There’s a reason Nashville, Tenn. is known as the country music capital of the world and a reason why its proud Nashvillians refer to its moniker, “Music City”.
Stroll down Broadway and you’ll be sure to spot a musician or a group of musicians panhandling on the streets; and did we mention there’s also live music blaring out of every honky-tonk?
However, when it comes to music festivals, Nashville isn’t the only city shining in Tennessee. In fact, the same state that calls its flower the iris and wild animal the raccoon is a mountainous hub for state fairs and music festivals.
Here are 10 of the Volunteer State’s best music festivals.
10. Patriot Festival — Pigeon Forge, July 4, 2016
There may be a plethora of places to spend a family Fourth of July weekend vacation, but the combination of a giant fireworks display and the scenic Smoky Mountains might just take the other holiday hot spots out of the running.
The annual Patriot Festival in Pigeon Forge has been around for more than two decades and takes place in Patriot park. From free of charge headlining country music acts like Diamond Rio to food vendors and games, there’s something to enjoy for both children and adults. Surrounded by wildlife and cabins, Pigeon Forge is just a short drive to downtown Gatlinburg where tourists can find an array of restaurants, gift shops and amusement park rides.
9. Beale Street Music Festival — Memphis, April 29 – May 1, 2016
May just may be the perfect time to catch the Greyhound bus to Memphis. First blossoming as a blues city, Beale Street has since given rise to musical acts like B.B. King and Elvis Presley. However, in its early days, it was uncertain the street itself would continue to flourish musically.
Now, as part of the “Memphis in May International Festival Society” tradition, the Beale Street Music Festival has been given a second chance by city officials — Beale Street was on the verge of closing its doors. Since its inception in 1977, the festival has included heavy lineups including legendary artists of all genres like Aretha Franklin and Bob Dylan.”Memphis in May International Festival Society” is composed of the Cotton Carnival, the Danny Thomas Golf Classic, a variety of clubs and the annual visit by the Metropolitan Opera.
8. Southern Ground Music & Food Festival — Nashville, Spring, 2016
A little over five years ago, Zac Brown Band fans were introduced to more than their music. They had the opportunity to try some of the front man band member’s favorite Southern-style food. Want to know how? Well, not a whole lot of musicians get to launch their own music festival, but the “Chicken Fried” singer did. It’s called the Southern Ground Music and Food Festival and it’s a combination of Brown’s two favorite things in the whole world: great music and delicious food.
Originating in Charleston, S.C., Brown pulled together a string of country music artists to perform at his two-day event. Each year, the festival continues to stretch to more places. Luckily for us, he already brought it to Nashville.
7. RiverBend Festival, Chattanooga — June 10-18, 2016
If you’re not sure about checking out the RiverBend festival, just know that it has won some major awards.
Located in one of Tennessee’s most relaxed cities, the Chattanooga-based festival takes place during the month of June and is occupied by multiple stages featuring more than 100 live acts. Anybody who intends on going to the RiverBend Festival better charge their batteries, because it’s is a nine-day event. Perhaps nine days will result in a need for a break? Just head on down a few blocks to see the biggest aquarium in Tennessee.
READ MORE: Chattanooga Voted ‘Best in America’
6. Tomato Art Festival, Nashville — Aug. 2016
Red and Green may be the primary colors for this fun fest, but don’t assume we’re talking about Christmas.
The Tomato Art Festival started out as just an art showcase by couple, Meg and Bret McFadyen in 2004. Since then, it has become a huge fad for East Nashville gurus. Offering new traditions such as a parade, a variety of tomato-related contests and a Tomato 5K, this red juicy fruit has never been so entertaining. Visiting the festival for the first time? Be sure to pack your costume to blend in with the rest of the crowd.
5. Americana Music Festival — Nashville, Sept. 15-20
Not only do visitors flock to see performers play at the annual Americana Music Festival, Tennessee natives do too.
This unique fest brings in some of the world’s most talented musicians and they perform in a variety of Nashville’s top music venues including the Mercy Lounge, Cannery Ballroom and the Ryman Auditorium. Starting in the late ’90s, the festival became a growing movement for those who wanted to preserve the roots and the traditional sounds of Americana music. With legendary acts like Emmylou Harris, Gregg Allman and John Prine (just to name a few), the Americana Music Festival will be sure to fuel your cultural need.
4. Blues Hog BBQ and Music Festival — Jackson, July 2-5, 2016
If you’re hungry for savory ribs, barbecue, wings or even brisket, or if you want to get your hands on some sweet tea or fresh-squeezed lemonade, stop what you’re doing and head to Jackson’s own Riders and Rockabilly Rally Blues Hog BBQ and Music Festival.
Did we mention it’s for a good cause? Taking place in Jackson’s fairgrounds, the festival gives its money to local charities. Features include an arts and crafts booth, a classic car show and live music. Make a family trip out of this July outing.
3. CMA Fest, Nashville — June 9-12, 2016
If you’ve been coming to the CMA Music Festival for years, you probably already know it was once known as Fan Fair. This four-day music extravaganza organized by the Country Music Association brings in people from all over the world to visit the heart of downtown Nashville.
Taking place at LP field (Tennessee Titans stadium), fans gather to hear artists like Taylor Swift and Brad Paisley perform; and they wait in line to get their T-shirts, CDs or any other personal items autographed by their favorite country music star. This is where the real-life fan experience truly happens and where every country fan club known to mankind exists, because no musical act will leave until they’ve said hello.
2. Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival — Franklin, Sept. 26-27
This festival began as a jogger’s vision. When Tennessean, Kevin Griffin went out for his usual morning jog routine, he was struck by a 230-acre abandoned horse farm and imagined what it would be like to turn the farm land into a outdoor music festival. So what happened next?
Griffin pulled together a couple of buddies to turn his dream into a reality. Although fairly new, some top-notch acts like Willie Nelson, Steven Tyler, and Sheryl Crow have already marked their territory as Franklin’s fest performers.
1. Bonnaroo, Manchester — Jun 11-14, 2016
It seems that every year, people wait patiently to see Bonnaroo’s next lineup; and bands spend their time to try and play for it by entering a contest known as “The Road to Bonnaroo”.
Located on a 700-acre farm in Manchester, this music fest could possibly be the happiest place on earth in the middle of nowhere. With its funky stage names like “This Tent”, “That Tent” and “The Other Tent”, its trendy summer fashions and anything-goes (except littering) policy, Bonnaroo is the ultimate fun fest. Just make sure to bring a cool towel, because it’s going to get hot.
Birthed by Superfly Productions, the festival whose name gives the meaning of “A really good time” was first a mecca for jam bands; but in time it has evolved to bands sharing the stage with acts like Paul McCartney, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Neil Young and Willie Nelson.