festivals in the Midwest.
This is one of the best Minneapolis weekend events! It takes place in Loring Park with many fun activities.
Explore the art and food vendors, beer garden, and live music stages. This is a great chance to support small, local businesses.
The Twin Cities LGBTQ+ Pride March is a massive parade with a ton of participants. You will love seeing the bright colors and costumes as you soak in the lively atmosphere.
You can also join in the Rainbow Run 5K My Way or attend the Grand Marshal Reception.
However you spend your time at the Twin Cities Pride Festival, you will have a great time celebrating diversity, inclusion, and togetherness!
This is really one of the best things to do in Minneapolis in the summer!
Where to Stay in Minneapolis:
Judy Garland Festival
Actress Judy Garland was born in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, on June 10, 1922. Each year, the Judy Garland Museum hosts the Judy Garland Festival (formally the Wizard of Oz Festival).
This multi-day festival in MN has so many activities for anyone interested in Judy Garland, classic films, or simply playing games.
You will have a great time learning about Judy’s life and impact as well as cinema history.
Take a guided tour of the museum, attend presentations by guest speakers, and take a Joyride Bus Tour of town highlighting spots where Judy’s parents spent time.
Other activities include a high tea party, live music performances, movie showings, Judy Jeopardy, Judy Bingo, and an open-mic night.
There is also a dress-up theme each day. As one of the best events in Grand Rapids, you will have a memorable time.
Where to Stay in Grand Rapids:
Bemidji Dragon Boat Festival
The Bemidji Dragon Boat Festival is one of the best small-town events in Minnesota with so much to do and see! If you like fun games, exciting races, or good food, you need to check out this MN festival!
This Minnesota small-town event is four days in August with the last two days dedicated to the epic dragon boat races on Lake Bemidji. The races involve colorful boats with twenty paddlers, one steer, and one drummer.
Make sure to attend the Parade of Teams and Opening Ceremony for a fun introduction to the many competing teams.
Other activities throughout the festival include live music, a cornhole tournament, bingo, a food court, a 5K Run/Walk, and a kid’s activity tent.
Where to Stay in Bemidji:
Affordable Hotel: Country Inn & Suites by Radisson. Check Rates: Booking.com
Minnesota Renaissance Festival
The Minnesota Renaissance Festival is one of the most popular weekend festivals in Minnesota and is perfect for the whole family to enjoy.
This event takes place in Shakopee just southwest of the Twin Cities for seven weekends from mid-August through the beginning of October.
Each weekend also has a theme such as Woofstock and Highland Fling.
Wander the fairgrounds and spot characters dressed as royalty, feast on turkey legs, and shop from over 250 artisans selling unique and handmade goods.
Entertainment includes live music, magicians, jousting, jugglers, and fire-eaters. Kids and adults alike will be amazed by the performances.
You can also try your hand at archery, knife throwing, ax throwing, and other activities. Visit the petting zoo, play pirate darts, or go ziplining as well.
This is one of the best Twin Cities events that should not be missed!
Saint Paul Winter Carnival
Minnesota is known for its harsh winters, but the cold season does not have to be dreary with the annual Saint Paul Winter Carnival which has been happening since 1886.
This is easily one of the top MN festivals in January and February with over a week of fun events! There are a ton of activities to enjoy, most of which as free.
There are two parades, scavenger hunts, a puzzle contest, an ice fishing tournament, and the Saint Paul Winter Carnival Fire & Ice Run.
Visit Vulcan Snow Park to see amazing snow sculptures and solve the snow maze. Kids will have fun playing in snow piles and sliding down the snow slide.
At night, the carnival becomes even more magical with pretty lights. This is one of the best events in St. Paul, MN, and should not be missed!
One of the best July festivals in Minnesota is the Minneapolis Aquatennial. This 4-day event began in 1940 and celebrates the city’s lakes and rivers.
It is one of the best things to do in Minneapolis!
