Best Music Festivals in the USA:: The portal of the largest rankings on the Internet!

Music festivals are one of those types of event that – unless you’ve actually been to one – you won’t really understand what all the hype is about. Once you have been to one… the chances are you’ll want to go to plenty more.

There are hundreds of music festivals each year in the US, and it can be tough to pick which ones to attend. To make the decision a whole lot easier, we’ve selected the no-doubt, 10 best options. The festivals we’ve chosen are a mix of large and small, and all of them offer a range of musical options (rather than being dedicated to a single genre).

Without further ado, here are the 10 best music festivals in the US.

The 10 Best Music Festivals in the US

Music festival
1 South by Southwest

(Austin, Texas)
There wasn’t really anywhere else we could have started.

Yes, South by Southwest (usually abbreviated to SXSW) is incredibly popular, but this is for a good reason: quite simply, it has an argument to being the best music festival in the entire country. We’d say that it’s definitely one of the most well-known, and – with over 160,000 people attending each year – it’s one of the biggest too.

Rather than its sheer size, however, what makes SXSW so great is its variety. There are some 2,000 acts performing there each year, covering every genre you can imagine. Not only that, but along with the music festival there are also film and interactive components running simultaneously, meaning this is a celebration of arts in general.

If you’ve never attended a music festival before, this is probably the best place you can start. Even if you’re a festival veteran, we’d still wager that you’ll be blown away by the size and scope of SXSW.

Dates: March
Location: Austin, Texas

Official Website:
2 Coachella

(Indio, California)
Along with South by Southwest, Coachella is undoubtedly the dominant music festival in the United States, in cultural terms. In fact, it’s even better attended than SXSW, with some 250,000 people partying in the California sun each year. Considering it’s not a particularly old festival, having only been founded in 1999, that’s a quite staggering success story.

What makes Coachella great? Again, we have to point to its diversity; a running theme in the festivals we’ll be looking at in this article. You can see some of the biggest acts in pop music here, sure, but it’s also an opportunity to catch the latest emerging acts, before they get their break.

Like SXSW, there’s more on offer here than just the music. Coachella is famous for its artwork, including giant, imaginative sculptures and art installations. The organizers also place a large emphasis on being environmentally-friendly, despite the size of their event; something which attendees gladly buy into as well.

It’s not the most “alternative” festival, but we firmly believe that everyone should got to Coachella at least once. If size and scale are important to you, this could well be the best music festival in America that you could attend.

Dates: April
Location: Indio, California

Official Website:
3 High Sierra Music Festival

(Quincy, California)
Both of the festivals we’ve looked at so far have been massive, in terms of both scale and cultural impact. It’s time to switch it up with a lesser-known event that still has a solid argument to being the best music festival in America.

The High Sierra Music Festival takes place in the scenic, mountainous area around Quincy, up in northern California. In terms of the actual music that’s played there, it’s an incredibly eclectic mix. The focus is on less popularized genres, like bluegrass, newgrass and jamband; but better-known (albeit not exactly mainstream) genres like funk and jazz are also represented here.

Between its beautiful setting, and the more easygoing nature of the music played (quite brilliantly) here, the High Sierra Music Festival is invariably a chilled and thoroughly enjoyable music festival. If you want to expose yourself to new types of music, or simply avoid the hustle and bustle of a festival like Coachella, this is an ideal choice.

Dates: July
Location: Quincy, California

Official Website:
4 Sasquatch

(George, Washington)
It’s not exactly controversial to say that the United States is a beautiful country. Many festival organizers have taken advantage of this beauty, setting their events amidst striking scenery to enhance the experience for their visitors.

Of all the festivals we’re looking at today though, Sasquatch might just have the loveliest backdrop of all. It’s set up in the Pacific Northwest – in Washington, specifically – with the simply stunning Colombia Gorge canyon in the background.

Of course, there’s plenty of great music to be enjoyed here too, across genres like alternative rock, indie rock and electronica. You won’t catch the very biggest names in music here, but plenty of well-known acts – like Bon Iver and Frank Ocean – are still in attendance each year.

Aside from all the music that’s going on, Sasquatch also offers daily yoga classes! Each day, at around lunchtime, people gather in one of the tents there for a big, guided yoga lesson to help them unwind.

Between its setting, its relative quietude and its focus on spiritual wellbeing, Sasquatch is one of the more relaxing, easygoing festivals on this list.

