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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

There's no shortage of summer music festivals to attend in Chicago, but sometimes you need a weekend getaway to somewhere outside city limits. 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, parks and music venues all across the Midwest are hosting curated lineups of performers over the next few months—including a few acts that are skipping Chicago this summer. Plus, unlike Lollapalooza, most of these fests still have plenty of tickets available.

Best Midwest summer music festivals


Eaux Claires

June 16, 17, Eau Claire, Wisconsin
Drive from Chicago: 
5 hours
Headliners: Chance the Rapper, Wilco, Paul Simon, John Prine

Bon Iver frontman Justin Vernon throws a music festival on a wooded farm in his hometown, headlined by two acts that should be familiar to Chicagoans. The tightly curated lineup includes plenty of friends.

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July 14–16, Louisville, Kentucky
Drive from Chicago: 4.5 hours
Headliners: LCD Soundsystem, Odesza, Weezer

If you're not a fan of Pitchfork Music Festival, perhaps this Louisville festival on the banks of the Ohio River is more your speed. Headliners Weezer and Odesza skew mainstream, but undercard acts like Charles Bradley, Beach Slang and Chicano Batman provide compelling reasons to skip town for the weekend.

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Mo Pop

July 29, 30, Detroit, Michigan
Drive from Chicago: 4.25 hours
Foster the People, Alt-J, Solange

Wanna see some Lollapalooza headliners the weekend before they come to Grant Park? Detroit's Mo Pop Festival offers a preview of Chicago's biggest fest, accompanied by food trucks, an arcade and demonstrations from local tech start-ups (you can totally wear a VR headset while listening to Wavves).

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May 27–29, Detroit, Michigan
Drive from Chicago: 
4.25 hours
Headliners: Richie Hawtin, Testpilot, Carl Cox

Detroit celebrates electronic music in all its forms at the annual Movement festival. You can see EDM figureheard Deadmau5 play under his Testpilot alias, catch a retro synth-fueled set from SURVIVE (the band behind the Stranger Things soundtrack) or hear the rapid-fire lyricism of Detroit-native rapper Danny Brown.

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Nelsonville Music Festival

June 1–4, Nelsonville, Ohio
Drive from Chicago: 
6 hours
Headliners: Ween, They Might Be Giants, Emmylou Harris

Set amid the rolling Hocking Hills in Southeast Ohio, the Nelsonville Music Festival balances beautiful scenery with rock and folk music. While you can see artists like Jenny Lewis and Conor Oberst on the main stage, some acts opt to play an additional acoustic set in a historic cabin built in the 1850s.

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June 28–July 2, July 4–9, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Drive from Chicago: 2 hours
Headliners: Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Chainsmokers, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

You'll have to purchase individual tickets to see big names like Luke Bryant and Paul Simon 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 (Foghat, REO Speedwagon) and contemporary artists (Jamila Woods, Girl Talk, The Shins).

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August 4, 5, Saint Charles, Iowa
Drive from Chicago: 6 hours
Headliners: Alt-J, The Head and the Heart, Ryan Adams

Just south of Des Moines in Madison County (famous for its bridges), Hinterland is the antidote to the crowded urban landscape of Lollapalooza. Acts like Foxygen and Dwight Yoakam perform sets on a stage set amid rolling hills, where attendees can pitch a tent nearby and camp through the night.

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Electric Forest

June 22–25, June 29–July 2, Rothbury, Michigan
Drive from Chicago:
3.5 hours
The String Cheese Incident, Bassnectar, Dillon Francis

Expanding to two weekends this year, Electric Forest brings jam bands and EDM acts to a Lake Michigan resort, where attendees can camp, rent a cabin or stay in a deluxe lodge. Each weekend boasts a different lineup, but you'll be able to see Vince Staples, Machinedrum and Bob Moses no matter which you decide to attend.

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Bourbon and Beyond

September 23, 24, Louisville, Kentucky
Drive from Chicago: 4.5 hours
Headliners: Stevie Nicks, Eddie Vedder, Steve Miller Band

Last summer, classic rock icons like the Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney headlined a festival in the desert—this year, a lineup of aging rockstars are hanging out in Bourbon Country. The inaugural Bourbon and Beyond festival combines whiskey tastings and delicious food with sets from Buddy Guy and Kenny Wayne Shepherd.

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Summer Set

August 11–13, Somerset, Wisconsin
Drive from Chicago: 6.25 hours
Headliners: Zeds Dead, Zedd, Griz

It's a bit of a haul, but this EDM and hip-hop-focused fest might be the end-of-summer escape you need. Camp out at the Summerset Amphitheatre and catch sets from Run the Jewels, Die Antwoord, Keys N Krates and more.

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July 7, 8, Des Moines, Iowa
Drive from Chicago: 5 hours
Headliners: The Shins, MGMT, Action Bronson

Hop on the highway and visit our neighbors to the northwest during the 80/35 festival, which brings 40 rock, hip-hop and electronic acts to 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 Camp Music Festival

May 26–28, Chillicothe, Illinois
Drive from Chicago: 2.25 hours
HeadlinersMoe., Umphrey's McGee, Trey Anastasio Band

Pack your hacky sack and make the pilgrimage to downstate Illinois for this annual jam band jamboree, which features guitar-noodling from the likes of Primus, Gov't Mule and the Disco Biscuits.

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Bunbury Music Festival

June 2–4, Cincinnati, Ohio
Drive from Chicago: 4.75 hours
Headliners: Muse, Wiz Khalifa, G-Eazy, Bassnectar

Head to the land of Skyline Chili and neglected NFL teams for this three-day festival on the banks of the Ohio River. Hip-hop, EDM and rock are all represented on the lineup, which includes Death Cab for Cuties, D.R.A.M. and the 1975.

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