10 Music Festivals Worth Traveling To

By George Grella
February 12, 2018
Wilco on stage at Big Ears music festival
Cora Wagoner
From classical music on the lawn to world-class jazz, from pop favorites to the avant garde, these musical celebrations are destinations in their own right.

Some of our favorite North American destinations (including New Orleans, Chicago, Austin, and Montreal) play host to some of the world's finest music festivals. Here, from the coast of California to the mountains of New England and beyond, a sampling of 10 celebrations of classical, jazz, pop, Broadway, and more, that every member of the family will love.


New music, through-and-through

Where/when: Knoxville, TN, March 22 to 25,

The Big Ears Festival  packs an exciting mix of music into downtown Knoxville, promising close to 100 shows on this year’s schedule. Ranging from rock to improvisation to contemporary classical, the uniting factor among the musicians is that they are all at the cutting edge. And for your eyes, there is a film series. You must hear: Craig Taborn, the Bang on a Can All-Stars, Meshell Ndegocello, the Tyshawn Sorey Trio, Jason Moran’s “Fats Waller Dance Party,” Aine O’Dwyer, and the International Contemporary Ensemble playing Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s mesmerizing “In the Light of the Air.”


All-American music

Where/when: New Orleans, LA, April 27 to May 6,

One of the biggest annual music festivals in North America, and maybe the funnest. There will be plenty of jazz, of course, at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, from the likes of Terence Blanchard, Kermit Ruffins, and Nicholas Payton. But this is New Orleans, the incubator for almost every style of popular music in America, so there will be hundreds of acts to gorge on, including Common, Sting, Aerosmith, Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk, Jack White, and Trombone Shorty. Plus you’re in New Orleans. You must hear: Aretha Franklin and Bonnie Raitt, April 28, and Beck and Cheryl Crow, May 4.


From the classics to the brand-new

Where/when: Charleston, SC, May 25 to June 10,

Opera, theater, dance, symphonic and chamber music, classic and new works, jazz, bluegrass; no festival offers more than Spoleto Festival USA. The setting, historic Charleston, is one of America’s favorite tourist destinations and is a pleasure that awaits anyone who needs a break from the performances, if that’s possible. You must hear: Donizetti’s Pia de’ Tolomei (various dates), a concert of Mozart and Mahler on June 9, the Fred Hersch Trio on May 27, and Ricky Skaggs on June 1.


Summertime classical music in the City of Big Shoulders

Where/when: Chicago, IL, June 13 to August 18,

Beginning in late spring and running through almost 10 weeks, there are no bad times to attend the free Grant Park Music Festival, and plenty of good ones. All concerts are al fresco in the stunning Frank Gehry-designed Jay Pritzker Pavilion, inside the equally lovely Millennium Park, along Lake Michigan. For this season, the Grant Park Orchestra, under the baton of Carlos Kalmar, will play orchestral and choral music from composers such as Tchaikovsky, Copland, Vivaldi, Bruckner, and Schumann. You must hear: choral music by Brahms, Bernstein, and Messiaen, and a world premiere from composer Êriks Ešenvalds, June 20 and 22.


The Boston Symphony and so much more in the Berkshires

Where/when: Tanglewood, MA, June 15 to September 2,

Summer means getting out of the big city, and for classical music the premiere name in summer festivals is the Tanglewood Music Festival. But you’ll find so much more here; the opening event is Roger Daltrey performing the Who’s Tommy with the Boston Pops. This season, former BSO conductor Leonard Bernstein’s centennial will be celebrated via his “Chichester Psalms,” “Serenade,” and the film version of West Side Story—the BSO will accompany the movie with a live performance of the score. You must hear: Lang Lang and the Boston Symphony on July 6 and a semi-staged La Bohème, July 14.


A musical escape from NYC

Where/when: Katonah, NY, June 16 to July 29,

Just far enough from New York City, and in the shadow of Beaver Dam State Park, the Caramoor Summer Music Festival is a getaway and music festival in one. Along with evening performances, there are matinee concerts for families that include the chamber orchestra The Knights, and Aimee Mann and Valerie June, while a collaboration with Jazz at Lincoln Center will bring prodigy Joey Alexander. You must hear: The June 16 opening night with Audra McDonald, Kronos Quartet on June 29, an all-ages, outdoor performance of John Luther Adams’ Inuksuit on July 1, and Susan Graham in front of the Orchestra of St. Luke’s at the closing concert.


