A guide to Utah festivals that celebrate its arts, heritage & scenic wonder

Summer is the time to take advantage of Utah’s unrivaled outdoor treks. It’s also the season of festivals. From theater to music to Western heritage, Utah towns never seem to run out of reasons to throw a party. Better yet, when you stop by these off-the-beaten track celebrations, you can usually find a great recreation spot nearby. Check out these 10 Utah summer festivals and their accompanying outdoor options.

THEATER | We are such stuff as dreams are made on
Utah Shakespeare Festival, Cedar City
Summer season: June 28-Oct.13

Well into its sixth decade, the Tony Award-winning festival features Shakespeare’s works in an outdoor theater as well as modern works indoors. This year’s theatrical offerings include Henry VI Part One, Othello, The Merry Wives of Windsor, The Foreigner, Big River, The Merchant of Venice, An Iliad, Pearl’s in the House and The Liar, as well as the ever-popular (and free) Greenshow.

Outdoor Options: You can find almost as many dramatic vistas close to Cedar City as there are Shakespearean plays. Before and after USF shows, consider a drive to Zion National Park  and Cedar Breaks National Monument.

If You Go: Iron Gate Inn Bed & Breakfast is an 1897 mansion with seven rooms and is easy walking distance from the festival theaters. Guest picks at breakfast include cherry souffle and fresh peach French toast. The Grind Coffeehouse is a favorite hangout for festival actors and employees, and serves gourmet coffee and fresh-made sandwiches.

OUTDOORS | Up, up and away
Panguitch Valley Balloon Rally
June 21-24

The sky’s the limit at this event where dozens of balloons ascend on Saturday and Sunday mornings and the Dusk Balloon Glow takes over the night sky on Saturday. In between, there’s live music, food and events.

Outdoor Options: Bryce Canyon National Park and its world-famous hoodoos are just a 30-minute drive from Panguitch.

If You Go: Ruby’s Inn has been sitting just outside Bryce Canyon for 102 years. Besides giving you a place to sleep, Ruby’s offers a shuttle to the park, mountain bike rentals, an RV park, general store and two restaurants. Get a flavor of the Old West during the summer at the Cowboy Dinner Show, with live music and a barbecue plate at Ebenezer’s Barn & Grill.

HERITAGE | Relive the Old West
Western Legends Round-Up, Kanab
Aug. 20-25

Hollywood directors fell in love with the Kanab landscape in the 1920s and have since made over 200 movies in the area. The 20th annual round-up celebrates both Hollywood and Western heritage with music and tours. Sign up for dinner or breakfast with TV and film celebrities such as Rudy Ramos, Bruce Boxleitner, Neil Summers and Don Collier. Also, enjoy the country music of the Bellamy Brothers.

Outdoor Options: To really get the feel of the Old West, sign up to do a four-day, three-night, 60-mile Wagon Train Trek through iconic Western scenery. If you’re not ready to go full pioneer, you can join the trek for one day as a “tenderfoot.” Ride one of their horses or feel free to bring your own! The trek runs Aug. 20-23 and information on signing up can be found on the Round-Up website.

If You Go: Leave it to the pros at the Round-Up’s BBQ Cook-Off, which is sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society as a master’s competition event with top grillers competing for prize money and a trip to the Jack Daniels World Championships.

MUSIC | Music by women, for everyone
Women’s Redrock Music Festival, Torrey
Aug. 10-11, WomensRedrockMusicFest.com 

This two-day event enters its 12th year of hosting indie female artists in a small-town setting.

Outdoor Options: The town of Torrey sits just outside Capitol Reef National Park (NPS.gov/care), a geologic “wrinkle” that is nearly 100 miles long.

If You Go: Torrey Schoolhouse Bed & Breakfast features air-conditioned rooms with full baths en suite in a historic building that dates to 1914. It might be surprising to find a gourmet restaurant specializing in Southwest fusion here, but Cafe Diablo has a pleasant 2018 summer menu that includes rattlesnake cakes (don’t worry, the snakes are free range), lamb shank braised in tempranillo wine, pomegranate and chipotle-glazed ribs and a jalapeño-melon margarita.

MUSIC | Camp and stamp your feet
The 14th annual Targhee Fest, Alta, Wyo.
July 13-15,

It’s cooler up here on the west side of the Teton Range. Just 40 miles from Jackson Hole, Grand Targhee’s Targhee Fest brings together music and the mountain lifestyle at 7,800 feet, where you can enjoy performers such as Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe “Eat A Bunch Of Peaches,” Funky Meters and The Wood Brothers.

