The promise of the music festival boom has largely gone unfulfilled. Where a proliferation of fests was expected to create a trove of quirky regional offerings, it’s mostly led to a solidified yearly “festival lineup” that only differentiates itself from competitors via the biggest headliners.

One of the few places that music festivals have showcased their strengths is in genre-specific get-togethers. The country is awash in festivals celebrating the blues, the last wave of popular rock music, hip-hop, jazz and bluegrass. Fans of picking and grinning have a wealth of options like Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, the fest that just shared its lineup including Emmylou Harris and Robert Plant.

If you can’t make it out to San Francisco, don’t worry. There are tons of choices for the discerning bluegrass fan all over the United States. Check out a few of our favorites below.


Where: Wilkesboro, NC
When: April 23-26, 2020
The yearly bluegrass fest brings nearly 100,000 fans to the small town of Wilkesboro, an hour outside of the Cherokee National Forest in North Carolina. Since 1988, the fest has blended headliners like Dolly Parton, Randy Travis and the Avett Brothers with traditional bluegrass acts–all before it gets too hot to play outside. Shop MerleFest Tickets

Bill Monroe Bluegrass Festival

Where: Morgantown, IN
When: June 8-15, 2019
Bluegrass fans respect tradition, and you can’t get much more traditional than the festival named after the genre’s forefather. Created in 1966 by its late namesake, Bill Monroe, it’s been a summer staple in Indiana for the last 53 years. It includes over 70 bands performing over the course of a week. Shop Bill Monroe Bluegrass Festival Tickets

Telluride Bluegrass Festival

Where: Telluride, CO
When: June 18-21, 2020
Bluegrass as a genre has its roots in the Eastern United States. It was born out a mixture of the music made by African-Americans in the Mississippi Delta and the sounds of rural Appalachia. But that doesn’t mean Western fans of the genre are out of luck. Telluride allows folks from that “other” mountain chain to enjoy the sounds of banjos in the shadow of those newer peaks. The only thing more impressive than the lineup at this beloved festival is the views. Shop Telluride Bluegrass Festival Tickets

3 Sisters

Where: Chattanooga, TN
When: October 4-5, 2019
Since its 2007 inception, 3 Sisters Bluegrass Festival has taken Tennessee by storm. Located at Ross’s Landing in Chattanooga, this free event combines local and regional bluegrass all-stars along with traditional and modern sounds for an unforgettable party on the river. Head to the official 3 Sisters website for more information.

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass

Where: San Francisco, CA
When: October 4-6, 2019
This festival returns to Golden Gate Park in San Francisco in early October. As its name suggests, you can expect to hear much more than traditional bluegrass stylings, with Iron & Wine, Kurt Vile and Margo Price among the performers announced so far. Did we mention this is also a free event? Head to the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass official website for more details.

(Image courtesy of Eddy BERTHIER via Flickr. | CC0 1.0)