10 Lakes Known for Unique Annual Cultural Festivals by the Shore | LakeWizard

Key Takeaways

  • Lakeside festivals combine natural beauty with cultural celebrations.
  • Iconic events are held annually at lakes across the United States.
  • These festivals offer a blend of arts, community, and heritage.

Ever been to a festival by the lakeside?

Imagine the blend of refreshing waters, cultural festivities, and the joy of community spirit—it's a setting like no other.

With their serene shores and vibrant communities, lakeside destinations showcase some of the most unique annual cultural festivals.

Year after year, these lakes become epicenters of celebration, drawing visitors from far and wide with their diverse and rich cultural offerings.

You might find yourself dancing to blues by Lake Pontchartrain, marveling at fireworks on Lake Michigan, or enjoying a theater festival by the pristine Lake Tahoe.

These events don't just provide entertainment; they often celebrate the local heritage and the very essence of the communities that host them.

Diving into these festivals, you become part of something larger.

You experience firsthand the local traditions and the united atmosphere these festivals create.

It's not just about the stunning backdrops these lakes provide, but the memories and friendships that are formed during these cherished annual occasions.

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Lake Michigan, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

So you're curious about cultural festivals by the shimmering shores of Lake Michigan in Milwaukee, aren't you?

No wonder!

Milwaukee's lakefront is bustling with vibrant energy and is affectionately dubbed the "City of Festivals." Imagine the sweet melodies of folk music, the captivating dance of colorful traditional costumes, and the mouthwatering aromas of authentic ethnic foods.

Sounds tempting, right?

Here's what you, as a fest lover, need to know:

Festival Highlights:

  • Polish Fest: As the first ethnic fest of the season, usually in June, it's your ticket to polka music, pierogi, and Polish pride.
  • German Fest: Don your lederhosen and get ready for a bratwurst-filled bonanza with a stein of beer in hand!
  • Irish Fest: They say everyone's Irish for a day, but here, feel the luck of the Irish for a whole weekend with heartwarming Celtic tunes.

Each of these festivals takes place at the Henry Maier Festival Park and serves as a showcase not only for cultural heritage but also for the welcoming spirit of Milwaukee.

Can you think of a better way to spend your summer days than by the lake, with a diverse array of music, food, and heritage at your fingertips?

But hey, the fun doesn't stop there!

Check out these other cool activities:

  • Relaxing on Bradford Beach
  • Boating and Fishing
  • Lakeside Walks in Big Bay Park

Got kids?

They'll love the interactive fun at the Harley-Davidson Museum.

Or, if you're all about those scenic views, grab your camera and head to places like Door County or Kohler-Andrae State Park for picturesque panoramas and relaxing hikes.

Remember to pack that sunscreen, bring your sense of adventure, and prepare to immerse yourself in the pulsating heart of Wisconsin's cultural festivities – right by the waves of Lake Michigan.

See you there?

Lake Champlain, Burlington, Vermont

Ever fancied a jazz tune with a view of rippling waters?

Lake Champlain in Burlington, Vermont, is your go-to destination.

Not only is this lake famed for its breathtaking scenery, but it also hosts the annual Burlington Discover Jazz Festival.

  • Location: Right by the shore of Lake Champlain, Burlington.
  • Vibe: A fusion of live jazz with lakeside culture.

The festival brings the shoreline to life with vibrant music and foot-tapping rhythms.

Imagine yourself sipping on a cool drink, tapping your feet to the rhythm of the saxophone as the sun sets over the water.

What to Expect

Here's what makes the event a cultural staple:

  • Live Performances: The best jazz musicians around come to serenade you.
  • Cultural Festivities: Indulge in activities that celebrate local and national heritage.

A little dive into history, the lake was named by Samuel de Champlain in 1609, and for over 250 years, a ferry has been crossing these very waters.

Did you know?

Up to 300 shipwrecks lay beneath its surface, each with its own story — rather spooky, right?

Fun Facts

  • The lake is the sixth-largest in the U.S.
  • Burlington is the largest city on its shore, boasting shops, restaurants, and cultural attractions.

