Wanderlust: Road Trip Guide to East Coast Music Festivals

Festivals and road tripping go hand in hand, and when it comes to having a next-level fest experience, the journey is just as important as the destination. If you’re hitting the road this festival season, we’ve pinpointed major festival hubs around the US and Canada and curated some helpful travel tips to help you live it up on the road.

Check back each #TravelTuesday for our series on making the most of your festival adventures in the West, East, Midwest, and Canada. In this edition we’ll review tips and travel hacks for road trippers hitting up music festivals in NYC, the Northeastern US, and the Southeastern US.

Exploring the Eastern Seaboard
The East Coast is fantastically diverse—from the rugged coastline of Maine to the white sand beaches of Miami, an endless bounty of cosmopolitan cities, natural wonders, and epic music festivals awaits you as you hit the road this festival season. Whether you’re exploring the Northeast, the Southeast, or doing the whole damn thing, there are plenty of amazing things to see, do, and eat along the way. Here are a few tips and tricks to help you make the most of your journey.

View Fests Out East On Map

Select the “East” filter checkbox only to see the festivals listed above in map view and plot your journey.

Destination: NYC

New York City feels like the center of the world, and for good reason. Music, art, food, fashion—you name it, New York does it better than just about everywhere else. If you’re in town for these great summer festivals, don’t miss out on a bite of the Big Apple. Rock your best duds for dinner and a show in Manhattan, check out an up-and-coming local band in Brooklyn, or soak up the multi-cultural vibe of Queens—you can’t go wrong in the City That Never Sleeps.

EDC New York
After dancing the night away at Citi Field with rainmakers like Kaskade, Zedd, and Paul Oakenfold, get a dose of vibrant NYC culture in surrounding Queens, which is the most ethnically diverse urban area in the world. Queens’ Flushing Chinatown and neighboring Long Island Koreatown are home to a dizzying array of amazing eats—head to BCD Tofu House in K-town for sizzling tofu hot pots served 24/7.

Governors Ball
With its lush riverfront lawns and unbeatable views of the Manhattan skyline, Randall’s Island Park is the perfect place to get up close and personal with headliners like Kanye West, The Strokes, and Beck. After the show, catch the Manhattan Ferry and make your way downtown to enjoy some world-class culture. Whether you want to get arty at the Guggenheim and the New Museum or take in a Broadway show (may we suggest uber-popular newcomer Hamilton?), The Big Apple won’t disappoint.

The 32nd New York Salsa Festival
New York City is the birthplace of salsa, so you know the genre’s biggest stars will be cooking up something special this June at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. Don’t miss red-hot favorites like Grupo Niche, Willie Colon, La Sonora Poncena, Jerry Rivera, Eddie Santiago, Los Adolescentes, Tito Rojas, Andy Montañez, and more as they bring the heat with a jam-packed day of seductive salsa rhythms. After the show, head for a mean margarita at hip Williamsburg spot Mesa Coyoacan.

XPoNential Music Festival
Located at the BB&T Pavilion on the Camden Riverfront directly across from the Philadelphia skyline, XPoNential combines a gorgeous outdoor setting with a killer rock lineup featuring Ryan Adams, Alabama Shakes, and Brandi Carlile. After the show, cross the Delaware and hit up Philly for a look at the Liberty Bell and a taste of cheesesteak heaven at Tony Luke’s, Dalessandro’s Steaks, or Jim’s Steaks South St.

Destination: Northeastern US

From charming New England states like Massachusetts and Rhode Island to historic Mid-Atlantic spots like Pennsylvania and Virginia, the Northeastern US is brimming with culture and natural beauty. Here’s what to see while traversing the region en route to your fest destination.

Boston Calling
This epic annual takeover of Boston’s City Hall Plaza brings big festival fun to the heart of downtown. Come for killer headliners like Sia, Disclosure, and Robyn, and stay for great Beantown attractions like Faneuil Hall, the Old State House, and the Paul Revere House. For creative comfort food and great cocktails in a stylish setting, head to Highland Kitchen in hip Somerville.

