Osheaga Music and Arts Festival, Montreal
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32 Bucket-List Festivals for Every Music Fan

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Osheaga Music and Arts Festival, Montreal
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Noteworthy Events

More than a collection of concerts, music festivals are supposed to be an experience of their own. That's why the best ones are as much about the setting and social atmosphere as they are about the specific artists performing. Though lineups and attendance rates may change, these are a few of the music festivals putting on an inimitable event year after year that enthusiasts ought to experience at least once, based on online reviews and testimony from some of the music professionals and fans who have been before.

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Tomorrowland, Boom, Belgium
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Tomorrowland

Where: Boom, Belgium
When: July 19-21, 26-28, 2019
On the more mainstream side of Europe’s thriving electronic dance music (EDM) festival landscape, Tomorrowland offers 15 stages of internationally known DJs, confetti cannons, immersive interactive art installations, dancing till you drop, and some of the most elaborate stage sets and displays ever assembled. Tickets to the festival's two weekends typically sell out in minutes and also include accommodation at the adjacent pop-up village known as Dreamville.

Fuji Rock, Niigata Prefecture, Japan
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Fuji Rock

Where: Niigata Prefecture, Japan
When: July 26-28, 2019
Japan's largest outdoor music festival bills itself as "the cleanest festival in the world," attracting rock fans and alternative-types from both East and West with their eco-conscious approach and an array of accommodation options including traditional Japanese ryokans. It was originally held at the base of Mount Fuji, but now takes place at a high-elevation site on Mount Naeba requiring a cable car trip to reach it. Dragondola, the longest gondola lift in the world, takes festivalgoers even higher to the mountaintop overlook, while beautiful forested trails connect seven stages, which will this year feature acts such as Sia, The Cure, Death Cab for Cutie, and James Blake.

Dekmantel, Amsterdam, Netherlands
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Dekmantel

Where: Amsterdam, Netherlands
When: July 31-Aug. 4, 2019
Taking place in one of the city's most scenic landscaped parks, Dekmantel is a festival on the cutting-edge of international dance music trends, with a "choose-your-own-adventure" promising everything from jazz fusion to EBM, "electronic body music." The diverse lineups are complimented by one-of-a-kind stages like the Muziekgebouw architectural marvel/concert hall, plus onsite camping options with free ferry and shuttle transport.

Musikfest, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
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Musikfest

Where: Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
When: Aug. 1-11, 2019
Recently named the nation's number one music fest by USA Today, Musikfest boasts more than 500 performances on 16 stages across 11 days, earning it the title of America's largest non-gated and free-admission music festival. That doesn't stop them from landing at least one major headliner for each night, with this year's lineup including The Chainsmokers and Earth, Wind & Fire among others, while the onsite atmosphere and amenities like the "Festplatz" dining area emphasize the surrounding Lehigh Valley's historic German/Moravian roots.

Wilderness, Oxfordshire, U.K.
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Wilderness

Where: Oxfordshire, U.K.
When: Aug. 1-4, 2019
Wilderness is an annual three-day haven for an eclectic crowd of decked out hippies-at-heart in the English countryside. In addition to four stages of eclectic pop, rock, and electronic music, there's an emphasis on wellness with a lakeside spa and workshops covering everything from "rave yoga" to how to overcome toxic masculinity, plus a diverse roster of other visual or performing arts displays like stand-up comedy, a Miss Wilderness pageant, a Live Art Bistro, and even an attempt to break the Guinness World Record for largest spooning cuddle.

Osheaga Music and Arts Festival, Montreal
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Osheaga Music and Arts Festival

Where: Montreal
When: Aug. 2-4, 2019
This is Canada's most important indie music festival, which comes to dominate the Parc Jean-Drapeau just minutes from the downtown of one of North America's artsiest cities. Osheaga always culls together a lineup of acts both instantly recognizable and obscurely hip — this year's includes Childish Gambino, Hozier, Interpol, and Janelle Monae. As with all the best events, however, the festivities don't stop at live music, but include a village of art installations, a preceding "Music on Paper" exhibition, pop-ups of beloved local Quebecois restaurants, and play-spaces for kids and adults alike.

