What was your first music festival? Mine was the Vans Warped Tour in high school. I don’t remember any of the individual acts as clearly as the excitement I felt to be part of something big.
That same thrill draws people to music festivals every summer. There are more and more of them now, and even if you’re not a serious music fan, you can find something that interests you.
We look at this summer’s most anticipated music festivals and break down the average costs of admission, lodging, and more.
Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, Manchester, TN
Dates: June 8-11
Bonnaroo has gone to great lengths to preserve some of the camping/bohemian ethos of the original music festivals like Woodstock. Part of this is in the music programming, which heavily focuses on jam bands and other eclectic genres.
The headliners this year are U2, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Weeknd, and Chance the Rapper.
Ticket/onsite camping cost
The general admission for Bonnaroo is $385.40 (this includes the fee; the website separates them), which allows you to bring one car onto the campsite. Bonnaroo has a heavy focus on building a creative community, and most people who attend opt to camp onsite to enjoy some of the elements of this community.
This focus extends to the food options. You may want to budget for spending on the diverse food vendors inside the festival. You can also pack some or all of your own food to keep costs down.
Add-ons range from the $64.15 per car you will pay to camp beside your car (the site notes that carpooling will save money, since the charge is per car and not related to number of people) to the various RV passes (the general RV pass is $250.00).
Bonnaroo also runs a shuttle to and from Nashville for those located in the city who want to come to the festival for $210.50 (fees included). Camping is probably the cheapest accommodation option for this festival, but if you want to sleep inside we recommend looking for an inexpensive hotel or Airbnb in Nashville.
Electric Forest Festival, Rothbury, MI
Dates: June 22-25 (sold out), June 29-July 2 (tickets remain available)
The lineup at the Electric Forest Festival is heavily slanted towards jam bands and other musical forms involving a mix of improvisation and song structures. This mimics the psychedelic era. The String Cheese Incident headlines the second weekend with two shows this year.
The lowest cost option for the Electric Forest Festival (which has a set of camping/ticket packages) is the Good Life Camping Wristband with the Good Life Camping RV Pass, which together cost about $1,000. See some of the information on higher-end packages below.
The Electric Forest Festival is a remarkable visual experience. Check out these images of the festival including many of the Electric Forest at night, clarified by the darkness.
The Electric Forest Festival runs a group of official Electric Forest Festival shuttles from the area’s major airports, including Grand Rapids Airport and Chicago’s O’Hare Airport.
If you have to fly into Chicago’s O’Hare Airport to attend the festival and then purchase or rent camping accommodations, the costs are considerably increased, although they would ideally be split among two-four people.
- Some of the premium tent packages include the Electric Avenue tents (a two-person tent can be purchased for $2,295); the less-expensive tent option (Sherwood Forest) is currently sold out for 2017.
- Plane tickets range in cost from $350 to $700 or more for a flight into O’Hare from most major cities.
Pitchfork Music Festival, Chicago
Dates: July 14-16
Pitchfork reviews an eclectic variety of music on their website, and the Pitchfork Music Festival reflects this diversity, with headlining acts that are far from the typical large-stadium acts.
This year’s headliners include LCD Soundsystem, A Tribe Called Quest, Nicholas Jaar, PJ Harvey, and Solange.
Individual day passes cost $75; the general admission ticket is $175. Additionally, the festival offers a “Pitchfork PLUS” pass (costs ranging from $195 to $365) that comes with an additional set of amenities, including:
- Access to premium food vendors and specialty cocktails
- Access to cell phone charging stations
- Air-conditioned bathrooms
- Admittance to shaded seating areas
- Lockers/storage facilities (on a first-come, first-serve basis)
Expected other costs
This festival doesn’t allow any outside food or beverages in the park other than bottled water-meaning you’ll need to budget for the cost of food and drink during your day(s) at the park.
Dates: August 3-6
The 2017 lineup of the festival colloquially known as Lolla (Lollapalooza 2017) balances rap/hip-hop, indie rock, and other genres. Headliners include Chance the Rapper, The Killers, Arcade Fire, The Head and the Heart, Wiz Khalifa, The XX, and Blink 182.
Cost of staying in Chicago
The festival website advertises hotel packages for the entire four days. Unfortunately, the price range for these are well over $1,000. We would recommend finding somewhere a little further off site to stay, if you’re looking to save money and/or don’t plan to stay the whole time.
According to Google, Chicago has a fairly broad cross section of hotels in the $100-$150/night range, far less than the cost of the hotel packages. Airbnb has even cheaper rates if you don’t mind sharing a room or a home. Making a reservation now rather than closer to last minute will also help you save money on lodging.
Cost of tickets
The general admission tickets for the four days have sold out (original prices were $125 to $335). Resale tickets for individual days or for the entire festival are available. The current price hovers around $400.
Grant Park has free cooling stations, water, and “shade structures.”
Expected other costs
If you end up staying a little further away from the park in order to avoid the expensive hotel packages, you can expect to pay for transportation to Grant Park and back. Trip Advisor has a useful thread on this subject. You’ll also need to budget for food and drinks.
Austin City Limits Music Festival
Dates: October 6-8; 13-15 (While outside the boundary of summer, I’ve included this as a possible fun fall trip.)
The headliners for the Austin City Limits Festival this year are Jay-Z, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Chance the Rapper. There are also more unusual musical choices than at other festivals included among the opening acts.
Tickets are $255 for each weekend, meaning that the total cost would be $510 to attend all six days of the festival, plus whatever hotel expenses you incur.
Of particular interest to the cost-conscious this year (particularly for those who live in the area), the festival is putting up single-day tickets for sale. The cost of these has not yet been revealed, but should be available closer to the October dates of the festival.
Where to stay
The hotel packages given on the site include general admission and provide a full range of options with respect to purchasing your hotel rooms with the more-expensive VIP passes. Unfortunately, most people will find these packages beyond what is reasonably affordable.
The range of prices for the first hotel package in the set, Aloft Austin (hotel) plus a full three-day package, ranges from $1,999 to $6,899 (though, as they are designed for purchase by two-four people, the actual cost per person should be considerably less). As with Chicago’s music festivals, we recommend looking for your own hotel or Airbnb a little outside the central area.
The cost of attending a music festival can vary widely, but there is some consistency with things like ticket prices. Most of the additional cost comes from travelling to the site and the need to potentially rent accommodations (most of us don’t have an RV, for example, and if you fly to a site it’s hard to bring things such as tents). Perhaps one thing to note is that many of the festivals have overlapping headliners.
When the overall costs for a music festival can easily run over $1,000 per person depending on the circumstances, the best cost-saving advice we can offer is to stay as local as possible to see the act you want to see. If you do travel to a music festival, treat it like a vacation and plan to spend as much as you would on any other trip.
Are you planning to attend any of this summer’s music festivals? Tell us how you get your groove on without blowing your budget.