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5 Amazing San Diego Music Festivals

Each with their own unique character and charm

Filled with a mix of national names and up-and-coming talent, here are five music festivals that are well worth marking on your calendar each year. 

By: Jeff Terich; San Diego Music Expert

Calling All Music Lovers!

San Diego is host to any number of live music events on a nightly basis, but come at the right time of year and you might find yourself attending one of the many music festivals that happen throughout the year. And there are a lot. Touring festivals swing through town during the summer months, while local radio stations such as 91X and 94.9 often put on their own one-day festivals during the summer and around the holidays.

For those who care to split their visit between San Diego proper and the nearby desert, Coachella happens two weekends every April. But there are also several homegrown festivals that present more accessible alternatives. Here are five San Diego music festivals that are well worth planning a San Diego visit around.

Wonderfront Music & Arts Festival

With more than 80 acts, seven-plus stages and three full days of tunes, food and a whole lot more, it's no wonder (pardon the pun) that San Diego's waterfront Embarcadero gets rechristened as the Wonderfront for this sprawling November celebration of music and the arts. It's a festival that's just too big for one venue to contain: Wonderfront unfolds at multiple sites along the gorgeous bayfront, including Embarcadero Marina Park North, Seaport Village, Ruocco Park and the Broadway Port Pier. Among the dozens of acts showcased at Wonderfront are such big-name headliners as Gwen Stefani, Kings of Leon and the Zac Brown Band. And the Tastes of San Diego and Craft Beer Village provide a lineup of bites and beverages from great local restaurants and breweries, helping fuel you up to enjoy the music as well as the art installations spread around the festival grounds.

Adams Avenue Street Fair

Normal Heights is one of San Diego's most charming neighborhoods, lined with local boutiques, mom-and-pop cafes, and amazing craft beer and cocktail bars. So when you add live music to outdoor stages all across its main business thoroughfare, Adams Avenue, it makes an already interesting corner of the city even more fun. Each September, the Adams Avenue Street Fair lines up more than 100 acts on eight stages for two days, typically with a handful of out-of-town headliners sharing stages with a long list of the best live acts in town. Better yet: The festival is entirely free and open to all ages. (For the grown-ups, however, there's craft beer tasting and beer gardens throughout the fair.)

Carlsbad Music Festival

Much of the festival activity in San Diego focuses around rock and pop music, but just a little up Interstate 5 in Carlsbad is the Carlsbad Music Festival, which brings together everything from folk to jazz and modern classical performers in an eclectic and unusual spin on the music festival setup. There are ticketed performances in theaters and churches, but much of the activity happens out in the open in different corners of the village, in both indoor and outdoor spaces. It's a feast for the ears, particularly among those for whom conventional pop music might not be enough to quell the appetite. It's also open to all ages — a family-friendly festival for your arty kinfolk.

CRSSD Festival

One of the fastest growing festivals in San Diego is CRSSD, which launched in 2015 and now happens twice a year, each time featuring some of the biggest names in electronic music, along with eclectic headliners such as The Flaming Lips, Chromeo and Empire of the Sun. Where rave culture is usually associated with nighttime happenings, CRSSD brings the dance floor outside and under the sun at San Diego’s Waterfront Park, where festivalgoers can catch some beats in the sunshine. It’s a 21-and-up event, so unfortunately not everyone can attend. But the age limit does have some benefits: The beer gardens aren’t separate from the rest of the festival, and everyone’s free to roam the park. Add to that a great sampling of local eateries serving up snacks and refreshments, and it’s a great way to spend a weekend.

Blended Festival

True to its name, the Blended Festival mixes and matches food, wine and music for an eclectic event on San Diego's bayfront. The two-day happening includes full bars, culinary stations and a lineup of fun and surprising activations. Past editions of the Blended Festival have included such musical artists as The Chainsmokers, Loud Luxury and Nelly. (After a postponement, the next Blended fest will take place in Fall 2023.)

San Diego Music Festivals – Guides to the Good Stuff

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