Outdoor Options: Take chairlift rides to hiking and biking or swing your clubs at a 9-hole Targhee Village golf course.

If You Go: Friday’s concerts run from 4 p.m. to midnight, Saturday’s from noon to midnight and Sunday’s from noon to 8 p.m. Late Night Shows at the Trap Bar & Grill (not included in festival price) go into the wee hours. Tent camping is provided in designated parking lots while small campers can set up in the meadow near the horse corral. Tent camping is also available in the family zone. For tickets, visit Shop.GrandTarghee.com, or phone 307-353-2300.

HERITAGE | A mountain man’s a lonely man
Cache Valley Mountain Man Rendezvous
American West Heritage Center, Wellsville
July 20-21

Travel back in time and check out Traders Row, throw a tomahawk or try the two-man log-sawing competition. Following tradition, women and children can enter the frying pan-toss competition.

Outdoor Options: There are many great hikes up Logan Canyon, with the most popular being the 4-mile round-trip to the Wind Caves.

If You Go: Great eating opportunities abound in Cache Valley, and that’s just for breakfast. You might buy Cafe Ibis coffee and Crumb Brothers baked goods at grocery stores along the Wasatch Front, but in Cache Valley, you can stop by Caffe Ibis Gallery Café & Deli and get a cup of Highlander Grog or head over to Crumb Brothers Bakery for a loaf of polenta jack. If you’re really hungry, head into the canyon to Herm’s Inn for the 16-inch family-style pancake.

MUSIC | High-altitude jams
Beaver Mountain Music Festival, Logan
Aug. 17-18

In the winter, Beaver Mountain is a great place to ski. In the summer, it’s where you’ll find 31 artists playing everything from funk to bluegrass. Summer mountain activities like hiking and mountain biking are also available, or have the kids try the “musical petting zoo,” where they can get hands-on instrument instruction.

Outdoor Options: The mountain resort is only a 20-minute drive from Bear Lake, where you’ll find everything from swimming to paddle boarding to wave-running to boating—all on a body of fresh water covering over 100 square miles in two states.

If You Go: Any trip to this area during the summer isn’t complete until you’ve had a raspberry shake at LaBeau’s. Just look for a giant shake cup on a pole and you’ll find the classic treats in the restaurant underneath. For overnight stays, give “glamping” a try at Conestoga Ranch Glamping Resort (427 N. Paradise Parkway, Garden City, 385-626-7395, ConestogaRanch.com) in a large tent complete with its own bed and bathroom, or round up the wagons (literally) and stay in Conestoga wagons surrounding a campfire.

MUSIC | Be iron like a lion in Zion
Reggae Rise Up Music Festival
River’s Edge at Deer Park, Heber City
Aug. 24-26

Utah … Irie, mon! Get ready for a “rebelution” as this three-day festival is scheduled to bring in Steel Pulse, Stephen Marley and many other bands and artists.

Outdoor Options: The mountain resort is only a 20-minute drive from Bear Lake, where you’ll find everything from swimming to paddle boarding to wave-running to boating—all on a body of fresh water covering over 100 square miles in two states.

If You Go: Any time you’re in the Heber Valley, a stop at Snake Creek Grill is a must. The menu changes regularly depending on what local produce is in season, but keep a lookout for cornmeal-fried red trout with avocado and tomato relish and make sure to save room for a dessert of black-bottom banana cream pie.

CULTURE | Dance, then, wherever you may be
World Folkfest
, Springville
July 31-Aug. 4

The world is welcome at Utah’s “Art City,” as performing groups from South America to Eastern Europe gather in one place and bring the color and excitement of traditional folk dance and music. If you attend, you are automatically invited to the after party on stage at the end of each night.

Outdoor Options: Fifth Water Hot Springs is located just a half-hour drive away up Diamond Fork Canyon. The 5-mile round-trip hiking trail starts at the Three Forks parking area. Those who make the hike can take a relaxing soak in one of the warm pools.

If You Go: There are plenty of great places to eat in Utah County, but the Folkfest also has on-site food vendors, so there’s a good chance you could eat your way around the world in one place.


Kathleen Curry & Geoff Griffin host the Travel Brigade Radio Show podcast.