A Definitive Guide to Music Festivals in Northern California in 2021

Following a tumultuous year that left us quarantining in our homes due to Covid, California has finally reopened and we couldn’t be happier. With the reopening of businesses also comes the return of large gatherings, including our favorite – music festivals.

There’s plenty to do in Northern California this year, and music festivals might top your list. From big-ticket lineups to hardcore headbangers and groovy tunes, there’s music for everyone this year in the region. Here are 7 NorCal music festivals in 2021 that are sure to get you excited.

Northern Lights Music Festival

(Note: Northern Lights 2021 has been cancelled. Check their website for 2022 dates.)

The Northern Nights Music Festival (NNMF) is a 3-day celebration of music, art, food, and local culture that takes place annually the 3rd weekend in July. This year NNMF will be July 16-18, 2021 at the historic Cook’s Valley Campground beautifully situated along the South Fork Eel River.

Billed as a combination EDM music festival, yoga retreat and cannabis hoe-down, NNMF has been rocking the Humboldt/Mendocino region since 2013, with lush camping in the beauty of Northern California’s North Coast. This year’s lineup is currently a secret, but you can guess it will once again rock the socks off of its attendees.

Learn more about the Northern Nights Music Festival

BottleRock Napa Valley

When it comes to music festivals in NorCal, BottleRock is king. With some of the top billed musicians on the planet, BottleRock will once again take over the Napa Valley and bring an event unlike any other in the region.

The 3-day event is set to take place on September 3-5, with headliners like, Stevie Nicks, Guns N’ Roses, Miley Cyrus and the Foo Fighters. Hotels and AirBnB’s are typically hard to come by (and expensive), but nearby camping is also available at Camp Carneros in Skyline Wilderness Park. Don’t miss the biggest music festival in NorCal!

Learn more about BottleRock Napa Valley

(P.S. tickets are already sold out, but they do have a ticket exchange program. Check it out here)

Day to Night Festival

Head to Treasure Island for a vibe-a-licious lineup of DJs, food, and art—all with a stunning San Francisco backdrop. Pre-parties, after-parties, and music on multiple stages by electronic and house artists such as Nora En Pure and Spencer Brown are among Day to Night’s attractions.

This year’s festival lands on September 18 and includes a jam-packed lineup of DJs rocking the island, including Nora En Pure, Spencer Brown and Fehrplay. The event is an quick drive/Uber from San Francisco or the Oakland area and will include a pre-party on Friday, September 17 featuring an extended set from Spencer Brown.

Learn more about the Day to Night Festival

Monterey Jazz Festival

Founded in 1958, the nonprofit Monterey Jazz Fest is the longest continuously running jazz festival on the planet. It’s a great weekend along the Pacific Ocean with some of the top artists in the industry.

Smooth music will fill the Monterey air from September 24-26 with some of the top modern-day acts in jazz. Multiple GRAMMY-Award winning lineup features Herbie Hancock, George Benson, Terri Lyne Carrington + Social Science, Pat Metheny Side-Eye, Christian Sands Group, Kandace Springs, Las Cafeteras, Miho Hazama and m_unit, and the Next Generation Jazz Orchestra directed by Gerald Clayton. There are plenty of hotels in the area and you can also stay at the fairgrounds in an RV.

Learn more about the Monterey Jazz Festival

Aftershock Festival

If you like your festivals to be a little more hardcore, the Aftershock Festival features some of the top loudest, head-banging artists on the planet. The four-day event in Sacramento’s Discovery Park is one of the most popular music festivals in the region, with this year’s lineup featuring major bands like Metallica, Machine Gun Kelly, The Offspring, Rancid, Seether and Limp Bizkit. This year’s event will occur from October 7-10.

The popular festival is already sold out of tickets, but there is a ticket-exchange website where you can find aftermarket passes. This is a music festival that you definitely won’t want to miss!

Learn more about the Aftershock Festival

Outside Lands

San Francisco’s premiere music festival is returning this year with a star-studded lineup coming to the Golden Gate Park. From October 29-31 (Halloween should make it extra fun) the music festival will bring positive vibes to the city by the bay, with SF’s world-famous food and wine scene adding to the experience.

As with every Outside Lands festival, this year’s lineup is top-notch. From The Strokes and Tyler, The Creator on Friday, to Lizzo and Vampire Weekend on Saturday, and Tame Impala and J Balvin on Sunday, there’s something for everyone at Outside Lands. The four-day passes are already sold out, but you can still purchase single day passes.

Learn more about Outside Lands

Outlaw Music Festival

If you’re looking for a chiller vibe, the Outlaw Music Festival at the Toyota Ampitheater in Wheatland might be the perfect experience for you. Join music legend Willie Nelson along with world-famous artists like Sturgill Simpson, Ida Mae and The Avett Brothers as they take over NorCal on October 24.

Learn more about the Outlaw Music Festival

Active NorCal

Northern California's Outdoor Digital Newsmagazine

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