8 Off the Beaten Path Festivals in the Southeast

Festival car camping is the quintessential summer must-do. Photo courtesy of Chaco

Festival car camping is the quintessential summer must-do. Photo courtesy of Chaco

Perhaps Coachella sold out before you could say Beyoncé, you just can’t imagine fighting the crowds at Bonnaroo for one more year, or maybe you’d rather hang out riverside than beachside. No matter what the reason, we understand your desire for an intimate (but still larger than life) music experience this summer, so we picked eight of our favorite festivals in the Southeast that make for the perfect weekend getaway. Many involve camping, some are by the water, a few encourage family attendance, and all are worth checking out.

Throw on your most comfortable pair of Chacos, pack your backpack with breathable clothes and sunscreen, stock up on water, and head to a music festival (or all eight, we won’t judge) for an unbeatable time in the great outdoors. These no-frills festivals might be a bit off the beaten path, but that’s all part of the fun. And don’t worry—we included a few traveling and packing tips to help you out along the way.

1. MerleFest

When: April 27-30, 2017** Where: Wilkesboro, NC**

Designed with a focus on music, moments, and memories, this North Carolina festival is one not to be missed. First-time visitors and seasoned festival goers groove alongside each other while some of the best acts in Southern music belt one out. Sounds of the Appalachian region and Americana, country, blues, and rock flood the four-day festival. Last year, outstanding performances were giving by Brandi Carlile, Jason Isbell, and John Prine—and this year’s lineup rivals that of years past. Make your way to the front of the crowds for The Avett Brothers, Sam Bush Band, Steep Canyon Rangers, and Chatham County Line.

MerleFest does not offer an on-site camping experience, but you will still spend plenty of time strolling between the thirteen different spots to hear music. Keep your feet comfortable from all that walking in a pair of Chaco Fallons, and pack a blanket to set up shop at the different shows.

2. FloydFest

When: July 26-30, 2017** Where: Floyd, VA**

Floyd, a small town in the Blue Ridge Mountains in southwestern Virginia, comes to life in the spring. The mountain town becomes a listening room dedicate to an eclectic collection of music from groups like Thievery Corporation, Michael Franti & Spearhead, St. Paul & The Broken Bones, Steel Pulse, and Leftover Salmon. Cure what ails you by breathing the fresh mountain air and enjoying five days of music.

Take advantage of FloydFest's surroundings by taking a dip in Little River, hopping on a mountain bike, playing a round of disc golf, or exploring the hiking trails. If you make the most of the weekend, you will be covering different terrain, so slide into a pair of Chaco's Z/2 Classic sandals but be sure to bring a pair of warm socks to keep your toes toasty at night.

3. Front Porch Fest

When: August 31 - September 3** Where: Patrick County, VA**

If you weren't able to make it to the Blue Ridge Mountains for FloydFest in July, or you need an excuse to return, The Front Porch Fest will welcome you to the mountain region with open arms. Front Porch is put on each year by a group of friends and family, which means the kiddos are welcome at this one. For the four days before Labor Day, the 130-acre Spirithaven Farm will become home to stand-out acts and music lovers. Check out groups like Big Daddy Love (a non-traditional string quartet) or Danger Muffin (known for breezy melodies). Let your life be enriched by art in this intimate setting, just as the founders of the festival intended.

The festival’s organizers encourage you to bring all of your friends, toilet paper, an open mind, and extra shoes. Consider easy-going friends, soft toilet paper, and a pair of Chaco’s ZX/3 Classics.

4. Aiken Bluegrass Festival

When: May 12-13, 2017** Where: Aiken, SC**

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With nothing but a love of partying and a love of bluegrass, this festival was born. The two-day Aiken Bluegrass Festival may seem short compared to others of its kind, but the selection of bands is one not to miss, as differing styles and traditions of bluegrass music will take the stage each day. Whether you're a first-timer or a longtime ticket holder, everyone around you will feel like a close friend as you bond over the 10-band lineup. If you are a lover of bluegrass, Aiken Bluegrass Festival is the one for you.

Pups are welcomed, camping is preferred, and Chaco's Maya sandals are recommended.

5. Pilgrimage Music and Cultural Festival

When: September 23-24, 2017** Where: Franklin, TN**

New to the music fest scene, the Pilgrimage Music and Cultural Festival has quickly grown into a must-attend event. We’re not sure if it’s past performances from Willie Nelson and Grace Potter or hopeful sightings of Justin Timberlake, but this festival has piqued our interest. The Park at Harlinsdale is a century-old horse farm in Middle Tennessee and it makes for a stunning setting for music listening. The lineup is always packed with big names but the festival offers a small-town feel.

The festival-goers guest list includes everyone from fashionistas to kiddos to Franklin-natives. So don your best festival attire (including a pair of Chaco's Aubrey shoes) and plan to walk into the small town of Franklin to dine with the locals after the show.

6. River and Roots

When: June 23-25, 2017** Where: Berryville, VA**

Genres are not separated, but rather celebrated for their similarities and differences at River and Roots, where the lines between Americana, bluegrass, folk, and blues blur. The masses will not only flock to the main stage but also to the fiddle camp, band and pickin’ contests, and the nearby Shenandoah River during the weekend. The good people at River and Roots promise you great music and plenty of opportunities to join in on the fun of playing.

Pack your banjo for this one, show off your skills, and stroll from the campsite to the stage in a pair of Chaco’s Fallon sandals.

7. Shaky Knees Music Festival

When: May 12-14, 2017** Where: Atlanta, GA**

Each year, Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta is transformed into music madness with more than 60 bands for Shaky Knees Music Festival. There is nary a quiet moment during the festival’s three-day run and the likes of LCD Soundsystem, Cage the Elephant, Pixies, The XX, Moon Taxi, Ryan Adams, and The Shins are sure to keep things interesting.

During the festival, you will be strolling the streets of Atlanta, so wear something comfortable. Most people are not in your typical festival wear so ladies can kick things up a notch by pairing Chaco’s leather sandals with a stylish-but-breathable dress.

8. Tallulah Fest

When: March 31 - April 1, 2017** Where: Chattooga River Resort**

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Although Tallulah Fest promises some of the best whiskey drinkin’ and one of the best boot-stompin’, hand-clappin’ lineups of handmade music anywhere in the Southeast, the festival offers more than just music. Thrill seekers can spend some time in their kayaks and outdoor enthusiasts can set up camp for a few days. Partake in the fun by enjoying the thrill of the class V paddling (if you’re up for that level rapid), or play it safe by setting up camp to catch stellar views of the action. You can also take advantage of the hiking and biking trails and fishing on the Wild and Scenic Chattanooga River.

Plan to get wet—and have a ball in the process. Don’t forget to pack a quick-drying towel, bathing suit, dry bag, and waterproof sandals.

Originally written by RootsRated for Outdoor Sports Marketing.