With its 300 annual days of sunshine and unmatched sense of urban adventure, Denver is an ideal destination for festival goers; and this summer, there are festivals of all kinds nearly every weekend. The recent announcement of Grandoozy – the newest festival from Superfly, the creators of Outside Lands and Bonnaroo – has catapulted Denver’s festival scene to a whole new level. There is also the brand new Denver BBQ Festival; a completely revamped A Taste of Colorado festival; and the most robust Red Rocks Amphitheatre Summer Concert Series schedule ever.
In addition to the newcomers, this year will also see the return of Velorama – the music festival connected to one of the largest U.S. pro cycling races, the Colorado Classic – and the return of Slow Food Nations, among many other perennial favorites.
“Festivals are an exceptional visitor draw for cities,” says Richard Scharf, president and CEO of VISIT DENVER, The Convention & Visitors Bureau. “They showcase the best parts of a city; in our case, The Mile High City’s cultural, music, culinary and craft beer scenes – many of which are highlighted and intertwined throughout the events themselves. They are an ideal way to get the feel of a destination in a short amount of time, leaving visitors wanting to see and do more during their trip and in the future.”
Below are just a few of the signature festivals and events happening throughout Denver this summer. For a full list, as well as hotel deals, go to the VISIT DENVER website.
Five Points Jazz Festival (May 19) – This free festival takes place the third Saturday of May and celebrates the history of Denver's Five Points neighborhood. Once known as the Harlem of the West, Five Points was home to several jazz clubs which played host to many of jazz music's legends such as Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk and many more. The festival features a diverse lineup of music – from Latin to blues to funk and many other styles of jazz.
Denver Day of Rock (May 26) – Denver Day of Rock is a free event that features five stages of live music along Denver’s 16th Street Mall on the Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend. Headliners for 2018 include Elle King, Delta Rae, Dwayne Dopsie and The Zydeco Hellraisers, A Thousand Horses and Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers, among many other bands.
Westword Music Showcase (June 23) – Westword Music Showcase, the largest single-day festival celebrating Denver’s music scene, will feature headliners Galantis and Bonobo, along with national acts The Front Bottoms, Joywave, Magic Giant and Sunflower Bean. There will also be dozens of other local acts, voted on by the concert goers.
Underground Music Showcase (July 26-29) – The Underground Music Showcase (UMS) takes place at more than 15 different venues and stages along South Broadway and features more than 400 local and national acts. Having grown from just 300 attendees seeing four bands at one theater, UMS is one of the best ways to experience Denver’s incredible live music scene. Lineup details will be announced soon.
Colorado Classic & Velorama Festival (August 16-19) – During this year’s Colorado Classic, world-class pro teams will compete in circuit races in Vail and Denver – ending in The Mile High City on the final stages. In addition to the race, there will be a three-day music, beer and food festival in the River North (RiNo) Art District for spectators and athletes with performances by Glass Animals, Cold War Kids, Vince Staples and more.
Grandoozy (September 14-16) – This September, Denver will host the first-ever Grandoozy – the latest large-scale festival from Superfly, the producers of the wildly popular Outside Lands and Bonnaroo. Headliners include 2018 Pulitzer Prize Winner Kendrick Lamar, Florence + The Machine and Stevie Wonder, and the festival will also host The Chainsmokers, Logic, Sturgill Simpson, Miguel, Phoenix, Young the Giant, St. Vincent, The War on Drugs, Ty Dolla $ign, Kelela, Denver locals Tennis, and many more on multiple stages over weekend. Grandoozy will also showcase Denver’s arts and culinary scene and love of the outdoors with multiple experiences throughout the festival grounds.
Red Rocks Amphitheatre Summer Concert Series – Recently named to the National Historic Register, Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre is a world-famous outdoor concert and recreation venue located approximately 30 minutes from Denver. Red Rocks is recognized for its star-studded concert roster, stunning scenery and captivating ambience. The venue will feature several festivals, including the Red Rocks Beer Festival featuring Stone Temple Pilots and Bush, and the Global Dub Festival. Concert headliners for 2018 include X Ambassadors, Khalid, Elephant Revival, Vance Joy, Odesza, Dispatch, Widespread Panic and more. The full calendar for the Summer Concert Series and event schedules can be found online.
