Ultimate Guide To The Top Music Festivals In The US

What are the best music festivals to attend in the U.S.? Ranking the 10 best music festivals in the United States can be as subjective (and divisive) as a band like Maroon 5.

NCSharp borrowed a page from Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic by creating the ultimate ranking of the best music festivals based on the combined scores of ten popular websites.

We won’t get too detailed about our methods, but the festivals mentioned on the most lists and ranked the highest scored the best. As a bonus, we also included three of the best music festivals in North Carolina.

So, slap on your bucket hat, douse yourself in bug spray, and wrap yourself in your pashmina. Here is NCSharp’s ultimate guide to the best music festivals in the U.S.:

1. Lollapalooza—Chicago, IL

Held over four days in the first week of August, this once-roaming festival has found new life anchored in Chicago. It tops NCSharp’s list thanks to being highly rated on eight of the ten lists we used for our rankings.

Home to everything from metal to hip hop to electronic dance music, Lollapalooza starred Billie Eilish, Kendrick Lamar, Odesza, Lana Del Rey, and Red Hot Chili Peppers in 2023. The festival sold more than 100,000 tickets. (Dates and artists for 2024 are still to be finalized.)

Bonus: You can score an Italian Beef to nosh while crowd-surfing across Grant Park.

2. Bonnaroo—Manchester, TN

This four-day festival held the second week of June between Nashville and Chattanooga ranked seven times. Little wonder, as it has been a crowd-pleaser for over 20 years.

This year looks to be no exception, with the likes of Pretty Lights, Post Malone, Maggie Rogers, Megan Thee Stallion, Jason Isbell, and the 400 Unit set to perform.

In 2023, the festival sold all 70,000 tickets. Almost as many selfies were taken in front of the Bonnaroo fountain.

3. Coachella—Indio, CA

Unsurprisingly, this massively popular music festival in the desert is high on our list. It ranked on six lists, and of those rankings, Coachella scored two #1s and two #3 placements. The mid-April spectacle is held over two weekends and typically draws over 500,000 attendees every year.

This year, Coachella features a No Doubt reunion. Other headliners include Lana Del Rey, Tyler, The Creator, and Doja Cat.

Coachella is home to large-scale art installations and a foodie’s paradise featuring some of the best from the world’s greatest restaurants.

4. New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival—New Orleans, LA

A New Orleans staple for over 50 years, this festival is held over two weekends in late April and early May. It was listed on six of the ten websites.

Last year, the festival drew more than 460,000 attendees.

This year could top that with a lineup that includes The Rolling Stones, Foo Fighters, Chris Stapleton, Neil Young and Crazy Horse, The Killers, and many more.

Plus, the food is to die for. Where else can you get an alligator sausage po-boy, jambalaya, and crawfish beignets all in one place?

5. Governor’s Ball—New York, NY

A three-day festival held the first weekend in June in the Big Apple, Governor’s Ball has made a big impact in the 13 years since it started on Governor’s Island. So much so that it was ranked on five top music festival lists. Now being held in Corona Park in Flushing Meadows, Governor’s Ball attracted 100,000 in 2023.

In 2024, star acts include Rauw Alejandro, 21 Savage, Sza, Dominic Fike, and Carly Rae Jepsen.

Bonus: It’s in New York. Enough said.

6. SXSW —Austin, TX

Much more than a music festival, South by Southwest, also known as SXSW,  is a huge film, TV, and comedy event that is one of the earliest festivals of the year.

SXSW runs for eight days in the second week of March. In terms of the music, it’s a series of smaller events featuring more than 300 emerging artists performing throughout downtown Austin.

This 37-year-old festival drew nearly 350,000 attendees in 2023.

The Black Keys, STRFKR, Kneecap, waterbaby, Rawayana, Giovannie & The Hired Guns, BALTHVS, Ho99o9, and more will perform at this year’s festival.

7. Ultra Music Fest—Miami, FL

Held over three days in Bayfront Park the third week of March, the Ultra Music Fest is one of the biggest electronic music festivals in the world. Last year, attendance topped 165,000.

This year’s festival will feature David Guetta, Afrojack, Calvin Harris, Hardwell, Martin Garrix, and many more. It is also just five miles from South Beach.

8. Rolling Loud—Inglewood, CA / Miami, FL

This international hip-hop festival, which started in 2015, is typically held yearly in California and Florida. Last year, the festival had some 150,000 attendees at the two locations combined.

The three-day California lineup for March 15-17 is set. The weekend will feature Nicki Minaj, Post Malone, Future x Metro Boomin, and more. The Miami dates for Rolling Loud are not yet published but are expected to be held in July.

9. Electric Daisy Carnival—Las Vegas, NV

This electronic dance music festival was first held in 1991 and has been extremely popular ever since. Last year, the three-day festival at the Las Vegas Speedway drew 520,000 people.

This year’s lineup has yet to be released, but more than 230 acts performed in 2023.

Bonus: It’s in Vegas, baby!

10. Outside Lands—San Francisco, CA

This three-day music, art, food, wine, and cannabis festival began in 2008 and continues to make the critics’ lists as one of the top music festivals in the country.

Held on the second weekend of August, the festival has yet to release its 2024 lineup. But, last year, headliners included Kendrick Lamar, Foo Fighters, The 1975, Zedd, Noah Kahan, Lil Yachty, and more. Attendance was 225,000.

Bonus: Few, if any, festivals can top the scenery found in Golden Gate Park.

Popular music festivals in North Carolina

Lovin Life—Charlotte, NC

This marks the inaugural year for the Lovin Life festival. The event kicks off May 3-5 in the heart of Charlotte, but the headliners already make this one a top-shelf event.

Stars slated to perform include Stevie Nicks, Post Malone, Noah Kahan, The Chainsmokers, and Young The Giant.

Dreamville—Raleigh, NC

This two-day festival started by rapper J. Cole has been a fixture in Raleigh since 2007. Last year, 100,000 people attended.

The 2024 festival is set for April 6-7; the lineup is still forthcoming.

Breakaway—Concord, NC

This roving EDM, house, pop, and dance festival lands in Concord Sept. 27-28 at the zMAX Dragway.

No firm lineup has been announced. Last year, the headliners were Porter Robinson, Dom Dolla, Flume, and Alison Wonderland.

About the Author

Dave Briggs

Dave Briggs is a managing editor and writer for Catena Media. His expertise is covering the gambling industry in Michigan with an emphasis on online casino, online sports betting and horse racing sectors. The Ontario resident and native also reports on the intersection of music, sports and culture. He is currently reporting on the gambling industries in Michigan, North Carolina and Canada.