These are the best festivals in the US you’ll want to add to your bucket list. To make it easier to plan your year, we put them in the order of when they happen.
Festivals are an amazing way to experience something special among thousands of people and yet still have personal memories to take away.
As a shorty, festivals don’t tend to appeal to me especially if involves huge crowds and my face being smeared against sweaty backs.
This past year, however, we made a few exceptions, and I’ll have to admit that I can see why people find these shared experiences so magical.
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Last Updated: January 7, 2020
15 Best Festivals in the US to Add to Your Bucket List
1. Sundance Film Festival Utah
Park City, UT, map
WHEN: January 23 to February 2, 2020
Every January, Park City, Utah is filled with filmmakers, actors, and patrons at the largest independent film festival in the US. With many different awards being given, it has become one of the premier film festivals for both feature length and short films.
2. Mardi Gras, New Orleans LA
New Orleans, LA, map
WHEN: February 25, 2020
Mardi Gras falls on February 25 but there are events celebrating it throughout the month. The most popular time to visit New Orleans is the extended weekend before Mardi Gras so you can catch the parades and celebrations.
3. SXSW, Austin TX
Austin, TX 78746, map
WHEN: March 13-22, 2020
South by Southwest is an annual festival in mid-March that takes over the city of Austin, TX. It’s a film festival, conference, and music festival all in one. It focuses on up and coming music, films, and emerging technology.
4. International Cherry Blossom Festival, Macon GA
794 Cherry St, Macon, GA 31201, map
WHEN: March 27 to April 5, 2020
If you love Cherry Blossoms, head over to Macon, GA for the largest cherry blossom festival in the world celebrating love, beauty, and international friendship. With over 350,000 Yoshino cherry trees, the 10-day festival turns the city pink. There are also concerts, shopping, food, and more.
5. Coachella, Indio Ca
81800 51st Ave, Indio, CA 92201, map
WHEN: April 10-12 & 17-19, 2020
The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival is a massive annual music festival that draws some of the biggest and hottest names in music. It’s held over 2 weekends every year with the line up announced sometime in January with over 750k attendees.
6. New Orleans Jazz Fest, New Orleans LA
1751 Gentilly Blvd, New Orleans, LA 70119, map
WHEN: April 23-26 & April 30 to May 3, 2020
The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Fest is held in the middle of New Orleans, and it celebrates music, food (they have a “no carnival food” policy), and art of the area.
Beyond the official shows, many of the unaffiliated New Orleans nightclubs also have performers during the weekends.
7. EDC, Las Vegas
7000 Las Vegas Blvd N, Las Vegas, NV 89115, map
WHEN: May 15-17,2020
The Electric Daisy Carnival is the largest electronic dance music festival in North America. Every year, people flock to Las Vegas to hear their favorite electronic dance producers and DJs.
In addition to music, there are huge 3D structures, glow-in-the-dark environments, and LED-infused flora and fauna.
8. Lantern Floating Hawaii, O’AHU HI
1201 Ala Moana Blvd, Honolulu, HI 96814, map
WHEN: May 25, 2020
The Shinnyo Lantern Floating Hawaii is held every year on Memorial Day and brings roughly 50,000 people together on the south shore to honor loved ones.
It’s a beautiful event reflecting and remembering those who have gone before us while being surrounded by love and understanding of the community around you.
9. Governors Ball Music Festival, NYC
Randall’s Island Park, New York, NY, map
WHEN: June 5-7, 2020
The Governors Ball Music Festival is one of NYC’s most popular events every year. They typically have a great line up and it’s easy to get there from the city. Besides music, there are food stalls, brand activations, and more. We got to go last year while living in NYC.
Local Tip: Unfortunately, it’s common for it to rain that weekend, so prep some rain gear.
10. Bonnaroo Arts and Music Festival, Manchester TN
Great Stage Park, TN, map
WHEN: June 11-14, 2020
The Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival is held every year on a 700-acre farm in Manchester, Tennessee. Although it started with a focus on jam bands and folk rock, it now draws musicians from all genres to fill its impressive line up each year.
Beyond the music, there is food, experiences, art, and they continue to strive to become the greenest festival.
11. Electric Forest, Rothbury MI
5900 S Water Rd, Rothbury, MI 49452, map
WHEN: June 25-28, 2020
The Electric Forest Festival is a 4-day event focusing on electronic and jam bands and takes place at Double JJ Ranch. The natural beauty of the venue is amplified with colorful interactive installations while you camp, RV, rent a log cabin or home, or stay in a hotel on the festival grounds.
