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Iowa Travel Guide

Iowa — Festivals and Events

It’s no surprise that nearly all of Iowa’s festivals and fairs take place during the summer and fall months. From the big cities to little towns along the Mississippi, there is a music, art, food, or family event every weekend. The Iowa State Fair is a huge gathering, and one of America’s oldest and biggest. But you’ll find jazz, culture, and all kinds of other fun throughout the summer.

Des Moines Art Festival

Each June, the Western Gateway Park in downtown Des Moines is the venue for one of the state’s top arts and crafts fairs. More than 150 artists set up stalls to show off and sell their creations to the public. The fair runs for three days and is free to enter. Three stages hold daily concerts and there are special activities to keep the kids occupied.

Cedar Rapids Freedom Festival

One of the big parties in the state occurs each June and July to coincide with America’s Independence Day celebration. From June 21 to July 4, downtown Cedar Rapids enjoys daily parades, outdoor concerts, barbecue competitions, and more than 75 different family activities. This is Cedar Rapid’s big event, and worth planning a trip around.

Burlington Steamboat Days

This all-American town along the banks of the Mississippi River holds one of Iowa’s most popular music festivals every June. Outdoor stages are set up along the water, hosting a broad range of musical acts from jazz and blues to country and golden oldie groups. A parade, fireworks, and lots of kid-friendly events make this a fun festival for everyone.

Jazz in July

Iowa’s top jazz fest happens in Des Moines every July. Most of the concerts are free, held indoors and outdoors at venues around the city. Dozens of musicians come to this respected event including world-renowned legends in the genre.

Iowa State Fair

Running for over 150 years, the Iowa State Fair is one of America’s oldest and is widely considered the best in the country. And in a state that values farming as much as Iowa, are you surprised? From August 9-19, the fairgrounds of Des Moines are transformed into a massive carnival. There are amusement rides, live concerts, a livestock show, a huge arts show, plenty of hearty food, fireworks, and more.

Clay County Fair

Another strong contender for the best fair in Iowa happens every September at the Clay Country Fairgrounds in the little town of Spencer. Established more than a century ago, it’s regarded by most locals as the must-see event of the year. It’s a massive production with live concerts, chuck wagon races, rodeos, arts and crafts stalls, carnival food, and much more.

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