Music festival season is in full swing, and it’s every festival-goer’s favorite time of the year. With over 800 music festivals in the U.S. alone, these multiday, multifaceted events have completely redefined how we experience music, culture, art, fashion, and even food.
Festivals offer a sense of community and one-of-a-kind, melodic journeys for music lovers from all over the world. But no matter where you’re from, there’s no denying California has some of the most iconic music festivals in the scene.
From unique, genre-centric lineups to diverse blends of up-and-coming artists and musical legends, there’s a festival for anyone and everyone in the Golden State. So grab your “festie bestie,” and bust out those moon boots, bodysuits, dad hats, and yoga mats!
Check out these fan-favorite festivals, from the Low Desert to the San Francisco Bay, that prove why California has the best music festival scene in the country—perhaps even the world.
Coachella is one of those music festivals you have to attend at least once in your life. Put it at the top of your festival bucket list, and the number one reason why California is home to some of the biggest and best music festivals. Located in Indio, California, at the Empire Polo Field, you’ll find yourself surrounded by beautiful people and stunning scenery. Encircled by palm trees and the San Jacinto Mountains, the Polo Fields are swarming with celebrities, models, hipsters, and everyone in-between. From pop and EDM, to hip-hop and classic rock, this desert fest’s incredibly diverse line-up has something to offer every kind of music lover. Attendees are able to see once-in-a-lifetime performances by big name artists like Prince and Paul McCartney, or check out lesser-known (aka “tiny font”) artists that you may or may not recognize. Temperatures can get hot and tickets are undoubtedly expensive, but I can guarantee it’s totally worth it.
A uniquely transformational festival, LIB allows you to expand your consciousness as you bounce to the bass. Established by the creators of Coachella’s The Do Lab stage, this all-encompassing festival, tucked away in Monterey County, is like a smaller-scale Burning Man in many ways. Celebrating art, music, personal growth, healthy living, social change, and environmental sustainability, LIB truly holds the power to change you on a spiritual level. It can inspire you to get involved in the community, take your first ever vinyasa flow yoga class, and express yourself creatively. Attendees can enjoy sunrise yoga sessions along Lake San Antonio, check out thought-provoking discussions on Chinese medicine or alternative energy, explore essential oil workshops or meditation classes, and then see EDM headliners like Bassnectar and Odesza light up the Lightning Stage, or watch Mikey Lion and the Desert Hearts Crew takeover the Woogie. Despite having some of the best production in the business, LIB is one of the few festivals to sell out without actually “selling out.”
The unofficial founders of United States rave culture and masterminds behind Electric Daisy Carnival, Insomniac Events are well-known for throwing some of the biggest and best events in the country. Nocturnal Wonderland is one of their longest-running festivals, taking place on Labor Day weekend at the San Manuel Amphitheater in San Bernardino. The Alice in Wonderland-inspired festival spotlights world-class production with illuminating art installations, dazzling performers, and some of the biggest names in dance music, spread throughout five different, whimsically-themed stages. Since its start in the mid-90s, Nocturnal has evolved from a single-day, non-camping event, to a 3-day festival with campgrounds conveniently located beside the festival site—so no more dealing with traffic, parking, or trying to find a designated driver. The Glen Helen Regional Park campgrounds are a step above most festival camping experiences, as they offer hot showers, plenty of porta-potties, epic views of the San Gabriel and San Bernardino Mountains, and even a water park. Your journey down the rabbit hole awaits!
As Northern California’s largest outdoor music festival, Outside Lands perfectly embodies the city of San Francisco. Held in early August (aka ‘Fogust’ for Bay Area natives), the historic Golden Gate Park offers a magical, forest-like setting with mild temperatures reaching no higher than 70 degrees (making standing in crowds much more tolerable). Outside Lands is dedicated to environmental responsibility, and offers a plethora of sustainable options ranging from convenient public transportation to an entire eco-village filled with composting workshops, a refillable water program, and even an on-site farmers market. Boasting an unbelievable lineup of food from some of the Bay Area’s finest eateries, this festival takes food to a whole new level. From pizza and burgers to oysters and ramen, there’s something for every partier’s palate. There are even entire sections of the festival solely dedicated to featured foods like beer, bacon, cheese, and chocolate. With its consistently stacked lineup, chock-full of artists like Radiohead, Lorde, Lionel Richie, and The Who, some might say Outside Lands is even better than Coachella.