Tell me: do you love festivals? From multi-day music festivals to gay pride events, film festivals, cultural events and art shows — festivals are a pervasive part of the European summer experience. Whether you’re camping on-site or it’s happening downtown during daytime, Europe has more than a few festivals. Berlin (obviously one of my favorite European cities) hosts countless festivals during the summer. And if you must visit, make sure you visit when there’s a festival on. Yes, the travel experience will be slightly different than on any other occasion. But there’s something special when traveling for festivals. The atmosphere is different, the people are friendlier, the destination somehow feels more alive, more energetic, more…fun.
I love traveling for festivals. Here’s why:
1. Something special is happening.
Every festival has that special hook to bring in visitors. Maybe it’s a food festival with a star chef, or a music festival with a favorite band. I think even the world’s most boring festivals must be loved by someone!
2. Locals are more sociable.
If you’re visiting a city during festival season, I think you’ll find the whole city (regardless of who’s attending the festival and who’s not) a bit more friendly. When Berlin hosts its annual film festival, the whole city comes alive with red carpets. It’s a festival that even the locals love and I think it shows. The city comes alive for those two weeks in winter and everyone is just that much more happy and friendly.
3. It’s a great way to see your favorite bands.
Oftentimes as my favorite bands become more and more popular, the possibility of seeing them live diminishes. It’s some sort of cruel trend. Enter music festivals. If you plan your summer right, you can end up seeing your favorite bands multiple times at a fraction of the cost of a normal one-off ticket. With the added bonus of about a gazillion other bands where you can hopefully discover new music.
4. Festival food tucks sell the best worst food!
And at overpriced prices — but hey, that’s the fun of it! Give me french fries in a paper cup at anytime and I’m going to love it. Somehow everything just tastes better when you’ve been in the sun all day, dehydrated from drinking warm beer.
5. If you’re not a camper, it’s surprisingly easy to camp!
I’ve been on a few camping trips but it’s not my preferred way to travel. But give me a festival which requires camping and I’ll be there with open arms! Festival camping is my favorite type of camping — you set up a campground with friends, play silly games and almost always end up having a near-constant barbecue. Plus you quickly make friends with your camping neighbors. Space is usually tight at festival campgrounds.
6. It’s a different way to experience the same place.
If you’ve already visited a destination, visiting again during a special festival will leave you with a completely different experience. For example, I’ve been to Chicago a handful of times — in winter, in summer, when I was a kid and once in college. And I also visited exclusively to attend the annual summer Lollapalooza festival. I saw a whole different side of the city I’d never known existed before. And I loved it!
7. They’re dirty. But that’s okay
I like to consider myself a pretty hygienic person. I keep things clean and I don’t particularly enjoy the sensation of being dirty. And yet at festivals, I sometimes relish it! Spending 12 straight hours outside, sweating in the sun, drinking almost exclusively beer and eating fried foods — limited showers and increasingly dirty port-a-potties; I don’t care. I love it. It’s my one chance to let loose and get a bit dirty (and boy do I get dirty!).
8. Sex, drugs and rock & roll
There’s no question that some festivals are more druggy than others. Don’t ask me how so many people mange to get so many drugs past festival security, but hey, it happens.
9. It makes less interesting places more interesting
Some places would probably never make it on someone’s travel radar unless there wasn’t a festival. I can’t tell you how many places I’ve wanted to visit simply because I knew about a cool festival happening there. The other weekend it was the Malta Festival in Poznan, Poland — a month-long festival featuring music, dance and theatre from around the world…and all at a very affordable price (sometimes even free!).
10. People aren’t afraid to talk with strangers
Obviously festivals are different from one another, but anyone who’s been to a particularly happy festival knows what I’m talking about. Festival-goers must have some sort of special high-on-life attitude that makes everyone friendly and fun. I can’t tell you how many strangers I’ve made fast friends with at festivals. When queuing up for food, for drinks, for bands, for toilets… people somehow just open up and happily talk to strangers.
11. Festival-goers share everything.
At a festival and forgotten something? You’d be surprised how friendly people are, and how willing they are to share things. I remember going to Bonnaroo in 2009, and being one of my first multi-day camping / music festivals, we’d forgotten more than a few things necessary for survival. Thankfully our more experienced camping neighbors were able to help out and we returned the favor in whatever way we could.
12. It’s a great way to discover new art.
If you’re at a music festival then you’re bound to discover new musicians. It’s a law of probability there, depending upon how many bands are playing. I still remember the very first time I heard Adele sing. It was at Bonaroo in 2008 and she hadn’t made it big yet, but somehow a friend of a friend had suggested I go to her lineup. Sitting on the lawn, sleeping off a hangover, I was mesmerized by her
TRAVEL TIP: If you do find a new artist you like while at a festival, make sure you remember it! And always remember to support indie artists – sometimes they’re selling their own swag and so buying directly, rather than from the festival stalls, your support will go further.
13. It’s the chance to be a kid again
I’ve never seen so many adults using hula hoops then when I’ve been to music festivals. Something about getting a lot of people together in a field makes them somehow feel younger. And about a million times more likely to pick up a hula hoop.
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There are a lot of different types of festivals — ones focused on political issues, films, art, culture, music and any myriad mix of the above.
Now it’s your turn! Tell me: do you love traveling for festivals? Which festivals have you been to, which do you want to go to and which are on your summer itinerary this summer?