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The Best American Music Festivals

July 21st, 2016

There is no hotter trend in music right now than the music festival. Summer favorites from years past include Lollapalooza and the Newport Jazz Festival, but today’s events occur nearly all year long.

This year’s list of American music festivals includes longtime traditions such as the Newport Folk Festival, plus popular newcomers such as Firefly. Pack your bag and get your wallet handy, because here are our picks for the best annual music festivals in the U.S.


You can help keep Austin weird at this world-famous annual festival, South by Southwest, where the best new names mingle with chart toppers from all genres. Get an early start on summer and flee the cold northern temperatures when you hop a plane to Austin in March, where you’ll go from bar to venue to bar to check out an incredibly diverse scene with something for everyone.

Great food, great drinks and great tunes make SXSW your first stop for music festivals.

Beale Street

Memphis in May heats up with the Beale Street Music Festival, where you can groove to the diverse sounds of Ed Sheeran, Cage the Elephant, Ryan Adams, Lenny Kravitz and more. If you love eclectic and barbecue is your thing, there’s no better festival than Beale Street.


An Alabama music festival? Really? Absolutely! Visit gorgeous Gulf Shores and listen to headlining acts share the bill during an incredibly relaxed weekend. Last year’s Hangout included Foo Fighters, Skillrex, Beck, My Morning Jacket and other names too fun to mention. Catch some rays and groove southern-style at Hangout.

Governor’s Ball

If it’s early June in New York City, it must be the Governor’s Ball! Held on Randall’s Island, 2016’s lineup included The Strokes, Father Johnny Misty, The Killers, Kanye West, Courtney Barnett, Death Cab for Cutie, Gary Clark Jr. and tons more. Bring money for food, comfortable shoes and a love for mass transit, because Randall’s Island isn’t on the main island of Manhattan.

Newport Folk Festival

The Newport Folk Festival is an American summer tradition that’s also family-friendly, unlike many festivals (if not most). Take in the sounds by Narragansett Bay, enjoy a lobster roll and hear your favorite Father John Misty or Ray Lamontagne tunes. Best known as the place where Bob Dylan went live with an electric guitar for the first time — and where the crowd promptly booed him.

Desert Trip

Affectionately known as “Oldchella,” Desert Trip is the perfect way to welcome the fall. Scheduled for early October at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, California, a who’s who of rock and roll is on the bill. Names like Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Neil Young, The Who and Roger Waters plan to play full sets in 2016. True, tickets are a small fortune — a three-day general admission pass costs $399, and a pit pass is $1,599 — but where else can you see legends perform in one convenient location?

No matter which festival you choose, scope out accommodations first. Tickets will set you back, but travel will cost you a whole lot more.