Summer Hits

18 Best U.S. Summer Music Festivals: From Bonnaroo to EDC (PHOTOS)

Jean Trinh rounds up the best music festivals in the U.S., with artists like Beyoncé and Nine Inch Nails.

Julie Jacobson/AP, Brian Spady/Spady Photography, Dave Martin/AP, Josh Edelson/ZUMA Press/Corbis

Julie Jacobson/AP, Brian Spady/Spady Photography, Dave Martin/AP, Josh Edelson/ZUMA Press/Corbis

The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in California and the Great GoogaMooga in New York were just warm-up acts for the summer music festivals that are gearing up across the country. Music-lovers will get to bob their heads to the tunes of the best artists in hip-hop, electronic, folk, and indie-rock in these large-scale productions, from fests like the Newport Folk to Rock the Bells and Electric Daisy Carnival, which feature artists like Kendrick Lamar, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Beyoncé, and Nine Inch Nails. Put on some sunscreen, pitch that tent, wear a fedora, and get ready for a rocking summer!

AP (3)

Hot 97’s Summer Jam

When: June 2


Where: East Rutherford, New Jersey


Details: Emcees will be trekking out to the Garden State for Hot 97’s Summer Jam to celebrate the hip-hop festival’s 20th anniversary. Heavy-hitters like Kendrick Lamar, 2Chainz, the Wu-Tang Clan, and A$AP Rocky are just a few of Summer Jam’s biggest acts.

Ilya S. Savenok/Getty

The Governors Ball Music Festival

When: June 7–9


Where: New York City


Details: Gov Ball—not to be confused with a sparkling political gala—boasts a three-day festival on Randall’s Island in the East River in Manhattan, bringing together a medley of genres from indie rock to electronic and hip-hop, including The xx, Kendrick Lamar, Pretty Lights, and Beach House as headliners. When festgoers need a break from the stage performers, they can don headphones for a “Silent Disco” party, play lawn games like a lifesize Connect Four, and bust out their best ping-pong moves.

Dave Martin/AP

Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival

When: June 13–16


Where: Manchester, Tennessee


Details: Rolling Stone called Bonnaroo “snob-free,” and others have compared it with Coachella, but with a better lineup. In its 12th year running, the music fest is held on a 700-acre farm in Tennessee, and gives musicgoers a chance to get down and dirty with a four-day camping-meets-music adventure. Although the festival began with a focus on jam bands, it now encompasses a wider range of music, with Mumford & Sons, Passion Pit, Paul McCartney, and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis at the helm. Bonnaroo holds an extra edge on other festivals by including a cinema tent, comedy theatre presented by IFC, and a 35-foot tropical slide.

Julie Jacobson/AP

Electric Daisy Carnival

When: June 21–23


Where: Las Vegas


Details: Keep calm and rave on. The Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC) could be summed up as a thumping electronic-music fest with a visual explosion of neon lights and fireworks (oh, the fireworks!). On the heels of the New York and Chicago legs of EDC, the upcoming fest will take place at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway and 345,000 people are expected at the event. Favorite DJs like Above & Beyond, Avicii, Major Lazer, and Eric Prydz will be spinning. A documentary on EDC 2013 is in the works, with the makers of the Justin Bieber and Katy Perry concert docs, as reported by the Los Angeles Times.

Rob Loud/Getty

Firefly Music Festival

When: June 21–23


Where: Dover, Delaware


Details: The Firefly Music Festival bills itself as the “East Coast’s Premier Music Experience” on its website. Similar to Bonnaroo, attendees will get the full camping and music experience in the fest’s second year. The three-day event has Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Vampire Weekend, and Foster the People headlining. Firefly is held in the Woodlands and provides some fun extracurricular entertainment like a vintage videogame arcade, an outdoor silent-movie theater, hammock hangouts, and a place to get a one-of-a-kind designed pair of TOMS.

Morry Gash/AP


When: July 26–30, July 2–7


Where: Milwaukee


Details: “The World’s Largest Music Festival” is Summerfest’s tagline and it’s true—the festival earned the title from Guinness World Records in 1999 and continues to do so. On the website, the fest boasts an event of 11 days, 11 stages, more than 800 acts, and nearly 900,000 attendees. Combining reggae, rock, R&B, and more, the 75-acre Summerfest has been in effect since the 1960s and is extremely affordable—costing only $60 for an 11-day Power Pass. The eclectic lineup includes Fun., Pitbull, New Kids on the Block, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and more.

Brian Spady/Spady Photography

Electric Forest

When: June 27–30


Where: Rothbury, Michigan


Details: Four days in the expansive Sherwood Forest, mixing jam bands with electronic music—like the String Cheese Incident (performing three times!), Pretty Lights, Passion Pit, and Empire of the Sun—makes for a unique experience. The nighttime vibe of Electric Forest is met with beaming light shows, and the daytime is filled with fun fixtures including a water park, a pop-up restaurant by Bravo’s Top Chef winner Hosea Rosenberg, a lake, horseback-riding course, and a golf course. More important, there are hammocks strung up between trees for some needed R&R.

Gerald Herbert/AP

Essence Festival

When: July 4–7


Where: New Orleans


Details: The Superdome in the Big Easy will be the hot locale for some big R&B and hip-hop talent over the July 4 weekend. The Essence Festival has been a tradition since 1995—this year dropping the word “music” from its title to signify the fest as more of an event—and this year’s stage is headlined by Beyoncé, Maxwell, Jill Scott, Solange, and Trey Songz.