There’s also a 60,000 sq foot indoor water park, 18-hole golf course, and more.
12. Burning Man, Black Rock City NV
Black Rock Desert, Nevada, map
WHEN: August 30 to September 7, 2020
Imagine a temporary city built up in the desert with no traces of it 9 days later. Burning Man is one that’s harder to explain but started off as an art festival known for its massive temporary sculptures. It still has art, but you now it involves dance, yoga, creating, connecting and more.
We know people who attend annually who still can’t explain it in a concise way. All we know is that they love it, and they say it’s life-changing.
13. Rise Festival, Las Vegas NV
Sloan, NV 89054, map
WHEN: October 2-3, 2020
The RiSE Festival is the largest lantern release in the world. It happens in the Mojave Desert 25 miles south of Las Vegas. We attended this past year and ended up going both nights. It was truly a magical experience seeing so many lanterns release at the same time. They also have an amazing clean up crew that goes out to pick up all the lanterns afterward.
Pro Tip: Be patient when releasing your lantern. If you let it go too early, it will struggle to take off.
14. Austin City Limits, Austin TX
2220 Barton Springs Rd, Austin, TX 78746, map
WHEN: October 2-4 & 9-11, 2020
Austin City Limits is an annual music festival held over two weekends in Austin. With eight stages and a great line up, people fly in from all over the country to attend.
15. Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, ABQ NM
9401 Balloon Museum Dr NE, Albuquerque, NM 87113, map
WHEN: First full week of October (Oct 3-11, 2020). It’s an annual nine-day event.
WHY YOU SHOULD GO: The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is the largest balloon festival in the world with over 500 hot air balloons that fly each year. Last year we finally made it out to witness a mass ascension, and it was so beeeautiful! If you go up in a balloon, you also learn to appreciate the amount of work that goes into flying one.
We’ll put together a full guide to the festival soon.
Pro Tip: The largest mass ascensions happen during the first weekend, but it is also the most crowded time. Be sure to arrive early to enjoy the takeoffs.
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Map of The Best Festivals in the US
More Notable Festivals in the USA
- Lollapalooza, Chicago IL (July 20 to August 2, 2020)
- Pitchfork Music Festival, Chicago IL (July 17-19, 2020)
- Ultra Music Festival, Miami FL (March 20-22, 2020)
- Electric Zoo, New York, NY (August 28-30, 2020)
- Afropunk Fest, Brooklyn, NY (August 2020)
- Summerfest, Milwaukee WI (June 24 to July 5, 2020)
- Outside Lands Music Festival, San Francisco CA (August 7-9, 2020)
- Firefly Music Festival, Dover DE (June 2020)
- Hangout Fest, The Gulf Shores AL (May 15-17, 2020)
- Kaaboo Del Mar Festival, San Diego, CA (September 18-20, 2020)
- Taste of Chicago (July 8-12, 2020)
- New York City Wine and Food Festival (October 2020)
- Los Angeles Food and Wine Festival (TBA)
- Portland Dining Month (March 2020)
- Picklesburgh Festival (July 26-28, 2020)
- San Diego Food and Wine Festival (November 2020)
- Eat Drink SF (TBA)
- New Orleans Wine and Food Experience (March 18-22, 2020)
- Epcot International Food and Wine Festival (TBA)
- Hawaii Food and Wine Festival (October 2-25, 2020)
Essential Tips for Attending Festivals in the US
Each festival has its own set of tips, but we’ll go over some overall rules that we use in any group events.
- Dress in Layers. Festivals usually last all day (if not longer) and temperatures change. Layers help you adjust easily to stay comfortable.
- Stay Charged. Don’t let your phone die. We love this charger because we can charge both our phones at the same tie.
- Prepare for Any Weather. We’ve been at multiple festivals where it rained. If there’s a chance of rain, have a raincoat with you. This jacket is great for warmth and rain.
- Check the Rules Ahead of Time. Each festival will have rules for what you can bring in. Don’t get caught bringing something that’s not allowed.
- Get Tickets Early. The festivals we listed here are extremely popular and will sell out quickly. Sign up for newsletters to know when tickets go on sale.
- Arrive Early. No matter how organized a festival is, it still takes a lot of time to park with all the crowds.
What to Pack
Are there any missing from our list of best festivals in the US? Which ones are you hoping to go to next?
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Esther + Jacob
Esther and Jacob are the founders of Local Adventurer, which is one of the top 5 travel blogs in the US. They believe that adventure can be found both near and far and hope to inspire others to explore locally. They explore a new city in depth every year and currently base themselves in Las Vegas.
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