The 12 Best Summer Music Festivals in America

Nothing says summer like gathering up your closest friends and hitting one of the many epic music festivals that take over this country. Known for hosting some of the best festivals in the world, from early spring until late summer, fans can choose to bring out their inner hippie or dance the night away in an all-night fantasy forest. From interactive festivals that feature more than just amazing musicians, to festivals that focus on sustainability and nature; here are the best 12 summer music festivals in America.

12. Outside Lands, California

This festival normally held in August started back in 2008 and has been gaining momentum and popularity ever since. Although the epic music is at the forefront of this festival, the array of culinary experiences caters to more than just music lovers. Past headliners have included Stevie Wonder, Radiohead and Willie Nelson. One thing festival goers can count on is the unexpected. Beerlands, Winelands, Chocolands and the Cheeselands are all very real and offer unique and local food and drink, along with the other plus 80 vendors. What other music festival in the world is there that one can dine on oysters and lamb? Great music, great local food and drink and a festival wide arts show that takes place throughout this weekend, coupled with an amazing line-up of musicians makes this one of the best music festivals in all of America.

Photo by: Outside Lands Music Festival
Photo by: Outside Lands Music Festival

11.  Electric Daisy Carnival, Nevada

It has been deemed the largest electronic music festival outside of Europe and with nearly a million people attending; it is easy to see why this festival makes the list. It takes place in late June at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway which is turned into an adult’s amusement park complete with interactive art installations and a huge array of performers. This energetic party rages from dusk until dawn and when the clock strikes midnight the party really starts. Performers are world renowned and couple with top-notch production standards including mind-warping light displays and pyrotechnics. This is an adults-only festival and you won’t find any camping or sleeping in cars here. Festival goers are encouraged to dress up to the extreme and will be surrounded by dancers, stilt-walkers, clowns and other unique performers. If you are a fan of electronic music; this is one festival you won’t want to miss out on.

Photo by: Electric Daisy Carnival
Photo by: Electric Daisy Carnival

10. What the Festival, Oregon

This is one of the newest festivals on this list but it is quickly becoming the most popular interactive music and art festival in the state of Oregon. The festival takes place on a ranch, semi open fields and partly wooded areas. Everyone camps at this three day festival with most choosing to haul their camping gear into the woods. A garbage bag is provided upon arrival and this festival strives to encourage sustainability and ‘leave no trace’ camping. Festival goers here can expect a large wading pool perfect for splashing around, Hookah lounges, larger-than-life interactive art and a non-stop array of electronic music. Although this festival can hold up to 5,000 people, organizers like to keep the festival smaller, choosing to go with a more boutique feel. Workshops, lectures, yoga and even a comedy stage turn this electronic music festival into something pretty special.

Music Festival

9. Bumbershoot, Washington

There is no better way to end off your summer than heading to Seattle Washington for this three-day festival that not only features world-class musicians but also comedians, theater, and literature. This festival is well-loved across all borders and has become one of the biggest contemporary festivals in North America. What makes this festival even more unique is its focus on family and kids. Starting with free admission for kids six years of age and under followed by a kid’s only festival called Youngershoot that happens within the confines of the festival; it is truly all inclusive. Main stage acts have included BASSNECTAR, Tegan and Sara and Ellie Goulding. Along with those more popular acts come intimate tiny concerts for true fans. For 45 years this music and cultural festival has been evolving and growing, promising to continue as one of the most sought after festivals in America.

Photo by: Bumbershoot
Photo by: Bumbershoot

8. Lollapalooza, Illinois

It is a festival with a lot of history, change and promises two days of music from famous artists to new and emerging bands and musicians. Back in its early days Lollapalooza was compared to Woodstock for its counter-culture vibe with activities such as shaving your head, smashing a TV and getting a tattoo. It has evolved over the years into a festival where kids are welcome and celebrated, Chicago’s best food is put on display and remains true to its dedication to sustainability and supporting young and emerging artists. What it hasn’t lost is its true dedication to amazing musicians and giving fans the opportunity to see them in action. Bands such as Metallica, Nine Inch Nails, Foo Fighters, Imagine Dragons, Pearl Jam and more have graced the stages at Lollapalooza. Eight stages, an art market, plenty of food and drink, all set the stage for this epic festival in Chicago.

Photo by: Lollapalooza
Photo by: Lollapalooza

7. Firefly Music Festival, Delaware

Firefly broke into the music festival scene in 2012, with high ambitions to be the biggest music festival on the East Coast. Musical acts have included the Foo Fighters, Paul McCartney, Snoop Dogg, The Killers and more over the seven different stages. The festival is open to music fans of all ages and encourages participants to camp on the grounds offering numerous different options such as glamping, carefree camping and bring your own tent. One of the most unique options at this festival is The Thicket; an exclusive party experience hidden in the forest where participants pop on a pair of headphones and lose themselves in beats spun from the hottest DJ’s. Other popular attractions at this festival include a free arcade, the hammock hangout and The Pathway; a forest clearing that boasts unbelievable lighting displays after sunset.