Boomtown Fair, Winchester, U.K.
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Boomtown Fair

Where: Winchester, U.K.
When: Aug. 7-11, 2019
This hedonistic celebration of all things techno (with some dub, reggae, punk and rockabilly thrown into the mix) sees a carnivalesque pop-up city overtake the Matterley Bowl country estate every August. It's made up of four main areas containing 14 districts, each with its own theatrical theme and at least one mainstage surrounded by more modest venues, secret passageways, interactive theater performances, Mad Max-esque vehicles, healing areas, and more. It's the kind of setting one can't plan for, just get lost in.

Sziget, Budapest, Hungary
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Sziget

Where: Budapest, Hungary
When: August 7-13, 2019
Translating to "island" in English, Sziget is one of Europe's biggest and best music festivals, taking over an entire island in the Danube River with 12 different stages devoted to international pop, rock, and alternative headliners like this year's slate including Ed Sheeran, Post Malone, and the Foo Fighters. But according to some, what really sets Sziget apart are the amenities and organization, cutting down on transportation issues and crowd gridlock. "As an American, I couldn't get over my shock of regular-priced food and alcohol, including pop-up grocery stores all over the island," says Laura DiBiase, digital marketing specialist for Perfect Gym Solutions. "People camp freely throughout the festival instead of designated areas. Since the stages are spread so liberally around the island, it's almost like different areas are different festivals altogether.

Way Out West, Gothenburg, Sweden
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Way Out West

Where: Gothenburg, Sweden
When: Aug. 8-10, 2019
Way Out West brings five stages of progressive-leaning pop music (this years' headliners include Solange, James Blake, and Julien Baker) to Gothenburg's Slottsskogen park from early afternoon to late night, after which the festivities continue at Stay Out West, with events happening throughout the city. In addition to insightful talks at the Hojden stage and dining options ranging from Michelin-starred restaurants to Scandinavian food trucks, Way Out West also ranks as Sweden's third-largest film festival, with up to 40 films screening around the city and within the festival grounds.

Defected Croatia, Tisno, Croatia
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Defected Croatia

Where: Tisno, Croatia
When: Aug. 8-13, 2019
Emma Pamley-Liddell, travel blogger at Journey of a Nomadic Family, points to Defected Croatia as a can't-miss music festival, but one that isn't exactly family-oriented. A "hedonistic escape" on the Adriatic coast, the intimate festival focuses on the party-enlivening house DJs and sensory overloading light shows of the Defected and Glitterbox labels. That lineup is supplemented by beachside mindfulness exercises in the morning and after-parties on boats and the famous Barbarella's nightclub going from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival, San Francisco
Josh Withers/Outside Lands

Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival

Where: San Francisco
When: Aug. 9-11, 2019
It's hard to beat Outside Lands when it comes to location, as Golden Gate Park offers urban access, natural environments, and hippie history all in one. The eclectic three-day festival strives to be all inclusive in terms of genre and generational relevance, with relative oldies like Paul Simon and blink 182 sharing a bill with Childish Gambino and The Lumineers. Elsewhere festival goers can attend stand-up comedy sets and talks, sip microbrews or Napa wine at Taste of the Bay Area, or even learn about California's newest cash crop at Grass Lands, which last year became the first cannabis-related exhibition at any major U.S. festival.

Psy-Fi Festival, Leeuwarden, Netherlands
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Psy-Fi Festival

Where: Leeuwarden, Netherlands
When: Aug. 28-Sept. 1, 2019
This is one of many great festival options for fans of the proliferating "psy-trance" scene, founded on psychedelic art, drug-use, and a diverse musical repertoire of trippy dance vibes. Psy-Fi has a leg-up over some of its competitor festivals (most of them in Europe) since psychedelic mushroom truffles are legal in the Netherlands, but it boasts many other unique draws as well, including the kaleidoscopic Artistry Plaza, the Sacred Island area for mind-expanding lectures and workshops, and a setting of beaches and forests to wander around in.