The Aquatennial Torchlight Parade is the largest nighttime parade in Minnesota with many cool floats, marching bands, and performers.
The Twin Cities River Rats Aquatennial Water Ski Show on the Mississippi River is sure to amaze you!
Other things to keep you entertained include markets featuring local vendors, free cardio classes, live music, and outdoor movie showings.
It all ends with Target Fireworks, one of the best fireworks displays in the country.
The choreographed show is set to music and uses over 10,000 pounds of fireworks! Arrive early to claim a good viewing spot for one of the best Minneapolis activities.
Where to Stay in Minneapolis:
One of the best events in Ely is the Blueberry/Art Festival in June.
Stroll through over 250 vendor booths selling all sorts of art and crafts including paintings, photographs, woodwork, candles, soaps, jewelry, pottery, and so much more.
For a bite to eat, buy a bag of kettle corn, check out the food trucks, or grab a tasty slice of freshly baked blueberry pie. There is also a beer garden.
This event has been happening for over 40 years and is one of the top things to do in Northern Minnesota.
If you visit this cute, small town in February, you can also attend the Ely Winter Festival with snow sculpting and an art walk.
Ely is one of the best small towns in Minnesota with so much else to do including waterfall hikes and museums.
Potato Days Festival
For one of the most unique Minnesota events, head to Barnesville for the annual Potato Days Festival.
Celebrating the town’s potato heritage, this event has been a tradition since the 1930s with the modern festival beginning in 1991.
Enjoy the Potato Days Parade, Miss Tator Tot Pageant, French Fry Feed, dog fashion show, and street fair. Kids will love the bounce houses, barrel rides, and potato sack races.
There are a bunch of fun potato-related contests for everyone! These include the Potato Picking Contest, Potato Peeling Contest, Mashed Potato Sculpture Contest, and Mashed Potato Eating Contest.
Other activities and things to check out include a 5K fun run, live music, a strong-man competition, a beer garden, and food vendors.
Where to Stay in Barnesville:
Oktoberfest Is One Of The Best Events In Minnesota
If you want to celebrate Oktoberfest in Minnesota, head to New Ulm! For the first two weekends in October, there are cool events held all over town.
Gather in the historic downtown for the Germanic-American Day Parade, Sauerkraut Eating & Stein-Holding Competitions, a biergarten, live music, food trucks, and games.
Adults can party at Schell’s Brewery. Don your dirndl and lederhosen as you drink beers, eat giant pretzels, and listen to live music.
At Morgan Creek Vineyards, you can attend the Annual Grape Stomp. You will have a blast stomping on the grapes and your feet will smell sweet afterward.
This Minnesota event has been named one of the Best Oktoberfest Celebrations in the Nation by multiple publications, and you will want to add it to your bucket list!
Where to Stay in New Ulm:
Homegrown Music Festival
One of the best May events in Duluth is the Homegrown Music Festival which has been held annually since 1999. This is the best time for concerts in Minnesota!
The 8-day festival features around 200 local bands and musicians at more than 30 venues throughout the city.
Bring the kids to the children’s music showcase and make sure to check out the Homegrown Poetry Showcase too.
This event helps to bring the community together and gives local performers the chance to promote their music in front of a big audience. You are sure to have a fun time discovering new music.
Many of the shows are free while some require a ticket or wristband. This event is one of the best things to do in Duluth.
Where to Stay in Duluth:
MinnesoThai Street Food Festival
For one of the best food festivals in Minnesota, you will want to visit St. Louis Park just west of Minneapolis for the MinnesoThai Street Food Festival.
Hosted by the Wat Promwachirayan Buddhist temple, this event aims to celebrate the local Thai and SE Asian communities.
Through food, music, dance, and art, you will learn about these beautiful cultures. Watch the parade and be amazed by the colorful, traditional clothing.
On the stages, you can see awesome dance performances and fire dancing. There is also a Pad Thai cooking demonstration and a papaya eating contest.
