Want to travel the world and hear some great bands at the same time? These seven summer music festivals offer excellent music and nearby sightseeing opportunities.
Summer is the height of the musical festival season—and that means you have the opportunity to check out some of the world’s most popular bands. Many top festivals are located near national parks or other tourist attractions, making them ideal spots to build an entire vacation around. Will this be the year that you rock it out at an iconic festival like Lollapalooza or jam out down under with thousands of Aussie music fans? Check out what each destination has to offer—then start packing your carry on (all you need to bring is a few tee-shirts, a pair of jeans…and a rockin’ attitude).
May 22-25, Barcelona, Spain
More than seven million tourists visit Barcelona every year, many drawn by the beaches and party atmosphere. Music lovers come for Primavera, which helps kick off summer music festival season in late May. The 2013 event features headliners like Fiona Apple, Phoenix and Blur, who perform over the course of four days at the Parc del Forum.
June 13-16, Manchester, TN
Bonnaroo is known for its creative hippie vibe and eclectic lineups featuring acts from rock to rap to country. Its Manchester, Tennessee location is less than a single day’s drive for folks from as far away as Chicago, New York City and Miami. Bonnaroo is an environmentally conscious camping festival, so bring your tent and a fully loaded gear bag. After the music ends, drive over to Great Smoky Mountains, the most-visited national park in America, which lies four hours east.
Splendour in the Grass
July (dates TBA), Byron Bay, Australia
Those considering an Australian vacation may want to plan their visit around Splendour in the Grass, which has hosted Coldplay, Kanye West and many other international superstars since its inception in 2001. July is the heart of winter Down Under, but daytime temperatures in this part of the country are comfortable, and the festival’s new home at North Byron Parklands is a short drive from numerous national parks.
August 2-4, Chicago
You can really get some bang for your tourist buck by attending Lollapalooza, because it’s held in downtown Chicago, surrounded by Windy City landmarks like Millennium Park, the Art Institute, and the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower. Despite its penchant for booking loud rock bands such as Pearl Jam, Foo Fighters, and Green Day, Lolla is the most kid-friendly of the major music festivals, with a sizable childrens’ area featuring face painting and games.
August 9-11, San Francisco
Another 2013 summer music festival that should be on any rock fan’s list is Outside Lands, which has featured Stevie Wonder, Neil Young and Metallica among its 2012 headliners. The event brings more than 70 artists to the beautiful setting of Golden Gate Park. Of course, you’ll want to stay a couple extra days to experience everything else San Francisco has to offer—take a wheeled bag to help you move through the city with ease.
August 31-September 2, Seattle
If you love music but don’t want to spend a weekend in scorching heat among tens of thousands of people, consider Bumbershoot, a smaller music fest in Seattle in early September. The weather is cooler, and so are the bands. The event typically curates an excellent lineup of acclaimed indie artists who haven’t yet reached multi-platinum status. And attending Bumbershoot means an opportunity to experience the wonders of the Pacific Northwest while you’re in the area.
Hardly Strictly Bluegrass
October 4 – 6, San Francisco
Not into the increasing commercialization of music festivals? Check out Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, a free jam fest held annually during the first weekend of October in Golden Gate Park. Because it’s subsidized by local venture capitalist Warren Hellman, you can enjoy bluegrass—plus tons of other performers from related genres—without commercial messaging getting in the way of the authenticity and fun. Past performers have included Emmylou Harris, Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder and Nick Lowe.
Scott Shetler is a freelance journalist and frequent traveler who enjoys national parks, urban nightlife, and everything in between. He blogs about his adventures at http://quirkytravelguy.com.