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March 29, 2017

Ultimate Food Guide to 12 Summer Music Festivals Around the U.S.

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Music festival season kicks off with Coachella in Indio, California, in April, and once again the massive event proves that it's not just about who's playing onstage: It's what you'll find to eat on the grounds. The biggest music extravaganzas have upped the ante on food offerings, from celebrity chef pop-ups and temporary restaurants to the best food trucks around, while new festivals are popping up, including the Arroyo Seco Weekend hitting Pasadena in June. Here are the 12 hottest food and music fests of the season. If you're hitting the circuit as hard as Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers this year (they're everywhere), you'll be full of beats and eats by the end of summer.

Coachella: April 14–16, 21–23

Where: Indio, CA

The music: The kick-off event of the season is a doozy with Radiohead, Lady Gaga — who replaces previously announced Beyoncé — and Kendrick Lamar as headliners for the annual two-week music, art and food fest. Other notables include, well, everyone: The xx, Travis Scott, Father John Misty, Bon Iver, Lorde, New Order, composer Hans Zimmer, which is interestingly random, and a gazillion different DJs.

The food: Continuing its winning streak of offering amazing food choices beyond Spicy Pie, Outstanding in the Field presents a rock-star chef lineup as notable as the music, with nightly dinners in the new location, the Hacienda Del Toro. Look for Los Angeles chefs like Alvin Cailan (Eggslut), Nakul and Arjun Hahendro (Badmaash), Charles Olalia (Ricebar), Bruce Kalman (Union), Dakota Weiss (Estrella, Sweetfin Poke) and Nyesha Arrington. From around the country, there’s Paul Kahan (Avec, The Publican), Jamie Bissonette and Ken Oringer (Toro, Coppa), and Jamie DeRosa (Izzy’s Fish and Oyster). Although Coachella has been sold out since tickets went on sale, the best way to get one now is via an OITF package, which gets you the sit-down dinner plus access to the shows. Around the field will be full restaurant pop-ups, which were wildly successful last year in the VIP area, and stands like Beer Belly in the beer barn. Here are some hits from last year.

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival: April 28–30, May 4–7

Where: New Orleans, LA

The music: The annual celebration of music and culture from New Orleans and Louisiana has so much happening on stage, it's impossible to see it all. The lineup includes: Stevie Wonder, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Kings of Leon, Lorde, Snoop Dogg, Wilco, Buddy Guy, Meghan Trainor, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Jon Batiste and Stay Human, Harry Connick Jr. and various Nevilles.

The food: Vendors don't change much, so expect to find local delicacies like trout baquet (trout filet topped with crab meat), muffalettas, po' boys stuffed with everything imaginable, jambalaya, fried chicken, red beans and rice, sausages, beignets and Mango Freeze. Chefs also hit the Food Heritage Stage and Cajun Cabin for cooking demos.

Stagecoach Country Music Festival: April 28–30

Where: Indio, CA

The music: It's like the Coachella of country music, with this year's headliners Dierks Bentley, Shania Twain and Kenny Chesney. Other performers include Willie Nelson, Jerry Lee Lewis, Cole Swindell, Kip Moore, Thomas Rhett and none other than Cyndi Lauper.

The food: Since it's literally one week after Coachella, a lot of the same vendors are still there, along with burgers, Mexican staples and regular fair food. But there's also an annual BBQ championship, with everything from "pig candy" to Moo-Oink Balls available in the Taste of BBQ experience, and food from local desert restaurants like Jackelope Ranch and Las Casuelas.

BottleRock: May 26–28

Where: Napa, CA

The music: This fifth annual food, music, beer and wine fest is set in picturesque Napa Valley, which is reason enough to go. Having Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Foo Fighters and (OK, fine) Maroon 5 headline the three-day event is a bonus. Modest Mouse, Fitz and the Tantrums, Ben Harper, The Roots, Saint Motel, House of Pain, Ani DiFranco and so many more fill out the lineup among the five different stages.

The food: Lots of big names from the valley and beyond, including Morimoto, Bouchon Bakery, Mustards Grill, Angéle, Hurley’s, Bounty Hunter, Cole’s Chop House, Redd, Goose & Gander, Tarla Grill, Pizzeria Tra Vigne, Atlas Social, Bistro Don Giovanni, The Q Restaurant and Bar and many more. There's also a culinary stage where chefs, celebs and vintners do demos.

The Governors Ball: June 2–4

Where: New York, NY

The music: The three-day summerfest at Randall's Island Park in New York City features an array of genres and styles, including rock, electronic, hip-hop, indie, Americana, pop, folk and more. Headliners include Chance the Rapper, Lorde, Beach House, Phoenix, Wu-Tang Clan, Tool, Cage the Elephant, Wiz Khalifa and others — check out the full lineup.

The food: Food is as important as the music — especially Instagrammable food — so the organizers partner with the Infatuation to curate the list of eats. In the past there's been everything from Luke's Lobster lobster rolls to Burger Joint burgers, Cubanos from Cafe Habana, sweets from Momofuku Milk Bar, deep-fried deviled eggs and foie gras donuts from Do Or Dine, falafel, hot dogs, ice cream and more.

