A brilliant music festival experience can become an unforgettable moment in one’s life. The sovereignty of the crowd paired with stellar musical acts and the makings of a surreal—if isolated—provisional society may whisk you and your friends away on the adventure of a lifetime. Of course, other times… they can be Fyre Festival. And while we all loved watching the films, let’s be honest: no one wants to be at the next Fyre Fest. Worry not, Journy's here to make sure you have only the best music festival experiences for 2020 and beyond—in addition to planning your days before and after the festival (think hotels, transportation, restaurants, activities/tours, etc).
Why not lead with the strongest foot? We’ve all heard plenty about the world’s most well-known music festivals (and if you haven’t, don’t worry, we’ll get to them later). But what about a truly unique trip—one that you and only so many others can even mention? We’ve got you covered.
1. Fuji Rock Festival (Japan)
Where: Naeba Ski Resort - Niigata Province of Japan
When: March 16 - March 19, 2020
Cost: Tickets range from $163 - $410
Genres: Rock, Electronic, Indie, Pop, Folk, Hip-Hop
Originally held at the base of Mount Fuji (thus the name), Fuji Rock Festival now sits at the base of the Naeba Ski Resort. Festival-goers will get treated to a seemingly unending span of emerald mountains and azure skies as they take in some of the world’s premiere musical talents across almost every genre. For those armed with eclectic taste, this might be the end-all-be-all of unbelievable festival encounters.
Fuji Rock Festival expects about 100,000 to 150,000 attendees each year. The festival features seven main stages, with a number of semi-stages scattered in between. Fuji takes up quite a bit of space, and you should expect to be doing a ton of trekking while you’re there. It’s hard to complain, however, when you’re treated to breathtaking forest views between each of your destinations. What’s more, if you’re feeling a little burnt-out from the bluster of the festival, you can take a ride on the Naeda Dragondola: a 3.5 mile-long gondola (the world’s largest).
But that’s not to say you’ll exactly get tired of the music Fuji has to offer. While next year’s lineup has yet to be announced, 2019 festival attendees were delighted to see world-class acts like The Chemical Brothers, The Cure, and SIA.
If you want a little bit of everything and you don’t mind traveling for it, Fuji Rock Festival should be next on your list.
2. BPM Costa Rica (& Portgual)
Where: Tamarindo, Costa Rica
When: Jan 15 - Jan 20, 2020 (keep your eyes out for next year’s dates)
Cost: Tickets starting at $130
Genres: Techno, House, Electronic
While it may be strange to cover a festival that’s already occurred, the reason for doing so is pretty simple: there never was a BPM Costa Rica before 2020. While many first-year festivals don’t fare well (Fyre Festival can only come up so many times in one article), it’s a world of difference when said festival is presented to you by the folks at BPM. Known for their flagship festival in Portugal, BPM decided to try their hand at a smaller gathering in the jungle of Costa Rica, and it went off with a bang.
If you’re not one for massive crowds, BPM Costa Rica might make your list for 2021. The 2020 crowd was less than 10,000 strong, but it was a crowd devoted to all things techno. There is a level of bond at a small festival that's worth a mention. While, no doubt, festival crowds unify under most circumstances, there's some additional reward in seeing regular faces again and again by day five. No doubt many friendships were forged in this jungle paradise, and for the music junkies in the crowd, all-star headliners were in no short-supply. Top acts in 2020 included Nicole Moudaber b2b Paco Osuna, Carl Craig, and Sasha.
Tamarindo itself is a beautiful locale for a festival trip. The locals are incredibly warm and inviting, the weather is stunning (even in January), and the beach is a short walk away. While prices aren’t exactly cheap compared to other parts of Central America, you can count on some high-quality meals and serene views during your otherwise chaotic stay.
You might prefer to make it across the Atlantic, and if you do, check out BPM Portugal. This kicks off September 11 - 13 in the southern coastal town of Portimao. Tickets usually start around $250, and the event is considerably larger at around 25,000 in attendance. Those who have spent any time in Portugal will know this is bound to be a memorable time.
3. Primavera Sound (Barcelona)
Where: Barcelona, Spain
When: June 3 - June 7, 2020
Cost: Tickets starting at $210
Genres: Rock, Electronic, Indie, Pop, Hip-Hop, Folk, Trap
Headliners: Tyler, the Creator, Lana Del Rey, Massive Attack
While we’re talking about Europe, Primavera Sound Barcelona must be mentioned. Primavera started as a modestly-sized festival in the Disney-like Poble Espanyol in Montjuic. Attendance came in at around 7,000 people for year one. After a few years of growing success, Primavera was eventually moved to the Parc del Forum in the northern part of town. Forum is an enormous local park, and its sheer size has allowed Primavera to become an absolutely massive city festival. It now clocks in at over 200,000 people, with 200+ artists featured across 16 different stages.
