10 Cities with Awesome Free Fall Music Festivals

by Kristine Hansen

10 Cities with Awesome Free Fall Music Festivals

by Kristine Hansen

Summer is loaded with music festivals with line-ups so strong that people will hop a plane (hello, Coachella!), but tickets aren’t cheap. Come fall, a variety of free festivals emerge in cities across the country (and beyond), flaunting styles from bluegrass to folk. But save some money in your budget: You’ll still have to pay for food and drink, as well as transportation and lodging.

Summer is loaded with music festivals with line-ups so strong that people will hop a plane (hello, Coachella!), but tickets aren’t cheap. Come fall, a variety of free festivals emerge in cities across the country (and beyond), flaunting styles from bluegrass to folk. But save some money in your budget: You’ll still have to pay for food and drink, as well as transportation and lodging.

10
singoutloud2_ed.jpg
1 of 10
St. Augustine, FL

Held from September 1-23—yep, it’s a three-week affair—Sing Out Loud brings in heavy hitters (The Decemberists, Lucero and Jason Isbell, and the 400 Unit) for a September 22 concert (minimum $25 donation). But you can see 100+ other great acts, like The Weepies, for free. Venues are as varied as the St. Augustine Amphitheatre to a craft-cocktail spot called Odd Birds, for a mix of large and small.

Held from September 1-23—yep, it’s a three-week affair—Sing Out Loud brings in heavy hitters (The Decemberists, Lucero and Jason Isbell, and the 400 Unit) for a September 22 concert (minimum $25 donation). But you can see 100+ other great acts, like The Weepies, for free. Venues are as varied as the St. Augustine Amphitheatre to a craft-cocktail spot called Odd Birds, for a mix of large and small.

richmond_ed.jpg
2 of 10
Richmond, VA

What goes better with fall than a folk festival? Virginia’s capital city plays host to the Richmond Folk Festival (October 12-14) along its waterfront. And the artists aren’t solely from Virginia, nor they East Coast. The event attracts international acts, from Irish musician Jarlath Henderson to the Zhou Family Band from China. Gospel singer Mavis Staples also will perform.

What goes better with fall than a folk festival? Virginia’s capital city plays host to the Richmond Folk Festival (October 12-14) along its waterfront. And the artists aren’t solely from Virginia, nor they East Coast. The event attracts international acts, from Irish musician Jarlath Henderson to the Zhou Family Band from China. Gospel singer Mavis Staples also will perform.

nola2_ed.jpg
3 of 10
New Orleans, LA

Music and food rule in New Orleans, and Crescent City Blues & BBQ Festival (October 12-14) combines the two—perfect if you have limited time in the city. This year’s guests include Jimmie Vaughan and Shemeika Copeland, plus Walter “Wolfman” Washington. The event takes over Lafayette Square Park, with two stages, a dozen BBQ vendors, and an arts market, so bring some cash.

Music and food rule in New Orleans, and Crescent City Blues & BBQ Festival (October 12-14) combines the two—perfect if you have limited time in the city. This year’s guests include Jimmie Vaughan and Shemeika Copeland, plus Walter “Wolfman” Washington. The event takes over Lafayette Square Park, with two stages, a dozen BBQ vendors, and an arts market, so bring some cash.

raleigh_ed.jpg
4 of 10
Raleigh, NC

Not all of the concerts are free at Wide Open Bluegrass (September 28-29), but enough are that it’s worth the trip. Skip the ticketed Red Hat Amphitheater shows in favor of acts at the Streetfest—seven stages along Fayetteville Street—that are announced here closer to the event date. And don’t miss the dance tent, where there’s open dancing, square-dancing, and clogging.

Not all of the concerts are free at Wide Open Bluegrass (September 28-29), but enough are that it’s worth the trip. Skip the ticketed Red Hat Amphitheater shows in favor of acts at the Streetfest—seven stages along Fayetteville Street—that are announced here closer to the event date. And don’t miss the dance tent, where there’s open dancing, square-dancing, and clogging.

sanfran_ed.jpg
5 of 10
San Francisco, CA

Set in the scenic Golden Gate Park, the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival (October 5-7) is completely free, thanks to a charitable donation by Chris Hellman (who has funded the event since 2001 and died in 2011). This year’s acts include Emmylou Harris, Jeff Tweedy, Los Lobos, and Ani DiFranco. Food is available from food trucks and drinks (including alcoholic) can be brought in.

