A Gypsy Guide to American Summer Music Festivals 2019

by Sasha Savinov
American summer music festivals

Updated for 2019

It’s getting harder and harder to imagine, but there was once a time where there wasn’t at least one summer music festival going on every weekend. These days, it seems as if festival season never really ends.

From destination festivals at resorts in Mexico to city festivals smack-dab in the middle of places like Chicago and San Francisco, festival goers have never had so many choices throughout the year. During the summer, you’ve got multiple options for each and every weekend.

To help you sift through the seemingly never-ending list of festivals, we’ve assembled this brief guide to American summer music festivals. We’ve chosen one festival for each weekend of the summer, from Memorial Day all the way to Labor Day. Get the important details and choose the festival (or five) that’s the best for you.

Summer Camp

summer music festivals

SCamp is a great way to kick off the summer.

  • Dates: May 23-26
  • Location: Three Sisters Park, Chillicothe, IL
  • Tickets: 3-day pass $240, pre-party pass $45, Sunday only $75
  • VIP Upgrades: Several options ranging from $275-$1,200
  • Volunteer Program: Available, but must sign up by May 1st.
  • Camping: Yes, but not car camping. RV options are available for purchase as well.
  • Headliners: moe., Umphrey’s McGee, Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals, STS9, Zeds Dead, Big Gigantic

Now in its 19th year, Summer Camp is something of a legend in the festival world. Many fests have come and gone over the years, but Summer Camp is still going strong with an eye always to the future.

Perennial headliners moe. and Umphrey’s McGee each deliver three shows over the weekend, with a lineup rounded out with other jambands, bluegrass, and EDM. People will gripe about the lack of car camping and the extra cost and difficulty of late-night tickets, but this remains a stellar summer music festival choice.

We wrote about our experience last year at Summer Camp if you want to take a closer look. You can also read about what it’s like volunteering in our guest post for Festy GoNuts.

Check out our 2018 recap video!


Governor’s Ball

American summer music festivals

 

  • Dates: May 31 – June 2
  • Location: Randall’s Island, New York, NY
  • Tickets: 3-day pass $305, single day $115
  • VIP Upgrades: Single-day for $255, 3-day for $705
  • Volunteer Program: Yes – info coming soon.
  • Camping: No
  • Headliners: Tyler, the Creator, Lil Wayne, Florence the Machine, Major Lazer, The Strokes

Few American festivals can boast of a location as great as this one – an island in the East River that is situated between Manhattan, The Bronx, and Queens.

Along with its excellent space, Governor’s Island boasts a diverse lineup of music from just about any genre.

In addition to the music, they’ve got mini-golf, lawn games, and art installations. A lack of camping and the fact that it takes place in NYC makes it a costly endeavor, but this would be a great “vacation festival.”


Bonnaroo

summer music festivals

Ain’t no place I’d rather be!

  • Dates: June 13-16
  • Location: Great Stage Park, Manchester, TN
  • Tickets: 4-day $349, single day $190 w/ Nashville shuttle package
  • VIP Upgrades: VIP package for two for $1,650
  • Volunteer Program: Many volunteer options to choose from. Apply sooner than later.
  • Camping: Yes, with a $70 charge per car. RV passes and tent rentals are also available.
  • Headliners: Phish, Cardi B, Post Malone, Childish Gambino, Odesza, The Lumineers

When it comes to modern-day festivals, Bonnaroo is definitely an OG. This 4-day party in the middle of Tennessee has been drawing crowds of 70-90,000 every year since its founding back in 2002.

Once a very jam-centric festival, the ‘Roo now caters to fans of all genres. In addition to 150+ acts on ten stages, you can catch comedians, see a flick in the cinema tent, and take part in an interactive art installation, for starters.

It’s huge, crowded, and expensive, sure, but it’s one of the Kings of summer music festivals for a reason. We’ve been to Bonnaroo quite a few times and recommend you check it out at least once.

summer music festivals


Firefly Music Festival

Firefly music festival

 

  • Dates: June 20-23
  • Location: The Woodlands, Dover, DE
  • Tickets: GA weekend pass $319, Single day $129
  • VIP Upgrades:  weekend passes starting at $699, single day $269, VIP packages are also available
  • Volunteer Program: Yes! Head over to the WET website to sign up!
  • Camping: Yes, it’s included in the weekend GA pass
  • Headliners: Panic! At the Disco, Travis Scott, Post Malone

Set in lush, green woodland, Firefly takes place over 4 days featuring music from well-known headliners and emerging artists.

In its 8th year, Firefly has something to offer everyone including a brewery with local craft beers from Dogfish Head, a coffee house where you can sip a latte while listening to intimate, acoustic sets, a marketplace selling hand-made crafts, and gourmet food options.


