7 of the best festivals & fairs in Upstate New York this Spring


Comprising the area north and west of New York City, Upstate New York has plenty going on all year round – with springtime a particularly busy period for festivals and fairs.

(Photo: Rochester International Jazz Festival)

From its picturesque lakeside locations to its urbanised centres, Upstate New York combines impressive natural scenery with a vibrant cultural and entertainment scene. When it comes to the latter, a busy programme of festivals and fairs draw large numbers of visitors from far and wide throughout the year. If you’re in the region this spring, check out our list of great events set to take place below.

Rochester International Jazz Festival

This acclaimed jazz festival has been drawing large audiences from New York State and beyond each year for over two hugely successful decades. Held over nine full days, the festival features hundreds of shows – including a 100-plus free events – at indoor and outdoor venues dotted throughout the city of Rochester’s East End Entertainment District. Highlights include the Global Jazz Now Series featuring a stellar-line up international artists, free Jazz Workshops led by visiting musicians, and nightly jam sessions. Go to www.rochesterjazz.com for more info.

Venues across Rochester / 21-29 June

Albany Tulip Festival

(Photo: Kevin Qiu via Flickr / CC BY 2.0 DEED)

One of Albany’s most popular annual events, this year’s festival takes place over Mother’s Day weekend, providing the perfect opportunity to pick up some flowers for the most important woman in your life. Free to attend, the festival will once again feature over 140,000 tulips in bloom, along with live music, vendors and children’s activities. Other highlights include the traditional Tulip Queen Coronation,  a yearly crowning of a symbolic monarchy and her court who serve as Albany ambassadors focussed on community causes.

Washington Park, Albany11-12 May

Buffalo Wine Festival

(Photo: Buffalo Wine Festival)

Each year, wine lovers come together for an afternoon or evening of wine tastings at the Buffalo Wine Festival, featuring a variety of New York State wines from 20+ wineries from across the state, plus shopping vendors and samples from local food establishments and farms. The general admission afternoon session runs from 1pm-4pm and the evening session from 6pm-9pm. Guests can also become a VIP and gain access to an extra hour to experience an intimate atmosphere of tasting and shopping. New to 2024 is a candle-making workshop,  in which visitors can join an exclusive 20-minute workshop where they’ll create a take-home candle.

Buffalo Convention Center, Buffalo / 13 April

Culinary Arts Festival

After its inaugural edition in 2022, the Culinary Arts Festival in Binghampton will once again see dozens of local restaurants take part in an event designed to promote and enhance the area’s reputation for food creation. Spread across two floors of the SUNY Broome Culinary & Event Center, the festival will feature plenty of sampling opportunities, with everything from Caribbean soul food to barbeque to fine dining on offer. There’ll also be live cooking demonstrations and the chance to meet and engage with local restauranteurs.

SUNY Broome Culinary & Event Center, Binghampton / 14 April

Utica Wine & Chocolate Festival

(Photo: NY Wine & Chocolate Festivals)

The Utica edition of this renowned national touring festival comes to the Mohawk Valley town in late April, with wineries and chocolatiers from across the region assembling for one day only. After enjoying the free samples of dozens of wines of all styles and tastes, attendees will have the opportunity to purchase bottles of their favourites at specially reduced prices. There’ll also be chocolates, cheeses, and sweets, as well as mini-boutiques selling artisanal products  such as hande-made purses, jewellery, clothing, and more.

Adirondack Bank Center at the Utica Memorial Auditorium / 27 April

Rochester Lilac Festival

First held over 125 years ago, visitors flock to Rochester’s Highland Park each May for a showcase of the largest collection of lilacs in North America. Taking place over Mother’s Day weekend, almost 2,000 lilac bushes display hundreds of varieties of lilacs in a dazzling floral exhibit of deep purples and pure whites. As well as the floral display, the festival also offers up dozens of live bands who perform on the Main Stage, every type of food you can think of, 5K/10K runs, Wine and Craft Beer Expos, and an award-winning art show.

Highland Park / 10-19 May

Buffalo Cherry Blossom Festival

(Photo: André Carrotflower via Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED)

A beguiling celebration of history, Japanese culture and New York State’s natural beauty, this festival was inspired by the decades-long bond that exists between Buffalo and its Japanese sister city, Kanazawa. Held annually for over a decade, the festival sees the Japanese Garden in Delaware Park festooned with  eye-catching cherry blossom – a flower with strong symbolic resonance in Japanese culture. Visitors can stroll along while admiring the blossoming trees, listen to live stage music, take a ride on the pink boats on Mirror Lake, and grab something to eat from a variety of food trucks.

Delaware Park, Buffalo / 27-28 April

By Paul Joseph