2016 Music Festivals Worth Traveling For
Music festivals are good—for the soul, for the mind, and for the spirit. This is a rare fact agreed upon by both millennials and baby boomers alike. In photographer Cheryl Dunn’s latest book, appropriately titled Festivals Are Good (released by Standard Press), Dunn recounts her many festival experiences through photos, from Woodstock ’94 to Bonnaroo and the Warped Tour in the early aughts. Dunn’s raw, gritty, and damningly fun look at music festivals around the world served up some major inspiration to search for the best music festivals on the planet—and which ones are worth traveling around the country (or across the globe) for this year.
There are the usual suspects of course—the high profile events that, in this day and age, seem to attract festivalgoers who are keener on dressing up for Instagram than getting lost in the actual music—think Coachella, Burning Man, SXSW, Ultra, and Glastonbury. While many of these festivals still serve up first-class musical entertainment (this year, legendary hard-rock band Guns N’ Roses will reunite after 20 years on Coachella’s main stage, and Glastonbury 2016’s lineup includes names such as Kanye West, the Foo Fighters, FKA Twigs and the Who), music festivals have become more of a spectacle than a unifying experience. What once consisted of shirtless, crowd surfing youths covered in mud has transformed into a fashionable experience, a place to see and be seen. Supermodel tribes, in $150 rain boots and designer denim cutoffs, rent caravans loaded with electricity and plush beds, or stay in the luxurious tents, pop-up hotels, and tent house suites provided by festivals like Coachella, in Black Rock City, Utah, and Glastonbury, in Somerset, England.
As Dunn says in her book, “To me these experiences are about the people you share them with, the kids crammed front and center who saved their money for a year to be there, the older fans sitting on tricked out lawn chairs whose friends think they are crazy for still going. The cross section of nerds, jocks, babes, stoners, hipsters, outcasts, letting it all hang out in unabashed glory, all sharing a common love of music. There is a collective transcendence that happens.” Sadly, that is not always the case today. High-profile festivals are notorious for charging sky-high prices (and, whilst there, charging festivalgoers in any way they can), and attracting crowds of models and young actresses, rather than the music-obsessives and die-hard groupies previous decades had seen. However, there are still a plethora of festivals spread out across the world where a piece of that “unabashed glory” and “collective transcendence” still exists—you just need to look a little harder (and maybe travel a little further) to experience them. We’ve done the work for you—so scroll through our gallery for the ultimate guide to music festivals worth traveling for.
Tomorrowland in Boom, Belgium
July 22-24, 2016
Probably the best-known electronic music festival in Europe—if not the world—Tomorrowland has somehow avoided the curse that festivals like Ultra and Electric Zoo suffered from, probably due to its remote location and irresistibly kitsch designs. Attendees stay in the campground, called Dreamville, where they can expect over-the-top stage sets (think: a musical circus on steroids). This year’s lineup is yet to be announced, but for those who love dancing, crowd surfing, fireworks, and confetti, you can be assured of a good—maybe too good—time.
Iceland Airwaves in Reykjavík, Iceland
October 31 to November 6, 2016
Iceland is one of the hottest destinations for travelers at the moment—blame the Northern Lights, the Blue Lagoon and Nordic cuisine. But Iceland Airwaves amps things up a notch in the country’s capital, by allowing mostly Icelandic (though sometimes international) artists to showcase the best of Scandinavian music.
Fuji Rock Festival in Yuzawa-cho, Niigata Prefecture, Japan
July 22-24, 2016
While not actually set near Mount Fuji, this rain-or-shine music festival (which also happens to be Japan’s largest) takes place amongst the mountains at Naeba Ski Resort, where festivalgoers can rent caravans, make camp, or stay at nearby hotels, ryokans, and minshukus. This year’s lineup has not yet been released, but last year, stars such as the Foo Fighters, Motörhead, Deadmau5 and FKA Twigs performed. Other highlights include a festival’s-eve opening party, over 30 international food stalls, the world’s longest gondola lift, and the rarest of festival amenties: clean toilets.
Sziget in Budapest, Hungary
August 10-17, 2016
Sziget—which translates into ‘island’ in Hungarian—is one of Europe’s largest festivals. It boasts multiple food stalls, a store, and even its own “ruin pubs,” which are local to Budapest. The festival is in some ways reminiscent of Burning Man, with its numerous art installations, but is set amongst a green island, surrounded by water instead of the harsh desert of Black Rock City. Balloons and seizure-inducing lights are aplenty, but with a lineup including David Guetta, such is to be expected. Other acts performing this year include Bloc Party, Sigur Rós, Muse, and M83. To get to the island, opt for the Sziget-Budapest City Pass, instead of trying to swim across the Danube River, like other attendees have done (and regretted) in the past.