Electric Forest

Electric Forest music festival

  • Dates: June 27-30
  • Location: Double JJ Resort, Rothbury, MI
  • Tickets: SOLD OUT for 2019 🙁
  • VIP Upgrades: Also sold out
  • Volunteer Program: Yes, for both weekends. Apply with the Work Exchange Team.
  • Camping: Yes – tent, RV, glamping, cabins, cabanas – you name it!
  • Headliners: String Cheese Incident, Odesza, Kygo, Bassnectar, Zeds Dead

The festival formerly known as Rothbury (where we met!) has been going strong as Electric Forest since 2011.

String Cheese Incident plays all 3 night with the rest of lineup rounded out with other EDM acts. If you’re not a fan of hula hoops and EDM, this might not be the festival for you. That being said, the Sherwood Forest and its decorations alone are worth the price of admission making it one of the most popular summer music festivals.


High Sierra Music Festival

High Sierra music festival

 

  • Dates: July 4-7
  • Location: Quincy, CA
  • Tickets: 4-day pass $290
  • VIP Upgrades: $825 to live the festy high life
  • Volunteer Program: Yes, with Clean Vibes.
  • Camping: Yes – included in ticket but vehicle costs extra. RV camping also available.
  • Headliners: Dispatch, Umphrey’s McGee, Greensky Bluegrass, Jim James

This classic jamband-heavy festival has been around since way back in 1991. It’s always on the 4th of July weekend, making it a great choice for your long, freedom-filled holiday.

Unlike some of its competition, High Sierra is very much a family-friendly fest. If you’ve got little w00ks in training, this is one of your best bets. We’ve never been, but have heard nothing but good things and definitely have it on our radar one of these years.


Levitate Music & Arts Festival

Levitate music festival

 

  • Dates: July 12-14
  • Location: Marshfield Fair Grounds, Marshfield, MA
  • Tickets: 3-day ticket $169, 2-day $139, single day $89
  • VIP Upgrades: 3-day ticket $379, 2-day $339, single day $189
  • Volunteer Program: Yes – they have a street team program. Apply here.
  • Camping: Off-site camping is available for purchase.
  • Headliners: Tedeschi Trucks Band, Nathaniel Rateliff & the Nightsweats, Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley, JRAD

Started by a local surf/skate shop in 2003, the Levitate Festival has grown to a 3-day event with camping for it’s 7th edition. It’s located just 30 minutes from Boston and definitely will have a grassroots/homegrown feel.

For city slickers in the northeast looking for a weekend getaway without a huge price tag, this looks like a great option. Plus, it’s definitely a down weekend for American summer music festivals, making this one an easy choice.


Camp Bisco

summer music festival

One of our favorites.

  • Dates: July 18-20
  • Location: Montage Mountain, Scranton, PA
  • Tickets: 3-day pass 2nd tier $250, 3rd tier $280
  • VIP Upgrades: 3-day starting at $510, also has travel packages through CID.
  • Volunteer Program: Information not available at the moment.
  • Camping: Yes, but not car and not included – $40 extra for the weekend. RV also available.
  • Headliners: Disco Biscuits, Bassnectar, Odesza, Tipper, STS9, Umphrey’s McGee

Camp Bisco has been blowing flat-bill hats sideways for many years, with the first one going down in 1999. It’s moved a few times over the years, most recently to Montage Mountain. Some will bitch and moan about the lack of car camping, but being able to rage in a wave pool during the Biscuits certainly makes up for that.

We both attended Camp a few times when it was in upstate New York but haven’t been to Montage yet. We do love us some Biscuits, though, so we’ll have to do it one of these years.


Floyd Fest

Floydfest music festival

  • Dates: July 24-28
  • Location: Floyd, VA
  • Tickets: 3-5 day options range from $1230-280, single days $95
  • VIP Upgrades: $875 for one or $1,575 for a pair
  • Volunteer Program: Yes – apply here.
  • Camping: Yes, but it costs extra. You can bundle with a ticket or buy individually.
  • Headliners: String Cheese Incident, Phil Lesh & the Terrapin Family Band, Kacey Musgraves, Brandi Carlile

Floyd Fest is a rare 5-day festy that has been around since 2002. It’s located in the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains and features multiple stages with an eclectic blend of music.

Thanks to its location, Floyd Fest also offers a variety of outdoor activities, such as kayaking, disc golf, or mountain biking. It might get lost in the melee of summer music festivals, but it looks like a damn good time and is high on our list.


Pickathon

Pickathon Music Festival summer music festival

 

  • Dates: August 1-4
  • Location: Pendarvis Farm, Happy Valley, OR (just outside of Portland)
  • Tickets: Weekend pass $325, Teens (13-16) $165; Single day $130-$160, Thursday passes available to weekend ticket holders $90
  • VIP Upgrades: No
  • Volunteer Program: Yes! Sign up here
  • Camping: Yes, there is tent camping in the woods
  • Headliners: Phil Lesh & The Terrapin Family Band, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, Khruangbin, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Tyler Childers

This is one of the newer summer music festivals. Nestled into the hills outside Portland, OR, Pickathon defines itself as a festival with a “lineup that pushes the boundaries of genre,” and I can definitely see that ringing true from this year’s schedule of bands both big and small.

