California, also known as The Golden State, has quite a reputation. When you hear or read that simple word, something immediately springs to mind. Even if it's not one tangible idea. It could just be a concept or a feeling.
But if you did think of something specific, perhaps you thought of dreams as thousands flock to the state to pursue their destiny. Or maybe you picture the golden sun beating down on beautiful people as palm trees sway in the wind. Maybe you picture the stereotypical surfer dude who’s barely comprehensible in his speech. Or that hippie atmosphere it’s known for.
Or maybe you think of the state’s rich music history with deep roots in jazz, punk, rock, and house music. So many legendary artists are from California, including Billie Eilish, Snoop Dogg, Etta James, Amy Lee (of Evanescence) and dozens more.
With all this in mind, California really is the perfect place for a music festival. It has everything you need: a connection to music, perfect weather, hippie vibes, and it's dreamy.
So let’s dive straight in. Here are the best music festivals in California.
2023 Lineup: Frank Ocean, Bad Bunny, Blackpink, Gorillaz, Burna Boy, Rosalia, Bjork, Boygenius, Kali Uchis
When: Friday 14th - Sunday 16th & Friday 21nd - Sunday 23th April 2023
Where: Empire Polo Club, Indio, California
Coachella is easily America’s most famous music festival for a fair few reasons, including the fact it’s massive, always has impressive, current lineups, it’s Instagrammable, and, like any festival, it attracts a certain crowd. In Coachella’s case, the crowds of around 125,000 are made up of celebrities and boho vibes.
This year’s lineup, as always, is looking killer with Frank Ocean, Blackpink and Bad Bunny as headliners. But further down the lineup is looking equally stunning with Gorillaz, Burna Boy, Rosalia, Bjork, Boygenius, Kali Uchis and other names that are dominating their respective scenes. For a truly unique festival experience featuring the biggest, best names in the game, Coachella is the one.
Find more information on Coachella 2023 - here
Lightning In A Bottle
2023 Lineup: Rezz, Sofi Tukker, Zhu, Diplo, Purple Disco Machine, Tsha, Ben Bohmer
When: Wednesday 25th - Monday 30th May
Where: Buena Vista Lake, Kern County
Who said electronic music is all about getting trashed? Lightning In A Bottle brings wellness to electronic music with yoga, learning, art and more. Inviting ticketholders to "push the boundaries of reality and what is possible", LIB hosts over one hundred talks and discussions, workshops on a wide range of topics, including medicine making, as well as yoga and movement classes to reconnect you with your mind and body.
The lineup for 2023 is looking brilliant with Rezz, Sofi Tukker, and Zhu headlining, plus other acts like rapidly rising electronic star Tsha, and other more established spinners like Diplo, Purple Disco Machine, and Ben Bohmer. It’s not a fest any electronic music head will want to miss.
2023 Lineup: Luke Bryan, Kane Brown, Chris Stapleton, ZZ Top, Bryan Adams, Jon Pardi, Old Dominion, Brooks & Dunn
When: Friday 28th April - Sunday 30th April 2023
Where: Empire Polo Club, Indio
Probably the world's biggest country music festival, Stagecoach welcomes some of the biggest names in the game, including Luke Bryan, Kane Brown, and Chris Stapleton, alongside some absolute legends of the genre like ZZ Top, and Bryan Adams. And if you don’t want the party to end, check out Diplo on the decks!
Outside of live music, there is lots to get stuck into at Stagecoach. For example, how could you turn down some barbecue courtesy of Guy Fieri? With various styles including Cali, Georgia, and Tennessee, Guy knows how to cook up a feast you'll love.; it doesn't get more country than that really does it? Then, once your belly is full, you can burn it all right off again by busting some moves down at the Honkytonk Dance Hall and having a spin on the Ferris wheel. Sounds perfect to us!
BottleRock Napa Valley
2023 Lineup: Post Malone, Lizzo, Red Hot Chili Pepper, Lil Nas X, Duran Duran, The Smashing Pumpkins, Wu-Tang Clan
When: Friday 26th May - Sunday 28th May 2023
Where: The Napa Valley Expo, Napa
Can’t fully commit to one genre? We’ve got the perfect fest for you. With rock, reggae, pop, indie, country, hip hop, blues, RnB, dance, electronic and more, BottleRock is the perfect festival for an open-minded music fan seeking their new favourite artist. But BottleRock isn’t just about great music, it's also dedicated to great wine, food, and beer.
There’s a culinary stage, craft cocktails and beer, wine, and more to tuck into. And if you overindulged, you can head over to Rapid Recovery, the stand that rehydrates you via IV. Then you can wander the site and admire art by Jacques Lesec, Kopol Bonick, Laura Kimpton, Zio Ziegler and more.
2023 Lineup: TBA
When: Thursday 12th - Sunday 15th October 2023
Where: Moreno Beach, Lake Perris
This year, Desert Daze will be back again following last year's tenth anniversary beside Lake Perris, which has to be the best location for an alternative, psychedelic festival. Described as “a cross between a mini-Glastonbury and the dearly departed All Tomorrow’s Parties” by NME, Desert Daze has taken off and is now one of California’s main boutique festivals.
