This blog post was updated on June 15, 2023.
Nothing says summer quite like taking in major musical performances in the great outdoors. Summer musical festivals cloud the calendar throughout June, July, and August. All across the country, you can expect to hear the sweet sounds of these festivals, with genres ranging from hard rock to classical. However, there are a few summer music festivals you won’t want to miss. From the East Coast to the West, here are eight music festivals you will want to catch this summer.
Bonnaroo — Tennessee
Located just 60 miles outside of Nashville, Bonnaroo is easily one of the United States’ biggest music festivals. Lording over Manchester, Tennessee, the festival typically spans four days. Bonnaroo packs in the star power with musical performances by Elton John, Jack White, Lionel Richie, The Flaming Lips, and Lauren Hill just to name a few. Boasting of musical collaborations you just don’t see every day, Bonnaroo takes up 700 acres of Tennessee nature with 150 performances across more than 10 stages.
Summerfest — Wisconsin
If you want to get the most bang for your buck in terms of music festivals this summer, Summerfest in Milwaukee, Wisconsin fits the bill. Calling itself the world’s largest music festival, Summerfest includes 11 stages, over 800 acts and over 1,000 performances. It draws around 900,000 people each year. Some of the past headliners have included Bruno Mars, Lady Gaga, Brad Paisley, Dave Matthews Band, Zac Brown Band, and Usher. While Summerfest originally debuted in 1968 across various locations in Milwaukee, today it occupies over 70 acres along the shores of Lake Michigan.
Lollapalooza — Illinois
Occupying prime real estate in Chicago, Lollapalooza perches in between Downtown Chicago and Lake Michigan at Grant Park. Touted as much more than just a music festival, Lollapalooza also features plenty of local cuisine offerings and shopping opportunities. Past lineups have included Eminem, Kings of Leon, the Avett Brothers, Interpol, and Skrillex. There are countless musical performances jammed into the three-day event. While standard tickets to Lollapalooza often sell out, there are a still a few ways to get tickets through promotional packages.
Ravinia Festival — Illinois
The Ravinia Festival in Highland Park is one of Illinois’ top summer attractions. Known as the oldest music festival in the United States, Ravinia prides itself on the diversity of its performances. Along with traditional classical music concerts played by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the festival welcomes musicians from a multitude of genres, including jazz, pop, and R&B. In years past, big names like Bob Dylan and Aretha Franklin have performed at Ravinia, making it one of the most star-studded festivals of the summer. The event is held in the eponymous Ravinia Park, one of the most beautiful parks in the state, and festival attendees often gather on the park’s large lawn to enjoy picnics while listening to performances. Running from June until early September, the Ravinia Festival hosts about 150 performances each year and attracts upwards of 600,000 people throughout the season.
Tanglewood — Massachusetts
The Tanglewood Festival heralds itself as the soundtrack of the summer. Specializing in classical offerings, Tanglewood treats its attendees to opera, instrumental, and chamber music. The highlights of these performances are the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Pops, the latter a traditional Beantown orchestra that specializes in playing more popular, modern tunes. Tanglewood runs from early June until Labor Day weekend, nd about 350,000 people visit the Lenox, Massachusetts venue each year. In years past, attendees have stood spellbound by beautiful performances of Puccini’s La Boheme and celebrated America’s birthday with rousing renditions of “Star Spangled Banner” and “Stars and Stripes Forever” on the Fourth of July. While Tanglewood may focus on classical music, the festival nonetheless also invites modern popular musicians to perform as well. Among the most notable popular performers to have visited Tanglewood are James Taylor, Elvis Costello, and Robert Plant.
Santa Fe Opera — New Mexico
Running from early July to late August, the Santa Fe Opera Festival is an outdoor celebration of summer set to fine music and good food. For most seasons, Santa Fe Opera puts on performances of two or three classic operas, such as Wagner’s The Flying Dutchmen and Bizet’s Carmen, alongside the world premieres of a small selection of new operas. In past seasons, the new pieces Dr. Sun Yet-sen and Cold Mountain have had their premieres at the festival. While theatergoers will have their attention focused on the stage, the backdrop of the festival is equally mesmerizing. The Santa Fe Opera rests in the shadow of New Mexico‘s Sangre de Cristo Mountains, making for amazing photo opportunities and perfect sunsets. Opera lovers have also been known to tailgate and picnic before performances. While visitors are allowed to bring their own refreshments, the opera company also offers boxes of regional favorites.
Glimmerglass — New York
Held each year from the middle of July to the middle of August, the Glimmerglass Festival is a gala series of performances honoring opera and classical music in Cooperstown, New York. Throughout the festival, performers at Glimmerglass put on some of the most famous operas in history including such immortal favorites as The Magic Flute and La bohème. Past seasons have also seen musical theater performances, including those Bernstein’s Candide and even Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music. Amazing performances aside, Glimmerglass prides itself on the beauty of its main venue, the Alice Busch Opera Theater. Seating 918 guests, the Alice Busch Opera Theater is designed to give theatergoers an intimate experience as they enjoy performances less than 70 feet from the stage. The walls of the theater are also able to be opened, allowing for fresh air from the nearby Lake Otsego to waft into the auditorium.
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New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival — Louisiana
The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival is the Big Easy’s welcome song for visitors from around the world. Held annually for 10 days in April and May, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival is the pinnacle of Southern music festivals. Known simply as Jazz Fest by locals, the festival often attracts upwards of half a million attendees at the city’s Fair Grounds Race Course. Despite the festival’s name, Jazz Fest hosts artists from a wide array of musical genres. Honoring the musical and cultural heritage of the indigenous people of Louisiana, Jazz Fest welcomes artists from genres as diverse as folk, rap, and rock. In recent years, the festival has even hosted performances from modern megastars like Ed Sheeran and Mary J. Blige. When not listening to music, attendees can experience another important facet of Louisiana heritage through the countless food vendors that come out for the festival. Delicious takes on signature New Orleans dishes are readily available at the Fair Grounds, including jambalaya, gumbo, and crawfish.
Did we leave out your favorite summer music festival? Tell us about it in the comments below!