Dates: May
Location: George, Washington

Official Website:
5 Hangout

(Gulf Shores, Alabama)
The Hangout Music Festival – held on the beach in Gulf Shores, Alabama – has a fascinating backstory. It was started up by the owners of a local restaurant, also called Hangout, in 2009. Then, the very next year, the area was terribly affected by the infamous Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. Both the area, and the festival itself, hung right on in there, however, and now Hangout is an indisputable success.

When we say Hangout is held on the beach… it is literally right on the beach! You can build sandcastles, sunbathe or go swimming in the ocean, with the event’s main stage still only a few hundred yards away from you! The organizers make sure to take advantage of this fact by setting up volleyball courts, and arranging plenty of barbecues and beach-friendly competitive events (like a tug of war).

Given its fantastic location, it’s no surprise that Hangout also manages to attract some of the biggest names in music – like The Killers and Kendrick Lamar – each year.

For a completely different kind of beach holiday, head to Hangout!

Dates: May
Location: Gulf Shores, Alabama

Official Website:
6 Firefly

(Dover, Delaware)
The small state of Delaware might not be the most obvious setting for a big-time music festival… but that’s one of the reasons we included this festival on our list; to surprise you, dear reader!

Firefly Music Festival is set in the heart of Delaware’s lush, gorgeous woodlands, with the festival area covering about 105 acres in total. Despite being both famous and successful enough to attract acts such like The Arctic Monkeys and Eminem, this never feels like a big event.

That’s entirely down to the brilliance of the organizers, who have so skillfully integrated their event into the relaxed, natural surroundings. They’re proud of being an open-air music festival, and a significant percentage of the attendees choose to camp there across Firefly’s weekend-long running time. Firefly also works brilliantly in unison with residents of the local area, through initiatives like having a range of beers from local breweries on sale.

Historically, music festivals on the east coast have paled in comparison to those in the south and west of the country. It’s thanks to excellent events like Firefly that this perception is slowly but surely starting to shift.

Dates: June
Location: Dover, Delaware

Official Website:
7 Governors Ball

(Randall’s Island, New York City, New York)
We’re sticking with the east coast for our next entry, which is definitely one of the most famous festivals on this side of the country: the Governors Ball.

The Governors Ball Music Festival takes place on Randall’s Island, right between Brooklyn and Manhattan. That’s a pretty incredible location, straight off the bat, and it’s undoubtedly been one of the big reasons for this event’s success. Even though it only started in 2011, the Governors Ball already attracts some 150,000 attendees each year.

This is a big-time festival, not just in terms of the crowds, but also regarding the number of musical genres which it encompasses (all of them, basically). It should serve as no surprise that the organizers have no trouble attracting big acts too; Kings of Leon, Kendrick Lamar and Eminem are just a few examples from recent years.

The incredible scale of this event extends past the music. There are a huge variety of additional activities to do, in addition to simply taking in the performances, and some of New York’s most popular restaurants have food stands there to help fuel the attendees’ enjoyment.

Dates: June
Location: Randall’s Island, New York City, New York

Official Website:
8 Pitchfork

(Union Park, Chicago, Illinois)
Having looked at festivals in both Los Angeles and New York, it would be rude not to also give some love to the nation’s third-biggest city, Chicago.

Our selection isn’t the biggest music festival in the Windy City – Lollapalooza probably takes that accolade – but that event gets enough attention already. Instead, we want to give some love to a smaller, but just as enjoyable festival; Pitchfork.

The Pitchfork Music Festival takes place right in the heart of the city each year, in Union Park. It might not be as big as Lollapalooza, but it has still proved to be extremely successful since starting up in 2006, regularly attracting around 50,000 visitors. This festival is primarily focused on indie-rock, but still welcomes plenty of acts from a variety of other genres, including hip-hop, electronica and punk.

With only around 40 or so acts performing each year, Pitchfork is far from the biggest music festival we’ve looked at here. Sometimes it’s nice to go to a mid-sized event though, and – even if it is set in such a busy city – Pitchfork fits the bill for that perfectly.

Dates: July
Location: Union Park, Chicago, Illinois

Official Website:
9 Outside Lands

(San Francisco, California)
We’ve looked at music festivals set in some pretty cool locations so far, but this one deserves to be right at the top of the list in that category.

