Any blissed-out fun junkie will tell you a life well lived is one spent laughing with friends, inventing dance moves with sexy strangers and discovering places where music washes over you like Niagara Falls. A good music festival will give you all this and so much more. But with hundreds (if not thousands) of new festivals popping up all over the world every year, it can be hard to figure out which ones you should check out to get the most memorable experience possible. That’s why this list of six crazy music festivals you’ll have to see to believe may just change your bucket list forever.
1. Burning Man
(Black Rock Desert, NV)
Entering its 30th year in 2016, what began as a few friends burning a nine-foot wooden man around a bonfire and has now grown into a 70,000 person gathering spanning nine days. During that time, “Burners” erect a temporary community guided by 10 principles, the foremost being radical inclusion and self-expression.
Art is a key component of Burning Man, and it can be seen in every direction you look in the temporary Black Rock City community festival goers build each year. Sculptures, buildings, performance art, temples, art cars and mutant vehicles scatter about the playa and are a true feast for the eye. The festival culminates in the symbolic burning of “The Man,” which has remained around 40 feet tall since 1989. Upon the festival’s conclusion, Burners pack out with the goal of leaving no trace.
2. The Legendary Sturgis Buffalo Chip®
(Buffalo Chip, SD)
In just five minutes spent inside the natural outdoor amphitheater of the Sturgis Buffalo Chip®, you’ll feel the heat of fire-breathing babes and the splash of a lubed-up midget careening toward 10 bowling pins. You’ll see motorcycles fly and hear hundreds more roar in applause to a face-melting guitar solo. Over its 35-year history, these 600-acres outside of sleepy Sturgis, South Dakota have become the Mecca of music and motorcycling, coming to life each August during the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.
The Chip is known for festival goers pulling their motorcycles right up to the main stage to enjoy performances atop their bikes, revving their engines in applause to legendary musical acts including the Allman Brothers Band, Kid Rock, Bob Dylan, Miranda Lambert and Ozzy Osbourne. In addition, the venue seeks out phenomenal up-and-coming artists to perform on its seven Showcase Stages, most recently through a partnership with ReverbNation. If all the music wasn’t enough, The Chip hosts exhilarating motorcycle rides, death-defying daredevils, award-winning custom bike shows, PowerSports competitions, art exhibits and a bevy of weird contests, including Midget Bowling and the World Federation Pickle Lickin’ Championships. The destination is often described as “adult Disney Land” and has become known around the world as The Best Party Anywhere®!
3. Mardi Gras in New Orleans
(New Orleans, LA)
Mardi Gras is more of a citywide cultural celebration than a dedicated music festival, but music plays an integral part in the colorful Mardi Gras experience.
An ocean of purple, gold and green masks, costumes and beads can be seen in every direction, particularly around Bourbon Street in the French Quarter, New Orleans’ oldest neighborhood. On Fat Tuesday, Bourbon Street is filled with thousands of people, watching parades, dancing in streets, taking advantage of the French Quarter’s open container laws, enjoying street performers and popping in and out of bars to check out NOLA’s music and culture. Before you fill up on all the culture, save room for some famous Mardi Gras foods, especially king cake. If you’re fortunate, you’ll enjoy a slice with a plastic baby figurine baked inside– the king cake baby. Slices containing the king cake baby are said to be good luck!
4. Gathering of the Juggalos
One glance at the sea of face paint, carnival rides, Midway games and Big Top tents at this event and you might think you’ve walked into the middle of a circus, and you wouldn’t be far off. The Gathering of the Juggalos is a yearly five-day celebration brimming with the bizarre that’s attended by devoted fans of the rap group Insane Clown Posse.
The 2015 Gathering featured over 70 bands, Juggalo Championship Wrestling, comedians, sideshows and special parties like the “Frothy Murder Mix Foam Party,” to name just a few of the freaky festivities. Despite the full roster of entertainment, many attendees say it’s the feeling of family and camaraderie they experience that brings them back to the Gathering every year.
The name “Tomorrowland” sounds like a place you can only visit in your dreams, and when you see it you might be inclined to pinch yourself to ensure you’re awake. The stages and artwork are elaborate and surreal, more closely resembling something out of a fairytale than any real life structure. Mythical castles, ornate temples and futuristic apocalyptic creations are the norm, all enhanced by dazzling video, lights, and pyrotechnics.
Since its inception in 2005, Tomorrowland has become one of the largest electronic music festivals in the world, hosting nearly 180,000 attendees in 2015. The festival boasts around 20 stages and nearly 400 artists over a span of three days. According to numerous sources, tickets for 2013 Tomorrowland sold out in ONE SECOND, prompting the festival to create spinoffs in Brazil and the United States.
6. Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival
Boasting record-breaking attendance numbers, a diverse musical lineup ranging from rock legends to up-and-coming indie, hip hop, and EDM artists, and art installations that continuously grow in scale and complexity, Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival has become one of the world’s largest and most famous music festivals.
Coachella often features reunited groups giving one-off performances, including Rage Against the Machine in 2007, a hologram version of deceased rap legend Tupac Shakur in 2012 and a highly anticipated Guns ‘N’ Roses reunion slated for 2016. In addition to seeing music megastars, guests often spot A-list celebrities not part of the entertainment lineup in the crowd. All these elements and the beautiful southern California surroundings and weather have led to Coachella’s continuous growth every year.
These festivals are truly larger than life. You could attend each one over and over and still have something new to see each time. So if you’ve been itching to check a new festival out, use this guide as a means to help you discover which one would be the best fit for you, and share it with your friends!