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Ten Music Festivals Perfect for First-Time Attendees

Photo Credit: Mike Will for Insomniac Events

Looking to experience a festival for the first time? Check out these picks that will help give you some diversity and alleviate your anxiety.

There’s something unrivaled about the experience of soaking in the heavy air caused by the rumbling of a DJ’s set and standing amid a crowd of strangers where you could meet the platonic love of your life. Music festivals are the holy grounds for music fans; each is as unique as the people attending. There are plenty to choose from, and no experience will ever be the same.

With all of this taken into consideration, there’s also the anxiety of deciding where to invest your time. For first-timers, the first music festival you attend can make or break the live music experience and set the trend for whether you’ll continue to plan every vacation following artists throughout the country or if the first will also be the last.

There’s the saying that throwing yourself into the fire is the best way to learn about something, but this is not the case when it comes to learning the ways of festival life. Luckily, we’ve made the experience of choosing which festival to attend easier by curating five festivals that first-time attendees can be sure to enjoy. Be sure to check out what to bring before making the trip to your first music festival.

Ten Music Festivals Perfect for First-Time Attendees

Sunset Music Festival 2021
Photo Credit: Yvonne Gougelet

Sunset Music Festival

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Sunset Music Festival is hosted every year during Memorial Day weekend. With three stages across the festival, SMF has seen stage takeovers across the years from anjunabeats, Deadbeatsand more, and has boasted headliners like marshmello, Excision, Major Lazer, Above & Beyond, and more. Whether you’re looking to rage through the night or relax to ambient music, the festival’s lineup has historically offered diverse sets for every taste.

Held at the Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, the festival’s beautiful installations are highlighted by the summer environment Florida has to offer. With a massive parking lot located right across the street, it’s easy to make your way in and out of the festival without any major issues. Plus, its smaller size makes it an excellent option for a first-time festival while still encompassing the energy of larger ones with its lineup.

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

Project GLOW

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Despite debuting in 2022, Project GLOW is already positioning itself to be a highly anticipated event. The festival debuted in Washington DC and is making its way to Philadelphia later in October. Spearheaded by both Insomniac and GLOW, Project GLOW is backed by two giants in the live music scene, making it a guaranteed fun first experience.

Project GLOW offers an intimate setting for festival-goers with two primary stages and Insomniac’s iconic Boombox Art Car. The smaller venue makes it easy for first-time festival attendees to navigate through the grounds. Security and staff are posted almost everywhere throughout the festival, making it feel safer for first-timers. Lastly, with the festival located in Washington DC, there are options to take the metro, use ride share, or drive to and from the festival for a smooth before and after experience.

Electric Zoo Evolved
Photo Credit: Electric Zoo

Electric Zoo New York

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Electric Zoo is touted as New York’s premier dance music festival. Located on Randall’s Island, stepping foot at the zoo means being transported to the unique destination the festival has forged over the years. In the past, the festival sculpted one-of-a-kind animal stages to match its theme, while more recently swapping its stages to include massive screens and outstanding structures.

Electric Zoo has also seen a number of labels host stages, like MFA, Brownies & Lemonade, Deadbeats, and more, making it a one-stop festival for a diverse lineup. The festival thrives the most through the never-ending energy that pulses from each stage. It also carries on beyond the festival with clubs and after-parties offered throughout NYC, making it apt to call it the city that never sleeps.

Surprisingly, despite the notorious New York traffic, getting to and from the festival is also a seamless experience with options for Electric Zoo’s bus shuttles or taking a short walk across the island’s bridge to get to public transportation.

Moon Rise Festival 2019
Photo Credit: Alive Coverage

moonrise music festival

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

While the space-themed festival has had its share of challenges in the past, namely of the weather kind, Moonrise staff has gracefully handled emergencies and created a unique, cherished experience among attendees. Even amid muggy weather and mud-splattered across the field, there’s something incredible about being able to turn a crisis into a fun experience for attendees and facilitate community.

HARD Summer 2021
Photo Credit: Taylor Wallace for Insomniac Events

HARD Summer Music Festival

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HARD Summer Music Festival is significantly larger than the other festivals listed and drew 160,000 attendees in 2021 over two days. Despite its larger size, the festival is still accessible to newcomers. Beyond the house, techno, and bass that dominates the lineup, the festival has also seen appearances from artists in the realm of hip-hop.

In the past, the festival’s five stages delivered plenty of genres and options for attendees to experience, along with plenty of room outside of crowds, and this year will see it expand to three days for the first time ever. Beneath the warm, west coast sun, HARD Summer is the epitome of what summer should be and is an excellent primer for those looking to take the express lane to dive into large-scale festivals.

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. This festival touts one of the most immersive experiences for newcomers, taking attendees into a magical realm with towering installations like 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 most recently added The Gorge as one of the homes for Beyond Wonderland, which also offers a camping option for newcomers looking to enjoy the great outdoors as part of the festival experience. Don’t sleep on your chance to fall down the rabbit hole when you can!

North Coast Music Festival 2021
Photo Credit: aLIVE Coverage

North Coast Music Festival

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Hosted during Labor Day Weekend in Chicago, North Coast Music Festival is a solid choice for any first-time festival attendee. While there is a heavy focus on artists in the dance music realm, the festival has historically seen artists of different genres come through. North Coast also heavily emphasizes 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.

At North Coast Music Festival, there is plenty to be enjoyed alongside the music, which is already saying something when considering its vast lineup. Taking place just outside of Chicago at the SeatGeek Stadium, it has the benefit of pavement for any instances of rain.

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


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Lollapalooza is yet another Chicago-based music festival but stands tall as one of the best to attend for anyone flocking to the Windy City. While dance music is part of its lineup, it features a greater diversity of genres, including pop, rock, hip-hop, and more. Lollapalooza is a music festival with a higher attendance than many on this list, seeing about 400,000 attendees each year over the course of the weekend.

Lollapalooza is also the longest festival featured on this list, occurring across the span of four days. While these numbers seem intimidating initially, it’s also a popular first-time festival for many due to its diversity. The festival is also unique in that it allows people of all ages to enter its gates, making it kid-friendly for families looking to experience a festival together.

CRSSD Festival Fall 2021
Photo Credit: FNGRS CRSSD

CRSSD Festival

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CRSSD Festival takes place right on the waterfront in San Diego, California and occurs twice a year with editions in the spring and fall. The festival leans on a smaller scale, averaging about 15,000 attendees and hosting three stages. While other festivals on this list share a diverse lineup, CRSSD Festival has its own specialty. For fans of house or techno, CRSSD is the festival to be at, having boasted massive acts like Glass Animals, Gorgon City, Kaytranada, Purple Disco Machine, Carl Cox, and more.

Despite the large names on its lineup, it’s also a festival for discovering new artists who may not be on the radar, all while remaining intimate. Taking place on the waterfront, it heavily leans into the theme of being in paradise amid palm trees while being soundtracked by the best in house and techno.

Life Is Beautiful 2021
Photo Credit: Life Is Beautiful

Life Is Beautiful

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Similar to Lollapalooza, Life Is Beautiful specializes in a wider range of genres beyond those in dance music. Life Is Beautiful is a one-stop location for anyone looking 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 art.

While many other festivals incorporate installations as part of the music experience, Life Is Beautiful fully integrates it as an experience on its own. Amid downtown Vegas’s bright lights and colors, this festival feels right at home as part of the nightlife, especially when clubs and more music are offered right next door. Interestingly, the festival also offers comedy as part of its experience, something highly unique to the festival alone.

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

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