You’ve got a blanket spread on the grass, a picnic basket full of treats and maybe, if the venue allows it, a box of wine in the cooler. Your kids are dancing to the sounds coming through the speakers and you can just see the band at the source through the crowd as the sun sets behind the stage. What's better in the warm weather months than sitting outside listening to live music? We’ve rounded up the best free music festivals for families in the USA, from April to October when the weather is mild and the music is hot.
The French Quarter Festival is the largest free music festival in the South. There are 21 stages set up throughout the French Quarter in New Orleans, Louisiana that celebrate all genres of music from contemporary jazz, folk and gospel to Zydeco and New Orleans Funk. Local restaurants set up tents to sell New Orleans food and drink favorites.
The Joshua Tree Music Festival in California is not free for everyone, but it's free for kids under 10, and its tagline is “A Family Friendly Global Music Experience.” With acts from around the world, and nonstop activities for the little ones in “Kidsville” – this is definitely a festival that welcomes children. And there’s so much to do they do it twice a year, in May and October.
AthFest Music and Arts Festival in Athens, Georgia is a three day festival at the end of June each year. The main event is the free outdoor music festival and artist market, located in the heart of downtown Athens. Visitors can peruse the Artist Market, with more than 60 artist booths, while enjoying the best live music that Athens has to offer. Bonus for families: KidsFest – a special block-long area with family-friendly musical performances and activities.
The Wawa Welcome America! Festival is the nation’s largest free July 4th celebration. The eight-day citywide festival takes place throughout various neighborhoods in Philadelphia, the nation’s birthplace. The festival concludes with a bang, with a massive fireworks display celebrating our nation’s history.
In Pennsylvania, the Bluegrass & Blueberries Festival put on by Peddler’s Village in Buck’s County lets you mix your music with blueberry flavor. Fresh blueberries are available for sale, along with all kinds of blueberry goodies to snack on while you enjoy the show.
Leftover Salmon’s Winter Park SolShine Music Festival brings a hippie jazz vibe to Winter Park, Colorado. This two-day features title band Leftover Salmon plus lots of other live music at the Hideaway Park outdoor amphitheater.
The Trails End Festival in Millinocket, Maine in the shadow of the majestic Mt. Katahdin at the northern end of the Appalachian Trail is more than just a music festival. It begins with a day of maintenance work on the trail, followed by great music, a chili cook-off, and a pie auction, and ends with a hike and a rubber ducky race before the last act performs. Only in Maine, I think.
Jazz at the Lake: Lake George Jazz Weekend brings jazz of all stripes to the shores of Lake George, New York, or even from the lake itself. Boaters can anchor just off shore to enjoy the music from the water.
When the National Folk Festival chose Richmond, Virginia as its host a few years ago, they had no idea what an impact it would have on the city. Locals came out in droves to enjoy the free sounds from around the country and world. The National festival has since moved on to other host cities (now in Greensboro, North Carolina), but Richmond decided to make their own version, which has become a much-loved annual tradition. The Richmond Folk Festival includes seven stages across the downtown area, with national, regional, and local acts to entertain the crowds.
For this list of best music festivals for families, free was key because we know that kids have limited attention spans. If they're not enjoying the experience as much as you are, you may just decide to cut out early. That's much less painful if you haven’t shelled out big bucks for the tickets.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to load up my picnic basket to get ready for one of these festivals…!
What are your favorite free music festivals for families? Let us know in the comments below!
A Note from Travel Mamas: We did not receive any media rates or comps, or other compensation related to this post. We will always let you know when we do.