Great spring festivals

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

Milwaukee's big St. Patrick's Day parade draws revelers from around the region.

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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 2021. 

Many have been altered or may change at the last minute; check before you go.

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.

Third weekend of March

Most St. Patrick's parades are canceled this year. But in traditionally Irish St. Paul, the annual noon parade goes on, now as a drive-through. 

Virtual 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. 

It's virtual this year.

Mar 12. – Mar 14.

Soar With Eagles in Wabasha, MN The National Eagle Center holds live-bird programs and nature presentations weekends in March, when bald eagles migrate northward along the Mississippi.

This year, it's offering a different online program each weekend to families, $10, free to members.

Mar 13. – Mar 14.

Irish Mask-arade in St. Paul, MN In this traditionally Irish city, the St. Pat's parade goes on . . . but this year, it will be a drive-past parade in the parking lot of the old Sears building at 425 Rice St.

Reserve a place by Feb. 17; only 150 vehicles are allowed. The noon "parade'' also will be broadcast live on Facebook.

 

Mar 17.

Third weekend in March

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.

Mar 18. – Mar 21.

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.

Mar 19. – Apr 4.

Soar With Eagles in Wabasha, MN The National Eagle Center holds live-bird programs and nature presentations weekends in March, when bald eagles migrate northward along the Mississippi.

This year, it's offering a different online program each weekend to families, $10, free to members.

Mar 20. – Mar 21.

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.

Mar 20.

Minneapolis St. Patrick's Day Parade in Columbia Heights, MN This year, the parade moves from Nicollet Mall to this northern suburb and will be a drive-by parade from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Reserve a time slot to see it.

Mar 20.

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.

Mar 19. – Apr 4.

Soar With Eagles in Wabasha, MN The National Eagle Center holds live-bird programs and nature presentations weekends in March, when bald eagles migrate northward along the Mississippi.

This year, it's offering a different online program each weekend to families, $10, free to members.

Mar 27. – Mar 28.

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.

Mar 19. – Apr 4.

Egg Day in Milwaukee, WI There will be crafts, face-painting, bubble art and treats at the Hop-to-it Bunny Hunt, plus a parade at the Milwaukee County Zoo.

Apr 3.

Outdoor Easter at the Castle in Minneapolis, MN The American Swedish Institute hosts an Easter egg hunt in the 33-room Turnblad Mansion. There will also be crafts, storytelling and Easter tree-decorating. Register by March 22.

Apr 3.

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.

Apr 3.

Second weekend in April

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.

Apr 10.

Third weekend in April

U.S. Grant's Birthday in Galena, IL The former home of the Civil War general and president celebrates his 199th birthday with free admission to the Grant Museum, Main Street walking tours with Gen. Grant, a pie auction, a spy trial and cake.

Apr 17. – Apr 18.

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

Apr 18. – Apr 25.

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.

Apr 18. – Apr 25.

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.

Apr 23. – Apr 25.

Virtual Eau Claire Jazz Festival in Eau Claire, WI Normally, 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.

This year, it's virtual.

Apr 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 and also on June 12 and Nov. 26.

Apr 24.

First 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 1. – May 9.

Kettle River Paddle Festival in Sandstone, MN Watch a kayak whitewater rodeo, take a paddling clinic, make your own paddle or join a group float. There's hiking and rock-climbing, too. In Sandstone's Robinson Park and Banning State Park.

 

May 1. – May 2.

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.

May 1. – May 2.

Virtual 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.

It's online again this year.

May 2. – May 9.

Virtual Wordplay Book Festival in Minneapolis, MN The Loft Literary Center hosts this family-friendly festival, featuring dozens of authors.

 

May 2. – May 8.

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 1. – May 9.

Virtual 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.

It's online again this year.

May 2. – May 9.

Virtual Wordplay Book Festival in Minneapolis, MN The Loft Literary Center hosts this family-friendly festival, featuring dozens of authors.

 

May 2. – May 8.

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 6. – May 9.

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

May 6. – May 8.

Virtual Milwaukee Film Festival in Milwaukee, WI Stream more than 200 films from around the globe.

May 6. – May 20.

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 7. – May 9.

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. Normally, 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.

In 2021, some activities will be altered.

May 7. – May 9.

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 7. – May 9.

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 7. – May 9.

Third weekend in May

Virtual Milwaukee Film Festival in Milwaukee, WI Stream more than 200 films from around the globe.

May 6. – May 20.

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 13. – May 15.

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

May 13. – May 20.

Minneapolis/St. Paul International Film Festival in Minneapolis, MN More than 180 films from around the world are streamed and/or shown live outdoors.

May 13. – May 23.

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 14. – May 16.

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 14. – May 16.

Art-A-Whirl Studio Tour in Minneapolis, MN Up to 800 artists are taking part in this tour of studios in the northeast Minneapolis arts district.

Some studios are opening for in-person visits and others online only. Check for updates.

 

May 14. – May 16.

National Morel Mushroom Festival in Boyne City, MI This town on the east end of Lake Charlevoix is all about morels in May, with a guided mushroom hunt, a competition with prizes, drawings for free morels and The Taste of Morels, with morsels provided by local restaurants.

May 14. – May 16.

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 at 4 p.m. on Saturday.

May 14. – May 15.

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, and Lynxville.

May 14. – May 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 15.

Stand Still Parade in Whalan, MN In this village on the Root River State Trail, just east of Lanesboro, it's the spectators who do the parading. There's music, food and games.

May 15.

Syttende Mai in Westby, WI This Norwegian town, southeast of La Crosse, holds a bicycle tour, troll hunt, rommegrot-eating contest, old-time music, children's tractor pull and a big parade.

May 15.

Doors Open Minneapolis in Minneapolis, MN Get a free, behind-the-scenes look at 115 historic theaters, hotels, courthouses and mansions as well as new buildings and venues, including Target Field, Surly Brewing, the Prospect Park water tower and the Pillsbury A Mill. On-site docents lead tours or answer questions.

May 15. – May 16.

Fourth weekend in May

Virtual Milwaukee Film Festival in Milwaukee, WI Stream more than 200 films from around the globe.

May 6. – May 20.

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

May 13. – May 20.

Minneapolis/St. Paul International Film Festival in Minneapolis, MN More than 180 films from around the world are streamed and/or shown live outdoors.

May 13. – May 23.

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 20. – May 22.

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.

In 2021, some events may be virtual.

May 21. – May 23.

Duluth Dylan Festival in Duluth, MN The town in which Bob Dylan was born celebrates the singer's 80th birthday with a Blood on the Tracks train ride, a singer-songwriter contest, a bus tour, films, music and a trivia contest.

 

May 22. – May 30.

World War I Encampment in Rockford, IL At Midway Village, more than 225 re-enactors portray soldiers and civilians from the United States and Europe and stage narrated battles.

Reserve your place in advance.

May 22. – May 23.

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


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