Ten music festivals perfect for first-time visitors

Photo credit: Mike Will for Insomniac Events


Would you like to experience a festival for the first time? Check out these tips that will help you add some variety and ease your anxiety.


There’s something incomparable about the experience of immersing yourself in the heavy air caused by the rumble of a DJ set and standing in the midst of a crowd of strangers where you might meet the platonic love of your life. Music festivals are sacred ground for music fans; each one is as unique as the people who take part. There is plenty to choose from and no experience will ever be the same.

Taking all of this into account, there’s also the anxiety of deciding where to invest your time. For beginners, the first music festival you attend can make or break the live music experience and set the trend for whether you continue to plan every vacation to follow artists across the country or whether the first will also be the last.

They say throwing yourself into the fire is the best way to learn, but that’s not the case when it comes to learning the ways of festival life. Luckily, we’ve made festival selection easier by curating five festivals that are sure to please first-time visitors. Before you travel to your first music festival, make sure you know what to bring with you.

Ten music festivals perfect for first-time visitors


Sunset Music Festival 2021
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Sunset Music Festival

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The Sunset Music Festival takes place over Memorial Day weekend each year. With three stages across the festival, SMF has seen stage takeovers over the years Anjunabeats, deadbeatsand more, and has boasted headliners marshmello, excision, Major Laszer, Above and beyond, and more. Whether you want to party the night away or relax to ambient music, the festival’s lineup has always offered a variety of sets to suit all tastes.

Held at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, the festival’s beautiful installations are highlighted by the summertime setting that Florida has to offer. With a huge parking lot right across the street, it’s easy to get in and out of the festival without major problems. Plus, its smaller size makes it an excellent option for a first-time festival, while still embracing the energy of larger festivals with its lineup.


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

Project GLOW

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Despite its 2022 debut, Project GLOW is already positioning itself as a highly anticipated event. The festival debuted in Washington DC and later makes its way to Philadelphia in October. Led by Insomniac and GLOW, Project GLOW is backed by two giants of the live music scene, making it a guaranteed entertaining first experience.

Project GLOW offers two main stages and an intimate setting for festival goers insomniac iconic Boombox Art Car. The smaller venue makes it easier for first-time visitors to navigate the grounds. Security and staff are posted almost everywhere throughout the festival to make it feel safer for beginners. Finally, since the festival is being held in Washington DC, there’s the option of taking the subway, using ride-sharing services, or driving to and from the festival for a seamless before-and-after experience.


Developed electric zoo
Photo credit: Electric Zoo

Electric Zoo New York

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Electric Zoo is touted as New York’s premier dance music festival. As you enter the zoo at Randall’s Island, you will be transported to the unique destination that the festival has created over the years. In the past, the festival has created unique animal stages to match its theme, while more recently it has replaced its stages with massive screens and prominent structures.

Electric Zoo has also seen a number of labels host stages such as AMF, Brownies & Lemonade, deadbeats, and more, making it a one-stop festival for a diverse lineup. The festival thrives most on the never-ending energy pulsing from every stage. It also continues beyond the festival with clubs and after-parties being offered throughout 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 a seamless experience with options for Electric Zoo’s bus shuttles or a short walk across the island’s bridge to access public transit.


Moonrise Festival 2019
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Moonrise Music Festival

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There’s more to Baltimore than just Ravens or seafood—it’s the city that calls home the Moonrise Festival. While the festival has been on hiatus since 2020, it will return in 2022. Not long ago, Insomniac and Club GLOW announced their takeover of the festival. With the two organizations’ track record of hosting major events, Moonrise is poised to return better than ever.

While the space-themed festival has had some challenges in the past, particularly weather-related, Moonrise staff have gracefully handled emergencies and created a unique, treasured experience among attendees. Even with muggy weather and mud spattering the field, it’s incredible to turn a crisis into a fun experience for participants and a community boost.


HARD Summer 2021
Photo credit: Taylor Wallace for Insomniac Events

HARD Summer Music Festival

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Significantly larger than the other festivals listed, the HARD Summer Music Festival attracted 160,000 visitors over two days in 2021. Despite its size, the festival is also accessible to newcomers. As well as house, techno and bass dominating the line-up, the festival has also seen performances by hip-hop artists.

In the past, the festival’s five stages gave visitors plenty of genres and opportunities to experience along with plenty of space away from the crowds, and this year it’s expanding to three days for the first time ever. Under the warm West Coast sun, HARD Summer is the epitome of what summer should be and a great foundation for those looking to dive into big festivals on the expressway.


Beyond Wonderland SoCal 2022
Photo credit: Insomniac Events

Beyond Wonderland SoCal

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Beyond Wonderland is a transportive festival based on the theme of Alice in Wonderland. Offering one of the most immersive experiences for newcomers, this festival transports participants into a magical realm with towering installations such as mushrooms, a chess board, a rabbit and more, in addition to the captivating stages and music. Plus, with costumed performers on the grounds, it almost feels like Halloween in the middle of 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 to fall down the rabbit hole if you can!


North Coast Music Festival 2021
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Music Festival on the North Shore

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Held in Chicago over Labor Day Weekend, the North Coast Music Festival is a great choice for any festival-goer. While the focus is on artists in the field of dance music, the festival has historically brought out artists from a variety of genres. North Coast also places a heavy emphasis on its art installations, focusing on offering various areas to explore beyond the stages, most notably a laser-heavy dome for a mind-blowing light show.

There’s a lot to enjoy besides the music at the North Coast Music Festival, which is saying something considering the massive line-up. It takes place just outside of Chicago at SeatGeek Stadium and has the benefit of a sidewalk for rain.


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

Lollapalooza

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Lollapalooza is another music festival in Chicago but ranks as one of the best that anyone flocking to the Windy City should attend. While dance music is part of the offering, it offers a wider variety of genres, including pop, rock, hip-hop, and more. Lollapalooza is a busier music festival than many on this list, drawing around 400,000 visitors over the weekend each year.

Lollapalooza is also the longest festival on this list, spanning a four-day period. While these numbers may seem intimidating at first, its diversity also makes it a popular first-time festival for many. The festival is also unique in that it allows people of all ages to enter its gates, making it kid-friendly for families wanting to experience a festival together.


CRSSD Festival Fall 2021
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CRSSD Festival

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The CRSSD Festival takes place on the waterfront in San Diego, California and is held twice a year with spring and fall editions. With an average of 15,000 visitors and three stages, the festival is on the smaller side. While other festivals on this list have a diverse lineup, CRSSD Festival has its own speciality. For fans of house or techno, CRSSD is the place to be the Festival to be a part of with massive acts like Glass Animals, Gorgon City, Kaytranada, Purple Disco Machine, Carl Cox and more.

Despite having big names in its lineup, it’s also a festival for discovering new artists who might not be on the radar, while remaining intimate. Taking place by the water, it leans heavily on the theme of being in paradise amidst palm trees, while being accompanied by the best house and techno soundtracks.


Life is beautiful 2021
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life is beautiful

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Much like Lollapalooza, Life Is Beautiful specializes in a broader range of genres beyond dance music. Life Is Beautiful is a one stop location for anyone wanting to get their dose of pop, indie music, hip hop, rap, alternative and more. In addition to its regularly massive lineup, the festival prides itself on its specialty in both music and the arts.

While many other festivals integrate installations as part of the musical experience, Life Is Beautiful fully integrates it as a standalone experience. Amidst the bright lights and colors of downtown Vegas, this festival feels right at home as part of the nightlife scene, especially when clubs and more music are offered right next door. Interestingly, the festival also features comedy as part of its experience, something unique to the festival alone.


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

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