Global flavor in an international city

Where/when: Montreal, Québec, Canada, June 28 to July 7,

Now in its 39th year, the Montreal International Jazz Festival is one of the biggest festivals of its kind globally, and a great way to enjoy the long summer days of Montreal. Another distinguishing characteristic of this festival is the many headliners whose music stretches into rock and pop and beyond, like Angélique Kidjo, Max Richter, and Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull fame. You must hear: Dee Dee Bridgewater on June 30 and GoGo Penguin on July 1.


Opera on the lake

Where/when: Cooperstown, NY, July 7 to August 24,

The Glimmerglass Festival means opera, but this annual festival also includes theatrical and popular song performances, talks, and, for this year, something completely different: a night of chamber music and literature with cellist Jan Vogler, pianist Vanessa Perez, violinist Mira Wang, and… Bill Murray (July 24). You must hear: West Side Story with its original Jerome Robbins choreography, The Cunning Little Vixen, and the Young Artists Program performance of The Odyssey (various dates for all).


A top destination for jazz fans for 60 years

Where/when: Monterey, CA, September 21 to 23,

The Monterey Jazz Festival is one of the most famous jazz festivals in the world (it even co-starred in Clint Eastwood’s jazz-infused thriller Play Misty For Me), and justifiably so. This long weekend of music is held within the Monterey County Fairgrounds, which is transformed into a jazz village. Besides the main outdoor arena, there are numerous club-like venues, each with multiple sets per day. Jazz fans can stroll from one to another, and if the promised 130+ shows for 2018 become a little overwhelming, you’ll be in Monterey, one of the loveliest coastal regions in America. (The festival’s lineup is still TBA.)


Great music and great for families

Where/when: Austin, TX, October 5 to 7 and October 12 to 14,

Across two weekends in Zilker Park in the self-described live music capital of the world, the Austin City Limits Music Festival is a fall celebration that is family friendly. The emphasis is on rock, pop, hip-hop, and indie music (and since this is Austin, the emphasis is also on great food), with dozens of acts playing both weekends in case it’s hard to choose between the two sets of dates. You must hear: Jay-Z, Gorillaz, Run the Jewels, Chance the Rapper, and Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Keep reading