The Denver BBQ Festival (June 15-17) – Sports Authority Field at Mile High will be home to the inaugural Denver BBQ Festival this Father’s Day weekend. The festival will bring together ten top pitmasters from Denver and around the country, including Denver’s own Jason Ganahl from Gque, to serve award-winning barbecue. The festival will also feature live music, cold drinks and BBQ tutorials and demonstrations. Admission is free; guests pay for food and drinks.
Slow Food Nations (July 13-15) – Following a successful inaugural year in 2017, Slow Food Nations will return to Denver, gathering leaders, eaters, farmers, chefs, educators and families for a weekend of tastings, tours and talks on Denver’s historic Larimer Square. Modeled after the renowned Terra Madre – the original Slow Food event in Turin, Italy – Slow Food Nations in Denver has become the center of the North American food world.
A Taste of Colorado (September 1-3) – Held in Denver’s Civic Center Park and on the surrounding streets, A Taste of Colorado has become a signature Labor Day Weekend event. This year, the festival will have a fresh, new feel with more than 50 food vendors, 175 artisan marketplace vendors, a KidZone experience with arts, crafts and a children’s entertainment stage. There will also be an elevated music experience with a larger main stage featuring more than 25 national and regional musical acts.
Denver Food + Wine Festival (September 4-9) – Denver Food + Wine Festival is a multi-day extravaganza of food, wine and spirits education and tastings around the city – from Pepsi Center to the Stanley Marketplace to the McNichols Building at Civic Center Park. Events include Dinner Under the Stars, a Culinary Cinema Series, SHAKE DOWN (a cocktail event) and the signature event, The Grand Tasting.
Arts & Culture
Denver Chalk Art Festival (June 2-3) – Denver’s most historic block – Larimer Square – turns into a vibrant street museum thanks to the chalk art work of more than 150 professional and amateur artists. Honoring the traditional Italian Piazza dell’Arte (“square of art”), the temporary works of art will be accompanied by music, Italian food, wine tasting tents and an art gallery, plus a kids’ corner where kids will have the chance to create chalk art of their own.
Denver PrideFest (June 16-17) – Recognized as one of the top 10 pride events in the country, Denver PrideFest is a free, two-day festival that takes place in Denver’s Civic Center Park. The weekend features activities and entertainment for adults, kids and pets – from a Dogs in Drag Parade and the annual Gay Pride Parade to the Big Gay 5K and three stages of music and cultural entertainment. Headliners and the full entertainment lineup will be announced soon.
Denver Comic Con (June 15-17) – Denver Comic Con is a three-day, family-friendly fan convention at the Colorado Convention Center featuring the best in comics, along with sci-fi and fantasy TV shows, movies, Japanese animation, cosplay, toys, gaming and celebrity panel presentations. The 2018 event will feature Luke Perry, who plays Fred Andrews on the CW’s hit show "Riverdale" (and previously as Dylan on "Beverly Hills, 90210"); Gaten Matarazzo and Noah Schnapps from the Netflix series "Stranger Things"; Ron Perlman of "Hellboy" and "Sons of Anarchy" fame; Ray Park, Daniel Logan and Joonas Suotamo, who each appeared in various "Star Wars" films; Bonnie Wright, who played Ginny Weasley in all eight films in the "Harry Potter" series; and many more.
SeriesFest Season 4 (June 22-27) – SeriesFest is a four-day festival celebrating the art of independent TV series creation. It showcases the best new pilots from around the world in an international, juried competition. The screenings take place at the state-of-the-art Sie Film Center, Denver Performing Arts Complex and various other locations around the city.
Cherry Creek Arts Festival (July 6-8) – Every Fourth of July Weekend, the Cherry Creek North neighborhood hosts the Cherry Creek Arts Festival, a world-class and award-winning display of visual, culinary and performing arts. More than five full blocks of the neighborhood feature the works of local and nationally known artisans, vendors and activities, including Artivity Avenue with interactive activities for the whole family. Throughout the weekend, there are also concerts, artist demos, pop-up performances and more.