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The 12 Best US music festivals to experience in 2017

Published November 4th, 2016

With so many festivals around the US to choose from, trying to find just the right one can leave you feeling a bit like Goldilocks. And because everyone’s music festival check lists are different, it can be a labyrinth trying to navigate the vibes of each different music festival especially when so many line ups have become homogenized over the years.

Well look no further, I’ve got you sorted. Having been to my fair share of music festivals working as a youth trend forecaster in the US (yes that is a real job), here’s my pick of the top ones to attend complete with a rating system for the type of punters that go to each and dates where confirmed. 

1. Afropunk - late August

Held originally in Brooklyn, New York the ‘Carnival of Consciousness’ has expanded to now include Atlanta, Paris and London. This is one of America’s top up-and-coming festivals, dubbed by the NYTimes as “the most multicultural festival in the US.” The festival’s global initiative promotes the agenda of “disrupting narrow definitions and stereotypes popularized by global media outlets.” It is a truly inspirational festival and provides a temperature check on the attitudes and feelings of today’s multicultural youth. It celebrates the african-american heritage, community and its youth.

Festival for: supporters of the black lives matter movement, multicultural and minority ethnicities and those who support them and their music.


A photo posted by AFROPUNK (@afropunk) on

2. Outside Lands - August 11-13, 2017

One of San Francisco's biggest and most hyped music festivals, Outside Lands is held annually at the stunning Golden Gate Park drawing a crowd of 40,000 to 60,000 people a day over the three-day fest. 2016 hosted artists of the likes of Lana del Rey, Duran Duran, Radiohead, Halsey and LCD Soundsystem making for a balance of mainstream and underground sounds.

Festival for: the Splendour In The Grass fan, a little indie and a little basic, looking for the American dream in a festival.


A photo posted by ranger dave (@outsidelands) on

3. Governors Ball - June 2-4, 2017

This is the music festival for New Yorkers, though not on the same scale as something like Coachella, Gov Ball often nabs a better and more concise line up. The line up is usually so good and so closely packed in that it prompts you to question all of your life decisions up until the moment that ill-prepared you have to make the soul crushing choice of which band you’ll see. The whole line up split between the three main stages is solid for each of the two day fest.

Festival for: New Yorkers, some celebs, good for seeing some NYC bands that don’t tour much like The Strokes.

4. Fun Fun Fun Fest - late October

After taking 2016 off, FFF Fest will be back bigger and better than ever in 2017 as local punters are sure to be celebrating its return in a big way. This Texas based festival is good for indie music lovers and anyone who wants to get more of a taste of the real ‘Merica that you won’t see as much of in cities like NY, LA and San Fran.

Festival for: locals who get out of town during bigger fests SXSW and Austin City Limits, anyone looking for a real Texas music festival.

5. Ultra Music Festival Miami - March 24-26, 2017

Every EDM fan in the US has tossed the question around which is better EDC in LV or UMF in Miami. The answer to this is that they both offer different festival experiences and one isn’t necessarily better than the other. UMF has the benefit of having a massive huge party vibe that runs for three days which you can also tack onto the end of an epic sailing trip around the Bahamas right now. Check out Busabout’s killer Ultra Music Miami Sail 2017 trip for all the deets.

Festival for: EDM fans, people looking for some PLUR, the ultimate three-day Miami party.


A photo posted by Ultra Music Festival (@ultra) on

6. Burning Man - Aug 27-Sept 4, 2017

Hands down there are no other festivals like this in the US. Set in the north Nevada playa this festival drew a crowd of cyberpunk, off-the-grid, druggy and free spirited festival goers when it first started and has since grown to include a much wider assortment of characters all looking to share in the loving and carefree spirit of the festival. While there is no set line-up, there is plenty of music (a lot of EDM) to enjoy and activities to try. Not to mention the symbolic end to the the nine day festival, the burning of sculptures that punters create exclusively for the event. Hence ‘burning man’.

