No matter what your music preference is, there is a summer music festival out there for you. Some festivals will cater to your every musical need, from country to hip-hop and alternative to classic rock, while others focus on a particular genre, or even feature a lineup curated by one artist. Below, you’ll see our top picks for music festivals if you’re looking for an all-around great experience.
Summer music festivals kick off in early May, which means the time is right to be a little too close to some strangers who love the same music you do.
Whether you want to attend as many sets in one weekend as you can possibly squeeze in, or you just want to relax in a field with your closest friends while waiting for the headliners, there’s a scene out there for you. We’ve highlighted our favorite music festivals from around the world below.
- Best festival for rock – Download
- Best festival for hip-hop – Made in America
- Best festival for EDM – Tomorrowland
- Best festival for families – Glastonbury
- Best festival for wild times – Burning Man
- Best festival for hotel access – EDC
- Best quintessential music festival experience – Bonnaroo
- Best all-around festival – Summerfest
Best Summer Music Festivals
When talking about summer music festivals in the USA (and anywhere really), we’d be mad not to start with Summerfest, held annually in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Branded as the “World’s Largest Music Festival,” Summerfest is legitimately huge – and not just in terms of actual size.
Since its inception in 1968, Summerfest has seen and still sees the most legendary names in popular music from across the late 20th and early 21st centuries. If you’re a big name in music, you’ve played or will play Summerfest – it’s inevitable!
A paradise for true music lovers, Summerfest runs every late June till early July. Prepare yourself for every popular music genre under the sun, from Alternative Rock to Zydeco. They even have some of the country’s most popular comedians performing their latest routines.
On top of that, you’ll also find yourself well-catered for food and drink (it is Milwaukee, after all), merch vendors, and even tattoo parlors.
With all this summer fun lasting over 11 days, you’ll need a place to crash. There’s no on-site camping, but a few campgrounds are nearby. Or you can do what I do and book a room somewhere nearby, like the Kimpton Journeyman Hotel.
See Related: Best Breweries in Wisconsin
Lollapalooza is one of the largest, most well-known music festivals in the United States. The annual event occurs at Grant Park in Chicago, Illinois, in late July or early August and features various musical acts from multiple genres, including metal, indie rock, EDM, country music, hip-hop, and so much more.
Along with excellent live music, Lollapalooza has food vendors and other activities to keep attendees entertained between sets. This festival is proud to be more than just a musical event: it is also considered a cultural experience.
Because of its size and popularity, Lollapalooza is not replicated elsewhere in the country. So if you’re looking for an unforgettable musical experience, add Lollapalooza to your list of must-attend festivals. And if you need somewhere to catch your breath, book a room at Hotel Blake.
See Related: Best Festivals from Around the World
3. Outside Lands
Outside Lands is an annual music festival in San Francisco, California. This August fest features an eclectic mix of musical genres to suit all tastes. In addition to the music, Outside Lands also has a bunch of food and drink options that are a cut above the average festival fare.
Outside Lands is the perfect choice for those who don’t have a particular favorite genre and are looking for an unforgettable festival experience. Tickets can be pricey, but the experience is worth the cost, and you can find tickets on StubHub even during the week of the event.
So if you’re planning a trip to San Francisco, check out Outside Lands, and check into the unique Casa Loma Hotel while you’re at it! Not your style? Then check out this post about the best places to stay in San Francisco.
See Related: Best Day Trips from San Francisco, California
4. Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival
This Tennessee-based festival takes place in June on a farm and features a range of musical genres with a big emphasis on rock. Along with the music, on-site camping options make it the perfect choice for those who want to enjoy the authentic music fest experience. Alternatively, you can find cheap lodgings nearby at the confusingly named Scottish Inn Manchester.
What makes Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival unique is its focus on the fan and arts experience. From the moment you arrive on the scene in the middle of a farm in Tennessee, you feel like you’re a part of something special. It has a sense of community unmatched at any other music festival I’ve been to.
Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival keeps attendees entertained with activities like relaxing in the crafts area to a dip in the pool.
See Related: Best Things to Do in Memphis, Tennessee
5. The Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC)
Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC) is a huge EDM festival in Las Vegas, Nevada. The mid to late-May festival features some of the biggest names in the electronic music scene. Along with the music, there are also carnival rides and other attractions to keep you entertained.
What makes EDC so unique is its focus on the fan experience. The festival organizers go above and beyond to ensure everyone has a good time. From the moment you arrive on the festival grounds, you can tell they are dedicated to providing an unforgettable experience – but that’s just how Vegas does it.
Anyone in search of an electronic music festival unlike any other, check out EDC. The music, the atmosphere, and the overall experience will floor you.
Plus, you’re in Vegas, so amazing accommodations are everywhere. You can check out some of the best hotels in Las Vegas right here.
See Related: Cheap Things to Do in Las Vegas
6. Burning Man
Burning Man is an annual festival held in August in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada. Burning Man focuses on art and self-expression to the extreme and features a range of activities to entertain you.
Each season the participants meet in their homes to discover community art, self-expression, and self-reliance. In line with these principles, first-time fans leave the festival refreshed – or traumatized. Music festivals are pretty debaucherous at the best of times, but it can be a bit much for some at Burning Man.
Find fascinating artwork installations, themed camps, or village sites and experience something unique. You will leave with a feeling you’ll be completely different and want to recreate the experience.
Burning Man is a one-of-a-kind event that should not be missed for hardcore festival goers, but it’s getting pretty crowded and even a bit commercialized these days. Plus it’s really expensive.
See Related: Best Day Trips From Las Vegas, Nevada
7. The Governors Ball Music Festival
The Governors Ball Music Festival is a three-day event in June that moves around a bit – it was originally on Governor’s Island, then it was held at Randall’s Island Park, and now Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens is hosting the crowd. The festival features a mix of genres, including alternative, hip-hop, and EDM.
One benefit to the location – right in New York City – is that the food truck scene is incredible. The lineup can be hit or miss – many musicians prefer to play NYC on their own tours, in smaller venues – but the headliners are always pretty popular.
This festival is a great opportunity discover new acts. And when you need a break from the music, you can enjoy other activities throughout the event, like photo booths, art installations, and lawn games.
Looking for a place to rest post-fest? Check out the best places to stay in NYC.
See Related: Where to Stay in New York City with Family
Until relatively recently, Glastonbury was a pretty chilled-out, laid-back June music festival, the sort of summer music festival your parents would go to – and as muddy as the Somme. Nowadays, “Glasto” is a simply massive event and a key destination for true music fans. It’s the largest music festival in the United Kingdom and frequently jostles for pole position as the largest music festival in the whole world.
In addition to Glasto’s typical old-school acts, a huge array of modern music genres and popular acts are hosted yearly. From hip-hop artists to heavy metal bands and world music, Glastonbury takes all. And it’s gotten much wackier in recent years!
The best way to regard Glastonbury is sort of like a wetter, more family-friendly Burning Man. This is one of the best summer music festivals in the world to enjoy camping out in a field, even if it is chucking it down with rain and you’re swimming in mud – it’s part of the legitimate Glasto experience.
Now, if you’re not crashing in a tent that is slowly being claimed by a muddy field, sorry, you’re not really doing Glasto. So if you’re leaning into not doing Glasto, you should stay somewhere really nice, such as the positively palatial Crossways.
See Related: Most Beautiful Villages in England to Visit
9. Reading and Leeds Festivals
If Glastonbury is the best family-friendly festival option in the U.K., the twin Reading and Leeds Festivals are where the kids go to get a little crazy. Reading and Leeds are two English cities that are almost on opposite ends of the country that run these simultaneous weekend music festivals every summer, typically in late August.
Fun fact, originally, it was just Reading Festival, a fairly low-key jazz fest, which has since spawned into this British youths’ right of passage. Another fun fact is that Reading is the world’s oldest continuously running pop music festival. The Leeds Festival joined the party in 1999, and since then, these music festivals have attracted over 100,000 attendants yearly.