Roger Kisby/Getty

Pitchfork Music Festival

When: July 19–21


Where: Chicago


Details: Since Pitchfork is the authority on music, their branded festival in the Windy City’s Union Park must be on the forefront of some of the best bands! Björk, R. Kelly, MIA, and Yo La Tengo will be taking charge of the stage, with Savages, Sky Ferreira, and others following suit. Like a chapter out of IFC’s Portlandia, between sets folks can burn some cash by browsing through records, concert posters, crafts, and indie books.

Douglas Mason/Getty

Newport Folk Festival

When: July 26–28


Where: Newport, Rhode Island


Details: It’s time to get folky! This veteran fest started back in 1959, and brings some of the best folk, blues, country, and folk rock to the forefront ... actually, the dock-front of Fort Adams State Park. Best of all, attendees can take a water ferry over to the event! A nice mix of old and contemporary folk artists, ticket buyers can expect to see acts like Feist, the Avett Brothers, Beck, the Lumineers, and Jim James.


What the Festival

When: July 26–28


Where: Wasco, Oregon


Details: NBC News deemed What the Festival (WTF) as the “Millennial Generation’s Woodstock.” Fittingly so, as the event is held on a cattle range and has aptly named locations within the event as “OMG Lounge” and “LOL Stage.” Teepee lounges, hookah lounges, workshops, and film screenings surround this event, which features electronic-music acts like A-Trak, Purity Ring, RJD2, and Yacht.

Sitthixay Ditthavong/Invision/AP


When: August 2–4


Where: Chicago


Details: Lollapalooza will be forever seen as an institution for rock-music festivals, and served as a moshing ground for alternative-music fans in its early days. Since its inception in 1991—originally formed as a farewell show for Perry Farrell’s former band, Jane’s Addiction—things have changed a bit, with a slightly tamer crowd and an expansive and eclectic mix of artists. The Cure, Nine Inch Nails, Ellie Goulding, and Lana Del Rey are just a sampling of the more than 130 acts at the three-day event held in Grant Park.

Brian Killian/WireImage/Getty

Electric Zoo

When: August 30–September 1


Where: New York City


Details: Electric Zoo is the East Coast’s ultimate summer electronic-music party, covering over 24 acres of grassy fields in the East River at Randall’s Island. This year, they’re celebrating their fifth anniversary with five stages of pounding goodness. Attendees can enjoy some major laser shows, costumed folks, and the likes of internationally famed acts like Armin Van Buuren, Tiësto, Boys Noize, and Steve Aoki.

Paul R. Giunta/Corbis

Outside Lands

When: August 9–11


Where: San Francisco


Details: One thing’s for sure: you won’t get carny food at this festival. Outside Lands adds a touch of class to its rock music festival, making beer, wine, and delicious foods—from lamb poutine to BBQ shrimp and creamy grits—as the major focus of the event alongside the stellar lineup. A festival for the city folk, there isn’t any camping on site and the last show ends relatively early, getting attendees to explore the city in the evenings. The lineup includes Vampire Weekend, Kaskade, Paul McCartney, Nine Inch Nails, and Phoenix.

Tim Mosenfelder/Getty

Rock the Bells

When: September 7–October 5


Where: San Bernardino, California; Mountain View, California; Washington, D.C.; and Rutherford, New Jersey


Details: Remember the Tupac resurrection at Coachella last year? Rock the Bells is following suit with their own Ol’ Dirty Bastard and Eazy-E holograms on stage. In its 10th year running, the hip-hop fest will be having fans bobbing their heads to the tunes of the Wu-Tang Clan, Tyler the Creator, Common, Jurassic 5, and even a comeback from Juicy J!

Josh Edelson/ZUMA Press/Corbis

Burning Man

When: August 26–September 2


Where: Black Rock Desert, Nevada


Details: This weeklong mind-melding festival over a large, sprawling desert landscape isn’t for the faint of heart. Rules are thrown out the window at this fest, people are allowed to express themselves freely (nudity is a recurring theme), and everyone fends for themselves in this “commerce-free event,” as described on the Burning Man website. In a refreshing noncorporate environment, campers bring their own shelter and food, mutant vehicles and bikes for transportation, and barter for other necessities on site. The uniqueness and transformative nature of the event draws back droves of people from “burners” to conservative CEOs. A band or DJ lineup won’t be found anywhere on the website; musicians aren’t paid to play, so artists perform as they see fit. However, big-name DJs like Armin Van Buuren, Bassnectar, and Tiësto have been known to spin in the past.

Jim Bennett/Corbis


When: August 31–September 2


Where: Seattle


Details: The word “bumbershoot” is an amalgamation of “umbrella” and a changed spelling of the “-chute” in “parachute,” and the festival itself chose the name “as an umbrella for all of the various arts and performers it encompasses,” as written on the website. Covering 74 acres in the Seattle Center with more than 100,000 visitors, the music fest also includes comedy and theater alongside indie musical acts like MGMT, Crystal Castles, Icona Pop, Kendrick Lamar, and Fun.

Andrew Swartz/Corbis

Made in America

When: August 31–September 1


Where: Philadelphia


Details: Budweiser wants to make sure you have a good Labor Day Weekend ... at its second-annual Made in America fest in Philly. Like last year, Jay-Z is curating this event, bringing in an eclectic mix of artists like Beyoncé, Queens of the Stone Age, Imagine Dragons, Calvin Harris, and Wiz Khalifa to the stage. A documentary directed last year by Ron Howard (Arrested Development) on the festival will be released this summer.