Top 10 Best Music Festivals

Kinsey Blake Haynes
Pearl Jam at Jazz Fest

Music festivals are universal connectors, and audiences travel from the far corners of the world to attend these massive celebrations of community and entertainment. With so many choices available, it helps to narrow down those choices to the best festivals of all. This list contains festivals in a variety of musical genres, so there's bound to be something that appeals to your individual musical taste, your schedule, and your budget.

1. Lollapalooza

  • Where: Chicago, Illinois
  • When: First weekend in August
  • Cost: $275+ for the weekend

Created by Perry Farrell (frontman of Jane's Addiction), Lollapalooza started in 1991 with just nine bands on the bill. By 1992, the festival more than tripled in size and became a destination for alternative music fans around the world. Lollapalooza is also known for being one of the more organized current music festivals. It's easy to navigate, there are more food options, and it's generally more diverse. Highlights of past artists include Paul McCartney, Pearl Jam, AFI, Nine Inch Nails, Patti Smith, the Drive-By Truckers, and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers.

2. Shaky Knees

  • Where: Atlanta, Georgia
  • When: Second weekend in May
  • Cost: $200+ for the weekend

Shaky Knees is the newest festival on the list. Taking place in the heart of downtown Atlanta, this festival has continued to book a lineup that will appeal to all audiences. in 2016 headliners included Jane's Addiction, Huey Lewis & The News, and Florence + The Machine, and it has previously included Against Me!, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, The Strokes, The Avett Brothers, Ryan Adams, Jason Isbell, and Modest Mouse. In addition to the music, the food is what stands out for this festival. Each year, local and international vendors set up tents, trucks, and rolling carts to sell their specialty food. You have the option of popsicles from King of Pops, tacos from Tex's Tacos, coffee from Banjo Cold Brew, and fries from Fry Guy. There is truly something for everyone.

3. Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival

  • Where: Manchester, Tennessee
  • When: Second weekend in June
  • Cost: $330+ for standard four-day pass.

If you love summer, camping, music, then Bonnaroo is your festival. This option wrapped up its 15th year in 2016 with headliners Pearl Jam, Dead & Company, and LCD Soundsystem. It has also hosted some of the biggest names in music such as Elton John and Sir Paul McCartney. "Roo" is one of the best because of its consistency. Each year it continues to deliver the top acts in music. It also has artwork throughout the grounds that keeps your eyes as well as your ears entertained. Bonnaroo is not for the faint of heart, though. It is a rigorous, four-day camping festival, and if you want to leave (and be able to re-enter), you need to leave on foot. Manchester, Tennessee is not a big city, and the closest store is a good distance away from the festival grounds.

4. CMA Music Festival

  • Where: Nashville, Tennessee
  • When: Second weekend in June
  • Cost: Free/$200+

The Country Music Association music festival is held in downtown Nashville every year. What makes this festival one of the best is the price: all the morning and afternoon performances around downtown are FREE. Attendees can roam as they wish and see all the biggest and upcoming names in country music. The nightly, ticketed line-up at the Tennessee Titans Stadium, has hosted Eric Church, Miranda Lambert, Thomas Rhett, Charlie Daniels, Chris Stapleton, and numerous other big names in country music. While it is in the middle of the June heat, there are plenty of opportunities to cool down in some of the local businesses and grab a drink.

5. New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

  • Where: New Orleans, Louisiana
  • When: Late April and early May
  • Cost: $65+

Jazz Fest is the most diverse festival on the list. The title can be a bit deceiving because not all the performers are in the jazz genre. Pearl Jam, the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Van Morrison, and Stevie Wonder were all headliners in 2016. Jazz Fest has also hosted The Who, Elton John, Jimmy Buffett, Ed Sheeran, Arcade Fire, and a number of local New Orleans jazz musicians. The traditional food is another reason it is one of the best. Cajun-style offerings like po-boys, muffulettas, and crawfish abound throughout the festival for attendees from all over the world to enjoy.

6. Austin City Limits

  • Where: Austin, Texas
  • When: First two weekends in October
  • Cost: $200+ for both weekends

Austin City Limits is the first festival after the initial summer rush, offering a more laid-back vibe. Austin, Texas has become one of the newer hubs for music, and the festival is named after the popular PBS TV show. Past artists include Pearl Jam, Kanye West, Drake, Damian Marley, and Eminem. The festival has even been known to start new trends for clothing.

7. Rock On The Range

  • Where: Columbus, Ohio
  • When: May
  • Cost: $135+

Rock On The Range is a festival that gives new rock bands a chance to perform in front of almost 40,000 people. While larger bands such as Judas Priest, Disturbed, and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers have headlined the festival, smaller bands like Highly Suspect, From Ashes To New, Red Sun Rising, and The Struts have all gained exposure from playing there too. Since the festival is held in May in Ohio, the summer heat has not quite set in yet, so it is pleasant to be outside all day. Bands also host random meet and greets at different booths of the festival for the ultimate fan experience.

8. Warped Tour

  • Where: Nationwide
  • When: June-August
  • Cost: $40

Warped Tour is the biggest travelling music festival (and the only travelling festival on this list). All summer, 100+ bands go from state to state, playing to crowds of thousands. Warped Tour is geared toward a younger demographic. It gives kids an outlet to escape for a day. The sounds of Warped Tour include punk, rock, rap, screamo, ska, and (sometimes) country. Huge bands and artists like Katy Perry, Paramore, Avenged Sevenfold, AFI, Eminem, and Incubus have all performed on the tour right before their peaks of fame. Warped Tour also includes travelling non-profit organizations with a multitude of different causes. To Write Love On Her Arms and The Keep-A-Breast Foundation are just two excellent examples, and it helps audiences get involved with new experiences.

9. Riot Fest

  • Where: Denver, Colorado and Chicago, Illinois
  • When: First and third weekends in September
  • Cost: $200 for three-day pass

Riot Fest is one of the last true punk rock festivals. It helps bridge the gap between mainstream punk bands, while also giving independent acts a chance to perform to bigger crowds as well. With its multiple locations, Riot Fest allows for Midwest and mountain/west coast fans to see their favorite bands when they perform. 2016 is shaping up to be the festival's biggest year yet. While it has hosted popular punk bands such as The Offspring, Blink 182, and Bob Mould, the 2016 lineup includes Morrisey and the Descendants. This is definitely not a festival to miss.

10. Voodoo Music + Arts Experience

  • Where: New Orleans, Louisiana
  • When: Halloween weekend
  • Cost: $140 for standard three-day ticket

Voodoo is always around Halloween. It is also the last major festival of the season and never disappoints with its line-up and its location. In New Orleans, Halloween is always celebrated on a higher caliber, making this a can't-miss opportunity for fun. Residents never miss a chance to dress-up. In addition to that, the line-up has included interesting bands such as Nine Inch Nails, Die Antwoord, Twenty-One Pilots, Pearl Jam, and Ozzy Osbourne.

A Music Festival to Suit Everyone

These are only several of the thousands of great festivals around the world. Whether you are interested in camping, local music, dressing up in costumes, or just getting away for a weekend, there is a music festival to match all needs.

Top 10 Best Music Festivals