Ten music festivals perfect for new attendees

Photo credit: Mike Will for Insomniac Events

Do you want to discover a festival for the first time? Check out these choices that will help give you some diversity and ease your anxiety.

There is something unparalleled about the experience of soaking up the heavy air caused by the rumble of a DJ set and standing in the middle of a crowd of strangers where you might encounter the platonic love of your life. Music festivals are the holy place for music fans; each is as unique as the people present. There are plenty of choices and no experience will ever be the same.

With all of this taken into consideration, there is also the anxiety of deciding where to invest your time. For starters, the first music festival you attend can make or break the live music experience and set the trend for whether you’ll continue to plan each vacation following artists across the country or whether the first one will also be the last.

There’s a saying that throwing yourself into the fire is the best way to learn something, but that’s not the case when it comes to learning about festival lifestyles. Luckily, we’ve made it easier to decide which festival to attend by hosting five festivals that new attendees can be sure to enjoy. Be sure to check what to bring before heading to your first music festival.

Ten music festivals perfect for new attendees

Sunset Music Festival 2021
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Sunset music festival

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Sunset Music Festival is held annually during Memorial Day weekend. With three stages across the festival, SMF has seen takeovers over the years from Anjunabeats, Deadbeatsand more, and boasted headliners like Marshmallow, Circumcision, Major Lazer, Above and beyond, and more. Whether you’re looking to rage the night away or relax to ambient music, the festival lineup has historically offered a variety of sets to suit all tastes.

Held at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, the festival’s beautiful facilities are enhanced by the summertime environment that Florida has to offer. With a huge parking lot just across the street, it’s easy to get in and out of the festival without any major hassle. In addition, its small size makes it an excellent option for a first festival while encompassing the energy of the biggest with its programming.

Project GLOW Festival 2022 - Insomniac Events
Photo credit: Ivan Meneses for Insomniac Events

GLOW project

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Despite debuting in 2022, Project GLOW is already positioning itself as a highly anticipated event. The festival kicked off in Washington DC and will travel to Philadelphia later in October. Led by both Insomniac and GLOW, Project GLOW is backed by two giants of the live music scene, making it a guaranteed fun first experience.

The GLOW project offers an intimate setting for festival-goers with two main stages and insomniacs iconic Boombox Art Car. The small room allows new festival-goers to easily navigate the grounds. Security and staff are stationed almost everywhere throughout the festival, making it safer for first-timers. Finally, with the festival located in Washington DC, there are options to take the subway, use carpooling, or drive to and from the festival for a seamless pre-and-post experience.

Advanced Electric Zoo
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New York Electric Zoo

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Electric Zoo is billed as New York’s premier dance music festival. Located on Randall’s Island, setting foot in the zoo means being transported to the unique destination the festival has forged for itself over the years. In the past, the festival has sculpted one-of-a-kind animal stages to match its theme, while more recently swapping out its stages to include massive screens and standout structures.

Electric Zoo has also seen a number of labels host scenes, such as MFA, Brownies & Lemonade, Deadbeats, and more, making it a unique festival for a diverse lineup. The festival thrives most on the endless energy that pulsates at every stage. It also continues beyond the festival with clubs and after-parties on offer all over NYC, making it apt to call it the city that never sleeps.

Surprisingly, despite New York’s notorious traffic, getting to and from the festival is also a seamless experience with options for Electric Zoo shuttle buses or a short walk across the island bridge to get to the public transport.

Moonrise Festival 2019
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Moonrise Music Festival

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There’s more to Baltimore than crows or seafood – it’s the city that Moonrise Festival calls home. While the festival has been on hiatus since 2020, it is making a comeback in 2022. Not too long ago, Insomniac and Club GLOW announced their acquisition of the festival. With both organizations’ track records of hosting massive events, Moonrise is well positioned to come back better than ever.

While the space-themed festival has had its share of challenges in the past, including weather-related ones, the staff at Moonrise handled emergencies gracefully and created a unique and cherished experience among attendees. Even in the midst of wet weather and splashing mud on the field, there is something amazing about being able to turn a crisis into a fun experience for participants and facilitate community.