Whether you're a jazz aficionado or just love the vibrant atmosphere of a shoreline festival, Lake Champlain offers an experience you simply can't miss.

So, pack your bags, grab your sunnies, and brace for an unforgettable musical experience by the lake.

Who knows, you might even catch a whisper about Champ, the lake's own legendary monster, while you're at it!

Lake Superior, Duluth, Minnesota

Have you ever felt the blues?

No, not the emotion—think smooth guitar riffs and soulful lyrics.

Picture yourself by the vast Lake Superior, where the gentle lap of the waves sets the stage for something magical.

Welcome to Duluth, Minnesota, home to the Bayfront Blues Festival, one of the region's most eclectic outdoor music events.

The Scene:

  • Location: The stunning shores of Lake Superior
  • City: Duluth, Minnesota

What's the Big Deal?

  • The Bayfront Blues Festival ranks as a top outdoor music festival in the Upper Midwest.
  • It draws blues fans from all corners to the scenic coastline of Lake Superior each year.

Festival Facts:

  • When? Annually—check your calendar and plan ahead!
  • What? A vibrant celebration featuring a mix of blues and folk music.
  • Why? To experience the unique cultural character of Lake Superior.

Imagine grooving to the beat with a panoramic view of the world's largest freshwater lake as your backdrop—pretty cool, right?

Lake Superior isn't just picturesque; it's a cultural hub that marries natural beauty with rhythmic blues, and Duluth is your perfect host.

Here's a quick run-down to get you prepped:

  • Activities: Besides the tunes, you'll find craft stalls, local food, and plenty of lake activities.
  • Expect: Laid-back vibes, friendly faces, and lots of dancing, of course!
  • Don't Forget: Bring a comfy chair, sun protection, and your love of music.

Insider Tip: Explore nearby attractions like the Superior National at Lutsen — it's not just for golf enthusiasts but a sight to behold with its dramatic landscapes.

By now, you're probably tapping your foot just thinking about it.

So why wait?

Dive into the world of blues at Lake Superior—and don't forget, it’s the people and music that make this festival truly superior.

Lake Pontchartrain, New Orleans, Louisiana

Ever felt the cool breeze of the water while enjoying some of the freshest oysters around?

Well, Lake Pontchartrain in New Orleans, Louisiana, is the place for you every year during the New Orleans Oyster Festival.

Grab your calendar and pen—you won't want to miss this!

Located just north of the Big Easy, Lake Pontchartrain is not just any body of water; it's a sprawling estuarine treasure stretching 630 square miles and averaging depths 12 to 14 feet.

But, more than its size is the palpable buzz along its shores when the Oyster Festival kicks in.

Hosted by the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, this event isn’t just about eating (though we wouldn't blame you if that was your main goal).

It's a full-blown homage to the region's bounty, serving up a cultural feast alongside the culinary treats.

  • Get Schooled: Learn about the importance of oyster farming in the local ecosystem.
  • Taste the Excellence: Sample oysters prepared every way imaginable.
  • Enjoy the View: Catch the West End Boat Parade with a backdrop of the dazzling lake.

The festival isn't just a party; it's a lesson in sustainability and tradition.

Did we mention the enchanting view you get of the towering Causeway Bridge, the world's longest bridge over water?

So, what are you waiting for?

Join the locals and fellow travelers at this unique annual festival and make memories to last a lifetime.

Lake Tahoe, California/Nevada

Have you ever imagined enjoying Shakespeare with a backdrop of the majestic Sierra Nevada?

That's the magical reality at Lake Tahoe during the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival.

Picture yourself as part of a crowd, gathered along the shores of America's largest alpine lake, totally mesmerized by the Bard's timeless tales.

  • Altitude: 6,225 feet above sea level
  • Size: Largest alpine lake in North America
  • Volume: Trailing only the five Great Lakes, Lake Tahoe is vast with 122,160,280 acre-feet of water.

But it's not just about the lake's grandeur; it's what happens by its shores that's truly captivating.

Imagine the twilight slowly setting over the lake as actors take the stage.