Expect to see every imaginable range of music across the multitude of stages throughout the weekend. You might be fortunate enough to see Nas playing next to Guided by Voices playing next to Interpol playing next to Richie Hawtin—all within the same hour. And for those who appreciate nothing more than the dance scene, Primavera recently added a ‘techno village’ only a short walk across the dreamlike, shambling metal bridge at the park’s center. Of course, a walk from one side of the festival to the other could easily take 30 or 40 minutes, so you must plan your timing wisely during your stay.
City festivals can at times be a bit of a drag—after all, everyone at the festival must return to reality at the end of every night. And oftentimes, the locals aren’t as happy that you’re there as you are. But Barcelona defies these norms in many ways. Primavera goes until 6AM every night, which is a hefty end-time for a city festival. Parc del Forum is also far enough out of town as to not disturb the locals, but at the same time is close enough to provide ample cabs and train transit back.
4. Sonus Festival (Croatia)
Where: Zrce Beach, Novalja, Croatia
When: August 15 - August 21, 2020
Cost: Tickets from $150
Genres: Techno, House, Electronic
Headliners: Richie Hawtin, Chris Liebling, Monika Kruse
Let’s hit the Dalmatian Coast to finish off our exotic festival offerings. If you haven’t popped into Croatia, you might consider booking a trip. It’s a gorgeous country filled with very friendly people, and while it often competes with other European countries when it comes to cost, it's still slightly cheaper than some of Europe’s major metropolitan centers.
Sonus is run by the same individuals who put on the very famous Time Warp festival in Germany, and their reputation alone might make this a done deal. But it gets better. Zrce Beach is located on the southern island of Novalja, and takes place in four massive clubs in the area. VIP tickets will get you into exclusive sections of each club, naturally. But, what’s more, Sonus offers day parties with your favorite DJs on the open water. While the boat trips don’t come with the ticket cost, if you want to get an intimate set from a world-class DJ, they might be worth a second thought.
Sonus does offer camping accommodations, though the country can be quite sweltering this time of year. An overall lack of shade may also sway your opinion. However, for the die-hards, the offer is there. Otherwise, you may find yourself in one of the area’s many lovely hotel resorts, catching a shuttle, taxi, or scooters into the festival atmosphere. Rest assured, Sonus is a magical trip for the tropical techno-head in all of us.
The Hidden Gems
There may be a few names you don't recognize on this list, but we make mention of them for their commanding presence within the festival community. You might be on the hunt for something that broadens your experiences, and if so, we hope you find your next destination in these treasures.
5. Okeechobee (Florida)
Where: Okeechobee, Florida
When: March 5 - March 8, 2020
Cost: Tickets from $289
Genres: Pop, Electronic, Folk, Rock, Indie
Headliners: Rufus du Sol, Mumford & Sons, Bassnectar
Though Okeechobee didn’t end up happening in 2019, it’s back in full force this year—and it looks to be a really fantastic outing. While Okeechobee may not be one of the largest festivals mentioned so far (with attendance around 34,000), the Tampa-adjacent camp adventure is in many ways a much more immersive experience than many other festivals.
Okeechobee offers, among many things, pristinely-planned art installations, costumed roaming characters, themed immersive areas, yoga, wellness and art workshops, and even notable speakers. It's as much of an arts festival as a music festival. For entertainment, Okeechobee will appeal to the lovers of all things music. The lineup is hip, modern, and diverse—so if you can’t get down at one stage, you probably won’t have to travel far to get down elsewhere.
Okeechobee is a camping festival, so many participants will be spending the evenings (or early afternoons) sleeping in their cars, RVs, and tents. But, as many festivals feature these days, there are glamping options for the indoor-types. They come with a price tag, no doubt—but that might be worth it to you.
Where: Detroit, Michigan
When: May 23 - May 25, 2020
Cost: Tickets from $209
Genres: Techno, techno, and techno (also house)
Headliners: The Black Madonna, Four Tet, Maceo Plex
This might be the first time you’ve even heard of Movement, and, I get it, Detroit probably wasn’t on the top of any of your travel lists. But rest assured, Movement is considered by many to be the premiere electronic music festival in all of North America.
If you have your doubts about the festival’s reputation, take for instance the fact that a large percentage of Movement’s crowd is international, often from Germany. Why is this? Because Detroit is the birthplace of techno music—a little known fact. Expect to see the original techno hard-hitters like Jeff Mills, Kevin Saunderson, Carl Craig, and Derick May playing one of Movement’s five stages, or the many after parties.