Miami's 10 Tastiest Secrets

Miami’s reputation for excess is the stuff of hip-hop video fantasy: Parties on yachts with models and oligarch henchmen; bottle service at the latest nightclub next to pro athletes and career scenesters; James Bond-like characters making mojitos at the wet bar in your penthouse suite. In summary: debauched, superficial, and vastly expensive. Or so the stereotype goes.  This is the Miami that was concocted to appeal to people’s most aspirational and competitive fantasies--but it’s not how regular visitors or part-time residents try to live. You can actually have the boat life, nightlife, and even the penthouse views in Miami for a much more reasonable cash outlay. And pro tip: Fantastic restaurants and bars abound in the city, and they’re are rarely ostentatious even if they’re expensive, certain parts of mid-beach and Brickell notwithstanding. Planning an escape to Miami? We’ve rounded up 10 local favorites that offer great value and ambience aplenty.  1. THE WYNWOOD YARD There are patches of old Wynwood, a mural-splashed urban warehouse neighborhood, left in Miami’s now ultra-gentrified arts district, and The Wynwood Yard (, an outdoor community bazaar/food truck park/urban garden is the best of them. The grounds are green and abundant with flowers and food plants; the outdoor bar and food vendors serve drinks and eats that are just as quality as what you'd get in any formal indoor establishment. What's more, local organizations and promoters are always running some kind of cool event. Depending on when you visit, you might wander into a yoga class, a crafts market, an entrepreneur networking event, or a free reggae show. On one night that'll go down in the history books, Shakira showed up and played a free midnight show. It was only two songs, but still. Shakira. 2. COYO TACO Miami does tacos as well as anywhere on the West Coast or Texas, but here, taquerias are not expected to be a humble, hole-in-the-wall experience. Even the cheapest of eats can be served with a little flair. Local favorites, of which Coyo Taco ( is right at the top, play to Miami’s fashionable crowds and penchant for day drinking. The Latin Caribbean-influenced menu showcases a fresh approach to fast-casual (the website advertises guacamole “smashed to order”). Toss in ice-cold beer and margaritas and colorful slightly urban décor and it adds up to the perfect dine-in experience at grocery deli prices. 3. PUBBELLY NOODLE BAR There’s something immediately charming about a Miami brand that gives a shout-out to the belly. Not that the trio of male founders of Pubbelly Noodle Bar ( fit the dad-bod physical profile, but they do have a passion for rich food and friendly hospitality. Chef and founding partner Jose Mendin, a native Puerto Rican with classic culinary school training, began his career with the Nobu restaurant group (first in Miami, and then London). He’s equally talented working with pork – the beloved staple protein of Puerto Rico – as devising colorful, delicious Asian dishes. The cozy, constantly packed noodle bar, located next to Pubbelly Sushi in Miami Beach's Sunset Harbour neighborhood, is the best of both worlds on one umami-rich menu. It isn’t quite cheap eats, but a ramen bowl can serve two. 4. MONTY'S ON SOUTH BEACH The marina views of millionaires’ yachts lend Monty's on South Beach ( a luxe vibe, even though the décor is a step up from picnic tables and there is a family-friendly swimming pool on the main deck. As long as it’s not raining, the large wraparound deck space is normally packed with a happy mix of local professionals, South of Fifth residents, and tourists feeling clever that they found this spot. Stone crab claws—South Florida’s claim to shellfish fame—are a huge draw during Monty’s wildly popular Happy Hour (Monday through Friday from 4PM to 8PM), when they're often only $5 each in season. Happy Hour raw bar specials change, but oysters and jumbo shrimp also make frequent appearances. Well liquor is half off, and beer and wine 30 percent off. 5. LAGNIAPPE In Louisiana and the Cajun parts of Texas, lagniappe is “a little something extra”—a little gift, a gratuitous favor. And while nothing’s gifted at Lagniappe (, a Bohemian-jazzy backyard bar, gourmands will find many little gifts in the refrigerator case by the back bar counter. Specifically, there are dozens of small plastic-wrapped packages of fine cheese and charcuterie, which mostly cost between $4 and $12. Choose whichever ones look good, hand them over the counter, and the staff will turn them into a bespoke charcuterie platter. Other guests forgo the snacks and just buy a couple bottles of wine to accompany the live music, buzzy vibe, and occasional summer downpour.   6. SHUCKERS WATERFRONT GRILL The lively happy hour is just one of the many reasons that Shuckers Waterfront Grill (, a sunny, raucous outdoor bar on Biscayne Bay can't keep count on its regulars. (See also: its epic sunset views, its grilled wings, its boat-up dock that accommodates everything from small yachts to rickety two-man rowboats, the sports on TV.) It's also notorious among locals because not very long ago, the entire main deck collapsed and fell into the bay while approximately 100 people were seated on it. Only after spending an evening at Shuckers can you understand why such an event, while it may have been very shocking and very wet for those who experienced, did absolutely nothing to discourage the standing-room-only crowds who show up every night. 7. DRUNKEN DRAGON With a name like Drunken Dragon ( in Miami, there’s no telling what the venue might be. A tattoo parlor with an adjacent liquor store? A geisha drag pop-up? In fact, it’s one of the city’s best Asian fusion restaurants, hidden away behind an anonymous door in a strip mall resembling Ali Baba’s treasure cave decked out in leather club chairs. Sexy-sophisticated décor blends bling (golden strand curtains) with tiki touches with eyebrow-raising art. A limited number of Korean barbecue tables are available, usually after a wait, for those who want to get hands-on with their food. Others order from the small plates, often showing up for the great Happy Hour, which starts at the hour most of the world leaves the office, but Miami-ites leave the beach. 8. TAURUS BEER & WHISK(E)Y HOUSE An icon in one of Miami’s classic non-beach neighborhoods, Taurus Beer & Whisk(e)y House ( is known by night for its comedy and trivia nights, plus its encyclopedic selection of 100+ whiskeys. The food is basic burger and bar fare, with nightly specials offering prices from last generation ($2 taco Tuesdays, $5 chili dog Thursdays, 15% industry night discount on Sundays and Mondays). Though historically an evening spot, Taurus’s 2016 foray into daytime dining, specifically weekend brunch, was received with great enthusiasm. This is largely due to the $19 bottomless booze option. A bacon rye old-fashioned and an jalapeno bloody mary are among the all-you-can-drink offerings.  9. VAGABOND KITCHEN Avra Jain, owner/developer of Vagabond Hotel, is the force behind the Upper East Side’s urban revitalization—and definitely one to lead trends, not follow. So it stands to reason that the Vagabond’s retro-sexy-deco-cool restaurant/bar, Vagabond Kitchen ( is home to all sorts of interesting goings-ons. Whether it’s bottomless Sunday brunch, the launch of a new burlesque cabaret, a DJ on the pool deck late-night, or an impromptu art collaboration with a Miami-based collective, the property regularly partners on creative missions. Its typical vibe is boozy, experimental, and inclusive. Except during normal meal hours, when the staff keeps food as the focus, executing contemporary American fare with TLC.   10. IVAN'S COOKHOUSE Most Caribbean restaurants in Miami strive for the bare-bones ambiance of island shacks, better suited to takeout joints than special occasion dining. There are exceptions, the most interesting of which is Ivan's Cookhouse (, a stylish restaurant that "Chopped" winner Ivan Dorvil opened in 2016. You can really tell why this chef did so well on the cooking show: he never puts his restaurant on autopilot. He's constantly changing up the menu, creating specials, or hosting live bands. He even decided recently to open for breakfast during the week. His menu is as Asian and European as it is Caribbean, but all the island staples are represented somewhere. Jerk chicken, fresh-caught fish, Haitian-style oxtails, plantains and fritters are among the top items, and his sampler platter is popular with people who want to sample several Caribbean flavors.

