Vans Warped Tour
The Warped Tour is the only traveling festival on the list and, as such, is the largest of its kind in the nation. This festival, sponsored by skateboard shoe company Vans, traditionally has a punk rock or alternative atmosphere, though acts have diversified as the festival has grown. There is some controversy that the festival skews too young and thus rapidly changes lineups from year to year (losing some historical value); however, advertisers know their intended market and have kept prices extremely low compared to other festivals.
Summerfest bills itself as the world's largest music festival. Positioned along the Milwaukee lakefront and taking advantage of the sunny 4th of July weather, it's easy to see why that would be true. The 11-day festival will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2017 and is known for an eclectic array of headliners (from Britney Spears to Metallica) as well as comedy acts.
Napa Valley, California
One of the newest festivals on our list, BottleRock started off with rocky beginnings in 2013. Now under new producers, the event has managed to craft an interesting lineup of well-known and up-and-coming musicians. But the major talking point is the festival's location: Napa Valley. With 40 wine vendors from the surrounding area, that's something no other music festival can compete with.
Mulberry Mountain, Arkansas
Wakarusa is a multi-day music and camping festival near Ozark, Arkansas. Initially founded in 2004 in Kansas, the festival made the move to Arkansas in 2009. Visitors attend shows on top of Mulberry Mountain and camp out in the surrounding area in between performances. If the Great Outdoors aren't your thing, this might not be the festival for you. If you're a nature-lover, however, you'll be surrounded by many like-minded people.
Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
WE Fest is one of the largest and most prestigious country music festivals of the year, but you won't find it in the deep South. This festival along the banks of Lake Sallie in Minnesota. And it's a good thing too because the mild August summers make for the perfect weather to take advantage of any of the 9,000 available campsites over the course of WE's three days.
Voodoo Music Festival
New Orleans, Louisiana
It’s not hard to guess where Voodoo Fest calls home each Halloween. From humble beginnings in 1999, this festival has grown into a full-fledged three-day event, complete with four distinct stages: “Ritual,” “Flambeau,” “Carnival,” and “Le Plur.” Ritual focuses on more mainstream acts while Carnival features more indie entertainment. Flambeau houses the sounds of New Orleans, and Le Plur rounds out the list as home to electronic and bass-heavy acts.
Austin City Limits Festival
When it comes to Austin music festivals, some might think of Austin City Limits as the younger sibling, but it has a flavor all its own. This is partly due to Austin Eats, the food court of local vendors. Taking its cue from the venerated namesake TV series, ACL’s lineup features an eclectic array of artists. The unique feature, though, is that the festival covers two consecutive weekends with exactly the same lineups.
Chattahoochee Hills, Georgia
Widely billed as the world’s largest dance music festival, TomorrowWorld is the sister companion to Europe’s Tomorrowland. While the American version is still in its infancy (having just begun in 2013), TomorrowWorld is already drawing record attendances and having a substantial impact on the greater Atlanta economy.
Don’t let the name fool you; Riot Fest isn’t as harsh as the name seems. This festival, centered in Chicago, is mainly focused on punk rock and alternative musical acts. In recent years, however, the festival has created smaller branches in Denver and Toronto, as well as sponsor smaller club shows for up-and-coming artists. When other festivals have become too mainstream under corporate management, Riot Fest stands out for focusing on local Chicago talent.
Lollapalooza has had a rocky history over the years. Created in 1991, the festival was put on hold in 1997 and resurrected again in 2003. After its beginning struggles, Lollapalooza has now become one of the most popular festivals, not just in Chicago, but across the nation. It’s been so successful in recent years, in fact, that organizers have begun similarly branded festivals in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Germany. The past couple of years have seen surprise guests appear during sets (such as Rihanna’s cameo with Eminem in 2014). Who knows what this year will hold?
Newport Folk Festival
Newport, Rhode Island
The Newport Folk Festival is the mom-and-pop store of the nation’s major music festivals. Unlike the majority of other festivals owned by a single production company (think Live Nation, the parent company of Ticketmaster), the Newport Folk Festival is run by a non-profit board and backing foundation. Founded in 1959, the Folk Festival is known for bringing niche acts and genres into mainstream awareness.
Firefly Music Festival
Firefly Music Fest is an alternative music festival held in Delaware since 2012. Organizers wished to capture the outdoorsy camping feel of Bonnaroo but in a closer location for those living in the Northeast. Firefly also prides itself on environmentalism and sustainable practices by promoting a "leave no trace" policy for its campers and other attendees.
Bonnaroo is a young festival to have made the impact it has on the summer music scene. Founded in 2002, this festival brought the multi-day-camping style into vogue. Yearly attendance has skyrocketed to nearly 100,000 visitors, all while keeping a focus on sustainability. And festival goers won't find only music; there are also comedy acts, a mini water park, and communal art projects. No wonder the first year of Bonnaroo was named by Rolling Stone as one of the "50 Moments That Changed the History of Rock 'n' Roll."
Sasquatch! Music Festival
Sasquatch was also founded in 2002 out a desire for an outdoor music festival in the Pacific Northwest. The line-up tends to be very eclectic without a dominating genre. The most unique factor of Sasquatch, however, is the awe-inspiring location at the foothills of the Cascades overlooking the Columbia River. The hillside above the pavillion makes for the perfect venue with an incredible backdrop of views. And did you catch that city name? George. In the state of Washington. How could you not love that?
Kingston Downs, Georgia
CounterPoint is held in the sprawling area of Kingston Downs, Georgia, allowing this newly-minted festival some space to grow. What it lacks in history, Counterpoint makes up for inexperience. While many festivals maintain an age limit of 21, CounterPoint is an 18-and-up event. Though the line-up doesn't focus on a particular genre, it does lean heavily towards EDM acts.
Gulf Shores, Alabama
Hangout Fest may be one of the South's newest music festivals, but it's grown tremendously thanks in part to its beachside location. Gulf Shores may be known as a spring break destination, but the party really gets rocking in the middle of May with this alternative festival that has a tinge of country music. Grab your shades and sunscreen because you're in for some great Southern hospitality and seafood.
Beale Street Music Festival
Beale Street Music Festival is part of the larger celebration of Memphis in May, a month-long city-wide celebration of the beginning of summer. Beale Street's music festival usually occupies the month's first weekend and features an array of musicians, including some of music's biggest names and two stages dedicated completely to the city's blues tradition.
Coachella is the hipster/boho mecca and the father of destination regional music festivals. Held annually since 2001, the festival continually breaks attendance and grossing records from year to year. The most recent event was visited by over 550,000 people and grossed over $78 million. Coachella is also popular for celebrity attendees; Katy Perry and Justin Bieber both recently attended not as headliners, but as music lovers.
Ultra is the electronic music festival of the year, and there is no better location than sunny Miami. Attendance swelled dramatically during its initial years to a high of 300,000 in 2013. In recent years, however, the festival has come under increased scrutiny for attendee behavior and drug use, which rests partly on the club atmosphere of the event. If there's one thing for certain, though, it's that Ultra is one of the biggest parties of the year.
South by Southwest
South by Southwest is the granddaddy of all music festivals, having an economic impact of well over $200 million dollars for the city of Austin. It has branched out from being strictly music into film and tech conventions, as well. SXSW is well-known for being the place to find up-and-coming acts, but in recent years larger and larger well-known artists have begun putting on bigger shows. There really is something for everyone, and the festival has helped to contribute to the city's motto of "Keep Austin Weird."