Movement is held in Detroit’s downtown Hart Plaza, a bit of a concrete basin that even features a dungeon-like ‘Bunker’ stage, for anyone looking for Berghain: Festival Edition. But don’t expect the rudeness at the door; the staff at Movement has a reputation for being friendly, professional, and accommodating. While not always the case, the VIP ticket is worth the extra $100 for Movement. It will get you access to exclusive VIP bars, toilets, and lounge areas behind each stage.
While attending, be sure to check out at least one of the many after parties. Ghostly International (a local favorite for electronic labels) always has a party at the trendy Marble Bar. Boston’s Soul Clap has a Saturday party at the legendary local haunt TV Lounge (sometimes called one of North America’s best dance clubs). And you might get a chance to see top-tier talent in the basement of Detroit’s Masonic Temple on Sunday.
This weekend might change how you see the once-shambolic Motor City.
7. Winter Music Conference (Florida)
Where: Miami, Florida
When: March 16 - March 19, 2020
Cost: Tickets from $280
Genres: Techno and House
Miami might be more famous for the often-lamented EDM Ultra Music Festival, but those-who-know know that WMC is the place to be. It might be a stretch to call Winter Music Conference a festival in any traditional terms. It's as much an industry convention as a festival, though it does not lack in parties.
For those who attend the conference itself, you will get a peek into the dance music industry as much as you will be exposed to the music and culture surrounding it. You might see Carl Cox, Nic Fanciulli, or Joseph Capriati talking not only about their careers, but the greater culture surrounding their rise to fame—its ups and its downs. For this reason, WMC draws a 38% international crowd from over 70 countries across the world.
But WMC happens for the entire week surrounding the conference itself, and, while it may be fascinating to hear the titans talk shop, you will also get plenty of chances to see them at play. There are over 500 different events attended by some 100,000 conference-goers throughout the week. Within hours you'll be hotel-hopping and lounging pool-side while being treated to some of the best in the business. If you tire of the typical festival experience, maybe WMC should be next in the cards.
8. Firefly Music Festival (Delaware)
Where: The Woodlands of Dover, DE
When: June 18 - June 21, 2020
Cost: Tickets from $299
Genres: Rock, Pop, Folk, Electronic, Indie
Headliners: Billie Eilish, Khalid, Big Boi
And to round out our hidden gems, we now head to the forests of Delaware for Firefly Music Festival. Firefly began in 2012, and it was widely-known for its hot-air balloon rides given to festival-goers. While the balloons have since been grounded, the balloon itself has become a symbol of the festival.
Firefly features over 100 different acts across seven unique stages, with a wide array of musical representation. The festival should appeal to fans of immersion, with its tucked-away setting, stunning art installations, and communal vibe. Some unique offerings of the festival are an arcade tent filled with video games, a coffee tent and hangout, and an inner-woods silent rave.
While Firefly is a camping festival, it does offer all the modern glamping experiences for the air-conditioning-deficient. One of the more admirable pursuits of Firefly is its commitment to carbon offsets. Just last year Firefly offset over 1.5 million pounds of carbon. May you party with environmental pride.
Here we are at our final stop. These names might seem a bit familiar, but we can’t skip 'em. For one reason or another, they deserve to be on top.
9. Coachella (Indio, California)
Where: Indio, California
When: April 10 - April 12 and April 17 - April 19, 2020
Cost: Tickets from $429
Genres: Rock, Indie, Pop, Folk, Electronic, Hip-Hop, K-Pop… most everything
Headliners: Travis Scott, Rage Against the Machine, Frank Ocean
The C-word. Coachella. It gets all too often affiliated with entitled Millennial culture these days. Of course that’s not exactly Coachella’s fault, is it? There must be some reason it draws such a crowd.
Taking place on an enormous 642-acre plot, Coachella happens twice every year, one week apart from each other. It is one of the largest and most-profitable music festivals in the entire world, bringing in 250,000 people and over $100 million per year.
Bigger is not always better. But, for a mainstream event, Coachella does some pretty awesome things. It has an immense focus on its art. While it started off borrowing art from the previous year’s Burning Man, in 2007 Coachella’s art direction took on a life all its own, with each year ratcheting up the insanity. You’ve no-doubt seen a city-block-sized floating astronaut or two in the news.
And the festival does aim toward sustainability. The event producers have employed numerous unique efforts to reduce the event’s carbon footprint. Such experiments have included solar-powered DJ booths and see-saw powered phone chargers.
