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Home » Our Trips, Top 10

Top 10 Summer Festivals for Families 2011

Submitted by on May 19, 2011 – 10:35 am

Every year it gets harder and harder to pick just 10 festivals for each season. New festivals, like Artosphere, which made this year’s list, come on the scene and contend with old favorites like Madison’s Brat Fest. Here are our top 10 recommendations for families this year, but check out our Top 10 picks for 2010 as well. We’d love to hear about your favorites too! Leave a comment and tell us what festivals your family never misses. And, for all those smaller, local festivals, use our brand new Event & Festival Calendar to find festivals and family-friendly events all year long.

April 22 – June 4, 2011
Northwest Arkansas

A six-week festival “celebrating artists, influenced by nature, who inspire us to lead more sustainable lives”, Artosphere didn’t get much national media in the family travel area, but this year it’s on the top of a lot of lists. With six weeks of performances and activities, it’s easy for a family to spend a weekend enjoying the arts — and this area of Arkansas is prime road trip country. Check out the list of children’s theater and music performances and plan a weekend this year — and add it to your must-attend list next year.

Brat Fest
Memorial Day Weekend (May 27-30, 2011)
Madison, Wisconsin

The world’s largest brat fest is held in Madison, Wisconsin (where else?) every year over Memorial Day. Apparently the tradition stems from a local store owner who served brats for 50 cents in appreciation to his customers. The brats must have been excellent because the word spread and now the festival claims “world’s largest” status with a world’s record 209,376 brats served in 2010. All the money raised goes to local charities. Of course, the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile makes an appearance, along with other kid-friendly mascots, like the Budweiser Clydesdales. There are lots of activities, fireworks, lots and lots of music, and giving back to the community.

Mother Earth News Fair
June 4-5, 2011
Puyallup, Washington

Organized by Mother Earth News (the longest-running sustainability magazine in the United States) the Mother Earth News Fair combines good for the earth with two days of non-stop fun for the whole family. The whole family can take part in demonstrations and hands-on workshops on everything from green building and transportation to growing and making “real” food. You don’t need to be a kid to enjoy the draft horse and other livestock demonstrations, community seed swap and live music, either! A special children’s area will provide hands-on workshops about Cheesemaking, beekeeping basics for just for kids, learning about different kinds of bugs and making bug nets to catch them, drawing and painting farm animals and native stencil painting. Plus, kids get into the fair free!

Jimmy Fund Scooper Bowl
June 7-9, 2011
City Hall Plaza, Boston

Not exactly a festival by normal standards, but with all-you-can-eat ice cream and a great cause, this makes our list. And, it’s the nation’s largest all-you-can-eat ice cream festival. Over 10 tons of ice cream and frozen treats are served to approximately fifty thousand ice cream lovers from across the nation. All proceeds support adult and pediatric cancer care and research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. For almost 30 years, companies have donated 100% of the ice cream, labor, scoopers and products needed to make the event successful and to raise the most money possible for the Jimmy Fund.

National Kidsfest
June 11-July 24, 2011
Silver Dollar City, Branson Missouri

Everything in Branson is over the top, even their activities for kids. If you’re driving cross country this summer, stop over in Branson and let the kids work off some steam at Silver Dollar City. The new million dollar play area, Half Dollar Holler, will help them get some exercise, and the whole family will enjoy performances by The Legendary Fabulous Wallendas, the high wire-walkers. The theme park has something for everyone, and White Water (the water park) has had expansions as well, with the 7-story, 6-slide thrill ride Kalani Towers giving the older kids plenty of adrenaline rush.

National Oldtime Fiddlers’ Contest
Third Full Week of June
Weiser, Idaho

The week-long fiddle competitions are divided by age and ability — make sure to stay for the Grand National Championship the last night. You can also shop at yard sales, check out car shows or even a bikers’ rodeo if you need more activities. Craft and merchandise vendors line the streets and festival food takes on a whole new meaning — consider this your cultural immersion for a few weeks and just try to sample something from everyone. Continuous entertainment from the stage, a carnival from Wednesday to Sunday and Kids Day (Friday) in City Park give you a few extra ideas. One of Idaho’s largest parades takes place on Saturday and The Battle of the Bluegrass Bands gets your feet stomping in the afternoon.

Kokanee Crankworx Freeride Mountain Bike Festival
July 16-24, 2011
Whistler, British Columbia CANADA

The biggest freeride mountain bike festival in the world, Crankworx is held at Whistler Mountain Bike Park, at Whistler Blackcomb (the venue for the 2010 Olympic Games). It’s the biggest annual event at Whistler, with over 138,000 people attending. Whistler has the world’s most diverse offering of mountain biking terrain, including 150 miles of single-track trails, 5,000 vertical feet of lift-accessed downhill runs in the Whistler Mountain Bike Park, jump parks and 20+ miles of paved Valley Trail. In other words, a big and little kid’s paradise. With non-stop events to watch and biking opportunities for all ages and skill levels, Crankworx is an awesome festival for families. Experts put on bike stunt shows in the village and there is a kids bike comp called KidWorx for the little ones.

Ogden Pioneer Days Rodeo and Community Extravaganza
Weekend of July 24, 2011
Ogden, Utah

One of Utah’s biggest statehood celebrations, Ogden’s Pioneer Days includes a rodeo, parade, pioneer skills and craft fair, horse and hitch parade, Aggie car show, hands-on activities for all ages, entertainment and more. More than 75 Life-sized horsed painted by local artists will line the downtown area streets. The Pioneer Days Rodeo and Parade will take place on July 25th. The rodeo has been named the “Best Rodeo in the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association” twice and is ranked in the top 20 nationally. Fireworks, a special kid’s rodeo and celebration of the National Day of the American Cowboy round out the events.

Dragon Boat Festival
July 30, 2011
Richmond, Virginia

Dragon boats are 40-foot human-powered canoes decorated with ornate Chinese dragon heads. Led by the rhythmic beat of a drum, teams consisting of 20 synchronized paddlers, one drummer, and one steersperson race the canoes 500m down the river. Teams can be groups or businesses and visitors cheer on boaters who come from around the country to compete. Enjoy Chinese performances including a Dragon Dance, Lion Dance and Kung Fu. Live music, food and drinks, including a beer garden will entertain visitors all day.

September 4, 2011
Knoxville, Tennessee

Knoxville Boomsday:  Boomsday Fireworks; Photo by Knoxville Tourism and Sports CorporationWho says giant fireworks displays are just for the 4th of July? The largest Labor Day weekend fireworks festival in the United States has become Knoxville’s signature event. Over 400,000 visitors head to the river front for all-American food, a kids’ play area, live music, and the biggest boom in the nation for one highly anticipated night each year. There are plenty of activities to keep you busy — arrive early and check into road closures before you go.