american festivals

Spend time unwinding at a festival in Deer Valley. (Photo: Courtesy of Deer Valley Music Festival)

Culture + Style

Food, Wine and Excellent Tunes: The West’s Festival Scene Is Hopping

Whether your ideal festival scene is spending the day tasting world-class wines or listening to a symphony under the stars, there’s something special about experiencing the event in the mountains. Nestled among mountain peaks and aspen groves, the festivals out West draw famous musicians, accomplished chefs and award-winning sommeliers from around the country for good reason.

No matter what your taste might be, you’re sure to enjoy one (or all!) of these music, food and wine festivals throughout Colorado, California and eastern Utah.

Deer Valley Music Festival — Park City, Utah

The summer residency of the Utah Symphony runs for eight weeks, from the end of June/beginning of July until mid-August, at Deer Valley Resort. Surrounded by the Wasatch Mountains, the Deer Valley Music Festival includes performances at the base of the ski lifts and in St. Mary’s Church. Over the years, the event has attracted a wide range of well-known artists, such as The Beach Boys, Smokey Robinson and Elvis Costello.

Vail Jazz Festival — Vail, Colorado

Focusing on “young musicians and young audiences,” Vail Jazz hosts a 10-week series of performances every summer from July through September. More than 75 performances take place in six locations around the mountain town, and some events are free.

The series brings in more than 200 artists each year, with specialties ranging from swing to salsa to blues and, of course, jazz. Past performers have included jazz organist Akiko Tsuruga, trumpeter Andrea Motis and swing revivalists Elizabeth Bougerol and Evan Palazzo (aka the Hot Sardines).

Taste of Vail — Vail, Colorado

american festivals
Indulge in tasty eats. (Photo: Getty Images)

Vail has a well-earned reputation for being a world-famous ski resort, but every spring the town plays host to one of the premier food and wine festivals in North America.

Featuring more than 30 of the area’s best chefs and wine from almost 50 of the top wineries in the country, the festival includes signature events such as the Debut of Rosé, the Taste of Vail Lamb Cook-Off and the Mountain Top Tasting at 10,350 feet above sea level.

The four-day extravaganza wraps up with the Grand Event on Saturday at the Vail Marriott Mountain Resort, where guests can sample food and drink from every restauranteur in attendance.

Jazz Aspen Snowmass — Aspen, Colorado

Jazz Aspen Snowmass (or JAS) started as a Labor Day weekend festival in 1991 and has since grown to include a four-day June Experience, as well as several smaller events throughout the year.

Big names like Sting, John Mayer and Portugal the Man have headlined the festival, and you’ll also hear music from local performers and students of the JAS Academy. Proceeds benefit music education at local middle and high schools, as well as the summer JAS Academy.

Food & Wine Classic in Aspen — Aspen, Colorado

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Sip and Savor in Aspen. (Photo: Getty Images)

The Food & Wine Classic in Aspen offers three days of cooking demonstrations, wine tastings and panel discussions each June. Experts from around the country head for the mountains to show off their skills and impart their knowledge.

The event includes nationally recognized chefs, as well as local Coloradans. Don’t miss Last Call, a late-night party hosted by a celebrity chef, for unique cocktails, delicious food and entertaining music.

Breckenridge International Festival of Arts — Breckenridge, Colorado

This 10-day festival takes place in several spots around the mountain town of Breckenridge every August. Inspired by the surrounding environment, the Breckenridge International Festival of the Arts features everything from music and dance to film and other visual arts, all in a family-friendly setting.

Expect unique events like performances in the forest where artists actually sit in trees and BANDALOOP, where performers are suspended on the side of mountains.

Sample the Sierra — South Lake Tahoe, Nevada

Sample the Sierra is an annual farm-to-fork festival celebrating all that the Sierra Nevada has to offer. This September weekend event is set among towering pine trees in beautiful South Lake Tahoe and highlights collaborations between local chefs and growers/producers.

The event includes plenty of food and drinks to taste, music, art and a marketplace with locally made goods. A highlight of the weekend is the Sierra Chefs Challenge, featuring three regional chefs tasked with making delicious meals with local ingredients.

Mammoth Festival of Beers & Bluesapalooza — Mammoth Lakes, California

Take to the woods and groove to good tunes as you kick back with a cold one at Mammoth Lakes’ largest summer festival. Held in early August, the Mammoth Festival of Beers and Bluesapalooza is a four-day bash showcasing over 60 craft breweries and cideries, along with more than 20 bands hammering out blues, rock, R&B and soul. Past performers include legends like Mavis Staples, John Hiatt and Buddy Guy.

The setting can hardly be beat — you’ll find the heart of the event spread beneath a canopy of pines with the peaks of the Sierra Nevada range as backdrop. As day turns to dusk, you’d swear the beer tastes better and the music sounds sweeter.