summer festivals

Join the Burners at Burning Man this summer. (Photo: Getty Images)

Culture + Style

Crank Up the Heat at These 6 Can’t-Miss Summer Festivals

Join the Burners at Burning Man this summer. (Photo: Getty Images)

As the weather heats up across the United States, some of the country’s most fascinating festivals unfold. Take part in an ode to cowboy culture, a massive motorcycle rally, the creation of a surreal desert metropolis, and more at America’s best summer festivals.

Burning Man – Black Rock Desert, NV

Every August, an otherwise non-descript, and normally uninhabited, slice of Nevada desert, some 228 miles north of Reno, transforms into Black Rock City, home to the Burning Man Festival. For seven days, tens of thousands of people create a temporary metropolis founded on principles of community, art, self-expression, and self-reliance.

Larger-than-life, surrealist sculptures, installations, and “art cars” spring to life, techno music blares, steampunk style and costumes erupt, and a creative culture like no other is born. The finale? A fiery, ceremonial burn of an installation representing Burning Man.

Cheyenne Frontier Days – Cheyenne, WY

Known as “The Daddy of ‘Em All,” Cheyenne Frontier Days is a 10-day rodeo bonanza in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Held every July, the celebration ranks as the world’s largest (and arguably best) outdoor rodeo.

Over 250,000 people attend the festivities, including the main event, the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) Rodeo. Prepare for a heart-pounding adrenaline rush during bull riding, bareback horse riding, saddle bronc riding, barrel racing and a wild horse race.

Other highlights include a Wild West re-creation in Old Frontier Town, learning about Native American culture in the Indian Village, and exploring the massive carnival.

Battle of Gettysburg Reenactment – Gettysburg, PA

summer festivals
Pay homage to the deadliest Civil War battle in Gettysburg. (Photo: Alamy)

More than 160,000 soldiers fought in the Battle of Gettysburg during the United States’ Civil War, and an astonishing 8,000 lost their lives during the three-day battle. Historians say the event — and the Union’s victory — was the turning point of the Civil War.

Every July, on or near the anniversary, it’s possible to relive one of U.S. history’s most devastating fights at Gettysburg National Military Park. Tens of thousands of official reenactors take part in skirmishes and reenactments, including Pickett’s Charge, artillery demonstrations, and military encampments.

San Francisco Pride – San Francisco

Wave your rainbow flag in ultra-liberal San Francisco, which hosts the nation’s largest and most colorful gay pride celebration, San Francisco LGBT Pride. The two-day celebration and street party attracts more than 1 million people and features 200 special interest groups, 300 exhibitors, and at least 20 community-run stages and venues.

Held the last weekend of June, the celebration’s highlight is the parade, a wild exhibition of color, barely-there costumes, music, and dance.

Sturgis Motorcycle Rally – Sturgis, SD

summer festivals
Ride on, Rallyers. (Photo: Alamy)

Fire up your engines at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, where more than 500,000 leather- and jean-clad bikers and bike enthusiasts gather every August to celebrate motorcycle culture. Since 1938, the weeklong rally has been held in the tiny town of Sturgis, north of Rapid City.

Events include half-mile races, ramp jumps, hillclimbs, and drag races. Attendees can also enjoy a laid-back exploration of winding roads throughout South Dakota’s Black Hills region, and day trips to Mount Rushmore National Memorial and Badlands National Park.

Comic-Con International – San Diego

San Diego just wouldn’t be the same without Comic-Con in July. (Photo: Hayne Palmour, Zuma Press Inc/Alamy)

Unleash your inner geek at San Diego’s Comic-Con International, the ultimate event for comic book-lovers and video game superfans. More than 100,000 attendees — many wearing elaborate character costumes — descend on downtown San Diego every July.

The four-day event is known to attract the world’s top comic book publishers, movie studio executives, and Hollywood stars. Attendees can meet their heroes and other like-minded superfans at Q&A sessions, movie screenings, autograph sessions, and costume competitions.

New York International Fringe Festival – NYC

More than 75,000 theater and dance fans swarm New York City every August to attend FringeNYC’s events. The 16-day festival is the largest of its kind in North America, and companies from around the world debut more than 200 shows and 1,100 performances. It’s possible to grab tickets to musicals, solo shows, plays, experimental pieces, and classical revivals, many of which go on to have longer theater runs after the festival ends.