12 Labor Day Weekend Celebrations That End Summer with a Bang

These cities know how to celebrate a long weekend right.

Labor Day Festival of the Arts, Mammoth Lakes, CA

via monoarts.orgWhen you’re planning your Labor Day weekend getaway, sometimes smaller cities make for a more relaxing mini vacation. At the Labor Day Festival of the Arts, you can view art from more than 110 artists, taste international food and local brews, and listen to live music. It all takes place in the serene alpine setting of Sam’s Wood Site, a relaxing retreat from city life.

Labor Day Concert, Washington, D.C.

via tripsavvy.comWashington, D.C. holds a lot of secrets most Americans don’t even know about. One of the less National Treasure-y ones is that there’s a free concert on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol every Sunday before Labor Day. The National Symphony Orchestra takes the “stage” to mark the beginning of the performing arts season, playing classic patriotic songs and some old classics like “My Funny Valentine” and “The Lady Is a Tramp.”

Chicago Jazz Festival, Chicago, IL

via cityofchicago.orgYour taste in music can say a lot about your personality, but lovers of all genres will appreciate the entertainment at one of Chicago’s favorite Labor Day traditions. The Chicago Jazz Festival brings visitors four days of quality live music from national and international musicians to the city’s iconic Millennium Park. You can also visit the outdoor art fair going on at the same time.

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Blueberry Festival, Plymouth, IN

via blueberryfestival.orgBlueberries are such an important brain-boosting food that Plymouth decided to dedicate an entire festival to the fruit. OK, the Blueberry Festival was actually starting to celebrate Indiana’s 150th birthday. And it got its name because it was held in Marshall County, which provided one-third of the state’s blueberries at the time. But regardless of how it came to be, guests keep coming back every year to eat every blueberry-themed treat imaginable, race in the Blueberry Stomp, and watch the Little Miss/Mr Blueberry Pageant.

Hamtramck Labor Day Festival, Hamtramck, MI

via hamtownfest.comWhen you hear about vacationing in Michigan, your mind probably jumps to Mackinac Island, one of the best island vacations in America. But if you don’t want to make the long trek north, include the Hamtramck Labor Day Festival in your Labor Day plans, if only for its origin story. When it was first proposed in 1980, the city was in the middle of its worst crisis. So Mayor Robert Kozaren decided to host a festival to boost spirits and show other cities that Hamtramck wasn’t going down without a fight. It proved a huge success and is now known for its canoe races, Polish Day parade, and carnival rides.

Cleveland Oktoberfest, Cleveland, OH

via clevelandoktoberfest.comIt may seem unusual to have Oktoberfest around Labor Day, but the real Oktoberfest in Germany also starts in September. Doing its predecessor in Munich justice, Cleveland Oktoberfest celebrates German culture with traditional food, music, and dancing. It also sells beer from Paulaner, one of only six breweries represented at the Munich Oktoberfest, so you know it’s legit. Other fun activities include the Bavarian strongman competition, a tribute concert series, and a microbrew competition.

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Sky High Hot Air Balloon Festival, Atlanta, GA

via callawaygardens.comIn addition to being one of the most creative outdoor date ideas, hot air balloon rides are among the most underrated attractions humans have ever invented. Who wouldn’t want to fly in a giant colorful balloon? The Sky High Hot Air Balloon Festival dedicates an entire long weekend to these magical modes of transportation with chances to take a ride and meet the balloon pilots. The weekend starts and ends with a "balloon glow" and features other events like dance performances and a classic car show.

U.S. National Whitewater Center Labor Day Festival, Charlotte, North Carolina

via usnwc.orgFor some, Labor Day weekend is a chance to sleep in, relax, and cook up some good barbecue. Others go to Charlotte for three days of heart-pumping, calorie-burning fun. Whether you’re looking to reenergize at yoga or participate in a trail race or triathlon, the U.S. National Whitewater Center has everything you need to get fit during your long weekend. If you’re not looking for an intense workout, don’t worry. There’s also a film series, live music, and fireworks. Oh, and a cornhole tournament.

Colorado Springs Labor Day Liftoff, Colorado Springs, Colorado

via coloradospringslabordayliftoff.comAfter seeing the Wings of Blue Demonstration Team, you’ll want to try skydiving for yourself. Wings of Blue is the U.S. Air Force Skydiving Team, and their formation flying show—which is basically interpretive dancing while free-falling through the sky—is just one of the reasons Colorado Springs Labor Day Liftoff is one of the best Labor Day celebrations in the country. Guests can go for a hot air balloon ride, watch craftsmen make wooden sculptures with a chainsaw, or participate in the donut eating championship. (And yes, the winner does get a cash prize of $100.)

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Key West BrewFest, Key West, Florida

via keywestbrewfest.comIf you want to lay back and do a whole lot of nothing this Labor Day, Key West is your vacation destination. Drinking some of the best craft beers in America in one of the most picturesque locations in America is what Key West BrewFest is all about. Of course, there’s more to this celebration than alcohol. Get educated on what’s in your glass at beer seminars and talks from brewmasters, taste new brews from local breweries, and dance the night away at nightly pool parties.

NYC Unicycle Festival, New York City

via nycunifest.comNew York City has anything you could possibly want and everything you didn’t know you needed in your life, from a slice of pizza at 3 a.m. to a museum dedicated entirely to garbage. Enter the NYC Unicycle Festival, four days of cycling through the city’s boroughs. Some riders are world-class performers; others are just getting their start in the sport. All are welcome to participate. The festival’s main events happen on Governor’s Island and include games of basketball, hockey, and sumo wrestling—all while on a unicycle.

World Championship Goat Cook-Off, Brady, Texas

via worldchampionshipgoatcookoff.comOne of the most common barbecue mistakes is not buying enough meat. You definitely won’t have that problem at the World Championship Goat Cook-Off. Over 5,700 pounds of goat are cooked, seasoned, and served at this annual competition. When it started in 1974, 16 cook teams were roasting goat. Now there are 206 cook teams in the metaphorical kitchen. When you’re not chowing down on delicious grilled meats, you can walk through the arts & crafts fair, dance at the street fair, or toss horseshoes. No southern festival would be complete without some good ol’ fashioned horseshoe throwing.

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