Goulash Disko Festival, Vis, Croatia
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Goulash Disko Festival

Where: Vis, Croatia
When: Sept. 11-15, 2019
In contrast to the rampant corporate sponsorship characterizing some events, this annual five-day festival is entirely crowdfunded and powered by the people. The musical acts on display reflect the concept of "goulash" as a diverse mélange of whatever ingredients are on hand, with musical genres and international subcultures from punk to trance assembling on a wooded Croatian island. Nick Galov, content manager at TechJury.net and a one-time attendee at Goulash, says the experience is vastly improved by this setting. "You can see the entire Milky Way as you sit on the beach," he says, "hearing new music and watching fire-performers and acrobats dancing into the night."

Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion, Bristol, Tennessee
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Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion

Where: Bristol, Tennessee
When: Sept. 20-22, 2019
An event made for American music traditionalists, this annual festival assembles a diverse roster of country artists in what's widely recognized as the genre's birthplace, where the first recordings of Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family that introduced country music to the mainstream were made in 1927. More than 130 acts (with past headliners including Langhorne Slim, Ralph Stanley, and the Avett Brothers) specializing in subgenres from Celtic to progressive bluegrass play on 20 stages across four historic blocks neighboring the Birthplace of Country Music Museum.

Lake of Stars, Mangochi, Malawi
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Lake of Stars

Where: Mangochi, Malawi
When: Sept. 27-29, 2019
There aren't many African music festivals outside of South Africa, making Lake of Stars a must-see for anyone interested in experiencing the full breadth of international music festivals. The three-day festival takes place on the continent's third-largest lake and attracts a blend of mostly African and European artists trending toward a wide range of genres including afro-pop, indie, electronic, and even spoken word poetry. Perhaps best of all, Lake of Stars benefits Malawi's natives, both by highlighting their culture for foreign visitors and generating more than $1 million for the local economy annually.

Austin City Limits, Austin, Texas
Sydney Gawlik/Austin City Limits

Austin City Limits

Where: Austin, Texas
When: Oct. 4-6, 11-13, 2019
Taking place in Zilker Metropolitan Park and broadcast to PBS stations across the nation since 1976, Austin City Limits is partly responsible for its hometown's reputation as "live music capital of the world." In contrast to the music and PR industry convention vibes of South by Southwest, this is a fan and family-friendly affair with a more diverse lineup of big-name and indie acts, as well as perhaps the most laid-back festival within any major U.S. city. "It's a chill environment, with people bringing their lawn chairs, blankets, and other items so that they have comfy areas to hang," says Liz Jeneault, vice president of marketing for the product-ranking site Faveable. "Their kids are often in tow, playing with toys as they dance to the musicians on stage. It's an event where everyone comes together for a good time."

Dirtybird Campout West, Waterford, California
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Dirtybird Campout West

Where: Waterford, California
When: Oct. 4-6, 2019
Here's a three-day festival that emphasizes the camping element almost as much as the music, harkening back to the communal, competitive spirit of summer camp for adults. Alongside two stages of hip-hop artists and electronic beatmakers, many of whom return year after year, campers are assigned to color-coded teams, play games, compete in scavenger hunts and talent shows, share campfire stories, paddleboard on the water, and even belt out their best at late-night karaoke.

Voodoo Music + Arts Experience, New Orleans
Charles Reagan Hackleman/Voodoo Music + Arts Experience

Voodoo Music + Arts Experience

Where: New Orleans
When: Oct. 25-27, 2019
It's no surprise this Halloween-adjacent event in perhaps America's most musical city stands out as "one of the U.S. festivals everyone should attend at least once," according to blogger Inma Gregorio of A World to Travel. On top of its location in New Orleans' centrally located City Park, this multi-genre fest stands up for its low admission cost (starting at $140) to see a slate of Coachella-worthy headliners like Guns N' Roses, Beck, Bassnectar, and The National for 2019. Visitors also shouldn't neglect the handcrafted marketplace stands and large-scale art installations, nor the world-class Cajun and creole cuisine on sale.

Magnetic Fields, Rajasthan, India
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Magnetic Fields

Where: Rajasthan, India
When: December
By all accounts a seamless blend of contemporary culture and Rajasthani heritage, Magnetic Fields is held annually in and around a 17th-century palace in the desert, with boutique camping and dedouin dens available over its three-day schedule. Local legends play alongside international electronic DJs and major Indian artists, while guests can also enjoy spontaneous secret parties, sunrise yoga sessions, stargazing workshops, fresh takes on culinary delicacies, and a "legendary treasure hunt."