The music genres and acts on offer are typically at the cutting edge of music vogue, and the crowds at both festivals are pretty young. Unfortunately, these crowds are also exceptionally rowdy, and you can expect no shortage of drama, shenanigans, debauchery, hilarity, adventures, tomfoolery, hijinks, brawls, and outright stupidity at both Reading and Leeds.
Choosing between Reading and Leeds depends on what sort of experience you want. Unfortunately, both festivals run at the same time, so you can’t really do both, and there’s on-site camping at both too. The good news is the main acts are more or less the same at both festivals, with headliners dashing between Reading and Leeds to perform at both festivals at different times.
Here’s the lowdown: Reading in the south of England is the larger of the two and a good “warm-up” festival if you’re new to music festival anarchy, thanks to the curfew. Leeds in the north of England is smaller, wetter, and wilder, with music sets playing all night until daybreak.
I’m not recommending hotels here – if you’re thinking about Reading and Leeds, you’re already serious about music festivals.
See Related: United Kingdom Nicknames to Know
10. Pitchfork Music Festival
Pitchfork Music Festival is held in the heart of Chicago’s Union Park and always has a great lineup of indie bands. Indie lovers know this festival well. In addition to the music, the festival brings a variety of local vendors and stalls featuring excellent Chicago craft beers, local food, and local arts and crafts.
If you love indie music and want to get a chance to see some up-and-coming artists and future superstars, Pitchfork Music Festival is a great music festival for you to experience and should be on your music bucket list.
For a great stay to complement this great July festival, do yourself a favor and book a night or two at the Hotel Chicago, or check out our post on where to stay in Chicago.
See Related: Best Things to Do on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile
11. Download Festival
Held in Leicestershire, England, Download is the U.K.’s premier rock festival, featuring hard rock, glam rock, heavy metal, death metal, punk, and the occasional indie rock and techno acts. Since its beginnings in the early 2000s, Download has spread across the world, with satellite festivals held in France, Germany, and Australia.
The one in Leicestershire is by far the biggest and best, held at the famous Donington Park Racetrack. It regularly draws crowds in excess of 100,000 annually for the June four-day festival. If you love screeching guitars, howling vocals, and moshing until your knees shatter, Download is the place for you.
Like most U.K. music festivals, Download is one of the best music festivals to camp on-site. But if you need to rest your battered body and ringing ears, you can find cheap stays at the Holiday Inn Express East Midlands Airport nearby.
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12. Hangout Music Festival
Hangout Music Festival is an annual event in Gulf Shores, Alabama. The festival appeals to all true music lovers and features a mix of genres, including alternative, EDM, and classic rock. It’s normally held in mid to late May, making it a popular early summer festival option.
The Hangout Music Festival is produced by Goldenvoice, which guarantees you a great beach and music-related weekend getaway. The three-day event features beach clubs, ocean swimming, sailing excursions, roller discos, free gyms, and beach volleyball.
This part of coastal Alabama is also pretty beautiful, so why not stay awhile? Perdido Beach Resort is fairly nearby and an absolutely stunning property.
13. Movement Electronic Music Festival
Movement is one of the best early summer music festivals in the USA and a top destination for lovers of EDM, techno, electro, dance, trance, club, and house music. Held in Hart Plaza in Detroit, Michigan (the spiritual home of techno music and Motown), Movement’s awesome urban and industrial appeal helps bring this festival to life.
Movement is held over Memorial Day weekend in late May. Tt’s not the biggest festival by any stretch of the imagination, that said, some of the largest and most popular names in electronic music have played here over the years, from Fat Boy Slim to Skrillex.
As there is no on-site accommodation, I highly recommend finding somewhere nearby to stay the night. The Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center is a great choice, being right next to Hart Plaza, with great views of Detroit and the Canadian city of Windsor!
