Five Can’t-Miss Outdoor Music Festivals
Our favorite bands are turning up in the darndest places
Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.
Nothing screams summer quite like hanging out in a huge field, lounging in a camp chair, and listening to your favorite musicians rock out. Whether it’s tucked into the woods of Michigan or on a beach in Rhode Island, the summer months hold a thousand ways to blend love of the outdoors and good tunes.
Mountain Jam: Hunter, New York
Perched on a hillside of Hunter Mountain in the Northern Catskills, Mountain Jam (June 16–18) offers rides on one of the country’s highest and longest ziplines. If you’re looking for a mellower way to experience things from above, there are lift rides available to the top of the mountain. The festival also offers vendor exhibits of local nonprofits and environmental groups.
Artists to Catch: The Head and the Heart, St. Paul and the Broken Bones, Matisyahu, and River Whyless
Electric Forest: Rothbury Michigan
At EDM-centric Electric Forest (June 22–25 and June 29–July 2), expect to be totally immersed in a carefully curated selection of music, art, and panel discussions in the forests outside Rothbury, Michigan. There are numerous volunteer opportunities, if you want to expand your festival experience beyond entertainment. Or just kick your feet up for a while in one of the dedicated hammock zones.
Artists to Catch: Sub Focus, Big Wild, Tycho, Banks, and Trevor Hall
Newport Folk Festival: Newport, Rhode Island
Held in Fort Adams State Park at the mouth of Newport Harbor, the Newport Folk Festival (July 28–30) offers awe-inspiring views of the water—and an incredible lineup. The festival has two beer gardens and four stages of music, and is easy to access by bike, bus, or even boat.
Artists to Catch: Ben Gibbard, Michael Kiwanuka, the Avett Brothers, Robert Ellis, and the Wild Reeds
Forecastle Music Festival: Louisville, Kentucky
Forecastle (July 14–16) started out as a humble neighborhood gathering and has grown into a staple of the southeast's music scene, drawing thousands of fans to Louisville’s waterfront park each year. The organizers’ dedication to the environment is more than just a tagline on the website: for every ticket sold, $1 goes to the Forecastle Foundation, which works to protect ecologically diverse areas by partnering with such nonprofits as the Kentucky Natural Lands Trust, the Nature Conservancy, and the Guayaki Foundation.
Artists to Catch: Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats, X Ambassadors, Mandolin Orange, and Whitney
Pickathon Music Festival: Happy Valley, Oregon
Too much sun in front of the main stage? Pendarvis Farm, home to the Portland, Oregon, Pickathon Music Festival (August 3–6), has plenty of shade available in the adjacent forest. Unlike most festival campsites, which are usually packed together in a field without any privacy, Pickathon’s are cool and comfortable, and the pristine environment is complimented by a dedication to sustainability, including a ban on single-use plastic since 2010. (Festival attendees are given a plate and a cup to use over the entire weekend.) And with all the local food trucks and microbrews available, your plate and cup will never be empty.
Artists to Catch: Deer Tick, Dinosaur Jr., Andy Shauf, Pinegrove, and Y La Bamba