Of course, you will want to eat as much authentic Thai street food as possible!
This is one of the most delicious weekend events in September! It is also free!
Another cultural event in Minnesota is the Mahkato Powwow which has invited all tribes and non-native visitors to gather for over 50 years.
A Powwow is also called a Wacipi, which is a Dakota word meaning “they dance.”
Through dance, music, crafts, and traditional clothing, you will have a glimpse into the life and culture of the Dakota people.
The event takes place for three days in September in the Land of Memories Park in Mahkato.
This park was historically a place where the Dakota people would gather for ceremonies prior to the US-Dakota War of 1862 when 38 Dakota warriors were killed.
The Powwow is all about reconciliation and building bridges between cultures while preserving and sharing traditions.
This is certainly one of the most interesting events in Minnesota!
Grumpy Old Men Festival Is One Of The More Unusual Events In Minnesota
The Grumpy Old Men Festival in Wabasha takes place each February. This unique MN event is inspired by the 1993 movie Grumpy Old Men which is set in Wabasha.
There are a ton of activities and contests for all ages. The event is two days and each ends with a party featuring live music or a DJ.
For some fun competitions, there is the Grumpy Best Dressed Contest, an ice fishing tournament, and a cribbage tournament.
The lighted ATV parade and luminary walk will fascinate the young ones while adults can chill (literally) at the ice bar.
There is also a hot dish luncheon, wagon rides, bingo, bonfires, and more. This is one of the best events for fun in the winter!
Bentleyville Tour of Lights Is One Of The Festive Events In Minnesota
For one of the best Minnesota Christmas events, head to Duluth and the Bentleyville Tour of Lights.
This walkthrough light display utilizes over five million lights to create a magical winter wonderland on the shores of Lake Superior.
Stroll through the dazzling lights and snap photos with Santa Claus and other characters.
There are also free refreshments to enjoy such as hot cocoa, coffee, cookies, freshly popped popcorn, and marshmallows to roast at the firepits.
The Bentleyville Tour of Lights takes place from mid-November until the day after Christmas, proving plenty of time to visit. The light display has free entry, but keep in mind that there is a parking cost.
For a unique experience, you can also take a helicopter tour over the city to admire the lights.
Duluth is definitely one of the best places to spend Christmas in the Midwest!
Where to Stay in Duluth:
Packing List When Attending Events In Minnesota
If you will be traveling, either by plane or by car to Minnesota, here are some tips on how to pack lightly.
A concealed travel pouch may be one of the most important items you bring along when attending any events in Minnesota!
It is always important to protect your personal information. Identity thieves are everywhere.
This unisex RFID-blocking concealed travel pouch is lightweight and comes in several colors. It has lots of organization to give you peace of mind.
You can place it under your clothes next to your body to carry your ID safely.
If you have a pouch already that does not come with RFID protection, as I do, these RFID sleeves are the perfect solution.
This configuration comes with enough credit card sleeves that the entire family would be protected. They are slim too, so they will easily fit into your pouch or wallet.
If you are planning on taking a lot of pictures with your phone you will definitely want to consider an external charging battery.
This Anker high-speed phone charging battery is the exact one I carry with me on all of my trips.
It can be used on a variety of phones, not just an iPhone as I have. And wow is it fast!
My daughter gifted me with this FugeTek selfie stick and tripod setup for my birthday. I absolutely love it! It is made of lightweight aluminum and so easy to use.
It has Bluetooth connectivity and is a breeze to use for taking photos.
You will want to bring your own refillable water bottle with you.
I never leave home on a trip without my Bobble filtration bottle. The 18.5-ounce size is perfect for hiking and it fits nicely in the pocket of a backpack.
And here are the carbon filter replacements.
Perhaps you are traveling a long distance and packing space is a premium in your suitcase, or in your car.
Then this collapsible silicone foldable water bottle would work well for you. Would not take up much space at all.
Hopefully, you have discovered some popular events in Wisconsin for your next vacation!