Festival for: steampunks, metal sculptors, hippies and anyone wanting to get off the grid to find themselves.


A photo posted by Burning Man (@burningman) on

Sep 23, 2016 at 9:20am PDT

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7. Electric Daisy Carnival - mid June

EDC is all about the rave experience, culture and the people, held in the party city of Las Vegas as well as Orlando and internationally in India, Mexico and the UK. These are the people who are up until 4am as the EDM carnival goes from dusk until dawn. The stages are next level at EDC with waterfalls, fireworks, flamethrowers, you name it.

Festival for: the PLUR, all night ravers, EDM obsessives.

8. SXSW - March 10-19, 2017

This festival is comprised of four different events that overlap during a nine day period relating to interactive (read: tech), film, comedy and music. The music portion runs towards the end of the week and that’s when the city really comes to life as bands begin pouring out of the bars and pop up stages in and around Austin’s Sixth Street. Tickets for this event can be pricey but aren’t 100 percent necessary as there’s plenty of free events and showcases put on by big brands.

Festival for: anyone in PR/marketing or the music biz really and anyone who wants to get into any of those areas.


A photo posted by SXSW (@sxsw) on

9. Austin City Limits - October 6-8 and 13-15, 2017

Held annually at Zilker Park, Austin City Limits is the largest and most well known festival that happens in the city with approximately 450,000 people attending over the two weekend event. The massive production spans over eight stages featuring a heavy lineup of rock, country and indie music in addition to electronic and hip hop performances.

Festival for: anyone looking for a taste of Texas music minus the craziness of SXSW.


A photo posted by Devon Odem (@devonodem) on

10. FYF Festival - July 22-23-

Starting out as the Los Angeles anti-festival held in clubs around Echo Park, this two day event has grown up to fill USC’s Coliseum but still with its ‘cool bands only’ vibe. Formerly known as ‘F*ck Yeah Festival’, FYF is the cool kids festival featuring the best of SoCal punk, underground dance, garage, metal and minimalist electronic.

Festival for: Triple J groupies, smashed avo brunchers and fans of Laneway Festival.


A photo posted by FYF Fest (@fyffest) on

11. Coachella - April 14-16 and 21-23, 2017

Besides being the biggest music festival in the US, Coachella is the festival that signals the oncoming of spring and provides a warm escape for East Coasters from the brutal lingering winter months so expect a very celebratory mood. Coachella is also known for its parties that kick off each day held by brands and celebrities in fabulous hotels and properties around the Palm Springs area. ‘If you didn’t start off each day at a branded/celeb party, did you even go to Coachella’ is basically the attitude.

Festival for: fashion bloggers, basics, sun lovers, flower-crown aficionados, celebrities and basically everyone. Warning: not for the sun averse, it gets hot, hot, hot out there.


A photo posted by Tank.Sinatra (@tank.sinatra) on

12. Lollapalooza - Aug 3-6, 2017

Flanked by the beautiful Lake Michigan and downtown Chicago skyline this is one of America’s best festival locations, making you feel as though you’re in the heart of it all...Chicago, America, the world, you know that feeling right?

Festival for: basically everyone, there’s even a Kidzapalooza within the festival for kids and their parents.


A photo posted by lollapalooza (@lollapalooza) on

Which festival experience is the most ultimate of them all? The one where you start off sailing the Bahamas of course. Student Flights has exclusive access to Busabout's epic Ultra Music Miami Sail trip where you can kick off the festival vibes sailing in the Caribbean, before turning it up a notch at Ultra Miami!


Student Flights

Sam Aldenton

Sam Aldenton is a travel writer, digital content creator (read: takes photos/videos with her iphone and sometimes a real camera) and former retail and youth trend forecaster. When she's not off discovering the world’s best pizza (an obsession picked up from her 4-years in New York), she makes her home in Brisbane, Australia. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram at @samaaldenton.