I’ve done a lot of traveling over the years. I’ve seen hundreds of musicians perform live. Met interesting people. I’ve tried local street food. Visited many museums and observatories. One of my favorite experiences is a small festival held near my hometown. It’s a fabulous reggae festival in the middle of an unexpected place. It’s a beautiful piece of land, a sustainable farm’s wooded area just a few miles outside of a small city. And it always makes for one seriously kickass day and night. The music, the food, the art, the people…the sky.
To put it plainly: Festivals. Are. The. Shit.
Grab your shades and pack your festival gear. Planning a trip to the Grand Canyon anytime in the near future then why not max out your travel experience with a nearby festival?
Let’s take a tour of some upcoming and annual gigs around Grand Canyon vacation hotspots.
Upcoming Festivals for 2015
There is still time to plan on taking in one of these events this year…
Mystic Hot Springs Music Festival – a hidden gem for earthy souls
July 23-26, 2015
The town of Monroe celebrates Pioneer Day on July 24th each year. The activities feature a hometown parade and local festivities. At night there is a firework show near the Mystic Hot Springs property. The founders of the Mystic Hot Springs Music Festival intentionally layered this event so visitors could enjoy the local celebration as well. This is a gig for the hippie heart and those with a deep appreciation for greatness. This years special music guests include Nathan Moore (ThaMuseMeant and Surprise Me Mr.Davis), Eric McFadden (6 string jammer with everyone from George Clinton to Pink), The Good Time Travelers, Lipbone Redding, Taarka, Nahko And Medicine For The People and more. This is an eco-conscious family friendly event with camping included with the ticket purchase and access to hot springs and soaking pools and tubs. You can participate in workshops such as Permaculture classes, Tai Chi, Grassroots Activism or pick up a songwriting session.
Telluride Jazz Festival – for the jazz, funk, soul, latin and zydeco cats
July 31-Aug 2, 2015
This 3 day fest has been happening since 1977. This is a trip where you can mix up outdoor recreations like kayaking and hiking with luxurious spas, local microbrews, delicious food and music all day and night. Each day is loaded with music on stage while various free activities are happening around town. Local venues host Jazz After Dark shows following the main stage acts. This years main stage acts feature bands such as Nosotros, The Nth Power, Bill Frisell Trio featuring Tony Scherr and Kenny Wollesen, Ernie Watts Quartet, Maceo Parker, and The Soul Rebels and many others gracing both the main stage and after hours shows. Wine tastings and spirit tastings are weaved into the main stage intermission hour. Grab a taste of a New Orleans experience against the backdrop of the San Juan Mountains.
Gentlemen of the Road Stopover 2015 Salida – hipsters, Indie, everyone
Aug 21-25, 2015
O.K., right now you may be thinking this is a bit of a stretch for the Grand Canyon area. But it is totally worth the detour either on your way there, or on your way back. There is nothing quite like a GOTR Stopover. I did one in 2014 and the vibe was amazing. This year’s lineup in Salida includes Mumford & Sons (the gracious hosts pictured), The Flaming Lips, The Vaccines, Jeff The Brotherhood and more. If you are a festival bouncer you must hit one of these at least once.
Four Corners Folk Festival – excellent stop for folk musicians and fans
Sept 4-6, 2015
Pagosa Springs, CO
If you are making the trek to the majestic Grand Canyon, why not make a point to hit Pagosa Springs and take the opportunity to hit a geographical landmark where four states come together? This folk festival is perfect for fans and folk musicians. Some festival venues will not allow instruments in their event or camping area. But here you are encouraged to bring yours. You can take in workshops and learn from great folk musicians if you like. Kids under 12 get in free and they have taken the time to plan a weekend of free kids activities in the Four Corners Kids Tent. On site camping is available to those purchasing a 3 day pass. Mainstage acts feature The Railsplitters, Eddie From Ohio, The Black Lillies (photo), Love Canon and many more. There are also late night stage acts lined up with a beer garden and food vendors staying open. Dreamy.
Harvest Festival Original Art & Craft Show – oh the shopping
Sept 11-13, 2015
Las Vegas, Nevada
I don’t know about you guys but any place where I can buy artisan cheese, wine and hemp rope necklaces in the same building has my attention. This 3 day indoor festival is in its 43rd year. For the purchase of one ticket you can come and go as often as you please over the 3 days (with a hand stamp). Music, entertainment, kids zone activities, artisans, crafts people; over 24,000 handmade items. Specialty foods, art, ceramics, jewelry, photography…
36th Annual San Gennaro Feast – for the love of all things Italy
Sept 15-20, 2015
Las Vegas, Nevada
This festival is held bi-annually in Vegas. It is held in honor of Saint Gennaro, the Patron Saint of Naples, Italy. Nothing short of a glorious festival for foodies, this action packed event is a local favorite. Crafts, ethnic food, artisans, carnival rides and games, and a main concert stage with live international acts. Admission tickets are $8-$9 for each day and carnival ride tickets are sold inside the event.
