Festivals to attend that aren’t Coachella

Photo: Coachella 

Photo: Coachella 

Back in 1969, thousands of young Americans enjoyed three days of “peace, love and rock 'n' roll”. Today, many more will do the same by way of California. Coachella, arguably America’s most popular (or at least most known) music festival kicks-off this weekend, which means hundreds and thousands of people will be equal parts hashtagging and dancing to the likes of Beyonce, Eminem, HAIM, and Tyler, the Creator.

But, let’s face it, Coachella is no Woodstock. There’s no question that it attracts great artists and good vibes, but of late it’s becoming less about the music and more about being seen. Blame social media. Thanks to Instagram and the 24/7 news cycle there has been a crazy oversaturation of #Coachella, especially with celebrities attending exclusive VIP parties and events to promote brands. It’s become too shiny and transparent– you don’t need the “in partnership with…” to see dollar signs. Even Burning Man, the quintessential counterculture festival, is in danger of following a similar trajectory. When Paris Hilton decides “that’s hot” (no pun intended) the reality of ‘living off the grid’ becomes tenuous. 

Of course, something becoming “mainstream” doesn't make it any less fun, it just might not be a cool as you’d imagine. So the takeaway is this: don’t dismay if you aren’t attending Coachella this year. With the plethora of festivals that seem to be popping up on a daily basis across America, there are plenty of other festivals, music or otherwise, to attend. And lucky for you, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to round up some of the weirder, more obscure festivals on offer. Enjoy!


24-Hour Drone

Photo: Basilica Hudson 

Photo: Basilica Hudson 

Are you someone who loves going to see live music but finds the whole thing kind of exhausting? Standing on your feet for hours on end, squished up against strangers who are usually more sweaty and drunk than cute and charming? Then 24-Hour Drone might be right up your alley. Yes, ok it’s a whole day BUT there are pillows, lots and lots of pillows.

Here’s the deal: along with roughly three-hundred other people, you’ll camp out on the concrete floor of an old industrial factory for 24 hours straight, experiencing “Sound without the tight hands of Time.” Featuring musicians and sound artists experimenting within the spectrum of drone, as well as long duration video and interactive art installations, this immersive event is definitely unique. For example, in line with the whole ‘disconnect from daily life’ mantra, attendees are encouraged to spend the entire festival lying down so that sound waves move horizontally across the body. Of course, to fully appreciate the novelty of a 24 hour sound experience you’ve got to stay awake. Thankfully there’s a 24 hour coffee bar to see you through.  

When: April 28-29

Where: Hudson, New York

Cost: $36 in advance or $48 at the door

Why? Lying down is encouraged, not a tell-tale sign that you’ve drunk too much. 

Like the sound of this? Check out the Underwater Music Festival in Big Pine Key, Florida. On Saturday, July 7 you can see – and hear – hundreds of people diving for a good cause. Aiming to promote reef conservation, divers and snorkelers play tunes on instruments (“fluke-a-leles” and “trom-bonefish”) made by a local artist that are then transmitted through waterproof speakers. 


Twins Day

Photo: D.C.Atty

Photo: D.C.Atty

It was in the stars really. Twinsburg, a town in Ohio named after identical twin brothers, Moses and Aaron Wilco in 1819, was destined to become a sacred site for “multiples”. Since 1976 twins have made the pilgrimage to the aptly named city to celebrate their unique bond and/or look. In fact, Twins Day is the largest annual gathering of twins and other multiples (the festival is open to identical, fraternal, young and old, twins, triplets, quads - and their families) in the world. 

With roughly 3,000 sets of look-alikes set to attend, expect a whole lot of double-takes, secret languages, and questions such as “Who’s older?” and “Can you read each other’s mind?” And this year you might also see a lot of Mario and Luigi. Yes, to add to the whole spectacle each year is themed. This year's theme? “Two-Player Mode”. All twins and multiples are “encouraged to dress up as their favorite video or arcade game characters, or draw inspiration from classic card games, board games, role-playing games, or video game themed movies”. So you can be guaranteed that whether you’re a “multiple” or not, this is one festival that you’re unlikely to forget. 