See Related: Things to Do in Michigan & Best Places to Visit
Held every July in Flanders, Belgium, Tomorrowland is one of Europe’s most popular electronic music festivals. This week-long, award-winning festival has grown exponentially from a relatively modest affair in 2005 to one of the biggest festivals of its kind in the world, with yearly total attendances exceeding half a million guests.
If you’re a fan of electronic music, dance, pop, and hip-hop, Tomorrowland’s annual showcase is sure to please. But, even if you’re not a massive fan of these music genres, it’s still well worth it for the festival experience – Tomorrowland is one of the best organized and put-together music festivals in the world. Good times are guaranteed.
And if you want to keep those good times rolling, you’ll need some quality accommodation. You can choose from one of the seven on-site camping areas or a hotel in nearby Boom, such as the no-nonsense OccO.
See Related: Best Day Trips from Brussels, Belgium
15. Telluride Bluegrass Festival
If you’re searching for a more intimate, laid-back music festival experience, you might consider the Telluride Bluegrass Festival. Telluride in Colorado is an absolutely beautiful corner of the world and well worth a visit even outside this June weekend festival. That said, the beauty of this town is totally enhanced by the mellow notes of soulful bluegrass tunes washing over you.
It’s a pretty modest affair, with daily attendance capped at 12,000. But this just gives you more opportunity to let the music sink into your very soul as you sip on a local beer or let a gummy work its magic.
There aren’t many hotels in Telluride proper, but its namesake, The Hotel Telluride, is easily the best in the area and is a great compliment to your trip. But being a summer bluegrass fest, I cannot recommend camping enough – especially if a gummy is working its magic.
See Related: Best Breweries in Denver, Colorado
16. Newport Folk Festival
Another great summer festival to enjoy bluegrass is at Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island. While Rhode Island is pretty dinky, this festival is a huge date on the calendar for lovers and performers of folk, country, blues, soul, bluegrass, jazz, and general Americana.
Held out of Fort Adams State Park in July, Newport Folk Festival is one of the oldest continuously running music festivals in the USA and on this list. Unfortunately, due to its legacy and popularity, it also tends to get booked up pretty quickly, along with any nearby accommodations, as there are no on-site camping or accommodation options.
Do yourself a favor, plan ahead, and book your tickets early and somewhere to stay. I’d recommend staying at The Wellington Resort, just over a mile away, if you have the cash to splash.
See Related: Best East Coast Vacation Spots in the US
17. AFROPUNK Festival
With its roots in the early 2000s as a festival for Black punk and alternative music in Brooklyn, the AFROPUNK Festival keeps reaching new heights. Today, AFROPUNK Festivals feature a huge variety of genres and internationally acclaimed musicians of African descent and are held all over the U.S. and the world at large.
While these worldwide and regional festivals in the USA are held throughout the year, the original and best runs in Brooklyn, typically anywhere between June and September. Past acts have included Janelle Monáe, Tyler the Creator, Jaden and Willow Smith, Rico Nasty, and The Roots.
This isn’t just one of the best summer music festivals to enjoy the works of Black artists; it’s also heavily involved in promoting black culture, political and social activism, and health and well-being. And for your health and well-being, spend the night at Casa Blanca Hotel Brooklyn nearby, or check out our guide on where to stay in Brooklyn.
See Related: New York CityPASS vs. New York Pass: Which is Better?
18. Made in America
The Made in America Festival is one of the newer festivals on this list but has already earned a sizable following over its ten-year existence. This awesome two-day music festival is held every September over Labor Day weekend at Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It’s grown so popular there’s also a satellite festival in Grand Park, Los Angeles.
The brainchild of the legendary rapper Jay-Z, the primary focus of Made in America is rising stars in rap, R&B, and hip-hop, giving these new artists a major platform to launch their names. But there have been plenty of huge headliners over the years, not just those from rap and hip-hop. Coldplay, Justin Bieber, Rihanna, Cardi B, Nicki Minaj, Post Malone, and Jay-Z himself have all had sets here.
