Music Festival Guide: Top 10 Mega-Festivals (United States)

Do you hate making decisions, enjoy all you can eat buffets, and have the stamina to make it through three to four days of the wildest parties on the planet? The massive fests of the US offer a smorgasbord of artists for one price. From the sun streaked desert plains of California to Tennessee farmland to the heart of downtown Chicago, here are the picks for the “Ultimate Music Festival Experience” of the summer.

As always, leave us a note in the comments section telling us where we went frightfully wrong and where we tickled your fancy. Before we dive in festival fans, note that this humble listing is only our first foray into the festival season. More installments will be released over the next few weeks featuring (hopefully) your favorite festivals.

1. Coachella
When: April 12-14 and April 19-21, 2013
Where: Indio, California

Like a barometer always reading a temperature of awesome, the traditional kickoff to the the summer festival season is dominated by Coachella. With a ridiculously close proximity to Los Angeles, Coachella is the one festival littered with visitors from abroad seeking out their first US festival experience. Think of Coachella as our official Ambassador of Music Festivals. Coachella transformed industry by doubling up for two weekends of tunes of the desert. Other major festivals are already following suit (see Ultra, Austin City Limits).

2. Sasquatch!
When: May 24-27, 2013
Where: The Gorge, Washington

The Decemberists at Sasquatch! 2011. Photo Credit: Sasquatch! Official Site/Christopher Nelson

Much like its namesake, the Sasqutach festival resides in the northwest, is completely legendary, and sought after by fans from all over the world. The Memorial Weekend powerhouse now stretches over four days in a trippy Washington wasteland that would be considered desolate if The Gorge didn’t provide one of the greatest natural stages known to man. The lineup is already out in order to give you plenty of time to prepare.

3. Lollapalooza
When: August 2-4, 2013
Where: Chicago, Illinois

Coldplay at Lollapalooza. Photo Credit: Lollapalooza Official Site/Cambria Harkey

You got to hand it Perry Farrell, the bizarre and quirky visionary who reinvented the American music festival with Lollapalooza. It was the first time that a lineup was worth quitting your job over — which I did and destroyed my future at the video arcade. It’s been dialed back in this decade, but that doesn’t make the Chicago show one of the must-see stops of the summer. Or for those of you still craving a roadtrip, head to Brazil or Chile for some southern hemisphere action.

Born during a sweaty, backstage, Bonnaroo downpour, the Chief Festival Junkie'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.

13 Comments

  • April 10, 2012

    roy

    No love for Oregon- Country Fair and how do you leave off the Burners?

    • September 24, 2012

      Admin

      We usually don’t cover fairs on here…

  • June 17, 2012

    Mike

    No mention of Electric Daisy Carnival?

  • July 8, 2012

    Nate

    “three to four days of the wildest parties on the planet” Try eleven days. Summerfest. Inexcusable omission

  • July 12, 2012

    sarah

    What!?!?! Summer Camp in Chillicothe IL. isn’t on here….. because it should be!!!

  • August 5, 2012

    Chris

    How the heck are Electric Forest and Electric Daisy missing from here?!

    • @Chris — EDC definitely was in the short list. I’m going to have to expand it to 15 for next year. We love Electric Forest as well, but at the time of writing, they only had one season under their belt.

  • August 24, 2012

    drumminjoe

    What about lightning in a bottle? or Hornings Hideout? Outside Lands doesn’t deserve to be on that list, you can’t camp at it, which to me is a vital part of the festival experience.

    • September 24, 2012

      Admin

      Both awesome festivals, but not really “mega-festivals” although those could definitely be considered for a Top Ten DIY Fest.

      To me, camping out is certainly vital for the festival experience, but that’s a personal preference. Big city festivals have their own flavor and throwing down on a super nice hotel in Chicago or New York can be just as fun plus there’s always after hours events happening around the city.

  • February 21, 2013

    Festiphillips

    Lol you can tell the creators of this website don’t know there arse from there elbows and are Americans.
    probably haven’t even left the states to go to a festival in there lives. they actually believe that the top ten “mega” festivals are all in America… Jokers

  • March 22, 2013

    Adrian

    Hangout!!…great artists on the beach…enough said!!

  • June 29, 2013

    Adele

    I’m still looking for my Favorite Festivarian Festival to be listed here -Telluride Bluegrass Festival – 40th Anniversary was this year. An AWESOME 4 days, non stop music, every band starts on time, the Festivarians are so high and so respectful – Dancing till the cows come home.

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