HARD summer 2021
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HARD Summer Music Festival

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HARD Summer Music Festival is significantly larger than the other festivals listed and attracted 160,000 attendees in 2021 over two days. Despite its larger size, the festival remains accessible to newcomers. Beyond the house, techno and bass that dominate the lineup, the festival has also seen appearances by artists in the realm of hip-hop.

In the past, the festival’s five stages offered plenty of genres and options for attendees, as well as plenty of space away from the crowds, and this year will see it expand to three days for the very first time. Under the hot west coast sun, HARD Summer is the epitome of what summer should be and is a great introduction for those looking to take the express lane to dive into large-scale festivals.

Beyond Wonderland SoCal 2022
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Beyond Wonderland SoCal

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Beyond Wonderland is a moving festival based on the theme of Alice in Wonderland. This festival offers one of the most immersive experiences for newcomers, taking attendees into a magical kingdom with towering installations like mushrooms, a chessboard, a rabbit, and more, in addition to captivating stages and music. Plus, with costumed performers on the grounds, it almost feels like Halloween in mid-spring.

Insomniac recently added The Gorge as one of the homes for Beyond Wonderland, which also offers a camping option for newcomers who want to enjoy the great outdoors as part of the festival experience. Don’t sleep on your chance of falling down the rabbit hole when you can!

North Coast Music Festival 2021
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North Coast Music Festival

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Held over Labor Day weekend in Chicago, the North Coast Music Festival is a solid choice for any first-time festival attendee. Although the focus is on artists in the field of dance music, the festival has historically seen artists from different genres perform. North Coast also puts a heavy emphasis on its art installations, focusing on offering various areas to explore beyond the stages, including a laser-heavy dome for a stunning light show.

At the North Coast Music Festival, there’s a lot to enjoy besides the music, which is already saying a lot given its extensive lineup. Taking place just outside Chicago at SeatGeek Stadium, it benefits from a sidewalk in case of rain.

Alison Wonderland at Lollapalooza 2019
Photo credit: Shea Flynn for Lollapalooza


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Lollapalooza is yet another Chicago-based music festival, but stands as one of the best to attend for anyone flocking to the Windy City. Although dance music is part of its programming, it features a greater diversity of genres, including pop, rock, hip-hop, and more. Lollapalooza is a music festival with higher attendance than many on this list, with around 400,000 attendees each year over the weekend.

Lollapalooza is also the longest festival on this list, taking place over four days. While those numbers seem daunting at first, it’s also a popular first-time festival for many because of its diversity. The festival is also unique in that it allows people of all ages to enter its gates, making it child-friendly for families who want to experience a festival together.

CRSSD Fall Festival 2021
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CRSSD Festival

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The CRSSD Festival takes place right on the waterfront in San Diego, CA, and takes place twice a year with spring and fall editions. The festival leans on a smaller scale, averaging around 15,000 attendees and hosting three stages. While other festivals on this list share a diverse lineup, the CRSSD festival has its own specialty. For house or techno fans, the CRSSD is the festival to attend, having boasted massive acts like Glass Animals, Gorgon City, Kaytranada, Purple Disco Machine, Carl Cox, and more.

Despite the big names in its programming, it is also a festival to discover new artists who may not be on the radar, while remaining intimate. Taking place on the waterfront, it leans heavily on the theme of being in paradise among palm trees while being accompanied by the best of house and techno.

Life is beautiful 2021
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Life is Beautiful

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Similar to Lollapalooza, Life Is Beautiful specializes in a wider range of genres beyond those of dance music. Life Is Beautiful is a one-stop-shop for anyone looking to get their fix of pop, indie, hip-hop, rap, alternative and more. In addition to its regularly massive programming, the festival is proud of its specialty, both musical and artistic.

While many other festivals incorporate installations as part of the musical experience, Life Is Beautiful fully integrates it as an experience in its own right. Amidst the bright lights and colors of downtown Vegas, this festival feels right at home in the nightlife setting, especially when clubs and more music are on offer right next door. Interestingly, the festival also offers comedy as part of its experience, something very unique to the festival alone.

What was the first festival you attended? Tag us on social media and let us know!


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