Great spring festivals

It's a good time to indulge in brews, birding and blooms.

Sisters with painted faces at Owl Fest.
Festival-goers have their faces painted with the markings of their favorite owls at the International Festival of Owls in southeast Minnesota.

In the Upper Midwest, it's hard to know when spring starts.

On St. Patrick's Day, revelers may parade in sun or sleet; you have to be prepared for both. In the north woods, ski slopes hold spring luaus, carnivals and egg hunts, and skiers had better slather on the sun block or they'll burn.

March is the month for expos --- antiques, autos, gardens, golf, pets and sports --- and for tastings of beer, wine and cheese. Birding festivals start in April, and in May the flowers start popping out and festival season starts in earnest.

Here are the best festivals for spring 2022.

Before you go, check for last-minute changes.

For more on birding festivals, see Birding in spring .

For maple-syrup festivals, see Sugarbush safari .

For ethnic festivals, see Celebrating roots .

For beer festivals, see Best brew fests .

For events year-round, see the Events Calendar .

Second weekend of March

This year, St. Patrick's parades are back and in-person.

Canoecopia in Madison, WI It's the world's largest paddlesports expo, according to host Rutabaga, with dozens of demonstrations, workshops and presentations plus discounts on boats and gear.  March 11--13.

St. Patrick's Day parade in Milwaukee, WI The big parade starts at noon, starting at Third and Wisconsin downtown and followed by music, dancing and pipes and drums at the Irish Cultural and Heritage Center. March 12.

St. Patrick's Day Parade in Chicago, IL In Chicago , they really do dye the river green. Watch the dye job at 9 a.m. from the Michigan Avenue or Columbus Drive bridges, then watch the noon parade through Grant Park. March 12.

St. Urho's Day in Finland, MN This North Shore village near Tettegouche State Park celebrates the Finnish saint with a tug-of-war over the Baptism River and a parade, craft fair, music and children's games. March 12.

Dancers circle the maypole during Maifest in Amana.
Dancers circle the maypole during Maifest in the Amana Colonies.

Third weekend in March

St. Patrick's Day Parade in St. Paul, MN In this traditionally Irish city , the St. Pat's Day parade starts at noon in Mears Park in Lowertown and is followed by a 1:30 p.m. party in CHS Field, with live music and food.   March 17.

Minneapolis St. Patrick's Day Parade in Columbia Heights, MN This year, the parade again moves to this northern suburb and will be a drive-by parade at 6 p.m. March 17.

St. Patrick's Day Festival in Emmetsburg, IA In northwest Iowa, this is the state's Irish capital, and it celebrates with many festivities, including a parade at 1:30 p.m. Saturday. March 18--19.

Celtic Fest in Moorhead, MN This free festival at the Hjemkomst Center includes two entertainment stages, heritage programs, arts and crafts, interactive booths and Celtic food and treats. March 19.

Fourth weekend in March

Restaurant Week in Chicago, IL Time to pack on the calories: More than 370 restaurants offer three-course prix-fixe menus for $25 at brunch or lunch and $39 or $55 at dinner. March 25--April 10.

In Finland, St. Urho's Day includes a tug-of-war.
The people of Finland, Minn., celebrate St. Urho Day with a tug of war.

First weekend in April

Restaurant Week in Chicago, IL Time to pack on the calories: More than 370 restaurants offer three-course prix-fixe menus for $25 at brunch or lunch and $39 or $55 at dinner. March 25--April 10.

Minneapolis/St. Paul International Film Festival in Minneapolis, MN More than 250 films from more than 70 countries will be shown, based at the five screens of St. Anthony Main, across the river from downtown. March 31--April 14.

Maple Syrup Fest in Phelps, WI In the northeast corner of Wisconsin, tour the sugarbush, tap trees, make maple taffy in the snow and shop at an arts and crafts fair. April 2.

Second weekend in April

Restaurant Week in Chicago, IL Time to pack on the calories: More than 370 restaurants offer three-course prix-fixe menus for $25 at brunch or lunch and $39 or $55 at dinner. March 25--April 10.

Minneapolis/St. Paul International Film Festival in Minneapolis, MN More than 250 films from more than 70 countries will be shown, based at the five screens of St. Anthony Main, across the river from downtown. March 31--April 14.