Bonnaroo: June 8–11

Where: Manchester, TN

The music: The four-day fest held on a farm southeast of Nashville features a wide array of musical styles — indie jams, classic rock, world music, hip-hop, jazz, Americana, bluegrass, country, reggae, electronica and more — on multiple stages. Headliners this year include U2, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Weeknd, Chance the Rapper, Major Lazer, The Head and the Heart, Glass Animals and so many more.

The food: There is always the Food Truck Oasis and farm-to-table community dinners, among the offerings. Never miss Hamageddon and Baconland, every bacon lover's dream where items like the bacon bun, Benton's smoky bacon and rich maple syrup in a cinnamon bun, are created. There's also the Broo'ers Festival, a tent filled with craft beer from all over the country.

Arroyo Seco Festival: June 24–25

Where: Pasadena, CA

The music: This brand-new fest from Golden Voice, the peeps behind Coachella among other similar events, brings together some dynamite names for a party near the Rose Bowl. Headliners include summer fest icons Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Mumford & Sons, Alabama Shakes, The Shins, Weezer and more.

The food: This being an LA-adjacent festival, the marquee chefs and restaurants are mostly locals, including Bruce Kalman (Union), Dakota Weiss (Sweetfin Poke), Ilan Hall (Ramen Hood), Jason Neroni (Rose Cafe-Restaurant), Marcel Vigneron (Wolf), Phillip Frankland Lee (Frankland Crab & Co.), Ray Garcia (Broken Spanish), Neal Fraser (Redbird) and Walter Manzke (Republique), among others. There will be sit-down dinners as well as stands with other local treats.

Windy City Smokeout: July 14–16

Where: Chicago, IL

The music: Hot country acts and smokin’ meats are the hallmarks of this relatively new annual event. Taking place on Grand Avenue near the Chicago River, some of the biggest names out of Nashville light up the stages, including Chase Rice, Billy Currington, Old Dominion, Jessie James Decker, Big Rich, Corey Smith and more.

The food: The culinary lineup is just as hot, especially for ‘cue lovers, with some of the country’s best pitmasters convening here, including Bub City, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, Hogapalooza and Salt Lick BBQ from Texas. Not into barbecue? There’s Big Gay Ice Cream, Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken and Drago’s Seafood among the offerings.

Panorama: July 28–30

Where: New York, NY

The music: After a successful first-year run, this event from the crew behind Coachella is back in Randall's Island Park about a month after the longer-running Governors Ball. Big names will headline each night, including Frank Ocean, Tame Impala and Nine Inch Nails, along with Solange, Alt-J and A Tribe Called Quest adding to the lineup.

The food: While still not yet released for this year, last year’s lineup included everything from matcha iced lattes served in hollowed-out pineapples to crack pie from Momofuku Milk Bar.

Lollapalooza: August 3–6

Where: Chicago, IL

The music: If going to a huge music and art festival in a sea of millennials doesn't make you feel old (unless you are a millennial, of course), here's this: the grandaddy of them all just past its quarter-century mark. We’re still awaiting the lineup for this year, but tickets go on sale March 21. Per usual, everyone's taste in music is well represented on the eight stages.

The food: Chow Town showcases a variety of eats from Chicago's favorite restaurants, with places like Billy Goat Tavern, Do-Rite chicken sandwiches, Lou Malnati's Pizzeria, Chubby Wieners and Wow Bao dishing out burgers, dogs, dumplings and more.

Outside Lands: August 11–13

Where: San Francisco, CA

The music: This West Coast biggie celebrates 10 years in 2017, and while we’re awaiting the lineup with baited breath — announcement should be April 5 — last year it was Radiohead and LCD Soundsystem and Lionel Richie and Duran Duran and The Muppets (!). This is the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love as well, so maybe the organizers will weave that in somehow.

The food: The self-proclaimed "first gourmet food music festival" always has an impressive roster of culinary options, from the best chefs in the Bay Area to locally made beer and wine. The food lineup hasn't been announced yet, but recurring favorites include AQ, Humphry Slocombe, Rich Table and Nojo Ramen. Michael Mina set up his tailgate burgers in the VIP area a couple years ago. It's all organized by sections: Taste of the Bay Area, Wine Lands, Beer Lands, The Back Wine and the Festival Market Place. In 2016, a “Forest Feast” was added, two sit-down prix fixe dinners for each day.

Afropunk Fest NYC: August 26–27

Where: Brooklyn, NY

The music: You can't help but move at this multicultural day of music and food in Brooklyn's Commodore Barry Park. The lineup isn't out yet, but expect a mix of styles and genres, from hip-hop to world music, jazz, blues and R&B. Last year Ice Cube headlined.

The food: The Bites & Beats Food Festival is an event within the event, combining tastes from around the world with 25-plus food trucks and pop­-up restaurants. Take a bite out of anything from Hill Country BBQ to empanadas from Nuchas, tacos from Kimchi Taco Truck, frozen treats from Alchemy Creamery and more.


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