Phish Fest, Various
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Phish Fest(s)

Where: Various, next edition in Cancun
When: Various/next edition Feb. 20-23, 2020
While most festivals span musical genres and subcultures, Vermont jam band Phish has spawned a subculture all its own, and this far-flung yet close-knit fan community periodically comes together for the band's own multi-day live affairs in various settings, from rural farmland to sparkling ocean shores. "Go to a Phish festival and you can expect incredible art installations, Ferris wheels," says Samantha Kohn, a communications manager and avowed Phish fan, "And you may even catch the band members driving around the festival grounds in a golf cart to show the fans a little love."

Vive Latino, Mexico City
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Vive Latino

Where: Mexico City
When: March
One of Mexico's biggest and best music festivals, Vive Latino reserves its spotlight for Spanish-speaking, mostly rock bands from throughout Latin America, both icons and up-and-comers. The two-day festival also features rappers, comedians, air guitar contests, art installations, and the Carpa Ambulante tent, founded by Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal to screen relevant music documentaries.

Golden Plains, Meredith, Australia
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Golden Plains

Where: Meredith, Australia
When: March
Less is more at this festival in rural meadowlands west of Melbourne, an independently organized throwback to the days before integrated corporate sponsorship. Having only one stage for performers minimizes festivalgoers' FOMO as well as giving the (mostly alternative) artists from near and far a better chance to shine. There's still no shortage of other ways to stay entertained, from numerous themed bars, the curated outdoor Ecoplex Cinema, and a pre-dawn ritual every morning called "Silence is Golden."

Lightning in a Bottle, Buena Vista Lake, California
Watchara Phomicinda/Lightning in a Bottle

Lightning in a Bottle

Where: Buena Vista Lake, California
When: May 20-25, 2020
This independent, eco-minded festival is a short-lived hippie mecca almost as much as a music festival, featuring wellness workshops, curated talks, meditation areas, and diverse cultural rituals in addition to the lineup of experimental, world music-influenced electro artists. One highlight is Grand Artique's Frontierville, a pop-up village complete with a working general store, trading post, schoolhouse, pickle shop, and more. Samantha Edwardes, account manager of &co. PR, elaborates, "The team of artists, set designers and carpenters not only build an impressive space filled with oddities, they also fill it with characters and bring the space alive."

Spoleto Festival USA, Charleston, South Carolina
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Spoleto Festival USA

Where: Charleston, South Carolina
When: May 22-June 7, 2020
Music enthusiasts seeking to break out of the pop music bubble will appreciate the focus on classical and chamber music at the 17-day Spoleto Festival USA, the American rendition of one of Italy's major arts festivals. Charleston's scenic core and wealth of historic venues make it a natural fit for such a cultural sensation, which typically attracts acrobatic and dance performers as well as the debuts of major new operas and plays.

Related: 19 Free or Cheap Things to Do in Charleston

Primavera Sound, Barcelona, Spain
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Primavera Sound

Where: Barcelona, Spain
When: June 4-6, 2020
This landmark European festival keeps growing in terms of attendance and scope, recently unveiling plans for 2020 to host renditions in Los Angeles and a mystery location as well as the pre-existing option in Porto, Portugal. Still, the original setting in Barcelona's Parc del Forum on the Balearic Sea are what helped this festival gain fame in the first place, along with an always-impressively diverse roster of major acts and reuniting old favorites — with indie rock icons Pavement already slated for next year.

W.C. Handy Blues and BBQ Festival, Henderson, Kentucky
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W.C. Handy Blues and BBQ Festival

Where: Henderson, Kentucky
When: June 17-20, 2020
For fans of the American South and Appalachia's rich musical heritage — not to mention its mouthwatering barbecue — festivals don't get much better than what's lovingly known as Handy Fest, named after local icon and "father of the blues" W.C. Handy. Taking place in an idyllic riverfront park, this entirely free festival, one of the nation's largest, assembles a diverse crowd spanning age ranges to enjoy original acts as well as throwback headliners such as Chicago Plays the Stones. "I can't say I'm inherently a blues fan, but this entertainment is top notch," attests Abby Dixon, executive director of the Henderson Tourist Commission. "There is something about the music, the venue framed by nature, and the laid-back feel of Henderson that moves you."