The Outside Lands Music Festival is set in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco. Whilst the park itself feels lovely and secluded from the hustle and bustle of the city around it, it’s still within a quick ride of the downtown area, and – of course – within walking distance of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge itself.

Oh, and the festival itself isn’t bad either. Outside Lands runs across a weekend, right in the heart of summer each year. Whilst, it attracts a hefty 200,000 visitors each year, it never feels too crowded or busy. Credit for that goes to both the wonderful location, and a great logistical job done by the organizers.

As for the music, you’ll find a good combination of big-time acts like Radiohead and Lana Del Ray, and up-and-coming musicians. Throw excellent food into the mix, and a commitment towards eco-friendliness, and Outside Lands becomes a challenger for best music festival in the USA.

Dates: August
Location: San Francisco, California

Official Website:
10 Essence

(New Orleans, Louisiana)
If there’s one city in the USA whose identity is more wrapped up in the music it produces than any other, we’d argue that it’s New Orleans. Jazz has certainly been one of the city’s most popular musical exports, but funk and hip hop have also had enormous roles to play as time has gone on.

Essence is the biggest music festival in New Orleans, and looks to represent all these genres and more. It is also, notably, a “party with a purpose”, which is to promote African American culture. This is done through both incredible musical performances and a variety of forums and seminars, covering all manner or important subjects. There are also valuable networking events, and even a large-scale craft market.

With such a worthy purpose, it won’t surprise you to learn that Essence attracts some of the biggest acts in African-American music. Mary J. Blige, Snoop Dogg and John Legend are just some of the musicians to have played here in recent years.

If it’s important to you than an event has a true message, rather than only being about musical enjoyment, then the Essence may be the best music festival in America for you.

Dates: July
Location: New Orleans, Louisiana

Official Website:

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Those are – in our opinion – the 10 best music festivals in the US. Of course, there are hundreds and hundreds to choose from, and the ones you’ll enjoy the most will depend on your own personal preferences, but these are 10 festivals where you’re almost guaranteed to have a great time.

Music festivals are obviously enormously popular in America nowadays, but this wasn’t always the case. So, how did we get to this point?

One event is more responsible for the explosive success of music festivals than any other. We’d say that it’s almost certainly the most famous festival held in any country, not just the US. The event we’re talking about is, of course, Woodstock. Since we’ve been investigating the topic so deeply, we thought it would be well worth looking at the festival that started a modern-day musical revolution.

Woodstock wasn’t the first big music festival held in the United States. That title goes to the Newport Jazz Festival, which took place on Rhode Island in 1954. The festival attracted 11,000 people; that doesn’t sound like too many, considering the numbers we’ve been looking at in this article, but – considering it was the first event of its kind – it’s really pretty impressive. At the very least, it showed there was absolutely an appetite for these types of events; something which entrepreneurs around the country soon took note of.

From this relatively humble beginning, the festival scene continued to expand rapidly throughout the fifties and sixties. New festivals sprung up across the breadth of the country. The Monterey International Pop Festival, in California – with its multitude of worldwide acts and variety of genres on offer – was probably the closest precursor to the types of festivals we know and love today.

This all built up to August 1969, which is when Woodstock was held. The location was a dairy farm in Bethel, New York. The organizers had actually only planned for 50,000 visitors… over 200,000 people bought tickets. They subsequently realized that their original allocated area was going to be far too small, and had to simply remove the fences around the event and allow anybody who wanted to attend inside. In the end, it is believed that over 500,000 people went to Woodstock.

That is an absolutely staggering number for a single weekend, even in this day and age. How in the world did Woodstock become so popular the first time it was ever held?

There are two major reasons.

Firstly, we simply can’t overlook the lineup. In an age where you couldn’t simply hop on YouTube and watch recorded live performances, actually attending a concert or festival in person was the only way to see a music act live. Visitors to Woodstock got to experience some of the biggest acts in the entire world in person, including Jimi Hendrix, The Grateful Dead and The Who.

Secondly, Woodstock was held at the perfect possible time. The sixties had been a contentious decade for many different reasons, where young people across the US actively protested and fought for their political views. Woodstock was a place where a huge amount of these people could come together, and make their strong beliefs known. It became a symbolic site for the “hippy” movement, and for the era of free love.

Through this confluence of an exceptional lineup and a charged political and cultural atmosphere, Woodstock has gone down as one of the most legendary music festivals ever held. In fact, we’d say it’s hard to see any other event supplanting it as the most famous festival in history.