Boots on the Ground San Digeo

Don’t Miss These Festivals in April and May

BY Katherine James | March 18, 2024

April flowers bring May showers—and what do May flowers bring? A bunch of Doc-Marten-wearing, slightly sweaty revelers jones-ing for glow sticks and the best view of the monitors, that’s what. What we mean to say: all that cooped-up winter blues transforms into a funkier sort of funk, a 1-4-5 that spins out some of the country’s best and most recognized music festivals. These include household names like SoCal’s Insta-ubiquitous Coachella, New Orleans’s iconic Jazz Fest and Las Vegas’s Electric Daisy Carnival. Prefer to keep your eardrums intact? There are plenty of non-music-centric festivals, from weird to wonderful, that are just as enticing. 

Boots in the Park (San Diego)

San Diego, California

April 6, 2024

San Diego may be far from Nashville, but that doesn’t mean SoCal is short on country music fans. For one heel-stomping day, Boots in the Park brings tens of thousands to Waterfront Park to see country music hot shots. Yes, the festival lives up to its name, with the crowd looking more Nashville bar than probably any actual bar in Nashville. It’s less Johnny Cash and more the vibe of Bo Burnham’s country song from Make Happy. But as long as slick mandolin is your jam, and you don’t think too much about how much the performer’s boots cost, you’ll have an absolute blast. – Sébastien Luc Butler


Photo courtesy of Malcolm Murdoch | CC BY-SA 2.0

Indio, California

April 12-21, 2024

Every April, for the only time besides Burning Man and the premiere of Dune, the eyes of the greater pop culture world are on the desert for one of America’s biggest music festivals, Coachella. The crowds here are huge, yet it’s always easy to get close to the barricade. Perhaps this is due to celebrities getting their own VIP section in front of the bigger stages. Or maybe it’s because many festival goers seem more interested in taking photos of their vintage deadstock or Shein-hauled outfits than the performers. If you pay up to get into the VIP lounge, you can sip Emma Chamberlain’s coffee brand as you analyze her outfit details. This year’s headliners include Lana Del Rey, Tyler, The Creator, and Doja Cat. Plus No Doubt. – Sarah Cortina

New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival 

Photo courtesy of Doug Anderson | CC BY 2.0

New Orleans, Louisiana

April 25 – May 5, 2024

There’s only one place where jazz is more than music — it’s heritage. That’s New Orleans, jazz’s birthplace, home of Mardi Gras, the French Quarter and the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. For Jazz Fest, the city puts on a show for 10 days. Across 12 stages, acts of a wide variety — from traditional big jazz bands to contemporary pop acts — gather to indulge in the city’s one-of-a-kind atmosphere. This year, main headliners include genre giants The Killers, Queen Latifah, Chris Stapleton, and Greta Van Fleet and The Rolling Stones (!). Plus hometown stars like Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue and rapper Big Freedia. (It should be noted: real die-hard fans of the New Orleans sound will send you to the French Quarter Festival, also held in April.) – Sébastien Luc Butler


Photo courtesy of Al McCloud | CC BY-SA 3.0

Wilkesboro, North Carolina

April 25-28, 2024

If you’re a folk-head, MerleFest is the fest for you. Each April, come rain or shine, thousands of mandolin-toting, t-shirt-wearing introverts of all ages congregate on the campus of Wilkes Community College, located in the small mountain town of Wilkesboro, N.C. MerleFest draws the crème-de-la-country-crème, the real Appalachian mountain-topping showstoppers: this year, Old Crow Medicine Show, Nickel Creek, Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway and Béla Fleck are among the headliners. – Katherine James

Electric Daisy Carnival

Photo courtesy of Tony Nungaray | CC BY-SA 2.0 | Photo has been cropped

Las Vegas, Nevada

May 17-19, 2024

North America’s largest electronic music festival, Electric Daisy Carnival lives up to the title by being over the top in every way. The brightest costumes, colors and lights will cover the Las Vegas Motor Speedway in May, as if the circus has come to town. With 10 different themed stages that look like they could house a rocket launch, this year’s headliners include David Guetta, Zedd and Martin Garrix, and more than 200 other artists down the bill. Obviously, music is not enough to make this three-day event a carnival. EDC is well known for its mix of art installations, rides, a group of dancers and actual circus performers known as “Funkdafied Freaks” who dress as whimsical neon clowns, and multiple themed bars. Forget a festival, EDC is a city built around the reverence of EDM. Worried three days is not enough time for you to go absolutely nuts in Vegas after spending all that money on neon body paint? EDC week starts before the festival and ends after it, and hosts events and smaller concerts all over Vegas. – Emily Frantz

Boston Calling

Photo courtesy of Dave Levy | CC BY 2.0

Boston, Massachusettes

May 24-26, 2024

For a region without a ton of killer festivals, Boston Calling quickly solidified itself as a Massachusetts must-see in the years since its inception. With industry giants like Eminem, Vampire Weekend, and Metallica headlining in years past. The festival isn’t strictly defined by its music genre, though it does lean indie-rock. This year, expect to hear folk and bluegrass from Tyler Childers’ haunting West Virginia wail, synthy R&B grooves from Bad Rabbits, and wistful dream rock from Paper Lady — all over the course of one day. If you need a break from the four stages of performances, take a spin on the 100-foot ferris wheel for some air. – Olivia Winters

Bottlerock Napa Valley

Photo courtesy of Trevor Bolliger | CC BY-SA 3.0

Napa, California

May 24-26, 2024

While some festivals may test your endurance, BottleRock Napa — which is really a music, wine, and food festival all in one — is all about indulgence. Headliners such as Stevie Nicks, Pearl Jam and Ed Sheeran will run the show across three stages and the auditory feast will be as rich as the region’s cabernet sauvignons. Throughout the long weekend, winemakers and chefs will be distributed throughout the Napa Valley Expo, a large, park-like venue complete with giant sequoias. This year, wineries like Jam Cellars, Caymus Vineyards and Mumm, and cocktails by Aperol and Hendrick’s Gin, will be pouring. – Logan Davis

Lightning in a Bottle 

Buena Vista Lake, CA

May 22-27, 2024
California’s dusty desert becomes a canvas for Lightning in a Bottle, a festival that’s part commune, part concert. Headlined by Skrillix, Labrinth and James Blake, the festival’s soundtrack is both eclectic and ethereal. Each stage of the seven stages, from the Thunder Stage’s booming beats to the Woogie’s house melodies, is meant to be a space for you dance like the 1960s and the hippies still rule the Golden State.  LIB packs a lo into five days: from interactive art installations to popup karaoke sessions, yoga classes to spontaneous drum circles, the festival is designed to ensure that every attendee is not just a spectator but a participant. We imagine LIB is a great trial run for those interested in attending Burning Man somewhere down the line.  – Logan Davis