With a fusion of local art, music, and cuisine, music festivals offer a unique view of what makes a different region tick, and a perfect excuse to indulge in some good old fashioned fun.
Hoping to tailgate off the success of internationally-renowned festivals like Glastonbury and Coachella, the number of smaller festivals in North America has steadily increased in recent years and are now multi-day, offer on-site camping, and pull some serious names in the music industry and art community. That’s great news for us – we now have a whole host of options that cater to all ages, budgets, and musical tastes.
If you’re planning a trip in North America, consider scheduling one, or more, of these western Canada/US festivals into your itinerary. Dates are for 2015 but you can feel reasonably confident they’ll be held around the same time in 2016.
Key Info: April 10 – 12 and April 17 – 19. Indio, CA (2.5 hours east of Los Angeles)
About: The mothership of North American music festivals, Coachella, runs for one weekend then repeats itself in its entirety the following. People travel from all over the world to attend one, or both, weekends, and the lineup is consistently stellar – so this isn’t the festival for chilling with the locals but I guarantee you’ll get a kick-ass authentic festival experience, and a tonne of that Californian desert sun. Headliners this year include AC/DC, Jack White, Drake, and Florence and the Machine.
Before or After: Spend some time in Palm Springs to soak in the Cali desert lifestyle, or head to LA and tick all those cheesy-touristy items off your bucket list.
Insider’s Tip: Skip the camping ground and hire a house through airbnb in the neighbouring towns, then rent bikes and ride to the festival each day (and make sure you have a puncture kit!).
More Details: https://www.coachella.com
Key Info: May 22 – 25. The Gorge Amphitheatre, WA (2.5 hours south-east of Seattle)
About: The festival darling of the Pacific North West, Sasquatch has been hosted at the stunning Gorge Amphitheatre since 2002. If you’re feeling flush, you can ‘glamp’ on-site in a secluded cottage style tent for two people with all the bells and whistles for $2,500. Otherwise it’s $150 per camping space for a maximum of six people, although it’s worth paying a bit extra to nab a camping spot as close to the stages as possible. Headliners this year include Kendrick Lamar, Robert Plant, Modest Mouse, The Decemberists, Of Monsters and Men, Ryan Adams, and Lana Del Rey
Before or After: Spend time in the Pacific North West. The Boeing Factory in Everett, just north of Seattle, gives real-time insight into plane manufacturing and you’ll leave with a new level of gratitude for long-haul flights in cattle class.
Insider’s Tip: Be prepared for the weather to change. It can be lovely and warm during the day and then freaking freezing at night. Also, traffic can be slow on the Friday afternoon so give yourself plenty of time.
More Details: http://sasquatchfestival.com
Key Info: June 24 – 28. Calgary AB
About: A festival celebrating all things creative, Sled Island is hosted in multiple venues across Calgary with events for film, comedy, music, and art buffs alike. The music is more of the alternative / indie persuasion with a stack of established and up-and-coming local acts. This year the line up includes Fu Manchu, Ben Frost, Jaga Jazzist, and Viet Cong with more to be confirmed.
Before or After: In and around attending gigs, explore Calgary and Alberta. Check out the Calgary city guide for more info.
Insider’s Tip: Event tickets can be purchased on an individual basis, but if you’re in it for full experience (or even just a few gigs), fork out for all-inclusive festival pass.
More Details: http://www.sledisland.com
CRAVEN COUNTRY JAMBOREE
Key Info: July 9 – 12. Craven, SK (15 minutes north of Regina)
About: Touted as the ‘World’s Greatest Country Music Festival’, Craven Country Jamboree is also the longest running multi-day music festival in Canada. Based in the horizonless Canadian prairies, the Jamboree is the perfect excuse to don your cowboy hat and kick back in an incredibly friendly festival atmosphere. Headliners this year include Blake Shelton, Florida Georgia Line, and The Bellamy Brothers.
Before or After: Eat your way around Regina – it boasts more restaurants per capita than any other city in Canada.
Random Fact: Roy Orbison performed at the first Craven festival and its had some major country kings and queens since including Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, and John Denver.
More Details: http://www.cravencountryjamboree.com
Key Info: July 16 – 19. Pemberton, BC (2 hours north of Vancouver)
About: Pemberton held its first music festival in 2008, then had a seven year hiatus before returning in 2014. Luckily it’s sticking around for 2015 because it always manages to pull some pretty serious acts. There’s a mini 90s revival this year with headliners including Weezer, Jane’s Addiction, Missy Elliot. Also, Cheech and Chong (yes, those guys) will be in attendance as part of the annual comedy showcase.
Before or After: Don’t head back to Vancouver with the crowds, stay in Pemberton or drive down to Whistler and explore the trails by foot or mountain bike. BC’s mountains are a total wilderness retreat but incredibly accessible.
Insider’s Tip: Don’t attempt to smuggle contraband. These guys have seen every trick in the book, so don’t risk anything you’re not prepared to lose (this goes for pretty much every festival, too).
More Details: http://pembertonmusicfestival.com
Key Info: August 7 – 10. Salmo River Ranch BC (45 minutes south of Nelson)
About: This isn’t your run-of-the-mill music festival. Shambhala is a family-run, grassroots, embrace your inner flower-child kinda gig celebrating the underground electronic music scene. Hosted on a 500-acre working farm with free camping and an eclectic line-up, it’s “all about the people on the dance floor”.
Before or After: Hang out in Nelson to recover, a gorgeous wee nugget of BC. It’s known for its openness to alternative lifestyles and has some damn fine coffee shops.
Random Fact: Shambhala is powered by its crew of volunteers. Benefits include a free festival pass, camping, and meals. Non-Canadian citizens are welcome to apply, but will need a working holiday permit.
More Details: http://www.shambhalamusicfestival.com
Key Info: August 7 – 10. Squamish, BC (1 hour north of Vancouver)
About: Squamish is smack-bang between Vancouver and Whistler and is in the heart of BC’s beautiful outdoors. Don’t come to this one for the festival experience, go along just a day or two as an added musical bonus to your BC adventure. The 2015 line up includes Mumford and Sons, Drake, Sam Smith, and The Kills.
Before or After: Same for Pemberton! A couple of personal hiking recommendations include The Chief in Squamish (~4 hours return) or splash out on a lift ticket at Whistler and explore the High Note Trail (also ~4 hours return trip). Pack your lunch and watch out for bears!
Insider’s Tip: Skip the campground with this one too. There are so many accommodation options for all budgets in Squamish or Whistler. A parking pass is $100CAD for the entire weekend OR $40CAD per day, or there are various shuttles operating.
More Details: http://squamishfestival.com
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