Here are the goodies you're in for:

  • Shakespeare by the shore: Engage with cultural richness as professional actors breathe life into Shakespearean plays.
  • Alpine setting: The surrounding pines and crystal-clear waters make for an extraordinary theatre setting.
  • Annual event: This is a summer tradition, so plan your visit when the air is warm and the nights are brimming with culture.

Have you ever sat so close to the lapping waves that you felt part of the scene?

Your chance is here.

Grab your coziest blanket, a picnic basket filled with your favorite treats, and get ready for an evening of eloquent soliloquies and hearty laughs.

Don't forget, this isn't just a festival, it's a chance to connect with fellow culture enthusiasts by the mesmerizing waters of Lake Tahoe.

Pack your enthusiasm and I'll see you at the shore!

Lake Eola, Orlando, Florida

Ever wanted to witness dragon boats slicing through gleaming water with the energy of a vibrant festival in the air?

Look no further than Lake Eola in downtown Orlando, Florida.

This picturesque setting is not just a feast for the eyes, but also a hub for annual cultural festivities.

Annual Festivals:

  • Orlando International Dragon Boat Festival: Picture yourself cheering as the dragon boats, with their teams paddling in unison, race across Lake Eola. This festival is not just about the race; it's a celebration of culture, packed with fun!
  • Fall Fiesta in the Park: November brings the air of celebration with the Fall Fiesta. It's a great time to shop from local artisans, listen to live music and enjoy the cooler weather by the lake.


  • Swan-shaped paddle boats
  • Walking and running (the lake's circumference is .9 miles)
  • Feeding the live iconic swans

Notable Things To Do:

  • Enjoy the Lake Eola Park, which is the crown jewel of downtown Orlando with its swan residents and numerous events round the year.
  • Take a unique photo op; why not sit in a giant palm sculpture and capture a memorable moment?

Interesting Titbits:

  • Did you know? The first swans of Lake Eola were introduced back in 1910.
  • Lake Eola's swan boats are loved by both visitors and locals; perfect for a leisurely afternoon on the water.

Feeling the urge to paddle out in one of those adorable swan boats yet?

Keep your calendar marked for these unique celebrations and hop on over to Lake Eola to experience the magic yourself!

And remember, whether you're a seasoned fest-goer or a curious traveler, Lake Eola's shores have something for everyone.

Lake Winnipesaukee, Laconia, New Hampshire

Have you heard about Lake Winnipesaukee in Laconia, New Hampshire?

This charming lake is not only the largest in the state, but it's also the backdrop for an array of cultural festivities.

The most notable of these is the Laconia Multicultural Festival which takes place annually by the lake's shores.

Imagine this: a day spent basking in diverse cultures with delicious international cuisines, unique crafts, and vibrant performances that energize the soul.

  1. What to Expect:
  1. Global Cuisines: Your taste buds can travel the world in a single afternoon.
  2. Artisan Crafts: Find treasures from local and international artisans.
  3. Live Performances: Dance and music that bring global traditions to life.

Now, did you know that Lake Winnipesaukee has been a resort destination since the mid-1700s?

It's historical, and yet so alive with the present, especially during this festival.

Come and see it for yourself and be part of the living history that continues to evolve at Lake Winnipesaukee.

And there's more, if you are the adventurous type, weave through the beautiful Cotton Valley Rail Trail or kick back at Weirs Beach.

Feel like watching a movie in a vintage manner?

Lake Winnipesaukee has that covered, too, with the Weirs Drive-In.

Just looking at the numbers, it's clear that Lake Winnipesaukee is a beloved gem.

The lake's tourism contributed an impressive $17 billion to New Hampshire's economy in 2021.

With properties around the lake valued at around $16 billion, investing your time here is a clear win-win.

So, pack your bags, grab your sense of wonder, and set your course to Lake Winnipesaukee.

Have you already decided which festival treat you'll try first?

Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia

Nestled in the heart of Virginia, Smith Mountain Lake is not just for water sports enthusiasts—oh no, it's a cultural hub too!

Have you ever sipped a local wine while soaking in lakeside melodies?

