We Know: All About Music Festival Vacations

What Kinds of Festivals are There?

No matter what kind of music you enjoy, there's sure to be a music festival vacation out there for you. Classical music festivals abound in Europe; country music festivals take place from Texas to Tennessee; Louisiana and other parts of the Deep South have jazz, Southern blues, and gospel; and in San Francisco, outdoor music festivals featuring blues and other American-born music happen throughout the summer.

Unlike other types of vacation, timing is everything with music festivals. Since most music festivals are at least partly outdoors, you should count on going in mid-spring to summer. Be certain to schedule your rooms well in advance; with the best festivals, good rooms go quickly.

Where Will I Find the Various Kinds of Festivals?

  • Classical Music -- try the South of France, Italy (especially for opera), Vienna, Salzberg, and Munich. Music festivals in these places center around the musicians who came from the region -- Mozart for Salzberg, for instance. Most of these festivals are held in the summer, and many of them are in historic outdoor amphitheaters.
  • Country music -- Nashville, of course, has a lock on this, but you can also find festivals and year-round shows at Branson, Missouri, in Memphis, at Dollywood, and on several vacation cruises.
  • Jazz -- the home of Jazz is New Orleans, and though the Queen City was damaged in Hurricane Katrina, it will rise again; watch especially for the huge, free French Quarter Music Festival in mid-April. Jazz festivals are held from the Florida Panhandle all the way around to Galveston, Texas. But jazz has spread throughout the world, and you'll find excellent jazz festivals in Montreal, Chicago, and in the San Francisco area as well.
  • Don't forget to look at music cruises, like the Rock Boat. What you lose in atmosphere may be made up for in proximity to the musicians you love and the chance to totally immerse yourself in music.

How Can I Plan in Advance?

Get a schedule as far in advance as you can so you can mark out the things you most want to do. You should also write to the tourism bureau in the town where you'll be staying and ask for a vacation package; you should be able to request this online. Most music festivals have roots in the town where they're held, and you'll get a better feel for the depth of the music if you visit some of the culture and history of the town. For example, if you do the Salzberg music festivals, you should visit some of the museums and historical places in town that contributed to who Mozart became. Give yourself time to do walking tours, talk to the people, and immerse yourself in the culture.

Buy tickets in advance for the events you're planning to attend in case they sell out. Plan everything else in your vacation around those events, and don't make the mistake of trying to do too much.

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