Go find your LED sunglasses and sequin-bedazzled backpacks, folks: the summer festival scene is officially upon us. With events popping up in every state, the US traveler has plenty to choose from. Here’s our list of our favorite music festivals in unique destinations around the country.
Rothbury, Michigan, June 27–30
This psychedelic electronic music festival will bring out your inner woodland fairy. Located in the heart of a forest resort in Michigan, this event relies on the greenery to amplify the overall visual effects of its shows; be dazzled as lights swirl up and down the nearby trunks as your favorite DJ pumps out energizing beats all night long.
Lower Key Underwater Music Festival
Looe Key, Florida, July 6–7
When it comes to pure quirk-factor, this music festival wins. Established to draw attention to the preservation of the area’s reefs, the Underwater Music Festival is just that. Hundreds of boats head to the Lower Keys with submersible speakers in tow; the attendees don snorkels and/or scuba gear along with some fittingly water-friendly costumes and head below the waves to 'play' the music around them. Mermaids, pirates – they’re all here and they all somehow know how to play 'Yellow Submarine' underwater.
Under the Big Sky Music and Arts Festival
Whitefish, Montana, July 13–14
If you want a music festival AND wide open space, this is the one to put on your calendar. This folk and Americana festival takes place on the Big Mountain Ranch, which is only a 30-minute drive from one of the most epic North American nature reserves, Glacier National Park. Even getting to the festival can tick an ultimate travel experience off your list – Amtrak’s Empire Builder train arrives in Whitefish twice a day.
Black Rock City, Nevada, August 25–September 2
We know, we know, Burning Man isn’t technically a music festival, more of a giant art installation and social experiment. But we felt that excluding it from this list of fascinating event destinations was just plain wrong. The flattened, dusty Playa (as the desert is known), has become the iconic canvas for some of the US’s most mind-bending art installations. Performance artists, fire dancers, musicians and visual artists all take part in building the temporary city of Black Rock, and the experience culminates with the burning of a giant wooden effigy.
Moab Music Festival
Moab, Utah, August 26–September 12
This event should rank highly for anyone with a deep appreciation for classical music and geology. Festival-goers hike into the spectacular Arches National Park to listen to concerts held in the natural amphitheaters created by the Moab’s striking red rock formations. If you’ve ever wondered what it might be like to listen to Brahms on Mars, this is your chance.
Suwannee, Florida, October 26–28
Ready to get spooky? Head down to spend Halloween weekend at this atmospheric festival, which takes place in Suwannee Music Park among the extraterrestrial-looking cypresses and gnarled live oaks that twist and turn into the night sky like a bunch of arboreal specters. Large art installations dot the forest floor beneath hanging Spanish moss, and with all this around you, you can’t help but feel a bit supernatural yourself.
The festival location is also a short drive from several of Florida's crystal-clear natural springs, so make time for a refreshing dip after the festival concludes.
Heading to Europe this summer? Check out our list of the best music festivals.