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School’s Out: 5 Sweet Summer Festivals in College Towns

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Just because the school year is over, don't expect college towns to turn into ghost towns. Here's how five cities are living it up in the summertime.

Ann Arbor, Michigan
Ann Arbor Summer Festival

Through 7/8

A boutique music and arts festival, the three-week spectacle offers over 100 varied activities and events. The Ann Arbor Summer Festival produces two concurrent programs— one indoor and one outdoor—at different venues and spaces across the University of Michigan campus and in downtown Ann Arbor. The indoor Mainstage series includes ticketed performances of world-class music, dance, theater, spoken word and comedy. This year's line-up: Circa, an Australian circus troupe, This American Life co-creator and host, Ira Glass and Grammy-winning jazz artist Esperanza Spalding. The outdoor program, Top of the Park, is held on the campus green and offers free concerts, movies under the stars, open-air spectacles, and fun family attractions.

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Bloomington, Indiana
Summer Festival of the Arts
Through 8/26

The Summer Festival of the Arts boasts 113 days of music, visual art, cinema, dance, and theatre. Check out two new acquisitions by British Pop artist David Hockney and a selection of Chinese paper cut designs (and the history behind them) by Beijing-based artist Qiao Xiaoguang.
 

Iowa City, Iowa
Summer of the Arts
6/1 – 7/31

Created in 2005, Summer of the Arts is a series of free and family-friendly events available to the public in downtown Iowa City. The four founding and recurring festivals include the Iowa Arts Festival, the Iowa City Jazz Festival, the Friday Night Concert Series, and the Saturday Night Free Movie Series. Many of the events take place outdoors, with performance main and side stages set up in the streets. The movie series are played on the University of Iowa Pentacrest. Hungry visitors can re-fuel from local food vendors on Culinary Row and check out the Beverage Garden.

 

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Madison, Wisconsin
Rhythm & Booms Festival

6/30

The Rhythm & Booms Festival is Wisconsin's official Independence Day celebration and the largest single-day event in the state. The festival offers family-friendly activities throughout the day, culminating at night with a fireworks spectacular, said to be the largest in the Midwest. The fireworks are launched in choreographed fashion to music broadcast over the radio, an ode to the city’s vibrant music culture. Supported by donations and sponsorships, Rhythm & Booms is a non-profit organization and all proceeds benefit local children's charities. This annual event draws an attendance of over 300,000 people.

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State College, Pennsylvania
Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts

7/12 – 7/15

Though primarily known for being a football town due to its Big 10 school connection, over 125,000 people visit downtown State College and the University Park campus of Penn State every summer to celebrate the arts, including its nationally recognized Sidewalk Sale and Exhibition, offering unique textiles, jewelry and photography. Now in its 46th year, Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts, also known as ArtsFest, will feature over 300 artists in every medium ranging from paintings and sand sculptures to music, dance and theatrical performances.

Pearly Huang is a Research Assistant at Travel + Leisure.

Photo credits: Myra Klarman (Ann Arbor Summer Festival); AthFest; Joe Olivia (Rhythm & Booms Festival); Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts

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