Mission Creek Festival in Iowa City, IA Dozens of musicians, artists and writers perform and read at downtown venues. On Friday evening, there's a literature crawl.  April 7--9.

Wisconsin Film Festival in Madison, WI See 150 independent films from Wisconsin and around the world. April 7--14.

A reveler at Milwaukee's St. Pat's Day parade.
Milwaukee's big St. Patrick's Day parade draws revelers from around the region.

Third weekend in April

Minneapolis/St. Paul International Film Festival in Minneapolis, MN More than 250 films from more than 70 countries will be shown, based at the five screens of St. Anthony Main, across the river from downtown. March 31--April 14.

Wisconsin Film Festival in Madison, WI See 150 independent films from Wisconsin and around the world. April 7--14.

Eggstravaganza in Racine, WI At the Racine Zoo, the all-day Eggstravaganza includes a candy hunt, bounce houses, an egg dig, a dance party, egg- and cookie-decorating, crafts and games. Included with admission. April 16.

A Viking ship float in Spring Grove.
A Viking ship is part of the Syttende Mai parade in Spring Grove, Minn.

Fourth weekend in April

Julien Dubuque Film Festival in Dubuque, IA See 70 films and a silent-film showcase. There's a red-carpet awards show Saturday. April 20--24.

Eau Claire Jazz Festival in Eau Claire, WI Headliners play the State Theatre, and on Friday, more than 50 bands play acoustic jazz, ragtime, big-band and blues along Barstow Street downtown, recreating New York's 52nd Street. April 22--23.

Spring Outdoor Adventure Expo in Minneapolis, MN A spring kickoff for outdoor enthusiasts, with presentations on outdoor adventures and destinations and a gear sale and auction of used canoes and kayaks. April 22--24.

Midwest Horse Fair in Madison, WI There's a Friday-night rodeo, blacksmith championships, stagecoach rides, Texas trick riders, music and performances, including the Wisconsin Mounted Police Team. At Alliant Energy Center. April 22--24.

Bluff Country Studio Art Tour in Northeast IA/Southeast, MN Take a spring drive through southeast Minnesota and northeast Iowa and visit artists in and around Winona, Lanesboro, Spring Grove and Harmony in Minnesota and Decorah in Iowa. April 22--24.

Bluegrass, Bourbon & Brews Festival in River Falls, WI Hear music at half a dozen venues in the downtown of this western Wisconsin college town. April 22--24.

Between the Bluffs Beer, Wine and Cheese Festival in La Crosse, WI Sample cheese and more than 200 beers and 45 wines at the Oktoberfest grounds.   April 23.

Free Entrance Day at Minnesota state parks in All state parks, MN Entrance to all 75 Minnesota state parks and recreation areas is free today. April 23.

Costumed folk dancers twirl during Tulip Time in Pella, Iowa
In Pella, Iowa, the Tulip Time festival attracts more than 100,000 visitors.

Fifth weekend in April

Midwest Music Fest in Winona, MN Dozens of musical groups in all genres play in museums, galleries, cafes and arts centers across town. There are arts workshops for children, too. April 29--30.

Dairy State Cheese & Beer Festival in Kenosha, WI There's cheese and beer from around the state plus live music at the Brat Stop. April 30.

Taylor County Maple Fest in Medford, WI This festival at the fairgrounds features maple syrup in a breakfast, a baking contest, a cooking demonstration and crafts plus music, children's activities and door prizes. April 30.

International Festival of Owls in Houston, MN This southeast Minnesota town offers owl prowls, hooting contests, pellet dissection, live-owl programs and children's activities. April 30--May 1.

Maifest in Amana, IA There's a lot going on in this former communal society in eastern Iowa --- a 10 a.m. Saturday parade, polka music, keg-tapping, food-sampling, artisan demonstrations and pony rides. April 30--May 1.

Homegrown Music Festival in Duluth, MN More than 100 musical acts perform in venues around the Twin Ports, and there also will be film, visual arts and craft beer.   May 1--8.

Trolls wave in Westby's Syttende Mai parade.
Trolls wave in Westby's Syttende Mai parade.

First weekend in May

Homegrown Music Festival in Duluth, MN More than 100 musical acts perform in venues around the Twin Ports, and there also will be film, visual arts and craft beer.   May 1--8.

Pella Tulip Time in Pella, IA This big Dutch heritage fest features daily historical tours, a craft market and afternoon and evening parades. May 5--7.

