The 10 Best Cities in North America For Music Festivals

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Music festivals have exploded across the continent, especially in major North American cities. We scoured the MFW Festival Guide to find the cities that welcome music festivals with open arms. We’ve included a sampler of some of the more notable fests in each city, but remind you that it’s only a partial list — mostly dedicated to straight music festivals. There’s literally a festival every weekend in these places with bands and tunes for every type of fan.

A couple of things to keep in mind:
1. These cities aren’t in any particular order. There’s no “best” or “worst” in this list.
2. Nearby festivals are limited to around a two hour drive.
3. Again, this is just a partial list, not a full rundown of every music festival in the city.

Ready? Pack your bags (and anything else that needs packing) and let’s check out the hottest music festival cities in the land…

1. New York City, New York

Are you surprised? This is New York City, not some podunk cornfield! Although it’s taken some time to establish a festival foothold,  there’s now year round concerts in the Big Apple along with a slew of shows in neighboring New Jersey. With limited space for larger fests, NYC has gotten creative holding parties on Randall’s and Governor’s Islands. Showcase festivals are spreading like wildfire in Brooklyn — just take a gander at the list below.

New York City Music Festivals

CMJ Music Marathon
Northside Festival
Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival
Electric Zoo
The Governor’s Ball
CBGB Festival
NYC Pop Fest
Crossing Brooklyn Ferry
EDC New York

Nearby Fests:
I’ll Be Your Mirror
Gathering of the Vibes
Skate & Surf Festival
Clearwater Festival

2. Toronto, Ontario

It’s no surprise that the largest burg in Canada is also home to a grip of music festivals. With not one, but two (NXNE and CMF) gigantic showcase fests, the vibrant Toronto music scene keeps this city hip deep in talent. Plans are already in the works to turn Toronto into Canada’s “Music City” and get the word out what residents already know — This city rocks.

Toronto Music Festivals
NXNE
Canadian Music Fest
Heavy T.O.
Indie Week
Digital Dreams
Field Trip Festival

Nearby Music Festivals:
Boots and Hearts Festival

3. Austin, Texas

The unofficial music festival capitol of the continent needs little introduction to festival junkies. The often imitated, South by Southwest and Austin City Limits, anchor a season filled with the fringe (Austin Psych), the Americana (Old Settler’s),and the flat out fun (Fun Fun Fun Fest). If you haven’t yet experienced Austin’s “Keep It Weird” vibe, we recommend you start planning a trip to Texas to one of the following festivals.

Austin Music Festivals

South By Southwest
Austin City Limits
Austin Psych Fest
Old Settler’s Music Festival
Fun Fun Fun Fun Fest

Nearby Music Festivals
Euphoria

4. Nashville, Tennessee

Live music is king here in Music City so it’s fitting that Nashville would have a festival or three during the year. The Americana and the CMA Fan Fair festivals are both reliable bets, but in a city that runs deep with music, expect new festivals to pop up during this year. Oh, and there’s a little show named Bonnaroo just down the road…

Nashville Music Festivals

Americana Music Festival
CMA Music Festival
Rites of Spring
Soundland (Unconfirmed)

Nearby Music Festivals
Bonnaroo
Riverbend Festival

5. Chicago, Illinois

Typically locked in the icy grasp of a Great Lakes winter, Chicago comes alive in the summertime with half a dozen major festivals. The traveling Lollapalooza tour settled here for a their permanent home while Pitchfork reigns as the King of Hipster Fests. New additions in recent years like North Coast, Spring Awakening, and Wavefront fill out the rest of the shorter northern festival season.

Chicago Music Festivals

Spring Awakening
Lollapalooza
North Coast Music Festival
Wavefront
Pitchfork
Riot Fest
Chicago Blues Festival

Nearby Music Festivals
Summerfest
Country Thunder Wisconsin

6. Montreal, Quebec

It’s fitting that a city as vibrant and as cosmopolitan as Montreal would celebrate the music festival in so many different ways. From pop (POP Montreal) to heavy metal (Heavy T.O) to jazz (Montreal Jazz Fest) to electronic (MUTEK) to mega-fests (Osheaga), the eccentric Montreal brings a French-infused flavor to the North American festival season.

Montreal Music Festivals

Osheaga
MUTEK
Heavy MTL
Montreal Jazz Fest
POP Montreal
Pouzza Fest

Nearby Music Festivals
Rockfest Quebec
Grand Point North

7. San Francisco, California

With the addition of the mainstream Outside Lands and the slightly less mainstream Treasure Island, San Francisco has put itself on the map as a music festival destination. Of course, with veterans like Hardly Strictly Bluegrass (started in 2001), Noisepop (started in 1993), and the San Francisco Jazz Festival (started in 1983), locals have been in on the secret for years.

San Francisco Music Festivals:

Noisepop
Outside Lands
Hardly Strictly Bluegrass
Treasure Island
San Francisco Jazz Festival

Nearby Festivals:
Bottle Rock Napa Valley
California Roots

8. Miami, Florida

Miami dominates the March festival season with two full weekends of Ultra, one of the largest and most popular EDM festivals on the planet. And during the madness, the Winter Music Conference fills the city with parties for a whopping nine days. Couple that with the fact that Miami is the gateway for just about every music festival cruise of the winter and you have one festival friendly city.

Miami Music Festivals

Ultra Music Festival
Winter Music Conference
9 Mile Festival
Miami Beach Orange Drive

Nearby Festivals:
Tortuga Festival
Sunfest

9. Los Angeles, California

Coachella usually grabs all the headlines when it comes to festivals in southern California, but Los Angeles is home to a grip of smaller festivals that take place throughout the year. Fests come and go all the time in L.A., but one thing is for sure — a city with this much talent will always have loads of amazing festivals.

Los Angeles Music Festivals 

Hard Summer
Sunset Strip Music Festival
Culture Collide
Make Music Pasadena
MusINK
FYF Fest

Nearby Festivals

Coachella
Stagecoach
Lightning in a Bottle
Beyond Wonderland
Paid Dues Festival
MusINK

10. Seattle, Washington

The cloudy jewel of the Northwest is no stranger to music festivals –Bumbershoot just celebrated its fortieth anniversary. Seattle doesn’t specialize in jam fests, raves, or country blowouts, but if you love your indie artists and up and comers, then The Emerald City is your music festival mecca.

Seattle Music Festivals

Capitol Hill Block Party
Bumbershoot
Decibel Festival
REVERBFest
Noise for the Needy

Born during a backstage Bonnaroo downpour, Vito's mission in life is to dance, write, and travel to all the great festivals that this wide world has to offer.