Want to experience the ultimate EDM festival? Feel the rhythm at Ultra. (Photo: Getty Images)
Music festivals carry an energy rush that’s hard to beat: hearing dozens of your favorite bands perform live alongside thousands of fans, rocking out for multiple days, meeting new friends, and experiencing art, food and more.
Florida’s near-perfect weather (for much of the year, at least) and palm tree-lined coast make the state a popular venue for some of the nation’s best music fests.
You either love Ultra or you hate it, and if you’re in the former camp, you’ve spent the year gearing up for the three-day EDM music fest by stocking up on glitter body paint and flowered headbands.
Every March, downtown Miami’s waterfront Bayfront Park morphs into a stage for the world’s top DJs like Deadmau5 and AVICII to spin heart-thumping, hip-bumping electronic dance music. More than 70,000 attendees visit eight stages, dancing the nights (and days) away in a blur of lights, wristbands and billowing flags.
Ultra also coincides with another major music-fest, Winter Music Conference (WMC), which is now known as Miami Music Week (MMW). If you’ve got the stamina, you can hear DJs spin at various satellite pool parties and late-night shows at clubs across the Magic City.
Chilling out in the sun, toes in the sand, palm trees waving, turquoise waves crashing, and your favorite bands jamming out on stage – it simply doesn’t get more “Florida” than the annual Tortuga Music Festival.
This multi-day music extravaganza is held on the soft, white sands of Fort Lauderdale beach and primarily showcases country music, with occasional nods to rock and roots sounds. Headlining acts are big-time names and have included Blake Shelton, Kenny Chesney, Eric Church and Dierks Bentley.
Though the music is obviously the festival’s big draw, the event also achieves a much larger purpose. Tortuga works with the non-profit Rock The Ocean Foundation to raise awareness about issues impacting the world’s oceans and to support marine life conservation.
Where to stay: Fort Lauderdale Marriott Harbor Beach Resort & Spa, just a short walk down Fort Lauderdale Beach
Virginia Key doesn’t normally grab your attention: it’s the tiny island that leads from Miami to Key Biscayne. But all that changes for four days each year when the family-friendly Virginia Key GrassRoots Festival arrives.
Part of the larger non-profit GrassRoots Festival organization, which produces similar four-day events around the United States, the Virginia Key extravaganza includes performances from dozens of local and international bands, with sounds as varied as roots, world music, Latin, R&B, reggae and zydeco.
A slew of festival attractions are also geared towards well being, including yoga and healing arts workshops, art installations, music workshops and a Kid’s Village.
Where to stay: JW Marriott Miami, just a ten-minute drive
Okeechobee may be a newcomer to the Florida festival circuit, but its game-changing premiere in 2016 quickly made it one of the most hyped festivals in the southeastern United States. Created by the crew who developed Tennessee’s iconic Bonnaroo festival, the multi-day Okeechobee event is Florida’s largest camping festival.
More than 30,000 people descended on 800 acres in central Florida to hear some 80 performers and bands, which included Mumford & Sons, Jason Isbell, Skrillex and Kendrick Lamar. Much like Bonnaroo, attendees came for the music but stayed for the peaced-out, hippied-out vibe and attractions like the Ferris wheel, yoga classes and live art performances and displays.
Come to Jacksonville and get ready to rock at Welcome to Rockville, a two-day heavy metal and hard rock festival. Bring your earplugs as you prepare to be bombarded with epic performances from some of the genre’s biggest names.
More than 40 bands perform at the festival, and past headliners include Korn, Megadeth, Rob Zombie and Anthrax. If you worked up an appetite head banging, you’re in luck. The festival is known for its “#GourmetManFood” which includes artisan grilled cheese sandwiches, handcrafted burgers, gourmet mac and cheese and an actual bacon restaurant.
When all that grub makes you thirsty, hit up Whiskey Row or Tequila World for a tipple.
This story first appeared on The Florida Buzz, a collection of blog posts about all things travel in the Sunshine State, powered by Florida Marriott Resorts.