If not, the Smith Mountain Lake Wine Festival is your kind of heaven.

Picture this: a glass of the finest local vintage in hand, notes of jazz floating over the water, all against a backdrop of stunning mountain vistas.

Sounds pretty great, right?

Here's what you can expect:

  • Local Wines: Vineyards around the lake bring out their best bottles. You get to taste and toast with the vibrant community of wine lovers. Cheers to that!
  • Live Music: From smooth jazz to foot-tapping folk, there's a beat for everyone. And it's all live—because let's face it, music just sounds better by the lake.
  • Community Vibe: Imagine mingling with locals and visitors alike, all brought together by a love for good wine and great times.

If you're wondering when all this merriment takes place, just look up the local events calendar—it's an annual staple you won't want to miss.

And if you find yourself wanting more, rumor has it other festivities like Smith Mountain Lake Pirate Days and the Smith Mountain Lake Chili Festival bring an extra dash of fun to the shore.

Are you hungry for music and good times?

You might stumble upon live performances at places like Mango’s.

Who knows, you might just find your new favorite artist.

Now, how about making those lake festival dreams a reality?

Yours could start at Smith Mountain Lake.

Lake George, New York

Ever wondered what it feels like to celebrate winter with a warm community spirit?

Lake George, New York, is just the place for you.

Imagine a carnival set against a pristine backdrop of snow-dusted mountains—this is the Lake George Winter Carnival.

Starting off, have you got a thing for pancakes and sweet maple syrup?

You're in luck because Lake George is rich in maple festivities!

The area's maple season is like no other, complete with:

  • Pancake breakfasts
  • Sugar house tours
  • Maple-themed activities

Dates to Remember: Every weekend in March, specifically March 9-10, 16-17, 23-24, 2024, join the syrupy celebrations at the Thurman Maple Days.

Fancy a bit of elegance by the water?

Mark your calendar for the Annual Adirondack Wine & Food Festival:

  • When? June 29th & 30th, 2024
  • Where? Festival Commons at Charles R. Wood Park
  • What to expect? Savor the local wine and food while soaking in the festival vibes.

Annual Highlight

Event Name Date Location
Americade: Friday Night Spectacular Fri, May 31 Fort William Henry Conference Center

As the sun sets on May 31, prepare for a "Spectacular" night at Americade.

Picture this: A feast for your taste buds, music for your soul, and an unforgettable fireworks display—all by the tranquil Lake George.

Get the most out of your lake-shore escapade at these Lake George gems.

Whether you're a syrup aficionado or a fireworks enthusiast, you’ve got a slew of exciting dates to circle on your calendar!

Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri

Have you ever experienced the thrill of speedboats zipping by while sipping on a local wine by the shore?

Well, at Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri, you get your chance every year with the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout.

This isn't just a boat racing spectacle; it's a cultural bonanza where the lakeside comes alive with entertainment!

Originally just a speedboat race, this event has ballooned into an annual festival.

Imagine this: boats slicing through the water at breakneck speeds while you're on the shore, feeling the buzz amongst fellow festival-goers.

Here's what you can look forward to:

  • Speed and Power: The mainstay of the festival is the boat race. Local and national racers vie to set water speed records. Don’t blink, you might miss them!
  • Entertainment: Besides the races, the event is packed with live music, great food, and local vendors. The festival atmosphere is electric!
  • Cultural Activities: Local artisans and performers showcase their work, adding a cultural richness to the lakeside vibes.

The Lake of the Ozarks stretches over a massive 54,000 acres, so there's plenty of room to find your perfect spot.

With over 1,150 miles of shoreline, you could be watching boats zip by one moment and relaxing in a quiet cove the next.

Did You Know?

  • Creation: Lake of the Ozarks was formed by impounding the Osage River in the 1930s.
  • Features: It boasts unique cave formations, wineries, and state parks all around the lake.

So, grab your calendars and mark the date for the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout.

Trust me, your storytelling sessions will never be the same after you've lived through the adrenaline-pumping races and the cultural tapestry of this lakeside haven.