As the CEO and founder of Event Tickets Center, Adam Young has his finger on the pulse of the hottest music festivals in the US. Summer is his favorite time to hit the road and attend concerts and music festivals with his teenage son and daughter.
If you’re a serious music lover, music festivals are the perfect excuse for a summer road trip. You’ve blocked off a full day (or days) to enjoy music in the great outdoors, rounded up some friends to share the adventure, and you know you’re about to experience something memorable.
A road trip carries a special sense of excitement when your destination is a music-fueled gathering of like-minded fans. Whether you’re into new hits or the classics, rock or jazz, folk or funk, there’s probably a festival taking place near you this summer that’s worth driving for.
Here are some of the best music festivals coming up this summer, no matter where you’re coming from:
Summerfest (Milwaukee, WI)
You’ve got to love a festival that names itself after the entire summer, and this one truly lives up to its billing, stretching over two weeks in late June and early July. The lineup is incredibly wide-ranging too, with headliners including the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Luke Bryan, the Zac Brown Band, Pink, The Chainsmokers, and Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. Assuming you’re not staying for the entire festival, you’ll want to check the schedule and plan your trip around the acts you really want to see.
A great aspect of Summerfest is its family-friendly atmosphere. If you’re taking the kids on the road with you, there are plenty of fun things for them to do throughout the festival—from jamming out in a virtual rock band to operating remote-control robots. It’s fun for everyone on the shore of Lake Michigan.
The Classic (Los Angeles, New York)
For the definitive sounds of the ‘70s and ‘80s, an event called The Classic has you covered on both coasts this year with “East” and “West” versions scheduled for two separate weekends. Both will feature legendary headliners the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Journey, Steely Dan, The Doobie Brothers, and Earth, Wind & Fire.
The Classic West will take place at the iconic Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, which is undoubtedly one of the country’s most scenic venues. While the concert itself is just a two-day event (July 15-16), it’s a great opportunity to create a mini-vacation to take in the beach, the mountains or Southern California’s famous theme parks.
Citi Field in New York will be home for The Classic East (July 29-30), so if you opt for this weekend, you’ll get to experience one of the most modern venues in the U.S. along with everything else the Big Apple has to offer.
Newport Folk Festival (Newport, RI)
It’s hard to beat the beauty of the Rhode Island coast in the summer, and that’s what makes the Newport Folk Festival such a great take year in and year out. Held at Fort Adams State Park by the mouth of Newport Harbor, the festival offers four stages of music as well as an ever-expanding range of food and drink options.
It’s also a convenient driving destination for a weekend getaway, with on-site car parking available at Fort Adams. Or you can park right in town and take the ferry over to the festival. Newport has a vibrant nightlife in the summer months, and there are many different waterfront bars and restaurants all within a short walk of each other.
This year’s event takes place July 28-30, and headliners include Fleet Foxes, Angel Olsen, Wilco, John Prine, and Regina Spektor.
Lollapalooza (Chicago, IL)
One of the granddaddies of the modern music festival, Lollapalooza has been going strong since it was revived in 2003. This summer classic once brought an expansive range of alternative acts to venues across North America, but the current incarnation is an annual gathering at Grant Park, which covers more than 100 acres between downtown Chicago and Lake Michigan.
Chicago is an incredibly accessible city, and one that’s fun to spend a few days walking around. Lollapalooza takes over Chicago August 3-6 this year (with headliners including Chance the Rapper, Run the Jewels and Lorde), so you can even plan to work a Cubs game into your trip if you’ve always wanted to see a game at Wrigley Field.
Just note that parking is not available on the festival grounds. However, Chicago offers a number of convenient parking garages nearby, so you can drive right in, park, and head out to enjoy the music and the city.
LOCKN’ (Arrington, VA)
Now in its fourth year, LOCKN’ brings together renowned jammers like Phil Lesh and Bob Weir, Widespread Panic, and the String Cheese Incident, and this year the lineup is topped off with classic rocker John Fogerty.
No matter who you’re there to see, LOCKN’ offers the prototypical festival experience, as Infinity Downs Farm provides a variety of on-site camping options to get you through all four days (August 24-27) in outdoor comfort. Whether you choose car camping or tent camping, or you bring your RV, you’ll be staying on grounds that are close to important amenities like showers, bathrooms, hand-washing stations and fresh drinking water.
There’s also a family camping section where you can set up your temporary home for a few days while you introduce the kids to the joys of extended guitar solos. This one truly combines the best of camping and concerts!
And that’s what’s really great about getting out to a music festival — it’s an experience beyond just the concert. So pick a weekend (or longer), round up some other adventurers, and hit the road for some great music-fueled fun this summer.