Roskilde in Roskilde, Denmark
June 25 to July 2, 2016
This year, the Danish music festival will see the Syrian National Orchestra for Arabic Music perform—an occasion so unique, it’s worth the trip to the country alone. Another event that incorporates art, community, food, and architecture, Roskilde takes place in the city it's named after, and hosts a naked run—which is exactly what it sounds like. Stars on this year’s lineup include the newly reunited LCD Soundsystem, New Order, Wiz Khalifa, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. (For more on Scandinavian music festivals, read here.)
Benicàssim in Benicàssim, Spain
July 14-17, 2016
Touted as one of the best music festivals in Europe, this year’s Benicàssim lineup is hard to beat: Massive Attack, Kendrick Lamar, and the Chemical Brothers, are to perform, to name a few. Being in Spain, you can expect delicious food to be served, though it’s still worth taking some time away from the noise to venture into the city for fresh seafood, at restaurants like Les Barraques or Lindau. While camping is the preferred option at the festival (there is also the option of “glamping”) many attendees wind up catching some sandy sleep on the beach.
Sonar in Barcelona, Spain
June 16-18, 2016
Located in Barcelona, the Sonar Music Festival is one of the most advanced in Europe. This year’s festival will encompass art and technology, which makes it more of a cultural event than just a music festival. But music lovers shouldn't fret. This year’s lineup includes acts like New Order, Santigold, Laurent Garnier, and Ed Banger. If the food, architecture, and stunning surroundings aren’t enough to inspire a trip to Barcelona, let this year’s Sonar do that for you.
Exit in Novi Sad, Serbia
July 7-10, 2016
One of the best-known and most dynamic festival experiences in Europe, Exit, which was founded amongst a political movement driven by students, brings in big names from the rock, pop, and electronic worlds alike. We’re still waiting on the full lineup to be released, but headliners like Wiz Khalifa and Bastille have already been confirmed, and past acts include Guns N’ Roses, the White Stripes, the Arctic Monkeys, and Patti Smith. Set in the Petrovaradin Fortress, Exit has won various awards over the years, and remains one of the top music festivals worth traveling far—very far—to each year.
T in the Park in Perthshire, Scotland
July 8-10, 2016
“Camp, drink, and listen to good music in the Scottish countryside,” is what one T+L editor said of T in the Park, Scotland’s annual music festival, held at Strathallan Castle. While that pretty much sums up the weekend event, it remains spectacular, and completely worth making the journey for, due to its pristine surroundings, world-class performing acts, and diverse crowd. While the full lineup has yet to be announced, the Stone Roses and Disclosure are a few who have already been confirmed.
Festival d’été de Québec, Canada
July 7-17, 2016
300 events,10 stages,11 days; that’s what the Quebec City Summer Festival encompasses. The festival, which is held in the vastly underrated city of Quebec, combines family and adult entertainment, a parade, street performances, and more. This year, the festival is focusing on going “carbon neutral”—which you can read more about here. This year, headliners include the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sting, and Peter Gabriel. As if you needed another reason to go, an 11-day Festival Pass, which permits access to all the shows and headliners, will set you back less than $75. Don’t forget to explore the charming, European-inspired streets and feast on delicious French-Québécois cuisine while there.
Primavera Sound in Barcelona, Spain
June 2-4, 2016
While much has been made about Paris in the springtime, the City of Lights has nothing on Barcelona at that time of year. The warm weather ushers everyone out onto the streets, filling the outdoor cafés that line Las Ramblas. To take advantage of the weather, head to Primavera Sound for three days of music under the Spanish sun in the Parc del Forum. This year’s lineup is phenomenal with Radiohead, LCD Soundsystem, Sigur Ros, PJ Harvey, and many, many more playing sets alongside acts performing in Spanish, Catalan, and Portuguese. If you can’t get a ticket (it has been known to sell out quickly), you can still hear music as free concerts take over Barcelona’s parks in the weeks leading up to the festival.
Latitude in Southwold, England
July 14-17, 2016
Latitude Festival takes place in the English countryside each year, and while children of all ages are allowed admittance, certain areas remain off-limits due to nudity, swearing, and “unpredictable performances.” Colorful sheep have been known to roam the fields, where musical, cabaret, and comedic acts—as well as theatrical and literary performances—occur. Skip the high prices and A-list worshipping crowd at Glastonbury, and head to this quirky festival instead. 2016’s lineup will be announced soon, so be sure to check back for updates.
