Songs of Summer: The Rest of the Fests

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Songs of Summer: The Rest of the Fests (PHOTOS)

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Anybody whose friends won't shut up about how great Bonnaroo was will be relieved to hear that the summer music festival season is just kicking off, and there's plenty of time left to book that trip to Austin, Milwaukee or San Francisco.

Anybody whose friends won't shut up about how great Bonnaroo was will be relieved to hear that the summer music festival season is just kicking off, and there's plenty of time left to book that trip to Austin, Milwaukee or San Francisco.

Because music takes precedent on festival trips, attendees often overlook good travel sense. Here are a few tips and tricks for navigating a summer tour.

It bears saying before we even get started: Wear sunscreen and drink a lot of water.

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Songs of Summer: The Rest of the Fests (PHOTOS)

Summerfest purports to be the world’s largest music festival, which doesn’t sound right at all, but it is definitely big. Big enough that for a brief window of time Milwaukee will seem like the center of the sonic universe.


This year revelers will join Kanye, Loretta Lynn, Katy Perry, Sugarland, Blue Oyster Cult and plenty of other people who wake up in the morning and make gold records. Fortunately for attendees, Milwaukee is never far away.


Visitors can fly into General Mitchell Internation Airport on either Frontier or Southwest, generally reliable budget carriers, or Dane County Regional Airport on Delta Connection. For those who haven’t looked at a map in a while: Chicago is very close and very cheap to flight to thanks to Alaska Airlines. The best advice when looking for flights is to look for flights to a lot of different airports. Pick up a ZipCar in Chicago and bring it on down to the party.


Once visitors make it to Milwaukee they can avail themselves of plenty of mid-range motel type housing or splurge a little bit and head to the Knickerbocker Hotel (from $129) on the lakefront, where they can relax in rooms decorated with delightfully inconsistent flair. More rocking (and richer) visitors to can stay at the Iron Horse, a rough hewn yet posh hotel aimed at well-to-do bikers ($250). Think of it as the anti-Altamont.

Pitchfork is basically Summerfest for people with strange haircuts and chunky glasses. This year Neko Case, Das Racist, Animal Collective, Fleet Foxes, and TV on the Radio will be playing to a painfully hip crowd, which will likely be feigning disinterest or rubbing the sore spot from where it just got that tattoo.


For those who don’t know a guy who knows a guy, the fact that the festival is in downtown Chicago makes finding a place to stay a little easier. The Getaway Hostel is a good choice for those willing to bunk up or those unwilling to spend more than $69 for a private room. Staying at the Marriott at Medical District ($230) puts attendees within walking distance of Union Park, the venue, but also might cost a traveler indie cred.



The best way to stay further away from Union Park without going mad trying to figure out public transport is to get a 30 day membership from Chicago B Cycle, a bike sharing program, for $30 and roll around in style. Everybody flies into O’Hare, so just monitor the deal sites for a few days and jump when prices dip.

Lollapalooza is the cool aunt of rock festivals: She’s been around a while, but she’s still got it. To be specific, she’s got Eminem, Foo Fighters, Coldplay, My Morning Jacket, Cee Lo Green and a hell of a location on the lakefront. 


Thanks to the convenient venue there is no need to have a vehicle, but having a kayak can be fun for those willing to more literally rock and roll. (Get it?) Pick one up from Kayak Chicago for $80 a day and paddle down to the show from the North Avenue Beach. 

When attendees get tired, or simply tired of listening to Chris Martin’s interminable moaning, they’d be wise to head to the nearby Wyndham Blake (from $140) to crash in style only a few blocks away. 

Another thought: Call friends and ask who they know who goes to Northwestern and try to rent a dorm room. Could work.

Outside Lands will be featuring Muse, Phish, Arcade Fire, and The Roots this year, but the biggest hit is always Golden Gate Park, which is both the venue and the major activity. San Francisco’s weirdest residents are basically the backdrop for this festival, so embrace peculiarity but don’t buy what anyone is selling. 


Visitors to the Bay Area who want to embrace the chaotic spirit of the event can stay in Haight Ashbury at the Red Victorian, a small hotel that also bills itself as a peace center, eat vegan food for as long as they can stand it and then join the always long line at the park adjacent McDonald's. Buses run from the Haight down to the more tourist friendly Embarcadero, but Outside Lands is not intended to be a celebration of trolley-car San Francisco. 


Travelers should remember that there are frequent shuttles to San Francisco from both San Jose International Airport and Oakland International Airport so San Francisco International is far from the only point of entry. Once on the ground, there are Bay Area Rapid Transports, Subways, Buses, Trolleys, and VW Buses willing to give a fellow traveler a lift, so don’t worry about getting around.

No, its not really a music festival, but it really isn’t anything else either. Burning Man is basically a celebration commemorating last year’s Burning Man.  And getting there isn’t easy. Most burners depart for Black Rock City from Reno, Nevada, where casinos and motels serve as staging posts for all manner of art installations and performances. Catching a ride is pretty easy, but renting an RV is also a pretty good option.



Reno has an airport, but is also a beautiful train ride away from San Francisco. Travelers taking this long route are rewarded with a last chance to consider whether this is a good idea.

Two words: Stevie Wonder. 


City Limits is a sort of Pitchfork, Outside Lands lovechild set in a city with an amazing bar scene and a penchant for guitar driven storytelling (hello Iron and Wine). The acts here range from Randy Newman to Big Boi to Ray LaMontagne, so there is something for everyone and Ray Bans for all.


Saying Austin is a college town is like saying Robin Williams is comfortable with public speaking. There are a lot of places to stay and that dorm rooms can likely be found on Craigslist. For those less eager to engage in midnight pillow fights (or whatever college kids do these days), there is The Driskill, a bastion of old Texas grandeur right downtown.


The city was built for students, so transportation is not a concern and much information has been made available on the festival’s very helpful website.

A well-ish kept San Francisco secret, Hardly Strictly is a gift to the city from F. Warren Hellman, the coolest private equity investor ever. The festival closely adheres to its less than specific name and so anyone could end up playing.


The line up has not yet been announced for 2011 and it is impossible to guess who will be there given that past performers like Dolly Parton and MC Hammer don’t have too much in common.


What is known: Tickets will be free and Golden Gate Park will be in all of her early fall glory. (Extra points to anyone who can find the buffalo.)


The same advice on using different Bay Area airports hold for this one and given that it is not quite as well attended as Outside Lands, attendees should feel free to stay across the water in Marin County, which has an incredibly high density of quality small hotels, including the wonderful Pelican Inn, where British country-style rooms are available from $190.

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