Music Festival Guide: Top 10 Free Music Festivals

For the budget impaired, nothing beats the price tag of a freebie festival. And just because you didn’t shell out hard earned dollar bills doesn’t mean that this is a sub-par show. From downtown street festivals to multi-day extravaganzas, we’re traveling around the world to highlight some of the best free music festivals on the planet.

1. Hardly Strictly Bluegrass
Where: San Francisco, California
When: October 4-6, 2013

Golden Gate Park on a perfect afternoon during Hardly Strictly Bluegrass.

Don’t let the name throw you off — Hardly Strictly Bluegrass offers a wide range of genres for a zero dollar price tag. Arguably, the best free music festival in the States, HSB runs Golden Gate Park for three days this October. And even though the philanthropist and founder behind the festival recently passed away, the spirit behind Hardly Strictly Bluegrass is still running strong.

2. 4Knots
Where: New York, New York
When: July 2013 (unconfirmed)

A fan checks out the view of NYC @ 4Knots. Photo Credit: 4Knots Facebook

The former Siren Music Festival got a new name and a new venue, but has still kept its indie rocker heart. Taking place at the famous Seaport Pier 17 in New York City, this all ages single day free festival showcases up and coming bands along with national acts.

3. Radio One Hackney Weekend
Where: Derry-Londonderry, UK
When: May 24-26, 2013

Crowd shot from One Big Weekend

It doesn’t get any bigger than this UK free fest. This year the Big Weekend will take place at Londonderry’s Ebrington Square. Even though it’s free, you still a need pick up a ticket via the BBC.

4. Norman Music Festival
Where: Norman, Oklahoma
When: April 25-27, 2013

Fans flooding downtown Norman for this free festival.

You’re thinking: Oklahoma? But then we’re talking about alumni like The Walkmen, Dirty Projectors, Of Montreal, and Polyphonic Spree , and Portugal. The Man, that have graced the free stages of downtown Norman, and now you’re all interested and stuff.

5. Virgin Mobile FreeFest
Where: Columbia, Maryland
When: Fall 2013 (unconfirmed)

A fan at FreeFest makes a stand. Photo credit: Virgin Mobile FreeFest Official Site

Every year, we wonder if the Virgin Mobile FreeFest will make another appearance. Blink-182, Jimmy Eat World, Jack, White, Skrillex, and more have graced the stages the popular no-cash fest. FreeFest usually waits until deep into the year before making any announcements.

6. Musikfest
Where: Bethlehem, PA
When: August 2-11, 2013

Muskifest Crowd

Getting stoked at MusikFest. Photo credit: Steve McClellan

This ten day monster is the United State’s ” largest free, non-gated music festival” and will not rock your wallet with 15 stages of over 500 performers. Each night there’s a headliner that does cost money, but with the hundreds of other artists, you’ll be more than entertained.

7. Danube Island Festival
Where: Wien, Austria
When: June 21-23, 2013

The Donauinselfest (Danube Island Festival) is rumored to be Europe’s largest open-air festival — although Parkpop (see below) would beg to differ. Regardless of the title, this gigantic Austrian freebie could easily replace a more costly weekend festival for your festival schedule.

8. Parkpop
Where: The Hague, Netherlands
When: June 30, 2013

A rumored 350,000 fans in a single day are why ParkPop is the largest free pop festival in Europe. Sheryl Crow, The Pretenders, De La Soul, and the Dandy Warhols are a few of the bands that have rocked The Hague since 1981.

9. Make Music Pasadena
Where: Pasadena, California
When: June 1, 2013

Making music in Pasadena. Photo Credit: Timothy Nolan

This sunny California festival boasts over 100 free concerts in a single day. Indie rockers like The Antlers, Best Boast, Autolux, Matt and Kim, The Raveonettes, and Ra Ra Riot have rocked the streets of Pasadena in past years.

10. Chicago Blues Festival
Where: Chicago, IL
When: June 6-9, 2013

Chicago Blues Fest

Grant Park plays host the annual Chicago Blues Festival. Photo Credit: CBF Official Facebook page

When you’re the “Blues Capital of the World”, then you better be able to back it up with the largest free blues festival in the world. With five stages that have boasted the likes of Bonnie Raitt, Ray Charles, B.B. King, Bo Diddley, and Buddy Guy, it’s no wonder that half a million people turn out for the biggest and baddest of Chicago’s summer festivals.

Born during a sweaty, backstage, Bonnaroo downpour, the editor-in-chief's mission in life is to dance, write, and travel to every great festival that this wide world has to offer. While his identity remains a mystery, you may have already met him, probably when he helped himself to your party favors.