8 Great Florida Music Festivals

The icy grip of the winter months sends many people flocking south and one of the top destinations for those seeking respite from the cold is Florida, land of theme parks, sandy beaches and the Everglades. But aside from snowbirds and Disney-enthralled kids, Florida is also a hot spot for music travelers too. The Sunshine State plays host to a multitude of funky festivals throughout the year, many of them in the winter months that cater to just about every musical taste and showcase amazing performances in every genre under the (Floridan) sun. Does relaxing on the beach and working on your tan while also partying with hundreds of other music enthusiasts and jamming to the tunes of some of your favorite artists sound like a great time? If so, then be sure to check out some of Florida’s best music festivals, like …

8. Welcome to Rockville

For the past few years, Jacksonville has been transformed into Rockville by the annual Welcome to Rockville festival in late April. The festival increases in popularity each year, in no small part thanks to corporate sponsorship and awesome acts taking the stage during the 2-day party. In 2014, Korn, Lacuna Coil, Seether, Avenged Sevenfold, Rob Zombie, and many more of rock’s biggest stars helped the sold-out crowd in Jacksonville rock out as part of the World’s Loudest Month, a series of 7 rock’n festivals across the US. The performers come to Rockville to rock out, with amazing sets replete with pyrotechnics and more across the 4 stages. Set in Jacksonville’s Metropolitan Park with the open water as a backdrop, you can’t get much more Florida than this.

7. The Fest

Even though 2014 marked the 13th anniversary of this Gainseville, FL, festival, The Fest shows no signs of slowing down. The brainchild of Tony Weinbender of No Idea Records, The Fest is timed to coincide with the annual Florida-Gainseville football game in Jackson, FL, which means downtown Gainseville belongs to festival attendees at the tail end of October (2014’s festival fell on Halloween). Over the years, The Fest has hosted numerous punk, ska, metal, and indie rock bands. Performers come from all over the US, with some acts from Canada, Italy, the UK, Sweden and Finland appearing on-stage as well. The 2014 line-up included the Menzingers, the Descendants, Less Than Jake, Only Crime, 7 Seconds and too, too many more to be listed here!

6. Big Guava

Big in more ways than one, 2014 was the inaugural year for this new challenger on the festival scene. Held in Tampa, at the Florida State Fairgrounds in early May, Big Guava 2014 was a huge success, and the festival is set to become another annual staple on Florida’s festival calendar. Big Guava combines the thrills of an amusement park with a music festival, featuring thrill rides, food trucks and 4 stages dedicated to musical guests. Performers at 2014’s festival included Outkast, Cake, Vampire Weekend, Teagan and Sarah, Violent Femmes and Foster the People over 3 days. The festival also partnered with Metropolitan Ministries and LEBO to encourage attendees to donate food to help the less fortunate. Good music, good food and good feelings!

5. Virginia Key Grassroots

Heading into its 4th year in February 2015, the Virginia Key Grassroots Festival is bigger and better than ever. Despite being a relatively new festival, this festival has already spawned spin-off festivals in New York and North Carolina. The festival presents a mishmash of artists performing in a number of styles and genres, from bluegrass to hip-hop and reggae, along with everything in between. Groove along with ChocQuibTown, Sie7e, MC Yogi, John Brown’s Body, Monsieur Prine and many more diverse and international acts against a backdrop of yoga, music and dance workshops. The festival highlights fusion acts and even hosts a café with coffees from around the world, which drives home what a global village we live in – and just how privileged we are to live in it.

4. Tortuga Music Festival

The Tortuga Music Festival, presented by Rock the Ocean, is a relative newcomer, but as one of the larger annual festivals featuring a country-oriented line-up, it has its market in sight. Set along the beaches of Fort Lauderdale, the early April festival is a multi-day, multi-stage event on par with some of the larger pop and EDM festivals. The 2015 line-up hasn’t yet been announced, but 2014 featured performers like Luke Bryan, Sheryl Crow, the Brothers Osborne and Train, so expectations for future festivals are high! Perhaps best of all, Rock the Ocean is a non-profit group dedicated to raising awareness about oceans and their impact on the environment and our everyday lives, as well as what we can do to improve ocean health.

3. Aura

Returning for its 6th year in early march 2015, the Aura music festival is something a little bit different from the stereotypical Coachella-style fare many have come to expect. Aura blends music, art, yoga and workshops together to create a vibrant and enlightening festival. And that mixture works; the festival has been attracting fans from all across the US. Held at the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak, FL, artists perform in what’s billed as one of nature’s finest amphitheaters. With sets by Papadosio, Snarky Puppy, The Mantras and many more, Aura is designed to foster a feel-good, relaxing atmosphere that makes it all more pleasant for the attendees. The festival runs over 3 days and camping is not only allowed, it’s encouraged. Get away from it all by attending Aura!

2. Holy Ship!

What could be more synonymous with Florida than taking a cruise? Setting sail out of Miami, Holy Ship! is designed to combine the epic experience of an EDM festival with the luxury of a cruise ship, partying and playing games, all while being entertained. This is not the kind of cruise your grandparents book; these people are here to party, on a boat, for 3 nights. While it might seem gimmicky to some, Holy Ship! was so popular in 2014 that it sold out and the cruise directors decided to add a second weekend for 2015, with a line-up that includes the likes of Skrillex, Laidback Luke, Knife Party, Cory Enemy, Fatboy Slim and Tommy Trash. Tickets are pricey, but a non-stop party is nothing to scoff at.

1. Ultra

The one you’ve been waiting for, the ultimate in Floridian music festivals. Ultra is an international festival held every March and it is a weekend-long celebration of EDM and the best DJs from around the globe. Popular with the spring-break crowd (although usually late enough not to coincide with spring break directly), Ultra attracts a huge crowd thanks to its all-star line-ups and its location in beautiful Miami; in 2012, 155,000 people attended the event. Throughout its history, it’s been held in conjunction with the annual Winter Music Conference. From 2007 onward, Ultra festivals have been held in locations around the world, including Ibiza, Seoul, Buenos Aires and Tokyo. Over 15-plus years, Ultra has welcomed acts such as Afrojack, Swedish House Mafia and even Madonna.