10 Summer Music Festivals Not to Be Missed

It’s mid-December and we’re facing down a long winter, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be dreaming of summer, and making plans now to attend the biggest parties of the year. Summer music festivals are a tradition for many. They’re a great excuse to travel, try new things, let your hair down, and get out of the proverbial box for a long weekend.

Many of the biggest and best festivals sell out months in advance and a little prior planning can go a long way. Perhaps your grandmother is giving you a little money for Christmas, or perhaps your boss signed off on a little bonus for the holiday season. If so, now is a great time to buy your ticket, plan ahead and mark off the time on your calendar for your summer music escape.

Not sure where to go? We have a few ideas:


MF Bonaroo
Manchester, Tennessee, USA
June 9-12, 2016

Bonnaroo is a classic. With over 80,000 people attending, it sells out every single year. If you haven’t got your tickets already, do not wait, or the likelihood is that you won’t be going. Southern hospitality reigns supreme at this venue in Tennessee.

Because the property where it’s held has no neighbours, there is no curfew. What does that mean? Performances that run into the wee hours of the morning and after parties that rock until dawn. The downside: dust. It’s dry and hot in June.


MF Bumbershoot
Seattle, Washington, USA
September 2016

Personally, I love the name. Bumbershoot feels like multiple festivals happening at once.
Celebrating the arts, music, comedians, literature, pop-culture and more. The film portion of the festival screens over 100 films. So if you’re a flick-ophile, this is worth attending.

Yes, there’s music, but there are also some quirky and cool things on the menu, including scheduled zombie walks. The indie market outdoor mall provides plenty of opportunity to shop for handmade, locally made and otherwise cool stuff. Bumbershoot is pretty family friendly, and kids under 10 are free. If you’re looking for an eclectic summer party in the Pacific Northwest, this is it.

Burning Man

MF Burning Man
Black Rock, Nevada, USA
August 2016

At least once in your life, you should feel the Burn. It’s the ultimate art, music & culture festival. A city, purpose built, in the desert, from scratch, every year is a thing to behold. Sixty thousand people descend the week before Labor Day and arrange themselves into the camps that form the culture of Burning Man.

There are no spectators here. Come prepared to participate, dress up and create the experience together. Attend some of the, over two thousand, free classes on every conceivable topic. Burning Man is the ultimate grown up summer camp.

Chicago Blues Fest

MF Blues
Chicago, IL, USA
June 10-12, 2016

If you love the Blues, then this is your home for a few days in June. There are blues fests, and then there is the Chicago Blues Fest. With three days of outdoor concerts that are completely free, it’s a festival that’s in the spirit of the working man and the ethos of Blues.

This festival has maintained a fantastic mix of headliners who are the “greats” while fostering an environment for discovering the up and coming geniuses of the genre. The Chicago Blues fest is the largest of it’s genre and not to be missed, if you’re a Blues aficionado.


MF Coachella
Indio, California, USA
April 15-17, 2016
April 22-24, 2016

Coachella, in California, has quite a reputation as being the festival on the left coast if you’re looking for the synergy of art and music. With a reputation for being one of the best managed summer festivals, it falls two weekends in a row in April, this festival gives ample opportunity for fans to come out and rock.

You’ll find a good mix of big names and emerging artists at Coachella. The big art installations echo Burning Man and provide a stunning backdrop for a party that brings together the masses, from Hollywood stars to hipsters, to hippies, to… you?

What the Festival

Dufur, Oregon, USA
June 17-20, 2016

In the imposing shadow of Mount Hood, WTF blossoms each summer. If you were to imagine the perfect summer camp for grown ups, this festival would get close. With a wading pool the size of an ice rink, yoga in the forest, hookah lounges, interactive sculpture activities, vaudeville style comedy acts and light shows, What the Festival, is a feast for the senses.

Come prepared to camp, “leave no trace” style, and enjoy an intimate festival that caps admission at 5000 and aims for a small, boutique feel. One of initiatives worth celebrating at this fest is their eco-conscious ethic. Parking is free if you carpool with three or more people, recycling stations abound and their commitment to leaving no trace is firm.

70,000 Tons of Metal

MF Cruise
Miami, Florida, USA
February 4-8, 2016
On a cruise ship

This, my friends, is the world’s biggest heavy metal cruise. Imagine 2999 people on a cruise ship for five days of non-stop metal, karaoke ’til dawn. ROCK ON! The organizers of this fest work hard to make this cruise the ultimate fan-friendly environment. As such, there is no assigned seating, open access to all performances, and workshops with performers.

Did I mention that the bars never close? The cruise departs from Miami, Florida and stops in Jamaica before sailing back. The real party happens at sea on the in between. Buy your ticket, mingle with the Artists, and don’t miss the belly flop contest!

Sonar Stockholm

MF Stockholm
Stockholm, Sweden
February 26-27

Sonar bills itself as “International Festival of Advanced Music and Congress of Technology and Creativity.” If you’re into electronica, emerging talent and the blending of audio and visual arts then you’re likely to love this festival.

Committed to linking creativity and technology, this festival is dedicated to creating a space where ideas can be exchanged, and the art and business sides of the industry can meet, talk, and move forward. Of course, there’s also great music.

Donau Insel Fest

MF Donau
Vienna, Austria
June 24-26, 2016

They say that all of Vienna waltzes… which is true… except for one week in June when it rocks, and rocks hard. We rode our bicycled into Vienna completely unaware that the Donau Insel Fest was just beginning. Talk about the party to end all parties!

This music festival is Europe’s biggest open air event, and it’s completely free. During the day there are all sorts of booths and activities in a fair like atmosphere. When the sun goes down, the lights come up, and the crowds gather. Some years as many as 3 million visitors attend. If you’re in Europe in June, don’t miss it. Trust me!

Lake of Stars

MF Lake Malawi
Lake Malawi
September 30-October 2

It’s not just music: poetry, dance, theater, science, comedy, art, technology, stuff for kids, this festival is an extravaganza. One year, the tourism minister skydived in. Another year, a group performed in the trees.

Even though it only started in 2003, Lake of Stars has become the premiere African music festival on the international circuit. If you’re looking for an excuse to visit Malawi, this is a great one. Don’t stop at the festival, though, spend some time in this gorgeous country.

Do you have a favourite music festival? Tweet it to us @bootsnall.

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