Mawazine in Rabat, Morocco
May 20-28, 2016
One of the lesser-known music festivals on this list, the unique Mawazine Festival—also called Rhythms of the World—features an eclectic lineup of both internationally renowned musicians, as well as local artists native to the pan-Arab and Moroccan music scene. But the festival isn’t just about music: street performances, art installations, workshops, and colloquies all occur. Rabat, the capital city where it’s held—which looks like it’s straight out of Game of Thrones—has much to explore, with traditional Islamic and modern architecture. It's Morocco’s political, cultural and economic hub, as well as one of the four Imperial Cities of Morocco.
New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in New Orleans, Louisiana
April 22 to May 1, 2016
There’s never a bad time to visit New Orleans—a city full of some of the best food, music, and history in the United States—but for jazz (and non-jazz) lovers alike, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival is an experience like none other. Perfect for a multi-generational family with varied interests, this year’s lineup includes classic artists like Stevie Wonder and rappers like Snoop Lion. What else can you expect? Mouthwatering Southern dishes, family-friendly arts and crafts, and performances by Neil Young, Lauryn Hill, Beck, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. While the festival is held at the Fair Grounds Race Course, the city’s famous French Quarter is only ten minutes away, so be sure to venture out and explore NoLa’s other charming neighborhoods. Not sure where to start? Check out actress Abigail Breslin's (Little Miss Sunshine, Scream Queens) New Orleans travel guide, here.
Meadows in the Mountains in Rhodopes Mountains, Bulgaria
June 10-13, 2016
Held in Bulgaria’s stunning Rhodopes Mountains, Meadows in the Mountains brings together up-and-coming artists and like-minded individuals for a three-day celebration of music, nature, and art. Yoga is practiced, faces are painted, and WiFi is nil. For those looking to get a little slice of Woodstock ’69, this may be as close as you can get. Plus, who else can really say they travelled to Bulgaria for a mountaintop love fest?
Beale Street Music Festival in Memphis, Tennessee
April 29 to May 1, 2016
Lenny Kravitz, Ed Sheeran, and the Pixies are just a few of the names who played at last year’s Beale Street Music Festival, and though this year’s lineup is yet to be released, we have a feeling that it well be just as epic as 2015’s. (Other past artists include Iggy Pop, BB King, Bob Dylan, MGMT, Lou Reed, and MGMT.) Part of Memphis in May, which lasts all month long, the festival also incorporates local artists, staying true to the city’s roots as a progressive musical destination. Have extra time? Stick around for the World Championship Barbeque Cooking Contest, which will be held from May 12 to 14.
Lollapalooza Brazil in São Paulo, Brazil
March 12-13, 2016
Eminem may not be the first artist you associate with Brazil, but he is headlining this year’s Lollapalooza music festival, taking place at the Interlagos Race Track in São Paulo. This year’s lineup also features Florence + the Machine, Mumford & Sons, Snoop Dogg, Tame Impala, Alabama Shakes, and many more. Still eager for a samba fix? Head to Samba Saturdays when live music takes over the city’s bars every Saturday. When you buy your plane ticket, make time for visits to the São Paulo Art Museum, eating in the city’s restaurants, and shopping in the outdoor markets that fill Avenida Paulista.
Austin City Limits in Austin, Texas
September 20 to October 2 and October 7-9, 2016
Nicknamed the ‘Live Music Capital of the World,’ Austin is well-known for its excellent and diverse music scene. SXSW, one of the country’s best-known festivals, is held in the city, but Austin City Limits is the festival that really stands out—something hard to do in a city of music. This year’s lineup includes top tier names like Drake, Disclosure, the Strokes, Florence + the Machine, and the Weeknd. But music isn’t the only thing to submerge yourself in while at ACL—local and international vendors serve up delicious food that appeals to carnivores, vegetarians, gluten sensitives, and sugar addicts alike. While there, don’t forget to venture out and explore the city’s music and culinary scene, too, at restaurants like Franklin BBQ and music venues like The Continental Club.
