Bucket List Worthy
Nothing says “summer” quite like music festivals. it’s the perfect way to celebrate the warm weather: hanging with friends and loved ones outside, and listening to some amazing jams. But with so many great events out there now to choose from, it can be difficult to know where to start. Have no fear: luckily, there is a music festival out there for anyone and everyone, whether you’re a rock n’ roll diehard, a blues and country lover, or a jazz aficionado. Or neither!
We’ve scoured North America to find the perfect pick for you. Maybe they have a stage that floats, spontaneous street performances, or they’re environmentally conscious—whatever their cool quirks may be, these blues, jazz, rock, folk, and country festivals all showcase both classic performers of the genre, and invite new performers that are putting a twist on the classics. Stay for one day, a weekend, or the entire week. Just be sure to have a blast at any of these communal celebrations of music.
Can’t decide between taking a beach vacation or attending a music festival? Well, now you don’t have to! Located in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, this outdoor country music fest lets you have your beach fun while listening to some twangy country tunes. Headliners this year include Toby Keith, Luke Bryan, and the Zac Brown Band.
Spanning 18 acres of the coast, the festival grounds include a boardwalk and three stages for your listening pleasure. There will never be a shortage of things for you to do here, whether it’s jamming out to music, watching the sun set on the beach, walking the boardwalk, riding a ferris wheel, eating some fair food from the concessions stands or even going on a Zip Line! Learn more on their website here.
You’ve probably seen houseboats, but how about a stage boat? Adding a unique touch to a typical concert performance, the Riverbend Festival in Tennessee boasts a barge that has been converted into a concert stage, and floats on the river while the acts perform. Fun for all ages, the Riverbend Festival offers a wide variety of performers from all music genres. They even have a special night just for blues performances.
And if you want a break from the music, street vendors are abound in the area surrounding the river, selling everything from food and drinks to arts and crafts! Even cooler? The Riverbend Festival has its own 5k and 10k! Known as the Riverbend Run and Walk, it takes place on the second day of the festival, and both families and longtime runners alike can participate. Find out more on the festival’s website here.
Are you ready to ROCK? If so, Montebello Rockfest is the place for you. Although it is the largest rock festival in Canada, Montebello Rockfest is held in the small town of Montebello, just outside of Ottawa and bordering the beautiful Outaouais River. With a population of just 900 people (and slightly more cows), this small town has become a headbangin’ party for the weekend every year since 2005. Feel free to come for one day or camp out on one of their on-site campgrounds to get the full magic of the experience. Come for their 13th year this year and see bands like Tenacious D and Weezer. To learn more and see the full line-up, visit their website here.
For fans of country music and California, we present you… the Country Summer Music Festival. Located in Santa Rosa, California, this is the biggest country music festival in Northern California. Not only are Florida Georgia Line and Toby Keith headlining, but Country Summer also offers shopping, food, and drinks galore, including a wine garden and Jack Daniel’s Saloon. And if you just can’t bring yourself to leave the festival grounds, you can stay on one of Country Summer’s campsites. Find out more on the festival’s website here.
Who doesn’t love free stuff? One of the biggest pros of the TD Toronto Jazz Festival is that they offer over 175 free shows! In its 32nd year and bringing in upwards of 500,000 concertgoers, this festival definitely knows what people want to hear. It has become known as one of North America’s premier jazz festivals, and attracts not only music lovers but some of the world’s jazz greats. Headliners this year include Seal and Herbie Hancock, but there are so many other artists to see as well. Spanning 10 days, attendees can come for one show or see every single one; with such low costs and such a variety of music, the sky’s the limit at this festival! Learn more on the festival’s website here.
The TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival is produced by the Coastal Jazz and Blues Society, a not-for-profit, charitable arts organization located in Vancouver. The Society’s goal is to both increase appreciation of all kinds of music, as well as strengthen the Vancouver arts community by exposing it to a wide range of musical offerings. Therefore, at the Vancouver International Jazz Festival, you’ll find a diverse range of low-cost (yes, that means many are NO cost) shows, from jazz to blues to improvised music. With indoor and outdoor stages and concert halls, this festival works hard to bring you a unique musical celebration of all styles. Learn more on the festival website here.
A weeklong celebration of all kinds of jazz, the TD Ottawa Jazz Festival has something for everyone. Performances run day and night in both indoor and outdoor venues, so it is impossible not to find a stage and a sound you’ll love. Running for over 30 years now, the festival has grown from showcasing only traditional jazz, to all kinds of styles and variations. The festival’s goal is to “make the arts inclusive in people’s everyday lives” through jazz. Find out more on their website here.
