In mid-April, you’ll start seeing photos of girls in peasant tops and guys in bro tanks, it’s the sign that it’s officially music festival season around the United States. My friends would tell you I can be a bit of a festival junky, one year I even made it to three. For me, these festivals are both about experiencing great music and also a unique way to travel and get to know a new region.
Nowadays, festival goers have developed high standards and for more than just quality lineups. Whether you are at Austin City Limits, Outside Lands (San Francisco) or BottleRock (Napa) you will find the culture and the food of that region permeating throughout the festival. Making your weekend festival about much more than just the music.
Festivals are competing around the country to create personal identities and the ones having success are bringing the city or the region into the festival. At BottleRock, they bring into the grounds much of what Napa has to offer including top wineries from the region, delicious local food and artists. San Francisco’s Outside Lands is doing the same where you can feel the same quirkiness of the city as the fog settles in including everything from local beers to local desserts. Austin stays true to itself with some of the best BBQ and tacos you can find around the city, as well as staying true to the motto of “Keep Austin Weird”.
Traveling Nine to Fiver’s Top Music Festival Tips
Check the Weather
The easiest way to ruin your festival experience is not being dressed for the weather. This might sound like a no-brainer but depending on the region and even the year this can drastically change. You could be at the first weekend of Coachella and be hailed on or two weeks later in the same location reach 104 at Stagecoach. It is also hilarious to watch out-of-towners dress for a desert festival in San Francisco as the fog rolls in and it drops to 50.
Make sure you know what to expect. If you should bring layers, if you need a heavy coat or instead a lot of sunblock.
Drink a lot of Water
Whether it is 104 in the Southern California Desert, 95 in Austin or 72 and sunny in Napa you are out and about and on your feet all day. Especially if you are drinking alcohol or participating in any other recreational activities, water can be your saving grace. Many festivals are now offering free water if you bring a reusable water bottle or at the least if you purchase the festival water bottle. It is a great souvenir and practical while you are there.
Do your research ahead of time and make sure you know what you need to bring and how you can get free water refills.
Download the App
Many of the festivals are producing very useful phone apps to use during the three days. While some are better than others they will at the least include a map of the festival, the lineup, what food and beverages are being offered and alerts for any cancellations or delays. When the Sunday of weekend two at Austin City Limits 2013 was canceled due to the rain the app was the first way they announced it.
Some apps have gotten even more advanced, allowing you to link up your personal lineup, or even be able to find where your Facebook friends are at the festival. It was both useful and entertaining at Outside Lands last year.
Things to Pack
A Lightweight Blanket – You can sit on wet grass, wrap up in if it’s cold, take your shoes off and dance on it, or use it as a pillow while resting between sets. Maybe I’m getting old but I’ve found it well worth carrying around.
Healthy Snacks – Bring things that won’t melt in the heat if that is a problem, these can help you save money but spending a little less on meals, and if they are healthy make you feel a little less guilty on that BBQ you’ll eat for dinner.
A Book – Part of festivals is waiting and relaxing for the next set or activity. Over three days you’ll see most everything the festival has to offer and sitting for an hour or so will feel nice. You might run into friends but even then I will pull out my kindle when we are waiting.
Explore the City
Come in or leave a few days after the festival if it’s in a place you haven’t explored much before. Cities like San Francisco and Austin have more than enough going on in the middle of the week to allow you a chance to get to know them. Also, if you don’t like a closing act one-night head out of the venue and do dinner at somewhere new. In the morning find great places to brunch. Go to a late night show in a local venue or grab drinks somewhere iconic for the city. Some travel planning resources that help you get some started.
Festivals can give you a great chance to get to know the personality of a city and what they have to offer, all while enjoying three days of great music.
Now Where To Go?
My Favorite Festival’s I’ve Been To
- Austin City Limits – Austin, Texas on Oct. 6-8 & Oct 13-15, 2017 (Tips on ACL)
- Outside Lands – San Francisco, California on Aug 11-13, 2017 (Tips for Outside Lands)
- BottleRock – Napa, California on May 26-28, 2017
- Stagecoach – Indio, California on Apr 28-30, 2017
The Ones I’m Dying to Try
- South By Southwest (SXSW) – Austin, Texas on March 9-18, 2018
- CMA Music Festival – Nashville, Tennessee on June 8-11, 2017
- Sasquatch – Quincy, Washington on May 26-28, 2017
- Bonnaroo – Manchester, Tennessee on June 8-11, 2017
- California Roots Festival – Monterey, California on May 26-28, 2017
Have you been to one of the many amazing music festivals around the U.S. yet? If so which ones have been your favorite and what tips do you recommend. Leave a comment below.