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Types of Music Festivals: Which Should You Go To?



Music festivals come in various shapes and sizes, catering to different musical tastes, cultures, and preferences. However, with some many choices, how do you decide which one to go to? They can also be expensive, making it important to consider whether you will enjoy the event before buying your ticket.


Whether you're new to music festivals and want to see which type of event is best for you or a frequent festival goer who wants to step out of their comfort zone, this guide will help you figure out which might be best for you to attend.




City Festivals

City festivals are typically held within a city at a large venue or park, where stages, vendors, and activities are set up to create a great experience. Often the city's setting of tall buildings, a beautiful river, or a massive park makes the festival fun and atmospheric, especially as night falls and the stage lights become a larger part of the performances. I will never forget the experience of driving into Washington DC and hearing the bass booming from Project GLOW miles before I could see it. This was probably not as fun for the people who lived nearby, but thankfully most city festivals are only 2-4 days. They don't have onsite lodging, so if you're traveling from far away you will have to find somewhere to stay such as a hotel, Airbnb, or campsite nearby.


Some Examples:

Project GLOW- Washington DC Moonrise- Baltimore, MD

Ultra Music Festival- Miami, FL Electric Zoo- New York City, NY

Life is Beautiful- Las Vegas, NV CRSSD- San Diego, CA

Hangout Fest- Gulf Shores, AL Movement Detroit- Detroit, MI

Lalapalooza- Chicago, IL Austin City Limits- Austin, TX

EDC Mexico- Mexico City, Mexico Time Warp- Mannheim, Germany


Tips:
  • Consider looking around for local parking or taking public transportation. Many people open their front yards to festival goers to make a quick buck, and if you have a friend nearby they may be willing to let you park on their street. This not only saves you the price of a parking ticket, but the hassle of waiting to get out after the event ends. For example, Project GLOW did a great job of directing traffic and getting everyone out of the parking lots, but for Moonrise we spent hours sitting in line.

  • Make sure to have a safe space for your valuables either on your person or in a locker. If stolen or dropped, it will be hard to find them again.

  • Remember to read the rules. Some city festivals require a clear bag, don't allow food, or have requirements for the size of your sign if you decide to bring one.







Camping Festivals

Camping festivals offer lodging facilities on-site, allowing attendees to stay overnight and immerse themselves in the festival experience for multiple days. This can take the form of tent camping, car/RV camping, or various forms of glamping. Due to the increased amount of time that festivalgoers spend onsite, camping festivals often feature communal activities and after parties in addition to the scheduled performances.


Camping festivals are fun because they allow you even more time to party and connect with people after the official sets end. Living on-site feels fully immersive and allows you to meet more people, versus going back to a hotel or your home where you mainly interact with the people you attended the festival with. In addition, if you don't love crowds and need space to decompress, you have a little bit of personal space in your tent, car or RV to do so.


These events are not for everyone because of the fact that they involve... well... camping. There are times when you’ll be hot (or cold), sweaty, not have running water, or experience bad weather. You’ll have to try and take it in stride and still have fun. However, if you’re bored of city festivals or already like camping, you will likely love camping festivals. 


Some Examples:

Walk in Camping Only Car/RV Camping

Tomorrowland- Boom, Belgium Electric Forest- Rothbury, MI

Sonic Bloom- Rye, CO Coachella- Indo, CA

Glastonbury Pilton, Somerset, England Lucidity, Santa Barbara, CA

Elements Festival- Long Pond, PA Lost Lands- Thornville, OH


Tips:
  • It is important to determine what kind of camping is available when you buy your ticket, whether there are any vehicle fees, and how to get to your campsite.

  • Check the weather and be prepared when packing. Ensure your shade structure is strong enough if you are in an area that will be windy or rainy.

  • Consider introducing yourself to your neighbors when you arrive and set up camp. Getting to know each other is a great way to make new friends, avoid conflict, and have help if a sticky situation arises.







