Music Festivals

South Florida's Ten Best Music Festivals

Ultra Music Festival
Ultra Music Festival Photo by George Martinez
People don't typically think of cityscapes or any place near concrete buildings as the ideal setting for a music festival, but in many ways Miami is the optimal locale to host a gathering of music and art freaks. The Magic City boasts plenty of event spaces and venues, such as Mana Wynwood and the North Beach Bandshell, that have become go-to spots for festivals both large and small.

The diverse community also welcomes artists and festivals of all genres, from hip-hop to EDM to world music to indie rock. Add to that year-round, postcard-perfect festival weather and a beach backdrop, and Miami rivals the views and ambiance of any isolated farm in Tennessee's countryside. Plus, there's Wi-Fi here, so you can update your Instagram story and make your friends jealous in real time. Here's a rundown of some of the best music festivals in South Florida.
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Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival
Photo by Amadeus McCaskill
Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival. It's South Florida's Bonnaroo. Okeechobee Fest's lineups have been so impressive since its inaugural edition in 2016 that fans have begun snatching up tickets before the first tier of artists is even announced. And much like festivals such as Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza with years of lineups under their belt, Okeechobee has begun offering layaway payment plans for eager fans on a budget. Okeechobee organizers came out swinging from the beginning, booking headliners Kendrick Lamar, Skrillex, and Mumford & Sons on their first go-round, and last year, they brought George Clinton, a collaboration between Usher and the Roots, and Solange at the height of her power.
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9 Mile Music Festival
Photo by FujiFilm Girl
9 Mile Music Festival. First organized by Bob Marley's mother to pay tribute to the memory of her late son, 9 Mile Music Festival, previously known as Marley Fest, will celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2018. The event remains the undisputed top reggae festival in South Florida despite plenty of friendly competition. 9 Mile also offers fans a chance to help the community through suggested donations of canned food items for all festival attendees. The sponsors collected millions of donations for South Florida's and Jamaica's neediest communities, all while bringing iconic acts such as the Marleys and Nas to historic Virginia Key.
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Ultra Music Festival
Photo by George Martinez
Ultra Music Festival. It's the fest Miamians love to pretend to hate. We love to complain about the annual I-95 traffic armageddon and kids in Day-Glo tanks and shades invading the Metromover, but the truth is we're proud that one of the world's most popular and flocked-to festivals calls Miami home. It is just a couple of years shy of its 20th anniversary, and every subsequent festival that's come to South Florida has Ultra to thank for showing the world Miami can host an event worthy of the world's admiration. Ultra also became a destination festival for electronic music fans long before EDM took over the airwaves and mainstream American pop culture in the past decade.
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Tortuga Music Festival
Photo by James Argyropoulos
Tortuga Music Festival. It's a sea of red Solo cups, cowboy hats, Daisy Dukes, and Miami's country bros. Over the past few years, a powerful rift has divided the country music world between the pop stars on country radio and a fresh crop of lesser-known singer-songwriters making their rebel way out of Nashville's underground scene. Tortuga Music Festival sides firmly with radio-friendly pop country, and it's paid off. For the past five years, thousands of fans have crowded Fort Lauderdale Beach to catch genre heavyweights such as Luke Bryan and Tim McGraw, as well as newcomers like Maren Morris. Past performers have included the Zac Brown Band, Chris Stapleton, and Alan Jackson.
Afro Roots World Music Festival
Photo by Katia Paradis
Afro Roots World Music Festival. Like Ultra, Afro Roots is one of Miami's longest-running festivals. Next year will mark two decades since Jose Elias of Miami's Community Arts and Culture nonprofit first shone his spotlight on the music of the African diaspora at the inaugural celebration at Tobacco Road. Twenty years later, the festival calls the North Beach Bandshell home, and Elias' organization has earned grants from the Knight Foundation for continued dedication to bringing world music to one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world.
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Celia Almeida is the digital editor of American Way and the former arts and music editor of Miami New Times. Her writing has been featured in Venice, Paper, and Billboard; and she co-hosts Too Much Love on Jolt Radio.
Contact: Celia Almeida