If you plan on visiting the Philly festival, you should make a vacation of it. Philadelphia is one of the oldest U.S. cities, possessing fascinating history, unique culture, and some amazing food and nightlife. Rest your head at the core of the action at The Logan Philadelphia.
See Related: Pennsylvania Slang Terms You Need to Know
19. Wacken Open Air
Every August, the charming village of Wacken in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, plays host to one of the heaviest rock festivals on the planet. Typically held over three days, Wacken is a name well-known among the metal community.
Practically every sub-genre of heavy metal is celebrated at Wacken, from the saber-rattling sounds of Sabaton to the symphonic melodies of Nightwish and the rip-roaring good times of AC/DC, Accept, Motorhead, and our lord and savior Alice Cooper. It’s a rocker’s delight and a headbanger’s heaven!
This is another top music festival for those who feel like camping on-site, which is probably just as well, as there are no hotels in the tiny village of Wacken and precious few vacation rentals that fill up fast. But what’s metal about sleeping in a bed? Nothing! Sleep on the ground like a true metalhead!
See Related: Best Places to Visit in Northern Germany
Tips for Attending Music Festivals
Go beyond sleep deprivation and the broiling heat to ensure you have the best time at your preferred series of concerts and music festivals.
1. Wear Your Sunscreen
Remember to pack sunscreen, lest you want to look like a rosy raccoon! Try to get water-resistant sunscreen, too, because you’ll sweat buckets when you’re crammed into a writhing pile of humanity.
2. Pack Some Water and Snacks
There will likely be food vendors around, and you can probably find a meal with a $7(!!!) bottle of water…or you could bring water with you. Dancing under the hot sun burns more calories than you might think, so bring snacks, too, to help you stay fueled. To stay hydrated during the day, you’ll need a minimum of 1 liter of water per hour – more if you’re enjoying booze and/or party favors.
Do be sure to check festival regulations to see what you’re able to bring in – oftentimes you can bring food into the camping areas but not into the festival itself.
3. Baby Wipes
One of the essential things you could bring with you is a pack of baby wipes. Seriously. They’re cost-effective, and they work to clean virtually everything from armpits to sleeping bags.
4. Exercise Caution
Having a good time at a summer music festival often involves some risky behavior – whether that be substances or alcohol – and we’d be naive to pretend that’s not a big part of the festival experience for some concertgoers.
Be aware of what you’re doing because even though you seem to be around friends at a festival, you’re not always around people with good intentions. As a general rule of thumb, don’t take anything you haven’t brought yourself and test anything you do buy on-site.
That being said, if you prefer to stay sober, you’ll be in good company. Most music festivals partner with organizations that promote sobriety or help to arrange sober group camping sites. Reach out to the organizers if you’re not sure how comfortable you’ll be in a rowdy crowd.
5. Carry a Flashlight
Even though the lights and pyrotechnics on stage might look like they’ll ignite the night, a flashlight is essential for navigating music festivals once the sun goes down. Of course, you could use your phone’s flashlight, but leaving your expensive cell phone safely in a bag is a good idea in a dark crowd.
6. Don’t Count On Your Car
While it might be tempting to sleep in your car, it’s essentially a wheeled oven in the summer heat. Temperatures in your car can easily exceed 100 F once parked, even with the windows open…and you don’t want to leave the windows open at a music festival. Be mindful of what you’re storing in there too!
What should I bring to a music festival?
Some items you may want to bring to a music festival include sunscreen, airy clothes, a light jacket, hats, sunglasses, comfortable shoes like sneakers or ankle boots, and a backpack or bag to carry your belongings. If you’re camping, take a look at this checklist! You’ll also want to ensure you have enough cash to buy food, drinks, and any souvenirs you wish to purchase.
How much money should I bring to a summer music festival?
This is where the expenses rack up. If you’re bringing supplies, try and budget for $100 a day. But depending on the festival and what you’re bringing, consider budgeting $200-$500 daily.
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