If you’re looking for the ultimate festival experience, look no further than the Ottawa RBC Bluesfest. Going far beyond blues music, this festival has hosted a wide variety of musicians and performers, ranging from Kanye West to Ray Charles to KISS to the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
If you want a break from the music, you can visit Bluesville, an onsite attraction that is open to all pass holders. Bluesville includes interactive art exhibitions, a carnival, and lots of greasy festival food stalls! And did we mention this festival lasts for two full weeks? The fun never has to stop! It’s no wonder this festival is ranked by Billboard Magazine as one of the top 10 most successful music festivals in North America. Learn more and buy tickets here.
The Tremblant International Blues Festival is a celebration of blues in all its forms, from its most pure to influences of soul, funk, country, rock, and much more. In its 25th year, the festival has always worked to be extremely accessible (most of the shows are free!) and to present their performances in unique ways. Think: street performances, random jam sessions, blues karaoke, and music workshops. And this year, they’ve added a “Family Fun Zone”, with tons of interactive activities like coloring, karaoke, dress-up, and crafts. This is a festival that is not to be missed by music lovers, families, and music-loving families! Learn more on the festival website here.
Contrary to what the name sounds like, Beaches International Jazz Festival is not held entirely on a beach, BUT that shouldn’t deter you from attending. There are many reasons Beaches is a unique festival, and one is that as the largest free jazz festival in North America, there are 1,000,000 attendees on average, and this year should be especially big since they are celebrating their 30th year!
All of the performances are held in different areas of the city, right on the street, so the entire festival feels like one big block party! They also offer free workshops, with topics like “Ukelele Jam” and “Duelling Pianos.” There’s even a “Beaches Jazz Run!” Oh, and did we mention it’s completely free? Get more info on the festival’s website here.
Located on the Pacific Coast of British Columbia in Vancouver, you could not ask for a more beautiful backdrop to listen to some beautiful music. Looking out over the Pacific Ocean, Jericho Beach Park becomes the concert venue of your dreams for three days of music ranging from folk to Cajun to blues to bluegrass. The festival not only offers stunning views and awesome tunes, but is environmentally friendly (no water bottles are sold on site, and attendees are encouraged to walk, bike, or take public transport to the festival) and offers an Artisan Market, Folk Bazaar, and kids corner aptly named “Little Folks Village”.
And in case that wasn’t enough, the festival is also making efforts to be helpful to the community: this year will be the fourth year of their Open Arms Initiative, which welcomes immigrants to the festival who are newly settled in Canada. Learn more on their website here.
Got a family of music lovers? Bring everyone to the Edmonton Folk Music Festival! Founded in 1980, the festival is a not-for-profit society that is described by both performers and attendees as one of the friendliest festivals around. Set up in beautiful and vibrant Gallagher Park in the city of Edmonton, this festival is the perfect backdrop to listen with friends and family to over 60 musicians and performers from folk and many other genres. Even better, you can attend the festival knowing that they are making a conscious effort to be as “green” as possible, which is quite hard when you’re hosting 20,000 people per day over a four-day period! Learn more on the festival’s website here.
A truly unique event, the Regina Folk Festival attracts an average of 35,000 visitors to the small town of Regina in the Saskatchewan region of Canada. Despite the large number of attendees, the festival feels like a cozy community, since they offer (free!) workshops on Saturday and Sunday that allow the artists in attendance to work together and create music with both each other and the audience.
Not only that, they offer a children’s area, parades to stretch your legs, a farmer’s market, multiple interactive art experiences, an arts market, and daytime and nighttime beer gardens. A family-friendly and in general fun time for anyone who wants a unique, friendly festival experience. Visit their website to learn more here.
If you’re a hardcore jazz fan, look no further than the San Jose Jazz Summer Fest. In its 29th year, this festival has a history of showcasing performers from a wide variety of genres, including jazz, blues, funk, R&B, salsa, hip-hop, and soul. Truly a global festival, musicians from all over the world put their spin on American jazz at this festival. Attracting tens of thousands of music lovers and offering more than 120 performances over the 3-day weekend, this festival is not to be missed by anyone who enjoys a wide variety of jazz music. And don’t forget about Salsa Stage, where couples can dance the salsa from noon until night! Find out more on the festival’s website here.
If you’re one of those people that always wants to impress your friends with trendy knowledge of up-and-coming things before they’re cool, then plan a trip to the Citadel Country Spirit USA! From the producers of Country Summer comes a three-day country music festival located in Chester County’s Brandywine Valley in Pennsylvania. This is the first year the festival is running, and they’re hoping it will be “the Mid-Atlantic region’s foremost annual country music festival.” Despite it being their first year, they’ve still managed to pull some pretty big country headliners, like Toby Keith and Brad Paisley.
It’s expected to attract 45,000 attendees total, so get your tickets now and see the first year of the festival so you can brag to your friends about how you were there first. Find out more about the festival’s inaugural year on their website here.