Traveler intern Daniel Bortz plans the ultimate summer road trip, cruising across the country in search of some of America’s best music festivals.
Music lovers know there’s nothing better than a live concert on a cool summer night. And while many artists tour year-round, the summer months give bands and listeners alike a time to embrace outdoor venues like amphitheaters and piers — sometimes even an open valley does the trick.
Major cities across the country are offering great concerts this summer, giving you a perfect excuse to pack up the car and head out for a road trip. So we’ve scouted out five of America’s favorite music festivals for the month of July, and think you should come along for the ride.
THROUGH JULY 4
Summerfest | Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Thought Bonnaroo‘s four-day music fest in Manchester, Tennessee was long? Think again. This Milwaukee music and arts festival has staying power, running 11 days packed with hundreds of artists performing on multiple stages. Headliners include Sheryl Crow, Jason Reeves, Colbie Callat, and a performance by the 1980′s satirist turned singer-songwriter Weird Al Yankovic. This summer’s festival also introduces Sazama’s Lakeside Grille, a waterfront restaurant aimed to attract an older demographic for a sit-down dinner before the concerts start at the Marcus Amphitheater. And be sure not to let your time in Miltown go to waste: during the day, check out the Milwaukee Art Museum‘s collection of more than 20,000 works, including originals by Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol, and take a factory tour of Miller’s brewery — the town’s not called Brew City for nothing.
IF YOU GO: Tickets cost $15. www.summerfest.com
Check out the rest of the list after the jump.
JULY 1 – 4
High Sierra Music Festival | Quincy, California
Call this one the “green” music fest. High Sierra Music Festival’s organizers want the festival to have a minimum impact on our planet, so they’ve partnered with Clean Vibes
to recycle as much of the waste produced on site as possible. With the help of festival goers, Clean Vibes will divert thousands of pounds of recyclables from the landfill. The festival, which marks its 20th anniversary this year, will feature music from The Avett Brothers, Ozomatti, The Black Crowes, and more than 50 other artists. It’s tucked away in the quaint town of Quincy, California, where visitors can take in views of the scenic Sierra Nevada foothills and go for a dip in the cooled swimming holes formed by the river.
IF YOU GO: Tickets cost $195 for a 4-day pass, but single day fares can be purchased. www.highsierramusic.com
All Good Music Festival | Masontown, West Virginia
From bluegrass and folk to funk and rock, the 14th annual All Good Music Festival has something for every genre. Audiophiles rejoice at this four-day weekend event, letting tunes from Further, Widespread Panic, Lotus, and dozens more alternative artists soothe the senses. Bring a picnic basket and park yourself in front of the festival’s main stage, located at the foot of a hill in Marvin’s Mountaintop. Sitting with your back against the beautiful backdrop of West Virginia mountains, enjoy the sounds of what Rolling Stone calls summer’s “best fest for jambands.” The festival’s also an ideal opportunity to get a taste of the outdoors, with campgrounds behind the hills.
IF YOU GO: Tickets cost $179 for 4-day pass and $159 for 3-day pass. www.allgoodfestival.com
JULY 16 – 18
Pitchfork Music Festival | Chicago, Illinois
It might be a baby compared to some of the long-established fests, but Pitchfork — now in its fifth year — attracts 50,000 fans of independent and underground music. And with its $90 three-day passes selling out just five days after they went on sale in April, the festival continues to gain ground against large-scale competitors, including Chicago’s more mainstream Lollapalooza, taking place August 6-8 with performances from Green Day and Lady Gaga.
Last year’s Pitchfork-goers got to pick the playlists for their favorite bands, which 2010 headliners Modest Mouse and Pavement may bring back this year. While you’re there, explore the Windy City’s jazz scene and other free offerings.
IF YOU GO: Tickets cost $40. www.pitchforkmusicfestival.com
JULY 1 – 31
Vans Warped Tour | USA
OK, we’ll admit, it’s not a music festival per se. But Warped Tour does round up a number of rising alternative rock groups and has them perform all over the country, so we consider it an integral part of our road trip. Follow bands like Alkaline Trio, Everclear, and the Dropkick Murphys across various states. The tour will make July pit stops in Cleveland, Ohio, Hartford, Connecticut, and Scranton, PA, where fans of the hit television show The Office can take a tour of the program’s fictional home.
Warped is scheduled for almost 30 venues in the month of July alone, so it’s a chance to take advantage of some of America’s great cities.
IF YOU GO: Ticket costs range depending on the venue. www.vanswarpedtour.com
Want more road trip ideas? Check out National Geographic Traveler’s Drives of a Lifetime