Newport Jazz Festival
From Louis Armstrong to John Zorn, the Newport Jazz Festival has been bringing the best in jazz to Fort Adams State Park for more than 60 years. With its expansive green lawns and panoramic views of the Narragansett Bay, Fort Adams is an ideal place to enjoy a weekend of world-class music from 2016 headliners Chick Corea, Kamasi Washington, and Galactic. Newport’s beautiful coastline has long made it a playground for America’s rich and powerful, and historic mansions abound—while in town, catch a tour of the Vanderbilt’s lavish summer “cottage” The Breakers…or tour their other grandiose summer home Marble House, which happens to be just down the street.

Newport Folk Festival
Taking place a week before its jazz counterpart at the same gorgeous waterfront location, the Newport Folk Festival promises fans another year of great music with headliners like Flight of the Concords, Norah Jones, Ray LaMontagne, Father John Misty, and more. If touring Newport’s magnificent mansions isn’t your thing, head over to the International Tennis Hall of Fame for a bit of sports history fun.

Susquehanna Breakdown
Each year Susquehanna draws folk, roots, and bluegrass fans to Montage Mountain in rural Pennsylvania for a weekend of music and camping in the great outdoors. In addition to stellar acts like Railroad Earth, The Infamous Stringdusters, and Cabinet, fans at the 2016 can and enjoy a concert poster art gallery and a bountiful array of craft food and beverage offerings. Once you’ve had your fill of nature, brush up on Scranton’s industrial past with a visit to the Scranton Iron Furnaces, the Steamtown National Historic Site, and the Lackawanna Coal Mine.

The Roots Picnic
Hip hop legends The Roots consistently book the hottest acts in rap, soul, R&B, and beyond for their annual picnic at The Festival Pier at Penn’s Landing, and the 2016 lineup promises to deliver another unforgettable day of beat-heavy summer fun with headliners Future, Usher, Leon Bridges, and The Roots themselves. While in town, drop by Independence Hall to see where the Constitution was signed—you’ve read about it in books, but there’s something deeply inspiring about seeing it in person.

Camp Bisco
There’s a lot to love about Camp Bisco. In addition to three days of killer dance music on three stages, the festival’s Montage Mountain setting features great camping, lush forests, a waterpark, a wave pool, and a lazy river. Topping it all off is this year’s insane lineup, which includes Big Grizmatik (Big Gigantic + Griz + Gramatik), The Discobiscuits, Odesza, Lotus, Zeds Dead, FJK, STS9, and more. For classic diner fare in a retro setting, hit up roadside favorite Chick’s Diner for a quick and satisfying bite en route to the festival.

The Peach Music Festival
Situated on the same Montage Mountain ski slopes as Camp Bisco, The Peach Music Festival features a smorgasbord of blues, country, alt rock, and jam band favorites performing in a gorgeous mountain setting. If you’ve never been to a ski resort in the summer, it’s definitely worth the experience. The Peach was founded in 2012 by The Allman Brothers, and this year’s festival features headliners Gregg Allman, The String Cheese Incident, and Trey Anastasio Band along with such diverse artists as The Claypool Lennon Delirium, Umphrey’s McGee, and Dark Star Orchestra. While in the region, don’t miss out on great Pocono Mountain activities like bird watching, fishing in Lake Wallenpaupack, and the family-friendly trails at Bushkill Falls.

Show of the Summer
This festival favorite lives up to its name with a killer lineup of up-and-coming pop sensations and an unbeatable location at majestic Hersheypark Stadium. After enjoying sets by Shawn Mendes, Sabrina Carpenter, and Jack and Jack, festivalgoers can indulge in chocolaty fun at the neighboring Hersheypark theme park or take a bite of choco history at the Hershey’s Chocolate World visitor center.

Patriotic Festival
Every year this oceanfront bash brings tons of patriotic country fun to the 5th Street Beach Stage in beautiful Virginia Beach. Soak up the sun with headliners like Chris Young, Sam Hunt, and Bobby Bones & Raging Idiots and then take a ridiculously long walk along the water—Virginia Beach holds the Guinness World Record for longest pleasure beach in the world.