When: August 3-5

Where: Twinsburg, Ohio

Cost: Admission to the grounds for the public, non-registered twins, and families of registered twins is $4 per person a day (children 5 & under can enter for free. Admission is also free to Twinsburg residents, with proof of residency)

Why? To see thousands of people who look alike all in one place. Be warned, you’ll either leave with major FOMO or totally relieved you’re a singleton. 


Folsom Street Festival

Photo: Connor Radnovich, The Chronicle

Photo: Connor Radnovich, The Chronicle

Go hell for leather in San Francisco this fall. Folsom Street Fair is the place to be for leather lovers, fetish enthusiasts, and anyone over 18 who wants a good time. The annual BDSM and leather subculture street fair, which is actually spread out over 13 city blocks, is the world’s biggest leather event, drawing thousands of leather and fetish players from all over the world together. From shopping for new toys to watching live BDSM demos and dancing to top-name indie, electronic and alternative acts, there’s plenty to see and do at this all-inclusive festival. 

Feeling extra kinky? Make sure to check out the “Up Your Alley” celebration that’s sometimes referred to as “Folsom’s dirty little brother”... 

When: September 30

Where: On Folsom St. from 8th to 13th Streets, San Francisco, California

Cost: A charitable donation. If you donate $10 or more at the gates you’ll receive a sticker that softens the blow of day drinking - $2 off each drink at the beverage booths- All. Day. Long. 

Why: You can be naked. Their motto is “Nude is not Lewd”. 

Want more nudity? Check out Nudes-a-Poppin or NAP, the annual pageant for nude women and men competing in erotic dance. Since 1975, Ponderosa Sun Club, a family nudist resort in Roselawn, Indiana, has been closing its doors to members to host the two-day festival. Hosted by celebrity emcees, with “Sexy Stage Games”, “Meet & Greet with Contestants”, and something referred to as the “Spectacular Glow Show”, NAP promises to set hearts racing (keeping it PG here, folks). Thousands agree, with over 6,000 people from around the world set to attend this year over the weekend of July 21st and 22nd. Tickets are $60 for a single day pass or $110 for both days. 


Denim Days

Photos: New York Denim Days

Photos: New York Denim Days

If leather doesn’t do it for you perhaps this true-blue festival will. Held in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood, Denim Days unites the indigo community– those with a passion for denim. The freshly minted festival (this will be it’s second year) offers indigo addicts the chance to shop new denim designers as well as vintage and established brands, take part in a variety of workshops, and listen to live music and DJ’s. 

Denim Days also caters to the needs of families, with plenty of child-friendly entertainment on offer. Plus, you’ll have access to food whipped up by some of the top local eateries in New York. Quality denim, entertainment, and food in one place? Sign me up! 

When: September 22-23

Where: Metropolitan Pavilion, 125 West 18th Street, New York City

Cost: $12.56 online or $15 at the door. Students can buy tickets at the door for $5 with a valid student identification card

Why? To appreciate the heritage and craft of denim, a material as American as apple pie (and iconic as Springsteen’s Born in the USA). 


Texas SandFest

Photo:  Kastle Kelley

Speaking of pie, if you’re after something a little more wholesome why not check out Texas SandFest? Pack your bucket and spade and head over to Port Aransas, to witness some jaw-dropping works of sand art. Since 1997, rain or shine, this popular family event has attracted sculptors and tens of thousands of visitors around the world, making it the largest Native-Sand Sand Sculpture Competition in the US. 

While not just anyone can enter the competition (even professionals are split into two camps: Master or Advanced Sculptors), the festival does offer regular folk the chance to register as an amateur sculptor. There’s also plenty of sand-less fun to enjoy, with great food, live music, arts & crafts, shopping, and kids activities on offer. 

When: April 27-29

Where: Port Aransas, Texas

Cost: Adults $10 and children under 12 free

Why: For a weekend of fun on the beach, plus a chance to pick up some tips to take your sandcastle to the next level. 



Words: Emily Freedman