Much like travel and learning, music festivals have the power to inspire us. They allow us to experience a different culture, meet interesting people, get acquainted with local artistic traditions, all the while enjoying good music. In the northern hemisphere, the arrival of summer in June means a flood of festivals from a variety of styles to all kinds of people – and in the United States, it is no different.
We must never underestimate the potential of the country that gave us Woodstock – the “founding father” of modern festivals – and the Coachella, an object of desire of festival-enthusiasts who seek for an extra-musical experience. Hence, as much as Europe is the all-round favourite festival destination for most people, especially those getting started in this lifestyle, it’s always worth taking a look at the festivals in the United States.
The Land of Summer Festivals
If you do a thorough research, you will find that there are almost 200 festivals in the United States registered (and counting). Still, in such a diverse country it is no surprise to have this immense list of events – although the way to explore and experience these festivals can be somewhat vague at first. Nevertheless, the good news is that they are there and all it takes is to find and filter those who are more your style.
Both the United States and Europe have festivals all year round, but in the US the season starts a little earlier (May) and lasts longer (some big festivals happen in October) in comparison to Europe. This may be due to the less rigorous winter features of some southern regions of the US, where the beginning of autumn is relatively mild and thus allows for these outdoor events to take place. Meanwhile, in Europe, the general lower temperatures are more stringent, forcing the festival season to focus on summertime or retreat to indoor environments.
Another interesting aspect is that, in addition to the climate, festivals in the United States also have geographic peculiarities. Not only do they happen all year round, they are also held throughout the 50 states, with some of them standing out from the rest for economic, cultural, and historical reasons.
That being said, below is a list of the regions in the United States with some of the most interesting and popular summer festivals for you to follow:
One of the key aspects about California, the land of the renowned Coachella, is that you can find sun all year round – which is usually a plus in the world of festivals. The Bottle Rock Napa Valley, which mixes music and gastronomy, and Lightining in a Bottle – with electronic music and more alternative profile – are two highlights in May. By the way, when it comes to alternative-style festivals with electronic music line-up, other names like Woogie Weekend, Northern Nights, and Nocturnal Wonderland also stand out. The San Francisco Outside Lands, in turn, is one of the big highlights of the region and happens in late summer in September.
Chicago is the city of heavy-weight festivals – in every way possible. This is where the Lollapalooza decided to reside after an itinerant beginning around the United States. Plus, Chicago is also home to the respected Pitchfork and two heavy-music festivals: the Chicago Open Air and the Riot Fest.
It is still uncertain whether it was the Europeans or the Americans who created the concept of a festival in cruises, but the fact is that in the US, this type of festival is more popular and has a very well defined address: Florida. The cities of Miami and Orlando are the starting point for these “cruise festival” trips – which usually go to the Caribbean – and January and February are the months of greatest concentration of events. For those who enjoy rock and hard rock, 70,000 Tons of Metal and Shiprocked Festival are good options.
See also: Miami: a family getaway
The land of cowboys has festivals scattered throughout the year, but the highlight is the capital, Austin, which receives few but highly rated festivals. The main ones are the respected South By Southeast in March, and the Austin City Limits in October. It is also worth mentioning the Levitation – that happens in April and focuses on psychedelic rock – and Fun Fun Fest in November, a summer-like indie in the middle of autumn.
Although New York is a mainstream tourist destination, that is not the case (yet) with the festivals that happen in around the city. The Governors Ball is slowly gaining a place in the hearts of outsiders, but it is still far from being as popular as its west coast counterpart, the Coachella. Speaking of which, the Panorama (created by the same people as the Coachella), is one of the east coast’s up-and-coming festivals. The Electric Zoo and the EDC NY are the options for those into electronic music. Alternatively, a highlight of NY’s festivals is the Afro Punk, which is aimed at celebrating African-American culture through music.