Vive Latino in Mexico City, Mexico
April 23-24, 2016
Head to Mexico City with 70,000 other music fans for one of Central America’s longest-running music festivals, Vive Latino. Founded in 1998, the massive festival, held in Mexico City’s Foro Sol stadium, focuses on Spanish language acts of all genres from rap to rock to more traditional Latin American musical fare. This year’s lineup includes acts like Ojo de Buey, Camila Moreno, Café Tacuba, and more. In addition to concerts, the festival also hosts dance, theater, and slam poetry performances and is run in conjunction with the Ambulante Documentary Film Festival, founded by Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal. It’s the perfect opportunity to explore Mexico City’s thriving arts, culture, and food scenes while enjoying an incredible soundtrack.
Sasquatch in Quincy, Washington
May 27-30, 2016
The sunsets at the annual Sasquatch Music Festival are almost as famous as the music. Set in the eastern stretch of the Columbia River Gorge, the festival site is carved out of the basalt rock that lines the Columbia River, which lazily rolls behind the main stage. It’s an idyllic setting to camp out and see some of the best bands in the world. This year’s musical headliners include The Cure, Florence + the Machine, Major Lazer, Alabama Shakes, Grimes, and a comedy lineup so good that it alone would be worth the two-hour drive from Seattle.
Beaches Brew in Marina di Ravenna, Italy
June 6-10, 2016
Dip your toes into the Adriatic Sea while listening to a lineup that reads like a who’s who of the indie rock world at Beaches Brew, the festival that combines sun, surf, and sound. This year’s festival features Sunns, Cate Le Bon, Car Seat Headrest, Destroyer, and Ty Segall playing against a backdrop of Ravenna’s perfect beaches and glittering ocean. Even better, the festival itself is free, so you can save your Euros for eating your way through Ravenna or nearby Bologna, the culinary capital of the region.
Sled Island in Calgary, Canada
June 22-26, 2016
Each year 300 bands, artists, comedians, and filmmakers descend on Calgary, Alberta for the annual Sled Island music and arts festival. The five-day festival takes over more than 30 venues across the city, giving attendees the chance to explore while listening to an incredible soundtrack. Now in its 10th year, Sled Island always puts together a thoughtful and eclectic show guided by guest curators. This year’s festivals will be curated by indie iconoclast Peaches, who is sure to craft a memorable lineup worth the trip from Banff—or anywhere else in the world.
Pickathon in Happy Valley, Oregon
Aug 5-7, 2016
If you’re looking for an authentic Portland experience, book a ticket to Pickathon, the three-day farm party set in the woods just outside the city. The eco-conscious festival is focused on sustainability (no plastic cups here!), art, community, and, of course, music. Pickathon prides itself on offering something for the whole family—not only are kids under 12 free, but they even have on-site camp for kids, meaning adults can kick back and enjoy the music while the kids have a blast. This year’s lineup includes indie rock darlings like Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, Yo La Tengo, Beach House, Julia Holter, and more.
Musicabana in Havana, Cuba
May 5-8, 2016
Havana, Cuba, was once the world’s leading city for music and dancing, and now, with newly relaxed travel restrictions for American tourists, our destination of the year is drawing even more visitors in with their unique music festival, Musicabana. Instead of hosting the typical rock-and-roll or pop star=studded lineup, Musicabana welcomes local and Carribbean-inspired musical acts such as Sean Paul, Ibeyi, and Carlinhos Brown. Don’t forget to explore the magical, old-world charm of Havana while you're there.
Flow Festival in Helsinki, Finland
August 12-14, 2016
Visiting the far North in summertime means bike rides, beaches, and outdoor music festivals. One of the best Nordic festivals around is set in an abandoned power plant near downtown Helsinki. Flow Festival features a carefully curated lineup of bands of all genres, including plenty of Finnish and Swedish options to add some local flavor. The site is decorated with art installations and has some of the best festival food around, highlighting Helsinki’s rise as a foodie destination. The proximity to the city means it’s easy to put in a day of sightseeing in Helsinki—or spend the day at the beach on one of the islands that dot the harbor—before heading to the festival site for the night.
Mariachi Festival of Guadalajara in Guadalajara, Mexico
August, dates TBD
In Mexico, mariachi is more than just music—it’s a symbol of national pride and culture. To celebrate the iconic music, each fall, mariachi lovers from around the globe head to Guadalajara, Mexico for a ten-day celebration of all things mariachi. Not only is the festival the site of the world’s largest mariachi competition, but there are also concerts, galas, rodeos, art exhibits, crafts, and even Catholic masses featuring mariachi music. It’s all topped off with a grand parade when Guadalajara’s streets are filled with mariachi on horseback, strolling musicians, women in traditional dress, and floats topped with charros (Mexican cowboys). In between concerts, visitors can hop on a train for tastings of the region's other famous export—tequila.