Set in the scenic Golden Gate Park, the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival (October 5-7) is completely free, thanks to a charitable donation by Chris Hellman (who has funded the event since 2001 and died in 2011). This year’s acts include Emmylou Harris, Jeff Tweedy, Los Lobos, and Ani DiFranco. Food is available from food trucks and drinks (including alcoholic) can be brought in.

alpharetta3_ed.jpg
6 of 10
Alpharetta, GA

This northern Atlanta ‘burb’s annual Wire & Wood Songwriters Festival (October 12-13) attracts some of the nation’s best-known singer-songwriters, spanning genres from bluegrass to rock. This year, Justin Townes Earle, Dan Wilson (of Semisonic), and Glen Phillips (of Toad the Wet Sprocket) will perform. Not only is the festival free, but so is parking at select downtown Alpharetta lots.

This northern Atlanta ‘burb’s annual Wire & Wood Songwriters Festival (October 12-13) attracts some of the nation’s best-known singer-songwriters, spanning genres from bluegrass to rock. This year, Justin Townes Earle, Dan Wilson (of Semisonic), and Glen Phillips (of Toad the Wet Sprocket) will perform. Not only is the festival free, but so is parking at select downtown Alpharetta lots.

mesamusic_ed.jpg
7 of 10
Mesa, AZ

The annual Mesa Music Festival boasts 200 performances by emerging artists over a three-day period (November 8-10) just outside of Phoenix. All shows take place on Main Street in historic downtown Mesa. Food and drink options are convenient to the stages, either at local eateries or vendors. In addition to free music, parking is also free in downtown Mesa.

The annual Mesa Music Festival boasts 200 performances by emerging artists over a three-day period (November 8-10) just outside of Phoenix. All shows take place on Main Street in historic downtown Mesa. Food and drink options are convenient to the stages, either at local eateries or vendors. In addition to free music, parking is also free in downtown Mesa.

madison2_ed.jpg
8 of 10
Madison, WI

This eclectic college town ushers in fall with the Madison World Music Festival (follow for 2019 dates) at three different locations on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, including Terrace at Memorial Union, which overlooks Lake Mendota. Bands from as far away as Sweden, Turkey, Gambia, and Ethiopia pump up the jam—paired with Wisconsin craft beers for sale.

This eclectic college town ushers in fall with the Madison World Music Festival (follow for 2019 dates) at three different locations on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, including Terrace at Memorial Union, which overlooks Lake Mendota. Bands from as far away as Sweden, Turkey, Gambia, and Ethiopia pump up the jam—paired with Wisconsin craft beers for sale.

rome2_ed.jpg
9 of 10
Rome, Italy

Combine the beauty of Rome with the charm of world-class jazz, and you’ve just found a reason to visit Rome off-season. The Roma Jazz Fest (select dates between November 4-30) features a mix of male and female jazz artists, and trios and sextets, too. Acts hail from across Europe and even the States, including Grammy Award-winning Dee Dee Bridgewater from Memphis.

Combine the beauty of Rome with the charm of world-class jazz, and you’ve just found a reason to visit Rome off-season. The Roma Jazz Fest (select dates between November 4-30) features a mix of male and female jazz artists, and trios and sextets, too. Acts hail from across Europe and even the States, including Grammy Award-winning Dee Dee Bridgewater from Memphis.

montreal_ed.jpg
10 of 10
Montreal, Canada

A short flight up to Montreal and you can feel like you’re in France. Even more so at the Villa Paradizo (follow for 2019 dates), a DJ-driven electronic-music festival, along with EDM groups like Bass Jackers and Vinai. It’s held outdoors along Crescent Street in downtown Montreal, the perfect way to kick off fall.

A short flight up to Montreal and you can feel like you’re in France. Even more so at the Villa Paradizo (follow for 2019 dates), a DJ-driven electronic-music festival, along with EDM groups like Bass Jackers and Vinai. It’s held outdoors along Crescent Street in downtown Montreal, the perfect way to kick off fall.

Up next...

The 18 Most Haunted Hotels in America

Horror landscape
Go Back
Find The Best Cruises
Find a cruise

Find the best deals!

Click on multiple sites to get the lowest prices

Click on multiple sites to get the lowest prices