Ready for a true summer adventure? Want cool things to do in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and more fantastic West Coast cities? There’s a road trip for people that not only love all things music, but all things aural. From San Diego to Washington, we’ve come up with a list of 20 top-notch West Coast destinations, for the ultimate music and sound fueled summertime experience. So let your hair down, embrace the journey ahead of you, and of course, turn the music up loud!
Starting down south and woking our way up north, check out our West Coast music destination guide for summer 2015!
Words: Emily Saex
1. Carlsbad, CA – Museum of Making Music
Just a hop, jump and skip away from San Diego the Museum of Making Music in Carlsbad is a space that is dedicated to exploring all things related to music products and providing a hands-on approach to music making. Be sure to catch their personalized, interactive exhibit What Music Means to Me which runs through August 30th, see a live concert on site or take a one off class such as learning blues harmonica or guitar.
2. Del Mar (North County San Diego) – Del Mar Races
With opening day kicking off July 16th, get ready for some fun under the San Diego sun where you will bet on horses and be treated to live concerts. This year the Del Mar Races will feature Thievery Corporation, The Offspring, The Crystal Method, Weird “Al” Yankovic and more. All concerts are free with admission to the races!
3. Landers, CA (Joshua Tree) – Integatron
TV and music celebs Huell Howser, Anthony Bourdain and Josh Homme have found their way to the mysterious and magical Integatron, and this summer you can too. This mammoth sized all wood dome located just North of Joshua Tree National Park is a unique destination where you can go to relax and experience a one-of-a-kind soundbath rejuvenation where crystal bowls are played live and attune to the chakras of the body. As described on the Integatron website, “It’s kindergarten naptime for grown ups in a sound sphere.”
4. Pioneertown, CA – Pappy & Harriet’s
Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace is the ultimate desert music mecca that has been pleasing locals and travelers alike since 1982 with its 1870’s retro Western furnishings, drool-worthy mesquite BBQ and of course fantastic music lineups. From Nick Waterhouse to Savages to the annual Cracker/Camper Van Beethoven Campout – there’s a show for everyone to enjoy at Pappy & Harriet’s this Summer!
5. Silverado, CA – Woogie Weekend
After a successful sold-out Lightning in a Bottle festival this May, The Do Lab is back at it again with their first annual Woogie Weekend (July 17-19), nestled in the campground and chill vibes of the Oak Canyon Park in Silverado, CA. Aside from having the coolest festival name we’ve heard of so far, some of the best house and techno dance music artists will take to the stage, such as Autograf, Adam Freeland, Gigamesh, and Bedouin, just to name a few. Let the interpretive dancing commence!
6. Costa Mesa (Orange County), CA – OC Fair
At the OC Fair, the fun doesn’t stop when you’re done stuffing your face with fried oreos and using up all your hard earned cash on carnival games (that over-sized Pikachu plush is clearly a must-have). This year the fair boasts a surprisingly badass and various lineup of musicians at their Pacific Amphitheatre – Charlie XCX/Bleachers, Willie Nelson/Alison Krauss, Capital Cities/Big Data, Juanes, Echo & The Bunnymen/Berlin, The B-52s/The English Beat, and the list goes on and on. Perfect for the whole familia!
7. Long Beach, CA – Art Theatre
The Art Theatre in Long Beach throws back to the Golden Age of Cinema, having been built in 1924, but balances that vintage style with modern comforts and technology. That coupled with music-related film screenings makes for a perfect movie-going experience. Ditch the blockbuster and catch Love & Mercy–The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson biopic, Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten: Cambodia’s Lost Rock And Roll documentary, Heaven Adores You: An Intimate Look at the Life of Elliot Smith or The Damned: Don’t You Wish That We Were Dead punk rock doc (+Q&A w/ band founder Brian James) instead!