Destination: Southeastern US

As you make your way down south you’ll receive a warm welcome—Southern hospitality is alive and well, and the friendly faces and relaxed atmosphere of the South give the region’s summer festivals a special flavor. From the rich history (and even richer soul food) of Atlanta and the unique Creole flair of Louisiana to the beachy bliss of Florida, there’s plenty of fun to be had as you check out these great fests.

Shaky Knees Music Festival
Shaky Knees kicks off its fourth year in its new home of Centennial Olympic Park in the heart of beautiful downtown Atlanta. Headliners Florence + the Machine, My Morning Jacket, and Jane’s Addiction are all on hand to christen the new location in style, with support from indie favorites like The Decemberists, Slowdive, and The 1975. Don’t miss nearby historic sites like the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site and the sleek World of Coca-Cola museum (Coke debuted in Atlanta in 1886). For outstanding soul food, head to local favorite The Busy Bee Cafe—don’t let the line daunt you, it’s worth the wait.

Shaky Beats Music Festival
This brand-spanking-new festival at Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park features top electronic acts alongside indie and hip hop greats. Taking place one week after its rock and pop-oriented sister festival Shaky Knees, Shaky Beats will bring the bass at its inaugural festival with a seriously impressive lineup featuring Major Lazer, Zhu, Duke Dumont, Odesza, Porter Robinson, Big Gigantic, Nas, and A$AP Ferg. Head to the nearby Fairlie-Poplar Historic District for a peek at Atlanta’s past—in addition to great shopping and dining, the neighborhood contains grand architectural landmarks like the Flatiron, Healy, and Rhodes-Haverty Buildings

Wanee Festival
Northwest Florida goes off every spring as the Wanee Festival brings a potent blend of rock, blues, roots, and jam band fun to the Spirit of the Suwanee Music Park in Live Oak. The festival is just a short shot from Tallahassee, so fans heading to the area can see what The Sunshine State’s capital is all about. Attendees at this year’s festival can get down to the sounds of headliners Widespread Panic, Greg Allman, and Gov’t Mule as well as great bands like Les Brers, Jaimoe’s Jassz Band, and Billy and the Kids.

Country 500
Memorial Day Weekend in Daytona? Party time! Country 500 promises to be as wild as ever this year with headliners Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean, and Florida Georgia Line bringing the boot-stomping fun to Daytona International Speedway. If Daytona’s legendary spring party scene isn’t your thing, there’s plenty of natural beauty to enjoy before and after the festival—you can even drive on the beach!

WJRR Earthday Birthday
Orlando’s Central Florida Fairground becomes a hub of green-centric activity and socially conscious music every year for WJRR’s Earthday Birthday. The 2016 fete features favorites like 311, Chevelle, Bush, Breaking Benjamin, and so many more. Orlando is basically the theme park capital of the world, so road trippers can take their pick of Walt Disney World, Universal Studios Florida, SeaWorld, Gatorland, and Wet n’ Wild. If you’re looking for something away from the theme park throngs, head to The Ravenous Pig in Winter Park for gastropub fare and Prohibition-era cocktails.

Voodoo Music + Arts Experience
Every Halloween weekend Voodoo Fest takes over City Park in New Orleans for three days of genre-spanning music, interactive art, and regional food specialties. The 2016 lineup is TBA, but last year’s fest was one for the books thanks to headliners Florence + the Machine, Ozzy Osbourne, and Zac Brown Band. The French Quarter is as vibrant as ever—before hitting the bars on Bourbon Street head for lunch at NOLA institution Galatoires, sip on a French 75 at classic cocktail bar Arnaud’s, and indulge in the best Bananas Foster you’ve ever had at the dessert’s birthplace Brennan’s.

Essence Festival
This massive annual celebration of black music and culture is a “party with a purpose”, bringing together an impressive lineup of amazing musicians and empowering speakers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in downtown New Orleans. This year’s fest features superstar performers like Mariah Carey, Kendrick Lamar, and Maxwell alongside brilliant speakers like Iyanla Vanzant, Misty Copeland, and Rev. Al Sharpton. Fill your tank before the show with a heaping po’ boy from Parkway Bakery & Tavern or the legendary fried chicken at Willie Mae’s Scotch House.

Music Festival Guide 2016

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