Past lineups have included Japanese Breakfast, The War On Drugs, The Flaming Lips, and Pussy Riot, demonstrating the wide range of genres you can find at this fest. Desert Daze provides a unique, intimate atmosphere that other fests struggle to capture. But to truly understand its magic, you have to see for yourself.
Rolling Loud California
2023 Lineup: Playboi Carti, Lil Wayne, Future, Travis Scott, Soulja Boy, Kodak Black, Tyga, Lil Uzi Vert
When: Wednesday 3rd - Friday 5th March 2023
Where: Hollywood Park Grounds, Inglewood, California
The Americans are no strangers to great rap music, particularly on the West Coast, and when we say this is the cream of the crop in terms of rap festivals, we don't say it lightly. Returning for another year, Rolling Loud will bring all the very best in American and worldwide rap music right to the front door of those who know and love the genre the most.
With a sister festival in Portugal that provides the Europeans with the delights found within, Rolling Loud is widely considered the place to watch all the best rap acts on one bill. this year the festival is no different. The likes of Playboi Carti, Lil Wayne, Future, Travis Scott are headlining, with the rest of the bill being filled out by huge names such as Soulja Boy, Kodak Black, Tyga, Lil Uzi Vert and so much more. Come on, you shouldn't need any more convincing, get it booked!
Splash House Festival
2023 Lineup: TBA
When: 9th - 11th June, 11th - 13th August, 18th - 20th August 2023
Where: Multiple resorts, Palm Springs
One simple but super fun activity we miss out on as Brits are proper pool parties. We don’t have the weather for it, and it's unusual to even know someone who has a pool. Splash House Festival allows you to enjoy the best bits of America that we miss out on, including good weather and pool parties with house and disco music as your soundtrack.
No artists have been confirmed for 2023 yet, but past editions have featured some brilliant names, including Dom Dolla, Camelphat, and Armin van Helden, so you can rest easy knowing this year will be top. With a focus on partying, if you aren't ready to call it quits by the end, there are after-parties to keep you going.
2023 Lineup: Guns N' Roses
When: Thursday 5th - Sunday 8th October 2023
Where: Discovery Park, Sacramento
Here’s one for the fans of heavier tunes! Aftershock brings all the biggest bands in punk, rock and metal to one place for around 145,000 fans to mosh and headbang to. Previous Years have seen the likes of music titans Cypress Hill, Metallica, My Chemical Romance and Misfits smash the stage open in front of an adoring crowd, and despite having only one name announced for 2023, there's no doubt in our minds it will live up to past efforts.
This is particularly as said band that has been announced is none other than the returning rock heroes Guns N' Roses. Axl Rose and co will surely be ready and primed to shred up the stage - despite their old age - and if this is the calibre set for the rest of the bill, there's no doubt it's going to be a weekend full of rock and metal masterpieces.
Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival
2023 Lineup: TBA
When: Friday 4th - Sunday 6th August 2023
Where: Golden Gate Park, San Francisco
Outside Lands is renowned for booking a diverse roster of talent from multiple genres and has grown since its inception in 2008 to become one of the most significant US music festivals. The lineup for this year has yet to be revealed, but if past lineups are anything to go by, it’ll be cracking. Previous years have seen the likes of indie heroes The Strokes, pop queen Lizzo and noughties post-punk icons Green Day, and the Grammy-nominated Tame Impala. Heavenly.
But Outside Lands isn’t all about music. There are also Grass Lands (we’ll let you check that out for yourself), drag queens, comedians, beautiful food, and more. And with a goal to give $5 million back to the environment by 2030, you can rest easy knowing the team behind Outside Lands has their hearts in the right place and are dedicated to sustainability and protecting the environment.
2023 Lineup: TBA
When: Saturday 5th - Sunday 6th August 2023
Where: NOS Events Center, San Bernardino, Los Angeles
For the first time, HARD Summer is extending from two days to three to give the 80,000 it attracts an extra day to party and groove along to some unreal EDM, bass music, dubstep, and hip hop artists. And since the fest takes place in the peak of summer, there’s a pool to cool off in on-site!
We’re still waiting for a lineup announcement, but to give you an idea of what to expect, previous editions of the two-day event featured Future, Kaytranada, DJ Snake, 2 Chainz, Solardo, and Skream. Seeing as the founder is Gary Richards, AKA electronic artist Destructo, it’s no wonder the lineups never miss.
With mad pyro, dream lineups, comedians, unreal Man vs Food type dishes, pool parties and beaches, California has plenty to choose from. And genre clearly isn’t an issue either with something for everyone. Why not give it a whirl this year? Check out some California music festivals. You might just find your festival soulmate.
Check out our What's On Guide to discover even more rowdy raves and sweaty gigs taking place over the coming weeks and months. For festivals, lifestyle events and more, head on over to our Things To Do page or be inspired by the event selections on our Inspire Me page.
Header image: Coachella on Facebook