Get us in your inbox

Mo Pop
Photograph: Joshua HanfordMo Pop

The best Midwest summer music festivals

Get out of Chicago for the weekend and explore some of the best Midwest summer music festivals

Zach Long
Written by
Zach Long

You won't have any trouble finding summer music festivals to attend in Chicago, but sometimes you need a weekend getaway that takes you outside the city. Fortunately, making a temporary escape from Chicago doesn't mean that you have to miss out on outdoor concerts, enthusiastic crowds and beverages served in plastic cups. Cities across the Midwest are hosting summer music festivals of their own—and some have even managed to book acts that won't be making a stop in Chicago. Plus, unlike Lollapalooza, most of these fests still have plenty of tickets available. Explore the region with our guide to the best Midwest summer music festivals.

Best Midwest summer music festivals

Mo Pop

July 28, 29, Detroit, Michigan
Drive from Chicago: 4.25 hours
Bon Iver, The National, Portugal. The Man, St. Vincent

If you can't wait to see Lollapalooza-bound acts like St. Vincent, Brockhampton and the National, you can catch 'em all a weekend early in Detroit. Located in West Riverfront Park, the event also features local food trucks, a beer garden and an arcade.


May 27, Saint Paul, Minnesota 
Drive from Chicago: 
6 hours
Headliners: Logic, Migos, Erykah Badu

Head to the Twin Cities during Memorial Day weekend for this one-day festival featuring a stacked lineup of hip-hop acts. It's probably the only place you'll find Brockhampton, Ice-T, Wu-Tang Clan and Jaden Smith performing on the same bill this summer.


July 13–15, Louisville, Kentucky
Drive from Chicago: 4.5 hours
Headliners: Arcade Fire, Chris Stapleton, Modest Mouse

Located in Louisville on the banks of the Ohio River, this festival kind of looks like a miniature Lollapalooza, with indie-rock, country and hip-hop acts on its bill. Whiskey drinkers will want to check out Forecastle's Bourbon Lodge, which features food and drink options from the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.


July 7, 8, Des Moines, Iowa
Drive from Chicago: 5 hours
Headliners: Kesha, Phantogram, Courtney Barnett

Most major music festivals seem to have "trouble" finding more than one or two female headlining acts, but that's simply not the case at 80/35. The Des Moines fest, which takes place in scenic Western Gateway Park, is packed with amazing female artists, including Phoebe Bridgers, Vagabon and Soccer Mommy.


May 26–28, Detroit, Michigan
Drive from Chicago: 
4.25 hours
Headliners: Claude VonStroke, Loco Dice, Wu-Tang Clan

Detroit celebrates electronic music in all its forms at the annual Movement festival, which sets up five stages in Hart Plaza. You'll be able to see sets from BadBadNotGood, Diplo, Modeselektor and more throughout the weekend, all leading up to a 25th-anniversary performance from Wu-Tang Clan.

Nelsonville Music Festival

May 31–June 3, Nelsonville, Ohio
Drive from Chicago: 
6 hours
Headliners: George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, The Decemberists, Ani DiFranco

Set amid the rolling Hocking Hills in Southeast Ohio, the Nelsonville Music Festival balances beautiful scenery with rock and folk music. While you'll find acts like Nick Waterhouse and Alvvays on the main stage, some artists opt to play intimate acoustic sets in a historic cabin built in the 1850s.

Eaux Claires

July 6, 7, Eau Claire, Wisconsin
Drive from Chicago: 
5 hours
Headliners: Unannounced

For the fourth year in a row, Bon Iver frontman Justin Vernon throws a music festival on a wooded farm in his hometown. This year, organizers have decided to keep the lineup a secret until the fest's gate open, though acts like the National, Sharon Van Etten and Noname have been confirmed via Twitter and Instagram posts. 


June 27–July 1, July 3–8, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Drive from Chicago: 2 hours
Headliners: The Weeknd, Arcade Fire, James Taylor, Halsey

You'll need to purchase separate tickets to shows featuring marquee acts like Logic and Blake Shelton, but the rest of this gigantic summer festival is dirt cheap ($21 or less). More than 800 bands will perform this year, including the Flaming Lips, Pixies, Kesha and Buddy Guy. 

Electric Forest

June 21–24, June 28–July 1, Rothbury, Michigan
Drive from Chicago: 
3.5 hours
The String Cheese Incident, Bassnectar, Griz Live Band

Electric Forest is the EDM equivalent of Coachella, bringing jam bands and electronic acts to a Lake Michigan resort for two weekends in the summer. Attendees can camp, rent cabins or stay in a deluxe lodge while enjoying a different lineup each weekend—Galantis and Thundercat stop by during weekend one, while Marshmello and Superduperkyle will perform the following weekend.

Bunbury Music Festival

June 1–3, Cincinnati, Ohio
Drive from Chicago: 4.75 hours
Headliners: Jack White, The Chainsmokers, Blink-182

Head to the land of Skyline Chili and neglected NFL teams for this three-day festival where modern rock, hip-hop and electronic acts reign supreme. You may have thought you left bands like Incubus, Blink-182 and Third Eye Blind behind in your high school CD wallet, but they'll all be in attendance at this riverside fest.


August 3, 4, Saint Charles, Iowa
Drive from Chicago: 6 hours
Headliners: Sturgill Simpson, Band of Horses, Chvrches

Just south of Des Moines in Madison County (a region famous for its bridges), Hinterland embraces roots rock, country and Scottish synth-pop in its fourth year. Unlike Chicago's urban festivals, attendees are welcome to pitch a tent and camp out after catching sets from Margo Price and Tyler Childers.

Bourbon and Beyond

September 23, 24, Louisville, Kentucky
Drive from Chicago: 4.5 hours
Headliners: John Mayer, Sting, Robert Plant

Some of classic rock's biggest (living) stars head to Bourbon Country for the latest edition of Bourbon and Beyond, a festival that features music from the likes of David Byrne and Counting Crows, chef-prepared food and plenty of local booze.

Summer Camp Music Festival

May 26–28, Chillicothe, Illinois
Drive from Chicago: 2.25 hours
HeadlinersMoe., Umphrey's McGee, Phil Lesh

Pack your hacky sack and make the pilgrimage to downstate Illinois for this annual jam-band jamboree, where acts like Tycho, Action Bronson and Tokimonsta get in on a weekend of chill vibes and gratuitous guitar noodling. 

Rock on the Range

May 18–20, Columbus, Ohio
Drive from Chicago: 
6 hours
Headliners: Alice in Chains, Avenged Sevenfold, Tool

Anyone lamenting the loss of Chicago Open Air this summer will want to consider making the trip to Columbus for this hard-rocking stadium fest, where metal, modern rock and punk acts rule the lineup. There's also comedy from the likes of JB Smoove and Big Jay Oakerson.

    You may also like
    You may also like