Travel Tips

3 Big Travel Trends for 2018

Short of consulting a crystal ball, tarot cards, or a fortune-teller, there’s no way to say for sure what 2018 will bring, but occult efforts aside, travel-industry intelligence brand Skift’s annual Megatrends report is as good a predictor as you’ll find. Thanks to a wealth of data-driven analysis and inside baseball–style information, the report considers the factors that will affect how we travel in 2018—and beyond. Here are three things to watch for in the months to come. 1. WEATHER THREATENS THE STATUS QUO From hurricanes to wildfires, last year saw a host of natural disasters, and extreme weather conditions show no signs of abating in 2018. With coastal cities at risk of flooding and temperatures changing permanently in regions once known for their steady climes, tourist destinations are adjusting their approach to global warming—and tourists themselves should do the same. That means establishing new routines in the planning stages of your trips: researching travel insurance before you buy and choosing “cancel for any reason” coverage, opting for accommodations with flexible cancellation policies, planning activities that aren’t solely weather dependent, and, when necessary, choosing alternate destinations entirely. The effects of global warming are wide-ranging and long-term, so this one is less of a trend and more of paradigm shift. Don’t expect things to get back to normal anytime soon. 2. DESTINATIONS ACCOMMODATE LOCALS AND VISITORS When a wave of anti-tourism protests swept across Europe last summer, it was the result of long-simmering local frustration with overdevelopment and the crowds that go hand in hand with unrestricted growth. Cities that once welcomed the tourist dollar—often at the expense of their own residents—are experiencing heavy backlash and scrambling to course-correct: Authorities in Barcelona, for example, are cracking down on everything from unlicensed Airbnb rentals to Segway tours in the city center, and cruise-ship ports such as Venice and Dubrovnik now restrict the number of visitors allowed at a local attraction or hot spot at a time. With these cities serving as a cautionary tale, many destinations are adopting a “share the wealth” policy to fix the congestion problem, funneling visitors from high-traffic urban areas to lesser-known pockets of the country—which is great news for travelers who prefer a more niche experience. This year, look for an increased focus on hyper-local culture, cuisine, and industry (think: sipping cava in the Spanish countryside instead of tooling around on a scooter in the streets of Barcelona). 3. RESTAURANTS OFFER AN IMMERSIVE EXPERIENCE If you’d rather starve than patronize yet another cookie-cutter establishment with a predictable menu and cliched decor, have we got good news for you. The new crop of restaurants is moving away from the farmhouse-chic aesthetic, embracing maximalist design, and creating an atmosphere that highlights a sense of place and personality, from quirky, Instagrammable details like neon signage to full-on immersive experiences that turn a place a destination. In an increasingly crowded marketplace littered with eat-in and takeaway options, restaurants are looking for a leg up on the competition, and unique, inviting spaces provide just that. There’s never been a better time to be a destination diner—in 2018, expect to see even more restaurants aiming to be places where guests feel at home, put down their phones, and participate in every minute of their meal.