Pickin’ in the Pines Bluegrass & Acoustic Music Festival – bring your strings
Sept 18-20, 2015
Pickin’ in the Pines kicked off in 2006. This gig was launched by the Flagstaff Friends of Traditional Music, a member based non-profit dedicated to preserving American Folk music. This festival honors bluegrass (old and new) and celebrates old-time music, gypsy jazz, and more. Camping and jamming is considered an integral part of this festival experience. A culture of all night jamming and sharing music forms back at the campsites. They also have workshops where you can bring your own instrument and learn more and be part of a bluegrass jam. This year also has flatpicking workshops on the books. The line up includes Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder, The Infamous Stringdusters (photo), Steep Canyon Rangers, Laurie Lewis and the Right Hands and many more.
Summer Ends Music Festival 2015 – booming in year two
Sept 24- 27, 2015
Tempe Beach Park, AZ
4 days of music, vendors, arts and crafts in beautiful Tempe, AZ. This festival, in its second year, is bringing names like Hozier, Cold War Kids, Jimmy Eat World, Slightly Stoopid, G-Eazy and so much more. This park gets rave reviews. One cool thing about this one is the tickets are sold separately for each day. So go for one day or go back for more. Not planning on hitting AZ in 2015? Keep your eyes open for this festival to make another comeback.
Life is Beautiful Music & Art Festival – shut up and take my money
Sept 25-27, 2015
Downtown Las Vegas, Nevada
Tickets are still available for this flipping fantastic festival. A 3 day pass runs about $255 each, not bad considering this stellar line up. The Life is Beautiful fest launched in 2013 and brings a different twist along with the usual killer jams, incredible food and beautiful art. There is an equal focus on a learning series with talks from business leaders, tech gurus, activists. All in an 11 city block section of Vegas. For 2015, oh where to begin. There are 4 stages…Stevie Wonder, Snoop Dogg, The Glass Animals, Walk the Moon, Kygo, Duran Duran. And way more. I’m ready to pack.
Festivals to Watch for in 2016
These are already past for 2015 or/almost in progress but you can be on the look out for dates in 2016 and make your pilgrimage to or from the Grand Canyon even more amazing. And remember, all of those awesome festivals you just read about for 2015 will repeat in 2016 (with the exception of the city bouncing GOTR Stopover).
Hopi Festival of Arts & Culture – honor and celebrate the local heritage
July 4-5, annually
The two day event is in its 82nd year for 2015. There are over 65 artists booths from the 12 Hopi villages. The festival includes the arts and crafts, dances, story telling traditions, music and food of the Hopi people. You can submerge yourself in Hopi culture. It may be too late for you this year unless you already have a trip to the area planned but you can always catch it next year.
Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC) – for the Electronic Dance Music lovers
Normally held in June
Las Vegas, Nevada
This carnival…is a work of art. This 3 day festival is an explosion of EDM, lights, rides, glam and glitter. Artists, street performers, glowsticks and an energy that has earned this festival the label of one of the top festivals in the world. You must be at least 18 years of age to purchase a ticket and enter. Experience all genres of electronic dance music in an unforgettable setting. This adventure isn’t cheap so plan ahead to make it happen.
Follow Insomniac Events (the masterminds of this madness)
Grand Canyon Star Party – for lovers of the universe and all its wonder
Held each year in June
South Rim and North Rim, Grand Canyon National Park
Each year around the time of the new moon astronomers and amateur astronomers come together for 8 nights of exploring the night sky. This gig has been happening for 25 years. There is no registration required (astronomers with telescopes should see details) and stargazers should make arrangements for a room or campsite well in advance. All attendees are invited to bring their own telescopes but there is a community of sharing and educating so no need to skip out if you don’t have your own gear. There are also slide programs nightly. This event is is family friendly and is sponsored by the National Park Service, Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association and the Saguaro Astronomy Club of Phoenix. It is also funded by the Grand Canyon Association.
I did some digging to pull together a list of some of the hottest festivals in the western region of the country. But the list of smaller, local festivals in Arizona and bordering states is incredible. So if you are hip to a great festival in the area please comment and tell us about your experiences. It doesn’t matter how big or how small. We just want to know what makes it memorable.