10 Best US Cities for Music Festivals

posted by Laura Baker-Finch on February 06, 2014

  • ATLANTA, Georgia
  • AUSTIN, Texas
  • CHICAGO, Illinois
  • LOS ANGELES, California
  • MIAMI, Florida
  • NASHVILLE, Tennessee
  • NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana
  • NEW YORK CITY, New York
  • SAN FRANCISCO, California
  • SEATTLE, Washington
  • Photo: Streets of Austin During SXSW 2013 by Laura Baker-Finch

    It seems every city has its own music festival these days. Bet let's get real, some just do it better than others. Maybe there's something in the water that lets its residents churn out festivals like butter - whatever it is, these following ten cities stand out in the festival clutter, both in quality and quantity.

    We didn't want to make this a competition. Rather, we didn't know what criteria to use as judgement. So we ordered our slideshow harmlessly alphabetically - no one can argue with that.

    Does your city make the list?

  • ATLANTA, Georgia

    Photo: Music Midtown 2013 by Perry Julien for the festival

    Atlanta is rarely the first location that pops into your head when you think 'music festivals' and I'd be at a loss to describe clearly its current music scene. That being said, the city has a deeply rooted past in both Gospel and Country, yet was called "hip-hop's center of gravity" by the New York Times a mere four years ago. These elements, paired with neighboring Athens' college music scene, has created a unique music environment where more and more festivals are beginning to flourish. The city has even taken a step towards electronic music with TomorrowWorld opening just outside its borders.

    Music Midtown
    Atlanta Jazz Festival
    Shaky Knees Festival
    A3C Hip Hop Festival
    ONE MusicFest

  • AUSTIN, Texas

    Photo: SXSW 2013 by Laura Baker-Finch

    Whether you buy this Texas town holds the "World's Live Music Capitol" title or not, there's no disagreeing Austin hosts its fair share of music festivals. From the industry magnet that is SXSW to the fringe festivals that truly Keep Austin Weird, no festival season is complete without a stop over in ATX.

    South by Southwest
    Austin City Limits
    Austin Psych Fest
    Old Settler's Music Festival
    Fun Fun Fun Fest
    Austin Reggae Festival

  • CHICAGO, Illinois

    Photo: Lollapalooza 2013 by Ashley Garmon for the Festival

    Strictly avoided in the winter, outsiders flock to Chicago as if Deep Dish Pizza was actually good. But we all know their true reasoning.. The Windy City uses its parks for one purpose, and one purpose only (at least as far as we're concerned): festivals! From the head-banging Riot Fest, to the hipster-haven Pitchfork, to the new electronic fests popping up left and right, Chicago has a destination for all.

    North Coast Music Festival
    Spring Awakening
    Riot Fest
    Chicago Blues Festival
    EDC Chicago

  • LOS ANGELES, California

    Photo: FYF Fest 2013 by Laura Baker-Finch

    LA's festival scene can be explained in similar terms as our NYC entry (whoops, did we just give that one away?): musicians live there, the industry works there, and a big city has the space, the culture, and the demand. The City of Angels is far from just where Coachella attendees fly into and rent a car.

    Hard Summer
    FYF Fest
    Culture Collide
    Make Music Pasadena
    Sunset Strip

  • MIAMI, Florida

    Photo: WMC 2011 by Oliver Correa

    Warm weather year-round, beach-proximity, and a culture melting pot; there's no questioning why Miami is a favorite music festival organizers and fans. But there's a caveat, if you want to be Welcomed to Miami, you better like EDM. For the less neon fests, head slightly north for Tortuga.

    Winter Music Conference
    Art Basel
    9 Mile Festival

  • NASHVILLE, Tennessee

    Photo: Americana Music Festival 2013 by Karan Simpson for the festival

    To be honest, I've always thought Nashville to be lacking in the festival department. How can Music City only have two major festivals per year? Though I'm sure I'd be whistling a different tune if I was more into Country and Americana. Here's to Nashville, anyway.

    Americana Music Festival
    CMA Music Festival
    Southern Ground
    Rites of Spring

  • NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana

    Photo: Jazz Fest 2012 by Marjana Jaidi

    Festivals may not be this Southern city's main party draw (have you heard of a little gathering called Mardi Gras?), but many still make the trip for the festivals hosted throughout the year. Yet, honestly, no festival is needed to experience the music of this iconic city. As the birthplace of Jazz, and the home to scenes ranging from reggae to the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, music is everywhere. Just walk down Bourbon Street for a free concert day or night.

    Jazz Fest
    The BUKU Project
    French Quarter Festival

  • NEW YORK CITY, New York

    Photo: Electric Zoo 2012 by Natalie Freilich

    Sure NYC may not have as many sprawling field festivals or camping possibilities, but the city that never sleeps has plenty of in-venue festivals, conferences, and even a few site-specific events. Plus, it's New York Fucking City, where artists and music industry professionals either live or visit frequently.

    Live in New York but craving more open space? No need to fly south or to the deserts of the west, just drive upstate where Mysteryland and Electric Forest will give you your camping/nature fix.

    Electric Zoo
    Governors Ball
    EDC New York
    NYC Pop Fest
    Crossing Brooklyn Ferry

  • SAN FRANCISCO, California

    Photo: Outside Lands 2012 by Marjana Jaidi

    San Francisco's festival scene has recently transferred from a local secret (San Francisco Jazz Festival began in 1983) into a country-wide must-visit. Its cooler temperatures than SoCal provide a noticeably different vibe to their festivals, and the city's local cuisine makes for above-average festival feasts.

    Outside Lands
    Treasure Island
    San Francisco Jazz Festival
    Noise Pop
    Hardly Strictly Bluegrass

  • SEATTLE, Washington

    Photo: Bumbershoot 2013 by Kelsey Stoulil

    Seattlites don't let a little rain get them down. The cloudy motherland of grunge is a music festival mecca on par with its sunnier counterparts of nearby California. Seattle is no longer just for flannel-donning angst, festival genres range from electronic to rock, with a bourgeoning hip hop scene (Macklemore?) in the middle. Up for a drive? Sasquatch! is only a few short hours away.

    Capitol Hill Block Party
    City Arts
    Noise for the Needy

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    See Also:

    5 Reasons EDM Festivals Love Croatia
    7 Signs You're Too Old for Music Festivals
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