Rochester International Jazz Fest, Rochester, New York
Mike Liu/Rochester International Jazz Fest

Rochester International Jazz Fest

Where: Rochester, New York
When: June 19-27, 2020
This nine-day festival happens at 20 unique venues (some with entry fees, some free) throughout downtown Rochester, a historic urban core in the midst of revitalization and home to the prestigious Eastman School of Music. Already one of the largest jazz festivals on the planet, the Jazz Fest attracts 400,000 attendees and a full breadth of jazz-influenced acts including big names like Patti Labelle, Steve Martin, and Jeff Goldblum. According to Rochester native and travel blogger Chris Clemens of Exploring Upstate, "Any music fan wanting a stellar lineup of musical acts in an approachable urban setting would do well to visit Rochester at the end of June each year."

Secret Solstice, Reykjavik, Iceland
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Secret Solstice

Where: Reykjavik, Iceland
When: Around summer solstice (June 20 in 2020)
Those who make it to the world's northernmost capital city for this annual weekend of revelry are rewarded with endless sunlight over the solstice weekend. That means more time and energy for raving in glacier caves and lava tunnels, listening to some of the hottest hip-hop, rock, and electronica artists from around the world, and experiencing Icelandic culture during this momentous time of year in the Arctic Circle.

Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts, Somerset, U.K.
Charlie Raven/Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts

Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts

Where: Somerset, U.K.
When: June 24-28, 2020
The U.K.'s most iconic festival offers an experience as sprawling and diverse as its musical lineup, which blends arena-ready pop and hip-hop with EDM, reggae, folk, metal, and more. The performances get more informal and anarchic away from the central Pyramid Stage, while the inclusive focus also makes room for comedy, dance, circus, cabaret, political activism and other less-common performing events. "It welcomes everyone and there are plenty of families that attend," says travel blogger Emma Pamley-Liddell.

Electric Forest, Rothbury, Michigan
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Electric Forest

Where: Rothbury, Michigan
When: Last weekend in June
This four-day festival is held at the forested Double JJ Resort, where attendees can wander through the trees bedecked with art installations and hammocks in between marathoning jam bands and electronic DJ sets. Along with numerous onsite programs for personal artistic expression or intentional learning, Electric Forest also offers recyclable wood fiber cardboard tent accommodations and incentivizes guests to keep the forest clean and pick up after themselves to earn "EcoPoints," redeemable for exclusive prices at the Electricology Store.

Summerfest, Milwaukee
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Summerfest

Where: Milwaukee
When: Late June and early July
"For 11 days every summer, Henry Maier Festival Park is the place to be for all music fans," Travel Wisconsin representative Jessica Hamilton says of Summerfest, reportedly the world's largest music festival, predating even the original Woodstock and now featuring more than 800 diverse acts. Tickets grant access to 10 stages, while the biggest headliners like Bon Iver, Zac Brown Band, and Lionel Richie perform separate ticketed concerts at the American Family Insurance Amphitheater. The proximity to downtown Milwaukee, kid-friendly daytime activities, and a delicious roster of local food vendors come as bonuses.

Panorama, New York
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Panorama

Where: New York
When: n/a
Taking a break but hopefully to return in 2020, this genre-spanning festival put on by the same company behind Coachella usually takes place on Randall's Island, one of NYC's few fest-friendly sites, but Arielle, a Brooklynite music blogger at Not My Forte, says Panorama stands apart in everything from event layout to stage design. "All-genre festivals tend to be less exciting in the wow factor category than electronic festivals," she relates, "but last year I went into a sponsor building thinking I was getting a free water bottle and Macklemore was in there performing a DJ set for about 100 people. Completely unadvertised outside of that space. It was delightful." Other highlights from past years include a digital art and VR lab, an open-air DJ club, and of course, culinary highlights from the country's greatest food city.