23 PNW Events You Must Check out in 2020

We've picked some of the best festivals, fairs and other events in Washington, Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Montana and British Columbia

This article appears in print in the January 2020 issue. Click here to subscribe.


Timbrrr! Winter Music Festival
This music fest heats up chilly Leavenworth with musicians like Pedro the Lion, Ivan & Alyosha and Bully playing the Leavenworth Festhalle. The main stage is 21 and older, but there are plenty of stages open to all ages, along with all the wintery Bavarian charm you could ever want. Times and prices vary. Various locations, Leavenworth

Emerald City Comic Con
The sea of incredible costumes is a high point of any con; this year’s ECCC also features Chris Roberson, G. Willow Wilson, Jim Lee, Ashley A. Woods and Walter Koenig in the lineup of comic artists, writers and actors participating in panel discussions, photo ops and signing sessions. Times and prices vary. Washington State Convention Center, downtown

Washington Brewers Festival
Landing on Father’s Day weekend, this brewer’s festival highlights over 500 beers made by Washington state breweries, including IPAs, stouts, porters, and wheat and Belgian-style beers. The Friday kick-off is a 21-and-older event, but the rest of the weekend features family-friendly activities, including face painting, a kids’ craft tent and a root beer garden. Times and prices vary. Marymoor Park, Redmond

27th Annual Festival of America
Each of the two days of live entertainment, arts and crafts, and delicious fair food is capped off by the famous Grand Coulee Dam laser light show, projected onto the face of the dam. On July 4, that show gets an extra-special grand finale: an Independence Day fireworks display. 10 a.m. Free. Grand Coulee Dam Visitor Center Park, Grand Coulee

Spokane Scottish Highland Games
Stone putting! Caber tossing! Whether you’re watching or participating in the Spokane Scottish Highland Games, these feats of strength are a wonder to behold. For a less extreme experience, consider joining a tug-of-war match, sack race or dance competition. 9 a.m.–5:30 p.m. Prices vary. Spokane County Fair & Expo Center, Spokane

Omak Stampede
The highlight of this weekend of Western entertainment, from bull riding to barrel racing, is undoubtedly the suicide race. While the anxiety-inducing name is probably due for a rebrand, the race is jaw-dropping: Horses and riders plunge down a 225-foot bluff and into the Okanogan River, racing to make it across the water and then 500 yards farther to the finish line. Times and prices vary. Various locations, Omak

Port Townsend Film Festival
Film festivals in beautiful settings are a no-brainer, and Port Townsend boasts one of the best in the region. There are always special guests (last year’s included Cheryl Strayed and Stephen Tobolowsky), and what began as “a film lover’s block party” now boasts a lineup of more than 90 films playing in seven venues. Times and prices vary. Various locations, Port Townsend

The Port Townsend Film Festival offers three outdoor movie screenings in addition to its 90-plus film lineup. Photo by Mark Saran


Portland Rose Festival
From the opening fireworks to the final parade, the City of Roses’ annual celebration promises a vibrant, invigorating time for visitors and proud Portlanders alike. Highlights include the carnival-ride-filled CityFair, held on weekends throughout the fest, the Starlight Parade (5/30), the Junior Parade (6/3) and the Grand Floral Parade (6/6), as well as the coronation of the Rose Queen. Times and prices vary. Various locations, Portland, Oregon

Estacada Timber Festival
If timber is your thing (or even if it’s not), get to Estacada for a full day of fun themed competitions—log cutting, log rolling, axe throwing—finished off with fireworks to celebrate Independence Day. 10 a.m. $5. PGE Timber Park, Estacada, Oregon

Oregon Country Fair
Every year, a colorful wonderland pops up in the woods west of Eugene, Oregon, populated by the musicians, magicians, jugglers, jesters and more than 700 artisans who participate in the annual Oregon Country Fair. Surround yourself with the splendors of Mother Nature, then bring some of them home with you in the form of handmade, eco-friendly goods, such as candles, clothing, beaded jewelry, furniture and glasswork. 11 a.m.–7 p.m. Prices vary. Veneta, Oregon

TBA Festival
TBA stands for Time-Based Art Festival, an annual presentation by the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art celebrating modern work in many forms. The 11-day festival includes performances, music, visual art, films, workshops, lectures and more by a bevy of local and international artists. Times and prices vary. Various locations, Portland, Oregon


Anchorage Fur Rendezvous Winter Festival
Bundle up for this snow-centric celebration (called “Rondy” by locals), whether you’re watching sled dog races, running with reindeer or witnessing the creation of snow sculptures, among other activities. The open world championship sled dog races are a three-day event (2/28–3/1), with racers traversing a total of 75 miles. For a more hands-on experience, join the wacky race known as the Running of the Reindeer (3/7), for which you’ll choose from four different “herds” to race with as you try to outrun actual reindeer. In your downtime, admire the massive artworks coming to life during the Alaska State Snow Sculpture Championship (3/1). Times and prices vary. Downtown Anchorage, Alaska

Petersburg Little Norway Festival
Expect Vikings and Valkyries at this celebration of Norwegian Constitution Day in the Alaska fishing town of Petersburg. Savor traditional Norwegian and Alaska Native foods, and enjoy live music, traditional crafts and, of course, the annual herring toss. Times vary. Free. Various locations, Petersburg, Alaska


British Columbia PuSh Festival
This annual performing-arts festival is a jewel in Vancouver’s arts crown, a three-week smorgasbord of risky, cutting-edge theater, music and dance from around the world. Times and prices vary. Various locations, Vancouver, B.C.

