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The best Midwest summer music festivals

Get out of Chicago for a weekend (or more) and explore some of the best Midwest summer music festivals

Photograph: Scotty Hall

The number of summer music festivals in Chicago just keeps getting larger, but sometimes you need a weekend getaway to somewhere outside city limits. Fortunately, making a temporary escape from Chicago doesn't mean giving up on watching bands outdoors while clutching a cold beverage. The Midwest is filled with great music festivals, including events devoted to folk, rock, electronic acts and more. Plus, most of them aren't sold out yet—unlike Lollapalooza.

We've rounded up some of the best music festivals within driving distance from Chicago. Plan your road trip and see Ryan Adams while you're at it.

Best Midwest summer music festivals


Eaux Claires

August 12, 13, Eau Claire, Wisconsin
Drive from Chicago: 
5 hours
Headliners: Bon Iver, James Blake, Beach House, Erykah Badu
Eau Claire native son (and Bon Iver frontman) Justin Vernon throws a music festival in his hometown, inviting friends and contemporaries. This year, the fest (wisely) won't coincide with Pitchfork weekend, which will likely lead to more Chicagoans making the journey to see a tightly curated lineup that includes Mavis Staples and William Tyler.

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May 28–30, Detroit, Michigan
Drive from Chicago: 
4.25 hours
Headliners: Kraftwerk, Caribou, Richie Hawtin
While Chicago is celebrated as the birthplace of house music, Detroit is widely known as the home of techno. The 10th annual Movement festival showcases electronic music in its various forms, from EDM duo Get Real (featuring Green Velvet and Claude VonStroke) to instrumental pop artist Matthew Dear.

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July 15–17, Louisville, Kentucky
Drive from Chicago: 4.5 hours
Headliners: The Avett Brother, Ryan Adams, Death Cab For Cutie
If Pitchfork Music Festival isn't rootsy enough for you, spend the weekend on the banks of the Ohio River at Forecastle. While headliners include folk acts like Ben Harper and Brandi Carlile, you'll also find Detroit emcee Danny Brown and Nashville rockers Bully on the bill.

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Nelsonville Music Festival

June 2–5, Nelsonville, Ohio
Drive from Chicago: 
6 hours
Headliners: Randy Newman, Courtney Barnett, Gillian Welch
Situated amid the rolling Hocking Hills in Southeast Ohio, the Nelsonville Music Festival brings a varied slate of folk and rock performers to a scenic locale. It's also one of the only festivals where you'll find acts performing intimate sets in a small cabin or on a stage made out of an old boxcar.

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Mo Pop

July 23, 24, Detroit, Michigan
Drive from Chicago: 4.25 hours
G-Eazy, M83, Haim, The Head and the Heart
Wanna see some Lollapalooza headliners the weekend before they come to Grant Park? Detroit's Mo Pop Festival mixes music with local food trucks and demonstrations by area tech start-ups, which means you can finally try out a VR headset while Father John Misty plays on a nearby stage.

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June 29–July 3, July 5–10, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Drive from Chicago: 2 hours
Headliners: Paul McCartney, Weezer, Ryan Adams, Blink-182
You'll have to purchase individual tickets to see big names like Tim McGraw and Sting play at Summerfest, but the rest of the festival is dirt cheap (no more than $20 per day) and includes a mix of classic rockers (Blue Oyster Cult, Styx) and Ravinia-caliber acts (Neil Finn, BoDeans).

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Promowest Fest

July 15–17, Columbus, Ohio
Drive from Chicago: 
5.5 hours
Headliners: The Flaming Lips, Modest Mouse, Snoop Dogg, Brand New
You could mistake the list of artists playing the inaugural Promowest Fest for a Riot Fest lineup—it shares the same reverence for alt-rock heroes (Garbage, Tears for Fears) and the contemporary acts they inspired (Black Lips, Decemberists). It all goes down in a park in the middle of the city that gave us the Junior Bacon Cheeseburger.

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Electric Forest

June 23–26, Rothbury, Michigan
Drive from Chicago:
3.5 hours
The String Cheese Incident, Bassnectar, Major Lazer
Like a hybrid of Burning Man and Chicago's own Spring Awakening Music Festival, Electric Forest takes a resort on the shores of Lake Michigan and transforms it into a jam band and EDM rave with a deep list of performers, from DJ Jazzy Jeff to Minneapolis hip-hop collective Doomtree.

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July 8, 9, Des Moines, Iowa
Drive from Chicago: 5 hours
Headliners: Nas, The Decemberists, Wolf Parade
You rarely hear Chicagoans gushing about a trip to Iowa, but this festival in the state's largest city is a great reason to visit our neighbors to the Northwest. More than 40 rock, hip-hop and electronic acts take the stage in Western Gateway Park, a gorgeous outdoor space that is within walking distance of some of the best Des Moines attractions.

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Summer Set

August 12–14, Somerset, Wisconsin
Drive from Chicago: 6.25 hours
Headliners: Skrillex, Chance the Rapper, Bassnectar
It's a bit of a haul, but this EDM and hip-hop-focused fest might be the end-of-summer escape you need. Plus—barring any surprise announcement—this is the only place you can see Chance the Rapper perform in the Midwest this summer.

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Summer Camp Music Festival

May 27–29, Chillicothe, Illinois
Drive from Chicago: 2.25 hours
HeadlinersMoe., Umphrey's McGee, Mudcrutch, Big Grizmatik
Pack your hacky sack and make the pilgrimage to downstate Illinois for this annual jam band jamboree, which features annual sets from Moe., Umphrey's McGee and a host of other acts that favor guitar noodling and "mind-blowing" light shows.

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Bunbury Music Festival

June 3–5, Cincinnati, Ohio
Drive from Chicago: 4.75 hours
Headliners: The Killers, Florence + The Machine, Deadmau5
We're not sure what this festival has to do with bees—perhaps it's the swarm of Lollapalooza acts that populate its lineup? Bunbury is a bit generic, but if you're visiting Cinci to chow down on some Skyline Chili, you might as well see G. Love and the Special Sauce while you're at it.

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