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Hot dogs are celebrated in many ways
Hot dogs are celebrated in many ways | © Brendan Riley / Flickr
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7 Unmissable Summer Festivals in the USA

Picture of Culture Trip
Updated: 11 May 2018
After a long, hard winter, summer is almost officially here. And you know what that means—it’s time for festival season. From music festivals to celebrations of visual art, there’s a summer festival for just about every interest or personality type. Here are our picks of some of the best.

Elvis Week

In Elvis’ hometown of Memphis, Tennessee, the King of Rock and Roll is celebrated with a week-long festival each August. The week is packed full of events, highlights of which include a tribute concert and a candlelight vigil. Don’t forget to wear your blue suede shoes.

Elvis impersonators abound during Elvis Week | © flufeemunk / Flickr


Baltimore, Maryland’s Artscape is the country’s largest free arts festival. It combines street theatre, dance, and opera with concerts like the one put on by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, which performs with non-professional musicians from all over the country during the festival. As a bonus, you’ll get to indulge in some of the best crab cakes in the world in a city that is famous for them.

Art covers everything at Baltimore’s Artscape | © Forsaken Fotos / Flickr

Heart of America Hot Dog Festival

Kansas City, Missouri, is famous for its baseball—residents are all diehard Royals fans—but nothing goes with the sport quite like a hot dog. And in homage, the city—and hot dog fans from around the world—turn out each August for the Heart of America Hot Dog Festival. R&B and jazz performers provide the soundtrack while festivalgoers sample an astonishing array of hot dogs.

Hot dogs are celebrated in many ways | © Brendan Riley / Flickr


Arguably the most indie music festival in America, headliners at 2018’s Pickathon in Portland, Oregon, include Broken Social Scene, Shakey Graves, Built to Spill, and Blind Boys of Alabama. But music isn’t all that the festival has to offer. The festivities are set on a farm outside of the city, where hometown heroes like Stumptown Coffee and Podnah’s Pit dish out food and drinks to attendees, and where art installation stages last year were donated to the city’s homeless as sleeping pods after the festival was over.

Houston Shakespeare Festival

Houston may be more famous for barbeque, burgers, and rodeos than it is for the Bard, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a world-class Shakespeare Festival that comes to the city each summer. The city’s premier professional theatre troupe stages two Shakespeare classics in Hermann Park’s Miller Outdoor Theatre, generally offering one comedy and one drama, so you can enjoy it no matter what your mood may be.

Shakespeare is the theme of Houston’s biggest summer theatre festival | © Dun.can / Flickr

Route 66 Summerfest

It isn’t every highway that gets its own festival, but then again, Route 66 is no ordinary highway. The famous interstate route is celebrated every July in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with live music, a car show, and—if you and a special someone are serious fans—a group wedding that takes place along the side of the road.

Tomato Art Festival

Nashville, Tennessee, is famous for its country music scene, and increasingly for its presence as a foodie destination. But that’s not all the city has to celebrate. Each August, Nashville puts on a Tomato Art Festival, celebrating the vegetable (or fruit, depending on who you ask) by putting on an extravaganza of tomato art, Bloody Marys, and even opportunities to bob for tomatoes.

Tomatoes are the stars of Nashville’s Tomato Festival | © sean_hicken / Flickr