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Fun things to do this summer

Clarksville Peach Photo by Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism

An editor-curated list of the best fairs, festivals, events, and other things to do in Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Missouri.


Great Outdoors Month

FREE! June 1–30 Petit Jean State Park staff will celebrate the park’s natural wonders with daily activities throughout June, including guided trail hikes, demonstrations, hands-on activities, evening presentations, and more. Arkansas’ first state park, Petit Jean features more than 20 miles of hiking trails, a 95-foot waterfall, a lodge, and 33 cabins. (501) 727-5441. Petit Jean State Park, Morrilton.

Johnson County Peach Festival

FREE! July 20–23 At one of the oldest outdoor festivals in Arkansas, you’ll enjoy various peach-related contests, including peach pie–eating and peach pit–spitting challenges. Peach lovers delight in luscious cinnamon rolls, ice cream, and macarons flavored with the sweet fruit. Among the fun games are the greased pig chase, the bullfrog jump (pictured at top), and the terrapin (turtle) derby. (479) 754-9152. Clarksville.

30th Annual Eureka Springs VW Show

FREE! August 26–28 Volkswagen lovers will find vendors selling cars and car parts for their beloved vehicles. VWs compete in more than 20 classes. The parade cruising through the middle of town has a Mardi Gras vibe, with hundreds of Volkswagens participating. Some are playfully decorated; beads and candy are often thrown from the cars. (479) 685-5185. Eureka Springs.


Music in the Park

FREE! Thursdays in June Bring your lawn chair or picnic blanket and listen to live bands and performers from 7–9 p.m. at the Grove Memorial Park gazebo in downtown Grafton, which overlooks the Mississippi River. The concert series continues on Thursdays through August 11. Before the show, check out the charming shops, wineries, and restaurants bordering the river. (618) 465-6676. Grafton.

Smokin’ on Main

FREE! July 30–31 Professional teams and backyard chefs from around the Midwest haul their smokers and grills here to compete. Meet barbecue notables and watch them cook in the competition. Tantalizing food ranging from barbecued pork to beef brisket is available for sale from southwest Illinois and St. Louis eateries. (618) 855-8855. Main Street, Collinsville. 

The Busey Bank Edwardsville Rotary Criterium

FREE! August 20 Spectators line the downtown streets to cheer on the professional racers as they zip by. Children can compete in the Crit Kids Race and create artistic works in the Pedal and Paint Art Tent. Runners or walkers of any age can participate in the 1.4-mile Downtown Dash ($25 to enter by August 14 and $35 on race day). Plus, enjoy live music and food vendors. Edwardsville.


New Harmony Antique Show

FREE! June 11–12 More than 50 antique dealers from 6 states will set up shop on Main Street with items that include furniture, jewelry, primitives, signs, vintage garden items, books, cast-iron cookware, and more. Only authentic antique and vintage items allowed. Make time to enjoy the history and beauty of this former utopian community. (812) 459-1626. New Harmony.

Summer Smash Monster Truck Show

July 15–16 Twelve renowned monster trucks (including Bounty Hunter and Brutus) will enthrall adults and kids alike with their backflips, jumps, and more. Jump aboard the Mighty Monster Bus with its 66-inch-tall tires. Don’t miss the pre-show pit party, where you’ll come away with autographs and photos with the drivers. Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for children 18 and under at the gate; save $5 per person on advance ticket purchases. Children 6 and under are admitted for free. Vanderburgh 4-H Center, Evansville.

Jasper Strassenfest

FREE! August 4–7 Celebrating Dubois County’s rich German heritage, this festival holds polka contests and a Catholic mass with polka music. Participants compete in the Stein Holding Contest, which seems easier than it is. The kids choir will dance beside a new life-size Glockenspiel clock. Of course, don’t miss the bratwurst, knockwurst, and wiener schnitzel. (812) 482-6866. Jasper.


FREE! June 24 On the last Friday of every month from 5–9 p.m., the streets of downtown Lawrence and its Warehouse Arts District come alive as galleries host exhibits and join with other locations to present a range of arts and culture activities, including music, dance, and theater for children and adults.  (785) 856-3040. Lawrence.

Amelia Earhart Festival

Amelia Earhart Festival

Photo courtesy Amelia Earhart Festival

FREE! July 15–16 At this festival honoring aviatrix and native daughter Amelia Earhart, a popular activity is Breakfast with the Books, where you’ll hear authors that include Mark Weakland, who penned the children’s book When Amelia Built a Roller Coaster. The most spectacular event is held Saturday night when a dual-wing-walker act soars above the Missouri River. Friday concert tickets are $25, and lunch on Saturday is $20. (913) 426-3911. Various sites, Atchison.