Destination Festivals

Destination festivals are held off the beaten path in exotic or scenic locations, on beaches or on a cruise ship. This is a great way to travel somewhere you haven’t been, experience a different culture, and connect with the location. If you love to travel, this may be for you.


Some Examples:

Groove Cruise- Miami, FL Friendship Cruise- Miami, FL

SXM Festival- Marigot, St. Martin BPM Festival- Tamarindo, Costa Rica

Sonus Festival- Pag Island, Croatia Oasis Festival- Ouarzazate, Morocco


Tips
  • Take photos of your ID- It is important to have backup copies of your ID and passport in case your wallet gets lost or stolen. I like to take photos as well as print out paper copies and keep them in a separate bag.

  • An itinerary can be helpful to ensure you have a rough outline of your plans. Giving it to friends and family can help give them peace of mind, especially if you are attending an event with poor cell phone reception.

  • Make a money plan- decide how you will be spending money (cash? preloaded credit card? your normal card?) as well as understand the exchange rate so that you are aware of how much things cost. Notify your bank you will be going abroad, and ensure that you have enough cash on hand for emergencies!







Transformational Festivals

Transformational festivals are different than others, perhaps due to the amount of interactivity and intention. They are heavily dependent on the festivalgoers' participation, and are often held in a remote location. Rather than just showing up and listening to music, attendees participate in workshops, are encouraged to express themselves through onsite art, listen to speakers, and co-exist in a temporary community. Some examples of activities common at these festivals are: visionary art, workshops, breath work, yoga, and panel discussions about sustainability, mindfulness, sex, and psychedelic medicine. Due to the intention of bettering ourselves as humans, many of these events are child-friendly. 


This is my favorite type of festival due to the opportunity for personal growth. I love to volunteer, attend workshops, learn about sustainability, and connect with my body in a safe space. If you want a fully immersive experience that can change your life, or want an event the entire family can experience, this is for you. Many have work exchange programs or low-income tickets to help make the events accessible for everyone.


Some Examples:

Envision Festival- Puntarenas Province, Uvita, Costa Rica

Boom Festival- Idanha-a-Nova, Portugal

Lightning in a Bottle- Buena Vista Lake, CA

Shambala Festival- British Columbia, Canada


Regional Burns and Burning Man- These events are not just festivals due to the 10 principles and the need for self-reliance. Instead, they are experimental cities. Basically, the volunteer work of Burners is what makes Burning Man happen, whereas with music festivals (even transformational festivals) you are paying for a service and can simply relax and enjoy the event however moves you. However if you like transformational festivals and want to take things a step further, try becoming a Burner!


Tips
  • Plan your travel itinerary and accommodations ahead of time, especially if you are traveling abroad.

  • Sign up for updates from the event- with so many activities, it can be helpful to have a rough outline of what you want to do. For example, if you want to attend a yoga class or a mindfulness panel, don't let the opportunity pass you by because you didn't know what time it started.

  • Be spontaneous- follow your body and heart wherever they take you. A transformational festival is a safe space to laugh, cry, dance, or make new friends in a way that you may have been uncomfortable doing before.


Summary

Consider what you want to do when you attend and whether you want to travel somewhere exciting or stay close to home. I highly recommend solo traveling at least once to immerse yourself in the experience and make new friends. Often organizing a group to go to a festival is difficult, and can stop you from following through. If you are just starting out, it is a good idea to go to a multi genre festival like Bonnaroo or a festival that focuses on your favorite genre, like Reggae Rise Up. With so many different types of music festivals, the perfect one for you to attend is out there just waiting for you to find it!







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Hi, I'm Koi!

I'm an environmental project manager who decided to make a change from office life to to outdoor projects and small business ownership.

My goal is to help promote forward movement in outdoor spaces and live events towards full accessibility and diversity by giving everyone the inspiration and tools to create their own adventure.

I love self expression, hiking, music festivals, and Burning Man, and want to show that celebrating diversity in the outdoors makes it better for everyone.

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