100-Mile Garage Sale in Lake Pepin, This big garage sale is a good excuse to make the scenic, 70-mile drive around this wide spot in the Mississippi, in both Wisconsin and Minnesota. May 5--8.

Spring Festival & Folk Fest in Gays Mills, WI This Kickapoo Valley village in southwest Wisconsin offers a rodeo, tractor pull, Maypole dancing and a Saturday-night folk concert. May 6--8.

Horicon Marsh Bird Festival in Horicon, WI This large festival in east-central Wisconsin is around a large marsh often called the Everglades of the North. There are bird hikes, bird-banding demonstrations, pontoon-boat tours, canoe and kayak tours, bus tours and a round-the-clock Big Sit, in which participants try to identify as many birds as possible. Register early for field trips.   May 6--8.

Mushroom Festival in Mesick, MI This northwest Michigan town is morel central in May, celebrating the spring hunt with a carnival, carriage rides, flea market, duck races and a parade at noon Saturday. May 6--8.

Earth Arts Spring Art Tour in Upper St. Croix Valley, WI Visit artists at 28 studios and sites in and around St. Croix Falls, Osceola and Amery. May 6--8.

Tulip Time in Holland, MI More than 6 million tulips bloom during this festival, which this year features a Dutch market, walking tours, tall-ship tours and a carnival. May 7--15.

Second weekend in May

Tulip Time in Holland, MI More than 6 million tulips bloom during this festival, which this year features a Dutch market, walking tours, tall-ship tours and a carnival. May 7--15.

Syttende Mai in Stoughton, WI The festival in this town south of Madison, which celebrates Norwegian constitution day, is the largest in North America and probably the world. It features Norwegian dancing, Viking games, fjord horses, a canoe race, an arts fair and a big parade at 1:30 p.m. Sunday. May 13--15.

Syttende Mai in Spring Grove, MN In Minnesota, Norwegians settled first in this town in bluff country. There's Norwegian food, music and dance, and a big parade at noon Saturday. May 13--15.

Art-A-Whirl Studio Tour in Minneapolis, MN Up to 1,000 artists are taking part in this tour of studios in the northeast Minneapolis arts district. May 13--15.

Morel Mushroom Festival in Muscoda, WI This town along the Wisconsin River calls itself the Morel Mushroom Capital of Wisconsin. There's a 3 p.m. parade and fireworks plus a flea market, arts fair and pedal-tractor pull. May 14.

Guitarists at Cinco de Mayo.
Guitarists play at Cinco de Mayo in St. Paul.

Third weekend in May

Tulip Festival in Orange City, IA The popular festival in this Dutch town in northwest Iowa celebrates its 81st anniversary with dance, music, street scrubbing and parades at 2:15 and 6 p.m. daily. May 19--21.

Festival of Birds in Detroit Lakes, MN This festival in northwest Minnesota is near the convergence of prairie with northern pine forest and eastern hardwood forest. Space in field trips to local refuges fills quickly. May 19--21.

Rummage Along the River in Southwest Wisconsin, WI Seventy miles of garage sales will line the Wisconsin side of the Mississippi River from Stoddard, just south of La Crosse, to Lynxville and Mount Sterling. May 20--21.

Trout Days in Preston, MN This town on the Harmony-Preston Valley State Trail celebrates spring with a car show, kids' pedal pull, live music, fireworks and a parade on Saturday. May 20--21.

Civil War Living History Festival in Milton, WI In this town near Janesville, this free festival is at the Milton House Museum, once a stop on the Underground Railroad. It features an encampment of soldiers, military drills, cannon firing and an historic walking tour. Sign up in advance for living-history tours of the hotel, where guests will go back to 1861 and meet a freedom-seeker hidden in the cellar. May 20--22.

Duluth Dylan Festival in Duluth, MN The town in which Bob Dylan was born celebrates the singer's 81st birthday with a Blood on the Tracks train ride, a singer-songwriter contest, a bus tour, films, music and a trivia contest.   May 21--29.

Des Plaines River Canoe & Kayak Marathon in Libertyville, IL This 18.5-mile race and tour through forest preserves to Mount Prospect is for families and first-timers as well as competitors. There's also a 5.25-mile Minithon, and boats can be rented. May 22.

For events from Memorial Day weekend on, see Great summer festivals .

Last updated on January 5, 2022

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