They also have a strong focus on sustainability and discovery.  It’s the kind of festival where you come to find a new artist, a new band, and a new inspiration.

Each stage is beautifully designed to have a larger narrative and sets are carefully curated to play into that narrative and push the artists to greater creative heights. It honestly sounds really cool and I hope we can check it out someday! If you’re going to be in the Pacific Northwest at the beginning of August, you don’t want to miss this.


Lollapalooza

Summer Music Festivals

Grant Park lights up at night.

  • Dates: August 1-4
  • Location: Grant Park, Chicago, IL
  • Tickets: 4-day pass $340, single day passes $130
  • VIP Upgrades: 4-day $2,200, Single day $650
  • Volunteer Program: No.
  • Camping: Double no.
  • Headliners: Ariana Grade, Childish Gambino, Twenty One Pilots, The Strokes, Tame Impala

Lollapalooza was started back in 1991 by Perry Farrell of Jane’s Addiction and it continued as a touring festival until ’97. Eventually, it found a home in downtown Chicago, where it has remained since 2005. It’s one of the biggest summer music festivals, drawing big-name headliners and the crowds to match.

Hopefully you’ve got friends in Chicago like we do, otherwise, this adds up to one expensive weekend. If you can’t get into the festival all four days, there are tons of great late-night shows going on all over the city.


Peach Music Festival

Peach summer music festivals

 

  • Dates: July 25-28
  • Location: Montage Mountain, Scranton, PA
  • Tickets: 4-day GA currently $219 (will reach $309 eventually), 4-day reserved $399
  • VIP Upgrades: Currently $500 – will go up to $600. Travel packages also available through CID.
  • Volunteer Program: Not at this time.
  • Camping: Yes, but not car camping – $40 extra for the weekend. RV is also available.
  • Headliners: Phil Lesh & Friends, Trey Anastasio Band, The String Cheese Incident, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead

Montage Mountain is the only location we’re including twice on our list for this summer. That’s because it has a stellar lineup, a reasonable ticket price, and let’s not forget that waterpark!

If you want to check out a festival here but are not so into the untz, then Peach Music Festival will be more up your alley than Camp Bisco.


Lockn’

summer music festivals

Garcia’s Forest at Lockn’.

  • Dates: August 22-25
  • Location: Oak Ridge Farm, Arrington, VA
  • Tickets: 3-day $259, 4-day $289
  • VIP Upgrades: 4-day $949, 3-day VIP $899, Super VIP $2,099
  • Volunteer Program: No
  • Camping: Yes, but not included. Tent camping pass $99, car camping $169
  • Headliners: Bob Weir & Wolf Brothers, Trey Anastasio Band, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead

For the past few years, Lockn’ has been the summer music festival for the jam scene. It has consistently brought amazing lineups, never missing some element of the Grateful Dead.

Thanks to its innovative interlocking stage, the music flows throughout the day on the main stage. Late nights at the Blue Ridge Bowl and out in Garcia’s Forest are just the icing on the cake.

We volunteered in 2016 and had an amazing time. It was definitely one of the best festivals we’ve been to in years. Read all about our experience in our post over at Festy GoNuts.

Pick the Summer Music Festivals that are Right for You

We’ve focused on the larger festivals and the ones that are more jam-centric, but there are plenty of other options as well.

Those looking for a smaller, more local festival have more choices than ever these days. There are also plenty of summer music festivals geared towards one particular style of music rather than a mixed bag. Not surprisingly, EDM-heavy festivals are on the rise and are not hard to find.

There’s never been a better time to be a live music fan or a festival goer, so get out there and live it up this summer. We’ll be right there dancing beside you!

summer music festivals

Nothing like some Yonder Mountain String Band on a Sunday!

 

 

Which summer music festivals did we leave off the list that you’d recommend? Leave a comment and let us know!


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6 comments

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6 comments

Jo April 30, 2017 - 11:39 pm

I’ve never been a festival-goer, but I have to admit you do make it look like fun!

Reply
Sasha Savinov May 1, 2017 - 10:24 am

We love music festivals! They are one of those places where we truly feel at home.

Reply
Lavi April 27, 2017 - 11:12 pm

These music festivals look awesome! I’ve never been to any of them unfortunately – not yet at least!

Reply
Sasha Savinov May 1, 2017 - 10:23 am

Maybe this is the summer to check them out! We’ll be at Summer Camp and possibly one or two others. Let us know if you make it to any!

Reply
Andi April 27, 2017 - 10:02 pm

Looks like we need to road trip out of Montana this summer. Awesome list!! Thank you.

Reply
Sasha Savinov May 1, 2017 - 10:22 am

No problem! Glad we can inspire you to get out and see some music! Thanks for reading.

Reply

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