The Coolest Festivals in the USA

The biggest, the most wanted and the best festivals in America

How about you spend your gap year road tripping around the USA, taking in the sights and checking out a few festivals as you cruise around?

Americans love to be bigger and better than everyone else, and they've achieved it with their super cool festival line up. Festivals like Coachella and Austin City Limits are held over two weekends – while SXSW and Bonaroo are crazy enough the first time round. Which one takes your fancy? 

March festivals

SXSW

8-17 March (in 2013)

  • Where: The Austin Convention Center, 500 East Cesar Chavez Street, Austin, TX
  • Sleep: in your own bed
  • Top 3 line up: Haim, CHVCRHES, Flaming Lips
  • Go if: you want to mix your love of music with that of interactive and film. And you want to visit the coolest festival in the world.
  • Price: £760 (yikes!)

April festivals

Coachella

12-14 April and 19-21 April

  • Where: 81-800 Avenue 51, Indio, CA 90036, United States
  • Sleep: Camping
  • Top 3 line up: Ben Howard, Blur, Grimes
  • Go if: you want to spot Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens and the like rocking the boho look.
  • Price: £230

Rhianna at Coachella Festival

May festivals

Sasquatch

24-27 May

  • Where: The Gorge Amphitheatre in George, Washington
  • Sleep: Camping
  • Top 3 line up: Mumford and Sons, The XX, Sigur Ros
  • Go if: you’re well into your cool music and want to show it off on your Facebook feed.
  • Price: £222

Boston Calling

25-26 May

  • Where: Boston, MA
  • Sleep: in your own bed
  • Top 3 line up: The National, Fun., The Shins
  • Go if: you’d prefer a smaller festival experience with some big names.
  • Price: £130

Sasquatch Festival crowd

June festivals

Bonnaroo

13-16 June

  • Where: Manchester, Tennessee
  • Sleep: Camping
  • Top 3 line up: The National, Bjork, Paul McCartney
  • Go if: you like comedians, nature and dancing.
  • Price: £180

Governor’s Ball

7-9 June

  • Where: Randall’s Island, NYC
  • Sleep: In your own bed
  • Top 3 line up: Kanye West, Kings of Leon, Guns n Roses
  • Go if: you want to combine an incredible trip to NYC with a festival, and they’ve got Ping Pong
  • Price: £150

Governor's Ball Festival in NYC

July festivals

Pitchfork Festival

19-21 July

  • Where: Union Park, Chicago
  • Sleep: In your own bed
  • Top 3 line up: Bjork, Belle & Sebastian, R Kelly
  • Go if: you prefer smaller festivals with an intimate feel that R Kelly just seems to be gatecrashing.
  • Price: Individual day tickets $45, 3-day passes $110

August festivals

Lollapalooza

2-4 Aug

  • Where: Chicago
  • Sleep: In your own bed
  • Top 3 line up: none released as yet, but last year the likes of Red Hot Chilli Peppers, The Black Keys and Black Sabbath took to the stage.
  • Go if: you want to rock out to some legends by day, and rave the night away to some crazy techno
  • Price: £155

Outside Lands

9-11 Aug

  • Where: Golden Gate Park, San Francisco 
  • Sleep: In your own bed
  • Top 3 line up: For 2012 it was Foo Fighters, Stevie Wonder, Metallica
  • Go if: you like your festivals green yet in the city centre
  • Price: £110

Outside Lands Festival crowd

Electric Zoo

30 Aug-1 September

  • Where: Randall’s Island Park, NYC
  • Sleep: In your own bed
  • Top 3 line up: In 2012 it was Skrillex, Diplo and Tiesto
  • Go if: you love electronic dance music, and NYC
  • Price: £220

Burning Man

27 Aug-3 Sept

  • Where: Black Rock Desert, Nevada
  • Sleep: In your own campervan
  • Top 3 line up: hmmm, not a music line up as such, more of an arts festival
  • Go if: you want to be part of a cultural phenomenon that’s part crazy throwback from the 70s and totally mindblowing.
  • Price: £430

Burning Man Festival

September festivals

Bumbershoot

31 Aug-2 Sept

  • Where: Seattle Center, Seattle
  • Sleep: In your own bed
  • Top 3 line up: Jane’s Addiction, Tony Bennett, Gotye
  • Go if: you want a top value festival in the USA with guaranteed sunshine and a range of music.
  • Price: £65

October festivals

Austin City Limits

4-6 and 11-13 October

  • Where: Zilker Park, Austin, Texas
  • Sleep: In your own bed
  • Top 3 line up: not released yet, but last year it was Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Neil Young and Crazy Horse and Florence + the Machine
  • Go if: you want some good value, clean living festival fun for all the family
  • Price: £150

Austin City Limits Festival


Further Information

For more information on incorporating festivals in with your travels check out the Music, Festivals and Travel section on the site.

Need a friend to go with? Jump on the message boards and you might even find a fellow gapper to join you.


About the Author: Victoria Philpott

Victoria Philpott

Victoria is the content and community manager at gapyear.com. She's travelled through Europe extensively, dropping in on a few festivals and picking up work as she went. She's an advocate of slow travel and has worked at camp in America for two summers before releasing the pressure in the clubs of Cancun. She's toured Australia, explored the Serengeti and backpacked through Morocco. A wise man once told her, 'In the pursuit of seeing everything, we see nothing', and she tries to recite this to tame her wanderlust, but it's not working.