Photo by: Firefly Music Festival
Photo by: Firefly Music Festival

6. Summerfest, Wisconsin

It is the longest running festival to make this list and also one of the most inexpensive at only $19 a day. It also happens to be the biggest, featuring 11 stages, over 800 acts and nearly a million festival goers. The array of musical talent that hits the stages here at Summerfest is unlike any other festival and has seen the likes of Stevie Wonder, The Rolling Stones, Keith Urban, Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars, Kings of Leon and more. Festival goers will have free admission to all of the shows with their one time admission ticket (with the exception of headlining acts) making this one affordable music festival! Besides trying to take in the amazing music, there are plenty of other activities here to keep any age group happy. Mini-golf, parades, zip-lining, playing in a splash pool, experimenting with instruments, climbing a rock wall and eating an array of food will certainly keep you occupied all day long.

Fun Festival

5. Coachella, California

Although this festival technically takes place in the spring, it is just far too large and popular to leave off of this list. Described as a musical playground for die-hard music fans, the desert of Southern California is transformed into a harmony of art, fun and music under the shining sun. This festival was started in 1999 and took a few years before becoming successful. Now Coachella is a two weekend long event featuring the likes of AC DC, Drake and many others. Think elaborate costumes, misting stations, WiFi, food booths, free water dispensers and one epic campground. Gigantic art installations are located throughout the grounds; many borrowed from the Burning Man Festival and create a magical landscape. This festival is always a sell-out so make sure to get your tickets early!

Photo by: Coachella
Photo by: Coachella

4. TomorrowWorld, Georgia

Hailing from Belgium, the mother festival of TomorrowWorld came to the forests of Chattahoochee Hills in 2013 and is quickly becoming America’s largest 21 and over festival. This electronic music festival features over 250 DJs across the three-day festival, in addition to dramatic stage designs, beautiful scenery, and a massive onsite camping community. The camping community is called ‘Dreamville’ and offers a festival camping experience unlike any other in America. Campers can expect a marketplace with multiple shops, food vendors, and experiences, several community centers and many other activities. Besides making extreme musical explorations and watching stages come to life, participants will have the opportunity to do yoga, take in a variety of workshops or play a game of Twister. Buy your tickets early, pack your camping gear and cooler full of food and get ready to experience a unique electronic music festival in the magical forests of the Chattahoochee Hills.

Photo by: TomorrowWorld
Photo by: TomorrowWorld

3. High Sierra Music Festival, California

Nature and good music take the center stage at the High Sierra Music Festival which takes place in the lightly populated wildlands of Northern California. This all inclusive, family friendly, nature loving, immersion into peace, happiness and never-ending music that reaches your soul is one of the most thoughtful and peaceful music festivals in America. The music here ranges from bluegrass to funk to reggae to jazz to electronic, and even throws in things like ‘newgrass’ and ‘country punk’. Along with the famous musicians that grace the stages, festival goers will find workshops, parades, games of kickball and even a magic foam tub. This festival has an emphasis on everything natural and organic and produces some of the most high quality festival food out there, along with a great selection of craft beers and wines. Prepare to release your inner hippie and transform yourself at this amazing music festival.

Summer Music Fest

2. Electric Forest, Michigan

This surreal electronic music festival brings Alice in Wonderland to life with its four day woodland dance fantasy vibe in a mystical location with an unbelievable lineup. Festival goers here can expect world-famous DJs, electronic acts, and jam bands; all located throughout an immersive, creative setting. The Sherwood Forest is the brains of this festival, offering a chill area throughout the day complete with art and hammocks. It is during the night hours though that this forest is transformed, into a sweaty all-night dance party complete with surprise performances, interactive art displays and extravagant lights. Camping is the choice for most of the festival goers here and the on-site lake provides the perfect place to cool off during the day. This is also one of the only electronic music festivals where kids are allowed. An experience unlike any other awaits fans at Electric Forest in Michigan.

Photo by: Electric Forest

1. Bonnaroo, Tennessee

This festival began with its focus on jam bands and folk rock and although has diversified greatly over the years, stays true to its roots and creates an unforgettable four day festival that is held in a 700-acre farm. It is attended by over 80,000 people who flock to this intimate venue to see artists such as The Black Keys, Pearl Jam, Paul McCartney, Kings of Leon, The Black Crowes and more. This festival is consistently sold out every year and despite the dust, heat and crowds that accompany it; it remains one of the best festivals in America, year after year. Besides music, festival goers will love the mini film festival in the cinema, the outstanding beer garden, the silent disco and the amazing southern grub. A festival that promises to be a laid-back, once in a lifetime opportunity is what Bonnaroo is truly about.

Christian Bertrand /
Christian Bertrand /

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