South Florida's Ten Best Music Festivals

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.

Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival
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.

9 Mile Music FestivalEXPAND
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.

Ultra Music Festival
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.

Tortuga Music Festival
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
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.

Photo by Michele Eve Sandberg

SunFest. One side effect of the recent uptick in smaller, more affordable regional festivals across the nation is that lineups have become more selective about grouping artists with overlapping audiences along genre lines. EDM gets Electric Daisy, and folk gets the Newport Folk Festival. Though this model has the benefit of bringing together communities of fans of select genres, it's ultimately not reflective of the diverse listening habits of the Spotify shuffle generation. SunFest keeps the Lollapalooza and Bonaroo model of throwing every genre onto different stages and trusting that today's fans will spend some time at all of them. The 2016 lineup included performers Duran Duran, Steve Aoki, Fitz & the Tantrums, and Jason Derulo, and this year's SunFest hosted performances by Ziggy Marley, Widespread Panic, and Tori Kelly.

Rolling Loud FestivalEXPAND
Rolling Loud Festival
Photo by Alex Markow

Rolling Loud Festival. After two years at Soho Studios and Mana Wynwood, Rolling Loud made the jump to Bayfront Park in 2016, but its appearance at the outdoor amphitheater in 2017 was not without controversy. Putting "Loud" in the festival's name probably didn't help appease neighbors, but after a battle that nearly led to litigation, the sold-out festival went on to its most successful iteration to date. Acts included Run the Jewels, Lil Wayne, Future, and the reigning King of Rap, living legend Kendrick Lamar, who gifted the audience with one of his first performances of songs from his latest album, Damn.

Overtown Music and Arts Festival
Overtown Music and Arts Festival
Photo by Amadeus McCaskill

Overtown Music & Arts Festival. It can be frustrating and disheartening to get to a music festival and realize you're surrounded less by music aficionados like yourself than bored trust-fund kids looking to pay for any kind of escapism that money can buy. Ticket prices can often make festivals inaccessible for the people who are most passionate about the musicians and artists. Overtown Music & Arts Festival was born out of a desire to remedy this problem via a festival that's free and open to the public but doesn't skimp on the superstar power. The 2017 lineup included performances by CeeLo Green and Keyshia Cole, and in past years, acts included Estelle, Kelly Price, and Melanie Fiona.

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III Points
Photo by Alex Markow

III Points. It's the little electronic music festival that could. Since 2013, Miami has watched III Points evolve through beginner's kinks and logistical nightmares, like last year's disappointing last-minute cancellation by LCD Soundsystem. But the fest's organizers have pushed through the challenges, and this year's edition is among the most anticipated music events in recent memory in South Florida. This year's lineup is the most impressive yet, with headlining sets from the XX and the South Florida debut of Gorillaz. III Points is also pretty affordable considering the caliber of artists, so don't sleep on this one: Tickets will probably sell out well in advance of festival weekend.

House of Creatives Music FestivalEXPAND
House of Creatives Music Festival
Photo by Ian Witlen

House of Creatives Music Festival. This one is only in its second year, but House of Creative's wildly successful launch in 2016 and impressive 2017 lineup earn it a spot on the list of South Florida's best festivals. Last year's inaugural get-down at the North Beach Bandshell included performances by Crystal Castles and the Drums, as well as an otherworldly psychedelic beach party by the Flaming Lips. This year's expanded lineup promises to be just as mind-bending, with headlining sets from Alt-J and MGMT.

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