Travel, festivals and summertime go together like bacon, lettuce and tomato. Many of America's biggest and best festivals are in the weeks ahead in places that are also a delight to explore in the days before or after festival dates. Here are five summer festivals worthy of a trip.
Art festival — Ann Arbor, Michigan
It's a good thing that the 58th annual Ann Arbor Art Fair (July 20-24) happens when most University of Michigan students have gone home for the summer, because the six-figure crowds that flock to the free festival need the parking spots. Artists are spread over 30 blocks in the heart of the city at the university and on downtown streets, which you can walk or negotiate rides via free shuttle buses. Throughout the festival's four days, juried art of every kind is on display, along with concerts and street performances. Ann Arbor is a 40-minute drive from Detroit Metro Airport.
Beer festival — Portland, Oregon
Whether it's coffee, wine or beer, they take their liquids seriously in the Pacific Northwest — maybe because so much comes down from the sky. But there's nothing watered down about the liquids poured at the 30th Oregon Brewers Festival (July 26-30). Eighty-eight U.S. craft brewers, plus 23 more from abroad in the International Beer Garden, are represented in this celebration of suds. There's no admission charge; you only pay $7 for a souvenir mug, plus $5 per beer or $1 per taste. Live music, home brewing demonstrations and handcrafted root beer (for designated drivers) are also on tap. Attended by about 80,000, the six-block-long outdoor festival occupies a waterfront park in downtown Portland.
Balloon festival — Readington, New Jersey
Over its 35 years, the New Jersey Festival of Ballooning (July 28-30) has ascended to become America's biggest summertime hot-air balloon festival, attracting about 50,000 balloon lovers per day. Besides pointing their cameras skyward to capture the spectacle of 100 sport and specialty balloons, which lift off twice daily at 6:45 a.m. and 6:45 p.m., there is a plethora of other entertainment: take balloon rides, enjoy live music (2017 headliners: Jake Miller & Bobby Clark and Chris Condel), take the kids to the carnival rides and family shows, admire Friday fireworks, and lace up for the Running With the Balloons 5K on Sunday. It all happens at Solberg Airport, a 90-minute drive from either New York's JFK Airport or Philadelphia International Airport.
Lobster festival — Rockland, Maine
Billed as “five days of feasting and fun," the Maine Lobster Festival (August 2-6) is among America's most popular summer food festivals. The feasting involves 20,000 pounds of lobster, served to festival-goers and used in the cooking contest. The fun includes nonstop entertainment (Smash Mouth and Diamond Rio are headliners), a crate race (a daring dash over floating lobster crates), a Marine Experience tent (with a touch tank for kids), a Sea Goddess pageant, a beer-and-wine-tasting event, carnival rides, a Saturday parade and a Sunday road run (one-mile to 10K). Rockland is a one-hour, 40-minute drive up the coast from Portland International Jetport.
Music festivals — Chicago, Illinois
Two overlapping major outdoor music festivals span most of the summer in the Chicago area, so you can easily attend both on the same trip. Classical music fans adore the Grant Park Music Festival (through August 19), an 82-year tradition with several classical concerts each week in Millennium Park's Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Chicago. Simultaneously in the northern suburb of Highland Park, the Ravinia Festival (through September 17) offers classical artists — including Joshua Bell, Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma and leading opera singers — as well as pop musicians ranging from Tony Bennett and Bonnie Raitt to Seal. The nightly outdoor concert series at 36-acre Ravinia Park is America's oldest, dating back to 1904.