Acadia's Dark Sky Festival Is Calling All Photographers and Artists

There are few places in the U.S. that enjoy a truly dark sky at night anymore, and the area in and around Acadia National Park, on Mount Desert Island on the part of the Maine coast that locals call Down East, is one of them. Each year, the Acadia region celebrates its awe-inspiring starlight nights with its Night Sky Festival. A GROWING ASTRONOMY FESTIVAL The Acadia Night Sky Festival has grown over the past decade from a small local event to one that draws visitors from all over the U.S. and Canada and offers dozens of workshops and esteemed astronomy researchers. Participants can stargaze from the top of Cadillac Mountain, take evening cruises on Frenchman Bay, and sign up for telescope lessons. A COOL CONTEST The 10th annual Acadia Night Sky Festival ( will run from September 5 through 9 this year, but there’s an inspiring contest happening right now that might interest the photographers and visual artists in your life: The festival planning committee is soliciting entries for its festival poster now through March 16. “Art submissions should portray the night sky above Acadia and/or Down East Maine,” says Alf Anderson, co-chair of the Acadia Night Sky Festival marketing team. A PRESTIGIOUS PRIZE The winning image will be featured on the festival’s posters, brochures, website, and other marketing platforms, and the winning photographer or visual artist will receive two round-trip tickets from Boston to Bar Harbor, ME (Acadia’s gateway community), courtesy of Cape Air. For contest rules, visit


Lonely Planet’s “Best in the U.S. 2018”: From the Redwoods to the Space Coast

Our colleagues at our parent company, Lonely Planet, have unveiled their “Best in the U.S. 2018” and in terms of trip inspiration it’s resonating with us like the classic Woody Guthrie ballad: “From the Redwood forests, to the Gulf Stream waters,” this list covers the U.S.’s most compelling hotspots, culled from Lonely Planet’s community of travel experts, including editors, researchers, and locals. CALIFORNIA, HERE WE COME California’s Redwood Coast is the number-one destination for 2018, offering the incredible towering coastal redwoods, one of America’s most beautiful national parks, and endless miles (well, 175) of Pacific coastline just four hours north of the San Francisco Bay Area. Budget Travelers will find affordable lodging and amazing seafood in Crescent City, CA, just outside Redwoods National Park. IDAHO, TENNESSEE, AND (OF COURSE) FLORIDA Other top-ranking U.S. destinations include Boise, ID, for its great wines, beers, and festivals (it’s also the capital of America’s fastest-growing state), Chattanooga, TN, for its cool train station hotel and dynamic culinary scene, and Florida’s Space Coast, which, in addition to educating families about the history of space travel, offers affordable food and fun in Cocoa Beach. SEE THEM ALL The nice thing about a domestic must-see list is that each destination is actually within reach of the American traveler, a flight or a road trip away. Rounding out Lonely Planet’s 2018 list you’ll find Cincinnati, Midcoast Maine, Richmond, Kentucky Bourbon Country, Minneapolis, and Southeastern Utah.