Gold Rush Trail Sled Dog Mail Run
During this four-day event, mushers, who have been sworn in as official mail carriers, race on dog sleds across the historic Gold Rush Trail to Barkerville, B.C., to deliver special cargo. Letters, tucked into envelopes designed by local artists and purchased by the public, collect their “Carried by Dog Team” stamp en route to Barkerville, where they then continue on to destinations worldwide. Skiers and skijorers are welcome to join the action; just be sure to dress like a musher and stay warm. Times and prices vary. Various locations, British Columbia

African Fashion and Arts Movement Vancouver
Designs inspired by current African styles walk the runways at this event promoting African fashion and art in British Columbia. The catwalk events are the centerpiece, while proceeds from the silent auction will go toward purchasing school supplies for the children of Lomé, the capital city of Togo, in West Africa. 4 and 7 p.m. Prices vary. Pinnacle Ballroom, Pinnacle Hotel, North Vancouver, B.C.


Boise Hempfest
To answer your first question, yes, this is a family-friendly event! Watch live local entertainment like fire dancers, and spend time walking from vendor to vendor in the Munchies Market, enjoying noshes from Idaho Five Star Funnel Cakes and Aladdin Egyptian Cuisine. 10 a.m. Free. Julia Davis Park, Boise, Idaho

Elmore County Fair & Rodeo
This county fair has all the classics, from deep-fried fair food to rodeo queens and bucking broncs. When you’re not snacking on greasy treats, check out the live music or watch bold riders compete in barrel racing and bull riding competitions. Times and prices vary. Elmore County Fairgrounds & Event Center, Glenns Ferry, Idaho


Pond Skimming
What is pond skimming, you ask? It’s a quest by skiers and snowboarders, of all ages and in all outfits, to zoom across an artificial pond at the end of a ski run without falling into the heated water. No surprise, it’s one hell of a spectator sport and a great way to close out the winter season. Time TBD. Free to spectate. Ambush Headwall, Big Sky, Montana

Strawberry Festival
What would a strawberry festival be without a 60-foot-long strawberry shortcake? Montana’s chefs and cooks come together to create this delicious festival centerpiece, which has a place of pride among the festivities. Also to be enjoyed are wares from arts and craft vendors, live local music and food trucks serving cuisines ranging from Mexican and Pan-Asian to traditional barbecue. 9 a.m. Free. Downtown, Billings, Montana

35th Montana Cowboy Poetry Gathering and Western Music Rendezvous
At this four-day festival celebrating the history and heritage of the cowboy in the Rocky Mountain West, gather around the metaphorical campfire to enjoy original works of poetry and western music, all of which share an oral history of the American cowboy. Times and prices vary. Various locations, Lewistown, Montana

The 32nd Annual Great Montana Sheep Drive
Share the streets with hundreds of woolly friends during the Running of the Sheep, which raises money for local businesses and programs in the community of Reed Point. In addition to the main event, this Labor Day tradition features a round-hay-bale-rolling contest, a car show, egg-tossing competitions and a live auction. 10 a.m. Free. Various locations, Reed Point, Montana

Alice in Wonderland at OSF in 2019. Photo by Jenny Graham

Play Date
Theater lovers flock to an artistic oasis in Ashland, Oregon

Since 1935, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) has animated the idyllic town of Ashland, just off Interstate 5 in the Rogue River valley. The 4-acre, multistage arts haven is now a major player on the national theater scene, having premiered works by Pulitzer Prize–winning playwrights Lynn Nottage, Paula Vogel and Robert Schenkkan, and championed newer voices such as Luis Alfaro and Qui Nguyen, among many others.

OSF’s 2020 season, the first under sole leadership of new artistic director Nataki Garrett, will feature both Shakespeare classics and contemporary works, including world-premiere plays by Dominique Morisseau and Karen Zacarías. Also on the bill: two-part behemoth Bring Down the House, an all-female adaptation of Shakespeare’s Henry VI trilogy created by Seattle-based collective Upstart Crow, which premiered here in Seattle in 2017 in a coproduction with Seattle Shakespeare Company. Nearby lodging and dining options are plentiful and varied, and, of course, there’s plenty of good beer. This is Oregon, after all.

Oregon Shakespeare Festival
Ashland, Oregon
February 28–November 1, 2020

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