Most months of the year find me focusing on the critical issues impacting land ownership in the West: water conservation, wildfire mitigation, land management, and the like. But it’s important to remember an essential truth about the West: it’s a great place to have fun! And while you have the time of your life in towns and at festivals, you might just learn a little about the history of the region.
Entertainment for Everyone
The entertainment options range far and wide: music festivals and museums, rodeos and balloon launches, and much more. Many trips, of course, focus on the West’s amazing national parks. Start your planning to visit those destinations on the website of the National Park Service to find all sorts of information, including if you need reservations to visit.
Here’s a look at entertaining highlights across the Rocky Mountain West.
June 22-July 4: The Greeley Stampede is the summer headliner when it comes to state rodeos. The historic rodeo (it dates to the late 1800s) mixes rowdy music and rough-riding cowboys in Greeley. Find more state rodeos here.
June 29-Aug. 30: The Aspen Music Festival is a world-renowned gathering of the best and brightest in the world of classical music. Bravo Vail delivers similarly talented performers to that mountain resort from June 22-Aug. 3.
July 28-30: Celebrate the legendary western impresario, born William Frederick Cody, at Buffalo Bill Days in Golden.
Sept. 1-3: Jazz Aspen Snowmass ends the summer season with three days of big-name performers, which this year include The Foo Fighters and The Lumineers
Destinations in the state include Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave in Golden, Black American West Museum & Heritage Museum in Denver, and the Colorado Snowsports Museum & Hall of Fame in Vail. Or drive the highest paved road in North America to the top of Mount Evans (14,264 feet). Get your timed ticket here.
July 6-Aug. 26: Polo in Wyoming? Believe it! The Big Horn Polo Club is one of the country’s oldest active clubs and the area has long been a polo pony training area. Add that to the stunning surroundings and you’ll understand that it’s worth your while to check out the 23rd season of Flying H Polo. Each week of the season is a new tournament, and the competition is fierce.
July 21-30: There’s plenty to like about Frontier Days in Cheyenne, including the “Daddy of them All” PRCA Rodeo and a Professional Bull Riders competition. But why stop there? There’s also a slate of concerts by superstars such as Eric Church, Tim McGraw, and Zach Bryan (complete schedule). And while you’re there, visit the Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum.
Balloon festivals take over the skies in two spots: Riverton, which hosts its 43rd annual Riverton Rendezvous Balloon Rally July 14-16; and Casper, where the Balloon Roundup festival soars again July 28-30.
Museums: Rendezvous with history at the Buffalo Bill Center Of The West in Cody, which is also home to the dazzling Whitney Western Art Museum, and make time to see some of the world’s best wildlife art at the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson.
The Power of Five: When it comes to the Beehive State, there is no event or destination that compares to its five magnificent national parks: Zion, Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, and Capitol Reef National Parks. (There’s also Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.) But a word to the wise: it’s essential to plan well ahead to visit these super popular parks.
July 1-4: The Western Stampede bucks its way back into West Jordan. And it’s more than rodeo; there’s also a carnival, food trucks, and even a Spikeball tournament.
July 19-21: The Ogden Pioneer Days rodeo kicks up its heels with a PRCA competition that’s spiced with live music, parades, and an art show.
July 1-4: The Balloon Fest soars into its 38th year in Provo. Balloons will fly on multiple days as tens of thousands of spectators look on. Also on July 1: the rock band Journey will jolt Lavelle Edwards Stadium followed by an enormous fireworks festival.
Santa Fe is a great destination all year round, but it’s particularly fun in the summer when you can walk its quaint streets and see the likes of the Georgia O’Keefe Museum, the New Mexico History Museum and the Center for Contemporary Arts Santa Fe. And don’t get me started on all their great restaurants.
June 30-July 2: The headlines over the past year have been filled with reports about UFOs. But that’s been the headline for decades at the Roswell UFO Festival. The fun includes MainStreet AlienFest, laser shows, concerts, a drone show, and experts lecturing about the (their words, not mine) “legendary recovery of a UFO outside of Roswell in 1947.”
Oct. 7-15: It’s never too early to start planning a visit to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. The world-renowned event started in 1972 with 13 balloons launched in a shopping mall parking lot. Today it boasts more than 500 balloons taking flight from the 365-acre Balloon Fiesta Park (imagine 54 football fields combined).
July 14-16: Under The Big Sky Festival delivers big-time music to tiny (but gorgeous) Whitefish. Zach Bryan, Hank Williams Jr., and Caamp are just some of the performers.
July 20-23: The Big Sky Balloon Rally returns to fill the sky above Billings. Meanwhile, those on the ground can sample fare from food trucks and enjoy activities for the kids.
July 27-30: The Red Ants Pants Music Festival returns with another cool lineup, topped by Tanya Tucker and The Wood Brothers. Even cooler: the event is a production of the Red Ants Pants Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to women’s leadership, working family farms and ranches, and rural communities. Festival proceeds fund community grants and a Girl’s Leadership Program.
Aug. 12-13: Get away from it all in beautiful northwest Montana at the Huckleberry Festival in Trout Creek, where you’ll be tempted by handmade craft and artisan items and entertained by fun events and activities.
And there’s more!
Land Conservation Benefits
Eat great barbecue and support conservation of working lands at the 2023 Forever Colorado BBQ. The event benefiting the Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust will be held Aug. 12 at Greenland Ranch south of Castle Rock. Or celebrate land conservation by the Wyoming Stock Growers Land Trust at its 2023 Fundraiser & BBQ on Aug. 26 at the TY Ranch near Boulder.
Dine for the Highline
Denver’s Highline Canal, once a critical irrigation canal for agriculture, is now a spectacular 71-mile trail for hiking, biking, and horseback riding that stretches across the metro area. But it wouldn’t be there without the work of the High Line Canal Conservancy. You can support this great cause, and have a great time while you’re at it, by attending Dine for the High Line on Sept. 22.
Museums and attractions across the West serve up history and tradition. Consider visiting Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site: in Colorado, the Glendive Dinosaur and Fossil Museum in Montana, the cliff dwellings at Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico, and the Utah Museum of Fine Arts.
And don’t forget to support 4-H Club events in your area to support opportunity and learning for our young people.