The Best Spring & Summer Music Festivals Worth a Road Trip From DC

sweetlife festival sweetgreen best music festivals near washington dc
<strong>Sweetlife Festival | </strong><a href=";theater" target="_blank">BFA</a>

Here in the Mid-Atlantic, we just got finished digging ourselves out of the snow. But the first signs of spring are in sight: rainy days, light jackets, and the announcement of local spring and summer festival lineups. There’s nothing that cures the winter blues like hearing what all your favorite outdoor music festivals have in store. From bluegrass in Baltimore, to Florence in Delaware, to hip-hop on a Philly pier, here are nine festivals to look forward to once the temperatures climb.

Dan Deacon best music festivals in DC mid-atlantic
<strong>Dan Deacon</strong> <strong>|</strong> Courtesy of YouTube

Light City

For a week in the beginning of spring, practically the entire city of Baltimore will be aglow in neon. The inaugural festival, dubbed Light City Baltimore, will feature hundreds of art installations and some epic, not-to-be-missed musical acts. Inspired by light festivals around the world, the week-long event will include 50 concerts from acts like local DJ Dan Deacon, the Baltimore Rock Opera Society, soul acts Bosley and Brooks Long, jam band ELM, classical ensemble Symphony One, rapper TT the Artist, and ’80s legend Thomas Dolby. Oh, and did we mention that it’s all for free?
Charm City Music Festival people outside listening to music
<strong>Charm City Folk and Bluegrass Festival |</strong>&nbsp;<a href=";theater" target="_blank">Kevin Grall</a>

Charm City Folk &amp; Bluegrass Festival

Over the past four years, the Charm City Folk & Bluegrass Festival has gone from a small concert in a brewery parking lot to an all-day festival in bucolic Druid Hill Park. This year will be no different. The festival will feature bluegrass legends Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder, one-man jam band Keller Williams, first family of bluegrass The Travelin’ McCourys, Grammy winners Steep Canyon Rangers, mandolinist Sierra Hull, and local favorites Cris Jacobs, a native of Maryland, and Cabinet, a native of Pennsylvania. A new aspect this year will be Bluegrass Academy, where performers can give short lessons and discuss their music with fans in a set-aside tent. For every ticket sold, the festival will donate $2 to support local education programs.
food at sweetlife festival best music festivals in washington dc
<strong>Sweetlife Festival</strong> <strong>|</strong>&nbsp;Courtesy of Sweetgreen


This springtime festival in Columbia, MD, combines our two first loves in life: music and food. The lineup boasts up-and-coming artists from a variety of genres: pop from The 1975, electronica from Grimes, and rap from PartyNextDoor. Also on the bill are Eagles of Death Metal, whose Paris concert at the Bataclan last November was the site of a horrific terrorist attack, plus punk/new wave from '80s legend Blondie. Sponsored by the fine folks at healthy regional chain sweetgreen, the festival’s food options always go above and beyond your typical corn dogs and kabobs. Instead, food will be provided by Spike Gjerde, a James Beard Award winner and owner/chef at Woodberry Kitchen, and Erik Bruner-Yang, owner of Toki Underground and Maketto.


What better way to spend your Memorial Day weekend than taking in a bevy of Americana artists with the rolling Appalachian mountains as the backdrop? Founded in 2008 by bluegrass legend Del McCoury, the three-day-long festival will feature blues rockers Tedeschi Trucks Band, roots group Railroad Earth, the string-pickin’ Yonder Mountain String Band, and Grammy-winning Bruce Hornsby with his band, The Noisemakers. Famously family-friendly, DelFest provides activities like water balloon fights and chalk drawing for all ages, and also features an oh-so-important distinction between family camp and general admission.

Maryland Deathfest

Metal music continues to have the best sub-genre names in the game: grindcore, thrash, doom, sludge, and powerviolence -- just to name a few. With epic descriptors like that, how could you miss Baltimore’s three-day festival dedicated to all things metal? Spread across three outdoor and indoor venues throughout the city, the festival will feature bands like Bongzilla, Whoresnation, and Waco Jesus. As one of three premiere death metal festivals in the world, the Baltimore event will have plenty of swinging long hair, piercing guitar solos, and dense bass grooves to go around.
?uestlove at roots picnic questlove best music festivals mid-atlantic philadelphia
<strong>Roots Picnic</strong> <strong>|</strong> <a href="" target="_blank">Flickr/lauren monaco</a>

Roots Picnic

For nine years, The Roots have put on an epic hip-hop festival on the pier at Penn’s Landing in their hometown of Philadelphia. This year’s star-studded lineup will feature rapper and Drake collaborator Future, Texas soul singer and guitarist Leon Bridges, old-school tracks from DMX, and a close-out with Usher backed by The Roots. Throughout the day, attendees can also hear music from Swizz Beatz, French-Cuban duo Ibeyi, "Versace"-singing trio Migos, and ZoĂ« Kravitz-fronted Lolawolf. If that doesn’t get you excited, then this promo video by the two Broad City lead stars definitely will.
performer at firefly music festival best festivals mid-atlantic
<strong>Firefly Music Festival</strong> <strong>|</strong> <a href="" target="_blank">Flickr/Jeremy Asa</a>

Firefly Music Festival

For the feel of a mega-festival without the stinky 12-hour drive, Firefly has been there for us for five years now. Located in Dover, DE (just a two-hour drive from DC), the festival has long attracted big-name acts, and this year will feature heavy-hitter headliners Mumford & Sons, Kings of Leon, Florence and the Machine, deadmau5, and Ellie Goulding. Even more interesting are some of the acts lower on the bill -- the festival is making efforts to expand the breadth of genres -- including A$AP Rocky, Blink-182, Ludacris, Earth, Wind & Fire, Major Lazer, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, and Baltimore pop-rockers Sun Club. The lineup ensures something for every fan, as do other attractions like a Dogfish Head Brewery tent, coffee house cafe, and silent disco area.

XPoNential Music Festival

Located along the Camden Waterfront just across the way from Philly, the XPoNential Music Festival is organized by local radio station WXPN. The rock-centric festival boasts headliners Ryan Adams, Gary Clark Jr, Alabama Shakes, Brandi Carlile, and Old Crow Medicine Show. The three stages will also play host to Rockville native singer-songwriter Father John Misty, famous New Orleans musicians Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and folksy outfit The Felice Brothers.
festival goers lounging at floyd fest best music festivals in mid-atlantic washington dc
<strong>Floyd Fest</strong> <strong>|</strong> Roger Gupta


Right along the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia, FloydFest is an opportunity to get your outdoor adventures in while taking in great live music. Not only does the lineup feature rock legend Gregg Allman, rising star Nathaniel Rateliff, Austin-based blues dude Shakey Graves, and the Americana stylings of Greensky Bluegrass, but there are a plethora of activities to boot. Attendees can kayak along a stretch of the Little River, hike and bike on the Moonstomper Trail, play disc golf on a nine-hole course, or even run a 5K.