Festivals in La Crosse, WI
Perhaps nothing says as much about a community as the manner in which it comes together to celebrate. Local festivals are the perfect way to learn about the culture of a place–its people, traditions, and values. Every area has its quirky small-town festivals, and La Crosse is no exception, with butter, hoedowns, reggae, and cranberries providing a few of the many reasons to throw a party throughout the year. Pretty much any time of year, we can find a good excuse for a celebration. Come join the fun.
Late April This annual celebration, held at the Oktoberfest grounds in downtown La Crosse, features more than 200 craft beers from brewers across the country, nearly 50 kinds of wine from distinguished vintners, and dozens of varieties of gourmet artisanal cheese. The festival features a homebrew contest, live music, VIP passes, and more. And don’t miss out on Taster’s Eve, Pearl Street Brewery’s annual kick-off event the night before the festival.
Great River Folk Fest
August (weekend before Labor Day)
A La Crosse tradition since 1975, this all-ages, interactive community event celebrates, preserves, and promotes traditional and contemporary folk culture through music, crafts, dance and food. Held at Riverside Park in downtown La Crosse, the fest features a songwriting and performance contest, multiple traditional and ethnic food vendors, and awards for crafts in over a dozen mediums.
July (last full weekend)
Located 25 miles west of La Crosse in Houston, MN, Hoedown Days features nightly dances, two parades, tractor pulls, pageants, the Minnesota State Horse Pull, flea markets, pie and ice cream socials, antique car and tractor shows, the 2.5-mile Hoedown Hat Race, and more!
August (first or second weekend)
An annual event since 2005, Irishfest is a weekend of fun, food, music, and love of all things Celtic at downtown La Crosse’s Oktoberfest grounds. This family friendly event features an Irish market, the Killian’s Kilt Run/Walk, four stages of music and live entertainment, a “Wee Folk” area for kids, and several competitions, including a mashed potato contest, kilt contest, Irish joke contest, harp ensemble competition, and more.
September (Labor Day Weekend)
This celebration of cycling in the Driftless Region centers around Cameron Park in historic downtown La Crosse. The event features group rides on designated routes around the area (routes listed on www.bicyclelacrosse.com), ranging from easy 15-mile street/trail rides to demanding 60-mile road rides, as well as unique Pedal-and-Paddle activities, architectural tours (by bike, of course), a bike-safety event, and more.
Late September/Early October
Since the inaugural event in 1961, the city of La Crosse has become synonymous with its annual Oktoberfest celebration. The fest features two parades, carnival rides, multiple stages of music and live entertainment on two separate fest sites, Craft Beer Night, kid-friendly entertainment, and more lederhosen than you can poke a stick at. Don’t miss out on the nation’s best Oktoberfest celebration!
Held annually on historic St. Feriole Island in Prairie du Chien, WI, since 1998, the Prairie Dog Blues Festival features Blues and Roots music from Chicago Blues to West Coast Jump, hard-driving Mississippi Hill Country Blues, New Orleans horns and Texas Boogie, Zydeco, Gospel, and Blues Rock, as well a variety of food & beverage vendors, camping, and more.
July (week of Fourth of July)
This annual five-day family festival located in downtown La Crosse’s Riverside Park is a local favorite. Featuring a daily arts-and-crafts fair, the Venetian boat parade, a full slate of live music and entertainment (past headliners include Rick Springfield, Cheap Trick, and The Remainders), the Chileda Classic 5k/10k run/walk, riverboat cruises, tons of food and drink, the annual medallion hunt, and, of course, fireworks. A La Crosse tradition since 1983, Riverfest helps fund the various volunteer groups who organize it every year, as well as contributes $10,000 to the La Crosse Parks & Recreation Department every year.
November-January (day after Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day)
The largest Christmas-light display in the Midwest has been a mainstay of downtown La Crosse since 1995. Every year, the La Crosse Rotary Club and hundreds of other volunteers cover Riverside Park in over three million lights, complete with fully animated displays. Other features include the Rotary Lights parade, the 5k Ugly Sweater Run, live reindeer, hay and carriage rides, breakfast with Santa, and more! Admission is free; cash and/or canned food donations are encouraged to help support the Rotary Holiday Lights and La Crosse-area food shelters.
June (second weekend)
The annual Sparta Butterfest has been a tradition since 1984. Located 30 miles east of La Crosse just off I-90, this annual family friendly celebration features firemen’s waterfights, music and live entertainment, an arts and crafts flea market, a car and bike show, lots of food and drink, and numerous sporting events, including hockey, softball, beach volleyball, wrestling, golf, and cornhole tournaments.