10. Bonnaroo (Tennessee)
Where: Great Stage Park, Tennessee
When: June 11 - June 14, 2020
Cost: Tickets from $340
Genres: Rock, Hip-Hop, Indie, Pop, Folk, Electronic
Headliners: Lizzo, Leon Bridges, Tool, Miley Cyrus
Bonnaroo Music Festival has become its own punchline, much like Coachella. Whereas Coachella was attended by the Instagram influencer who hijacks your yoga class every week, Bonnaroo is attended by your worst ex-boyfriend who didn’t believe in money and ruined your favorite couch.
But again, these are stereotypes.
Bonnaroo became so enormous by offering such a mind-blowing experience. You can expect to see nearly 200 performers on 10 different stages throughout your four-day adventure. And while Bonnaroo has earned a reputation for the discomfort of its camping accommodations, the times have changed significantly. Now, like every camping festival we have mentioned, you can glamp your way through your trip to the Volunteer State.
If you can’t commit to any one style of music, you’ll be treated to all. Lizzo, Leon Bridges, and Tool all sharing one headline is quite a variety in and of itself. And, of course, when you need a break from tunes, you can spend some spare moments doing yoga, art, or checking out the immersive art hangouts.
11. Stagecoach (Indio, California)
Where: Indio, California
When: April 24 - April 26, 2020
Cost: Tickets from $320
Genres: Country music (and a little bit rock and roll)
Headliners: Carrie Underwood, Thomas Rhett, Eric Church
The San Francisco-neighbor Indio might look pretty familiar by now. Yes, Stagecoach is a sister festival to Coachella. Just one week after the smoke clears from Coachella, Stagecoach saddles up the wagons and brings to the area a family-friendly country music experience like no other. You thought we wouldn’t mention country music, didn’t you?
Stagecoach offers some of America’s premiere country music alongside camping and glamorous hotel lodging. When you’re not taking in the flavors of the stages, you can pop into the Honkytonk Dancehall for line-stepping, two-stepping, square-dancing, and a good family-friendly hoedown. The little ones will get a kick out of crafts and games at the Half-Pint Hootenanny, and you can head to Flavortown at Guy Fieri’s Stagecoach Smokehouse for some fresh BBQ. If you just adore the Coachella ferris wheel and thought you’d miss out, don’t worry—it sticks around for Stagecoach as well.
12. Governors Ball Music Festival (NYC)
Where: Randall’s Island, NYC
When: June 5 - June 7, 2020
Cost: Tickets from $315
Genres: Rock, Pop, Indie, Hip-hop, Electronic, Country, Folk
Headliners: Tame Impala, Flume, Stevie Nicks, Vampire Weekend
Governors Ball Music Festival draws a stunning 150,000 individuals to take in the 70+ acts it offers on its four stages. It began on a strong note in 2011, drawing the largest gathering of people that the island had ever seen. Since then, it has only grown in popularity and diversity in its representation.
Randall’s Island isn’t exactly midtown Manhattan, but it is still fairly accessible from most parts of the city. Since New York City only gets bigger by the day, you might find yourself with a bit of a commute on your hands. But fear not, you can get to Governors Ball by train, bus, taxi, and ferry. You could stay in Manhattan proper, but don't be shy about those lofts in Brooklyn; you'll get to the island all the same.
A new feature to the 2020 event is a special $715/day luxury pass. This includes exclusive terrace access to each stage, free drinks, and private catering. It wouldn’t be New York without a gold-plated-black-truffle-of-a-ticket offering.
13. Boston Calling
Where: Allston, Massachusetts
When: May 22 - May 25, 2020
Cost: Tickets from $339
Genres: Rock, Hip-hop, Electronic, Folk, Indie
Headliners: Rage Against the Machine, Foo Fighters, Red Hot Chilli Peppers
Finally, we’re going to round off the list with sort of a new-comer. Boston Calling got started in 2013 at the City Hall Plaza downtown. It featured two stages facing one another, and rotated artists between the two. It goes without saying, it was quite a hit.
The festival is almost unrecognizably different at this point. It now takes place in the Harvard Athletic Complex in the college neighborhood of Allston. It sports twice as many stages and features some 60+ performers. Taking a note from Coachella, Boston Calling also installed a 150’ ferris wheel to boot. Boston Calling is no minor player, offering a top-tier festival lineup and plenty of activities and upscale food options. And, at the end of the day, Boston is by no means the worst city to venture back into for some late-night ruckus.
Lollapalooza, Burning Man, Bottlerock... there are just too many to mention. But we hope you're inspired to take the next unforgettable adventure with loved ones. Leave the planning to Journy—all you have to worry about is having fun (and staying hydrated!).