Music festivals are a great excuse to plan a vacation and take advantage of the great summer weather with outdoor performances. While events like Bonnaroo and Burning Man typically draw the most crowds and attention, there are plenty of other great gatherings across the country with less-pricey tickets, smaller crowds, great food, and amazing artists. If you’re looking for a more low-key experience to round out your late summer plans, check out some of the events below.
AVL Fest (Asheville, North Carolina)
Asheville shines as a music destination for being the home of luminaries – like Nina Simone, Bill Monroe and Robert Moog – a trove of storied venues, and an abundance of music and record shops. This summer is poised to go down in Asheville music history, as the inaugural AVL Fest kicks off on August 3rd and goes through August 6th. The three-day music festival features local and national acts, performing at more than 20 venues across town. Make a whole trip out of it and go hiking in the mountains, plan a bike ride, tour the Biltmore, and catch great food and drinks in town.
Farmstead Roots Creek Dinner Series (Leiper’s Fork, Tennessee)
Going on this summer until October 7th, the Farmstead Roots Creek Dinner Series at Wines in the Fork are multi-course meals prepared by local chefs paired with wine under the stars, cocktails and cigar-rolling. While the star of this festival is local cuisine, dinners are accompanied by live music and local artisan demonstrations. The location also makes for an excellent addition to any country music lovers trip, as Leiper’s Fork is just a short drive outside of Nashville. Add in plans to see a bigger concert in town, tour the historic Ryman Auditorium, and take a stroll through the Country Music Hall of Fame to round out this low-key getaway to Music City.
The Colonial Oak Music Park Concert Series (St. Augustine, Florida)
Sailboats at sunset in St. Augustine, Florida by Kristin Wilson – Unsplash
The Concert Series at The Colonial Oak Music Park in St. Augustine, Florida continues through the summer and into the fall. These free concerts feature local musicians and improv actors at an exceptional music venue. Music acts range from country, rock, pop, and dance. Improv shows rely heavily on audience participation, so come ready with some ideas. Tucked away on St. George Street, The Colonial Oak Music Park features towering oaks and plenty of space to dance or relax. Food and beverage from the adjacent St. Augustine Seafood Company is available during all events. Concerts are free and offered weekly, from Thursday through Sunday.
Glenville Festival’s Commemoration of Hip Hop’s 50th Anniversary (Cleveland, Ohio)
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland – courtesy of Destination Cleveland
Beyond being known as a rock ‘n’ roll city, Cleveland has a deep history with hip hop. The trailblazing Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Kid Cudi and Machine Gun Kelly hail from The Land. MC Chill became Cleveland’s first hip hop star in the 1980s, and, today, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame honors hip hop artists and their contributions to the artform. This summer, Cleveland offers multiple experiences to explore various genres and attend signature music events. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s new exhibit commemorates 50 years of hip hop with never-before-seen and “new school” artifacts from artists like DJ Kool Herc, Roxanne Shante, The Sugarhill Gang, Salt-N-Pepa and Jay-Z.
An annual neighborhood event, Glenville Festival, takes on a hip hop theme this year on August 12th with a lineup of local hip hop artists and a DJ battle. The neighborhood is where Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and other Cleveland hip hop artists started out, and the event is known for live music and surprise headlining artists.
Blossom Concert Series (Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio)
The renowned Cleveland Orchestra returns July 1 – September 9 for a summer lineup at Blossom Music Center inside Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The 2023 Blossom Concert Series features a diverse array of musical performances and special guests, including Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, music from Final Fantasy, Jurassic Park and Lord of the Rings, as well as Sibelius’ First Symphony and an evening with six-time Tony award-winning artist Audra McDonald.
For the Culture KS Fest (Topeka, Kansas)
A new first-of-its-kind festival celebrating African American culture and heritage is coming to Kansas’ capital city this summer. “For the Culture KS Fest” (FTC KS Fest) will run July 28-30, 2023, in Topeka, Kansas and include musical performances and vendors, as well as networking and panel sessions focused on professional and personal growth for Black individuals. The three-day event will feature several musical performances from local artists: Kansas-native Justin Aarons, a Top 8 contestant on The Voice; saxophonist JahVelle, who recently performed at the NFL Draft; Topeka-native rapper Brandon “Bizzy” Evans, and more. Discussion panels, hosted by a diverse group of experts, will range from business development to personal wellness. Additional activities include a choir hour with participation from five different churches; a two-hour African American history bus tour led by local Topeka historians Sherri Camp and Donna Rae Pearson; an art exhibit at the historic Jayhawk Theater; and scholarship giveaways of $1,000 to three local high school students.
“We wanted to create a sustainable art and cultural initiative for the state of Kansas that celebrates the positive influences in our local communities,” said co-founder Rodney Harmon, a Department of Justice – Bureau of Prisons retiree living in Topeka who has since dedicated his time to community volunteering and mentoring. “We’ve never seen Black culture represented on this scale before, and we wanted it to be more than a music festival. This is why we sought to include activities focusing on more than just performances, bringing together the intersection of art, business, health, and history of the African American community.”
Sunflower Blues & Gospel Festival (Clarksdale, Mississippi)
Close-up of a microphone by Israel Palacio – Unsplash
Taking place August 11-13, the Sunflower Blues & Gospel Festival is one of the oldest festivals celebrating authentic blues music since 1988. This event is free to the public and located inClarksdale, in Coahoma County, often referred to as the “Birthplace of the Blues.” Visitors will want to be sure to add a visit to the Delta Blues Museum and historical sites that were significant to the history of blues music such as The Crossroads, W.C. Handy’s home, Muddy Water’s home, WROX Radio Station, the Riverside Hotel, and the Blues Alley Railroad Depot.
Hop Country Music Festival (Yakima, Washington)
Hop Country Music Festival returns on September 15 and 16 this year, and features multi-Platinum sensation Neal Mccoy joined by stars Chris Janson and Easton Corbin. Chinook Fest has partnered with SOZO Sports of Central Washington to bring the thrilling festival back to the playing fields. Hop Country Music Festival is a new event for Central Washington with all proceeds going toward putting more youth on the field. For one weekend in September, country music stars will be at the complex for a festival filled with music, food, and fun! Find the full 2023 lineup here.