2021 Top Colorado Summer Festivals

Celebrate the warm weather with festivals focused on food, wine, outdoor adventures and more

Festivals are one of the highlights of summers in the Colorado mountains. Though the COVID-19pandemic continues to necessitate caution, and dates are subject to change, warm-weather special events have returned to the high country this summer. Yes, they will look a bit different than in the past, but when the opportunity arises to sip sparkling wine while admiring the alpenglow, you take it. This year, some long-standing annual events have moved from spring to fall, festivals are calling for social distancing and outdoor locations are key. It’s a brave new world, but we’re open to any excuse to gather together (carefully) and have some fun. From culinary and wine festivals to rip-roarin’ rodeos, here are some of the eagerly anticipated events and festivals. Mark your calendar and make your plans in advance: These social celebrations will sell out quickly.

RiverWonderGrass / June 19 – Sept. 9

Combining beloved elements from WinterWonderGrass with the vibe of Campout for the Cause, RiverWonder- Grass takes participants on the river with various musicians for single-day or multi-day immersive music experiences on rivers around Colorado. bonfirentertainment.com/event/riverwondergrass

Bravo! Vail Music Festival / June 24 – Aug. 4

The Gore Range is filled with the sound of music as Bravo! Vail returns for its 34th season. This summer’s schedule features performances by Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, The Philadelphia Orchestra and New York Philharmonic, along with smaller chamber music performances and free shows. Concerts will take place at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, Vilar PerformingArts Center, and other venues in the Vail Valley. bravovail.org

35th Annual Salute to the USA / July 3

Celebrate Independence Day in Avon with one of the largest pyrotechnic displays in the state. Enjoy food and festivities at Nottingham Park before 10,000 shells explode in an extravaganza of dazzling color and sound that reflects on the water and reverberates from the mountains. avon.org/414/salute-to-the-usa

Breckenridge Independence Day Celebration / July 4

Breckenridge comes alive with patriotism, parties and the annual Main Street Parade on the Fourth of July. More than just floats in a parade (though there’s that, too), Independence Day in Breckenridge includes athletic competitions, live music, art festivals, family activities and beloved small-town traditions. The celebration concludes with a performance by the National Repertory Orchestra. gobreck.com

Vail Jazz Festival / July 8 – Sept. 6

With a goal of “perpetuating jazz with a focus on young musicians and young audiences,” Vail Jazz returns this summer with live music on Thursday and Sunday evenings starting July 8 in Vail. The annual Vail Jazz Labor Day Party will return as well with a full weekend of exceptional performances. Check the website for details regarding venues, tickets and musicians.

Steamboat Pilot Hot Air Balloon Rodeo / July 10 – 11

The sky over Yampa Valley will be punctuated by colorful balloons as participants in the Hot Air Balloon Rodeo rise into the air. Get up early for the morning viewings or enjoy the mesmerizing sight of the Night Glow on Saturday night with music, food and fun. hotairballoonrodeo.com

Gypsum Daze / July 15 – 17

Gypsum Daze has become one of the pre-eminent country music festivals in Eagle County and it will return this year with a classic car show, parade, 5K run/walk and two nights of music by Jimmie Allen and Pat Green headline. townofgypsum.com

Winter Park Jazz Festival / July 17 – 18

Celebrating its 38th year, the Winter Park Jazz Festival brings crowds to their feet (dancing!) with the backdrop of the Rocky Mountains and the Continental Divide. Locals often continue the party in town, so don’t head to the hotel too soon. Check the website for information on tickets and musicians. playwinterpark.com

Vail Dance Festival / July 30 – Aug. 9

If being in the rarefied mountain air makes you feel like dancing, you’re not alone. Returning for its 32nd season, the 2021 Vail Dance Festival will feature American Ballet Theatre’s Calvin Royal III as festival artist-in-residence and BalletX as company-in-residence. Other highlights include seven commissioned world premieres and free events. vaildance.org

Taste of Vail / Sept. 17 – 18

One of Vail’s favorite food and wine events, Taste of Vail is switching seasons and bringing some of its most popular events, including the lamb cook-off and tasting—the mountain picnic and the grand tasting—to Vail this fall. Other seminars and events are evolving and will be confirmed prior to the event. tasteofvail.com

Vail Oktoberfest / Sept. 10-12 and Sept. 17 – 19

Locate your lederhosen and dust off your dirndls: Vail Oktoberfest is returning with all of the keg-bowling, stein-lifting, bratwurst-eating and oompah music you missed last year. Celebrate Sept. 10-12 in Lionshead and Sept 17-19 in Vail Village. oktoberfestvail.com

Vail Wine Classic / Aug. 12 – 15

Appeal to all of your senses with this tasting event that combines luxury wine, spirits and cuisine in a gorgeous mountainside park in Vail. This year’s event features extended hours (two-hour sessions with two sessions daily) with sips from more than 45 wineries, samples from local restaurants and live music. vailwineclassic.com

Telluride Jazz Festival / Aug. 13 – 15

Ranking among the world’s most scenic music festivals in the country, the Telluride Jazz Festival has been delighting music lovers since 1977. This immersive three-day and three-night music experience returns in 2021 as long as it is safe to do so. Details (including scheduled performances) are forthcoming. telluridejazz.org

Telluride Film Festival / Sept. 2-6

Each year, the Telluride Film Festival floods this tiny town with film enthusiasts. It’s a unique approach—the roster of films isn’t revealed until the event begins—but the track record is solid: Nine times in the last 11 years, Oscar winners for best picture films have had their North American premiere in Telluride. telluridefilmfestival.org

Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day Experience / Sept. 3 – 5

Grab your blankets and prepare for the “running of the chairs.” One of the premier music festivals of the year returns this Labor Day weekend with three days of live music on multiple stages. Stevie Nicks, Eric Church, Maren Morris and Kings of Leon are confirmed. Stay tuned for additional musical acts to be added. jazzaspensnowmass.org/labor-day-experience

Gourmet on Gore / Sept. 3 – 5

One of the highlights of the Vail summer event season, this unique culinary festival offers an open-air tasting with world-class wine, beer and spirits paired with savory delights from Vail’s top culinary experts. Gourmet on Gore offers free admission to the open-air tasting as well as a variety of other culinary-focused events. gourmetongore.com

Food & Wine Classic in Aspen / Sept. 10 – 12

One of the most popular events of the year, the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen gathers pre-eminent chefs, winemakers and distillers in the heart of Aspen for three days of seminars, cooking demonstrations and tasting events. Even with the event rescheduled for fall, tickets sold out in minutes; put your name on the waitlist and you might get a chance to attend this year. classic.foodandwine.com

Steamboat OktoberWest / Sept. 11

What’s better than sampling more than 80 beers from more than 40 breweries? When there’s a beef tasting, too. Steamboat’s OktoberWest combines beer and some of Steamboat restaurants’ finest beef dishes in an event that takes the Oktoberfest spirit and gives it a uniquely Steamboat twist. steamboatoktoberwest.com

Colorfest Weekend / Sept. 17 – 19

Pagosa Springs celebrates fall’s natural beauty with Colorfest, a weekend full of activities including the Passport to Pagosa Food and Wine Festival. The event features local cuisine and wines, live music and more. Two mass hot air balloon launches take color into the skies while the Color-run/walk 5k takes people to the streets. pagosachamber.com/colorfest

Colorado Mountain Winefest / Sept. 18 –19

Established in 1992 as the largest fundraiser for the Colorado Association for Viticulture & Enology, the Colorado Mountain Winefest has become one of the most beloved events on the Western Slope. Highlighting the fruits of Palisade’s vineyards (and beyond), this event includes seminars, chef demos, live music and plenty of wine to swirl, sip and savor. coloradowinefest.com


Breckenridge Wine Classic / Sept. 16 –19

Don’t miss this opportunity to expand your wine knowledge while enjoying food and wines from vineyards around the world as the fall foliage explodes in Breckenridge. Join master sommeliers, chefs and winemakers for a variety of seminars, wine pairing dinners and a grand tasting at BeaverRun. breckenridgewineclassic.com

Steamboat Food & Wine Festival / Sept. 23 –26

This culinary experience features celebrated chefs, wine experts and other gastronomic specialists from across the country. This year, the schedule includes curated dinners (including an open-fire dinner with Alex Seidel), wine and spirits tastings, a fly-fishing experience on private waters at Marabou Ranch, a master caviar class, seminars and more. steamboatfoodandwine.com

Breckenridge Oktoberfest / Sept. 24 – 26

No, it won’t be the traditional, large-scale public street party on Main Street, but Breckenridge event organizers are still planning on hosting Oktoberfest along with the 2nd Annual OktoberFEAST this year with a series of German-themed beer, wine and food pairings at restaurants throughout town. gobreck.com


It’s not really summertime in the mountains unless you slide on your cowboy boots and attend a rodeo or two. Details are still being confirmed due to COVID-19 regulations, but the roping and riding must go on. Here are some of the rodeos you can count on this season.

Snowmass Rodeo / June 23 –Aug. 18

The Snowmass Rodeo celebrates 47 years of operations this summer. This long-standing Western tradition is a Snowmass summer ritual where everyone—regardless of actual rodeo prowess—can be a cowboy or cowgirl. Live music, livestock and plenty of family fun rounds out the action Wednesdays at 7 p.m., rain or shine. snowmassrodeo.org

Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo Series / July 1 – Aug. 28

On Fridays and Saturdays throughout the summer, Steamboat Springs celebrates its cowboy past and present with the Pro Rodeo Series. Featuring events including bull riding, team roping, barrel racing, bareback riding, steer wrestling, saddle bronc riding and a ram and calf scramble for the kids, this is rodeo at its best. steamboatprorodeo.com

Cattlemen’s Days / July 1 – 18

Gunnison’s Cattlemen’s Days has been a yearly tradition since the 1800s. What started as a test of riding and roping for ranchers on Main Street has become a not-to-miss event that features a PRCA Rodeo (July 15-17), the Songwriter Shuffle, livestock exhibitions and competitions, a parade, dog show and more. cattlemensdays.com

Eagle County Fair and Rodeo / July 21 – 24

For more than 80 years, the Eagle County Fair and Rodeo has celebrated the county’s Western heritage. The pandemic prevented last year’s fair and rodeo, but all of the action returns this summer, with the fair and carnival as opening acts for the evening rodeo action. A junior livestock auction and 4-H exhibits round out the event. eaglecounty.us


Katie Coakley is a Colorado-based freelance writer who enjoys dancing two-step in her cowboy boots as much as she does sipping Champagne in wedge sandals (heels tend to get stuck in outdoor venues). Luckily, she can do both in Colorado this summer. Her work has appeared in newspapers, magazines and online outlets such as Hemispheres, The National, Business Insider and Outside.

Categories: Lifestyle & Luxury