Kansas State Fiddling and Picking Championships

FREE! August 28 Talented musicians convene on the fourth Sunday in August to compete and perform from noon to 5 p.m. Bring lawn chairs or spread out your blanket. Various string instrument competitions and entertainment alternate between 2 stages, plus expect an abundance of improvised jam sessions under the trees. There also will be food trucks and artists. (785) 830-9640. South Park, Lawrence.


A Taste of Covington

June 1–30 First started a decade ago, this month-long celebration of food and wine will feature a series of vintner dinners at some of the best restaurants on the Louisiana Northshore. Plus, guests will enjoy tasting events, live music, art exhibits, the Festa Del Vino wine tasting event, and more. A highlight is the closing Champagne Jazz Brunch. Prices vary. (504) 439-2543. Covington.

Cajun Music and Food Festival

July 16 Enjoy continuous live Cajun French music at this event that begins with a French Mass on Sunday morning at 8 a.m. Also, enjoy arts and crafts, plus a menu of delicious Cajun foods that includes jambalaya, boudin, shrimp étouffée, and gumbo. Adults, $10. (337) 562-9156. Burton Coliseum, Lake Charles.

Louisiana SoulFood Fall Festival

August 26–28 This year’s celebration explores the link between music and soul food in culture. Watch chefs at work, including those competing, and take advantage of the chance to cook soul food recipes while learning the history of each. Oxtails, catfish, and gumbo are a few don’t-miss foods to sample. Groove to roots music, including Shreveport-based Pat Mason and the Bayou Boogie. Tickets are $25 for a weekend pass or $10 per day. (318) 779-8941. Shreveport.


Bentonia Blues Festival

FREE! June 16–18 Hosted by the historic Blue Front Café and Jimmy “Duck” Holmes , the Bentonia Blues Festival (celebrating its 50th anniversary) will be held on the front porch of the Blue Front Café. Enjoy a collection of local and nationally known blues performers, and sample fare from local food vendors. Donations encouraged. (662) 528-1900. Bentonia.

Neshoba County Fair—Mississippi’s Giant Houseparty

July 22–29 A 60-acre expanse becomes a quasi-city, complete with hundreds of brightly-hued, family-owned cabins—passed on through the generations—that are organized into neighborhoods. If you’re lucky, a resident might invite you for a glass of lemonade on their porch. Whether it’s gospel or bluegrass music, horse races, rodeos, political speakers, or a petting zoo, there’s something for everyone. A day pass is $20, and children 9 and under are admitted for free. (601) 656-8480. Philadelphia. 

Bay St. Louis Old Town’s Second Saturday Art Walk

FREE! August 13 Peruse art galleries all day during this popular monthly celebration of all things creative. Vendors and restaurants will offer specials, and the area becomes even more animated from 4 to 7 p.m. with live music boosting the vibe quotient. A rotating collection of galleries, shops, and eateries are spotlighted each month. (228) 463-9222. Bay St. Louis.


Guided walking tours of Warm Springs Ranch

June 1–30 (excluding Wednesdays) The official breeding facility of the Budweiser Clydesdales, Warm Springs Ranch is home to more than 70 Clydesdales ranging from foals to stallions. On these 1-hour tours, meet Clydesdales of all ages and learn about their lives and their home on this 300-plus-acre farm. Tours run through November 26 and start at $15. (888) 972-5933. Boonville.

Let Them Eat Art

FREE! July 8 Historic downtown Maplewood will come alive with art demonstrations, performances by regional musicians, and children’s activities during this annual celebration that is a whimsical tribute to France’s Bastille Day. Enjoy plenty of shopping and food vendors during this lively event that takes place from 6 to 10 p.m. (314) 645-3600. Maplewood. 

Birthplace of Route 66 Festival

FREE! August 11–13 In Springfield, where officials first proposed the route’s name, this car and truck show brings together hundreds of vintage, classic, and antique vehicles. Festivities kick off with a concert and street party on Thursday night. Throughout the weekend, musical performances, a parade, a motorcycle village, vendors, a Route 66 exhibit at the History Museum on the Square, and more will enthrall car enthusiasts and casual fans alike. (417) 864-1642. Springfield.

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AAA Travel Alert: Many travel destinations have implemented COVID-19–related restrictions. Before making travel plans, check to see if hotels, attractions, cruise lines, tour operators, restaurants, and local authorities have issued health and safety-related restrictions or entry requirements. The local tourism board is a good resource for updated information.

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