8. Santa Ana, CA – The Frida Cinema
The Frida Cinema is a non-profit art house theater nestled away in Santa Ana – a perfect spot to cool off from the heat and watch a cult classic or music doc. Upcoming screenings include Soaked in Bleach – a Kurt Cobain documentary, The Aquabats! Super Show! Season One screening (+Q&A w/ show creators), Rocky Horror Picture Show (+live, dolled up lip-syncing troupe K.A.O.S.), and more. Their first free Open-Mic night also kicks off June 30th so be sure to warm up those vocal chords and bust out your best tunes too!
9. West Hollywood, CA – Morrison Hotel Gallery
Morrison Hotel Gallery is the number one spot to view the most iconic fine art rock n’ roll music photography of the last 50+ years–from The Rat Pack to the Rolling Stones. Music photographer and co-founder of Morrison Hotel Gallery Henry Diltz is also bringing his multi-media show about Socal’s famed Laurel Canyon music scene, Behind the Lens: Up Close and Personal with Pattie Boyd and Henry Diltz to Largo on September 10th.
10. Downtown Los Angeles, FYF Fest
Once a very underground and DIY festival, and now Coachella’s little sister, FYF Fest has grown to be a massive music festival nestled a bit outside of downtown Los Angeles. This year’s FYF Fest 2015 will take place on August 22 and 23 at the LA Sports Arena & Exposition Park. The two-day FYF Fest will be headlined by Morrissey and Frank Ocean. Other acts include D’Angelo & The Vanguard, The Jesus & Mary Chain, Savages, Chet Faker, Belle & Sebastian, Spiritualized, and more
11. Twilight Summer Concert Series at Santa Monica Pier
Um, it’s FREE! It doesn’t get any better than the sand, sun, ocean, blue skies and incredible outdoor concerts on the Santa Monica Pier. If you want a true Southern California experience, you need to add this to your list. This year, music fans can look forward to a variety of genres: dance to the Latin rhythms of ¡Cubanismo! and the neo-funk of L.A.’s Dâm Funk or get weird with Ariel Pink while ringing in that 70s rock with Jefferson Starship.
12. Las Vegas, NV – Rose.Rabbit.Lie at The Cosmopolitan
Rose.Rabbit.Lie at The Cosmopolitan may be the best kept secret about Vegas. Dubbed as a modern supper club, this hidden gem features a powerhouse Aretha Franklin-esque jazz/soul singer backed by an old-time trio and other knockout performers. Plus refreshing cocktails and gourmet eats to boot. You won’t encounter the typical Vegas Strip douchebaggery here!
13. San Francisco, CA – The Beat Museum
The writers, poets, artists, and free-wheelin’ thinkers that made up the ’50s Beat Generation and influenced rock giants like The Beatles and Bob Dylan, are forever remembered and celebrated at The Beat Museum in SF’s North Beach neighborhood (open daily). Plus, the Beatnik Shindig will be taking place June 26-28th, featuring live music, presentations, comedy, film screenings, discussions and more! *finger snaps*
14. San Francisco, CA – Audium
If you want to have your ears and mind blown then visiting Audium, a sound sculptured space, in San Francisco is a must. In an intimate setting that allows for no more than 40 people, you are guided to a room engulfed in darkness and sound – but nothing like you’d expect – unstructured, synthesized and recorded noise sans rhythm. An SF local friend of mine described it as such, “It is a must for anybody visiting SF who wants to understand how SF is different than the rest of the West Coast. There is nothing like it.”
15. San Francisco, CA – Outside Lands Festival
It is hands down a momentous and worthy undertaking to attend Outside Lands (Aug. 7-9) in SF’s gorgeously green and spacious Golden Gate Park. This year’s lineup deserves all the gold stars – from St. Vincent to Speedy Ortiz, Tame Impala to Elton John – it’s near impossible to prioritize. Throw in delicious eats, craft brews and wine, and you’ve got yourself the perfect day off from your road trip.
16. Chico, CA – Big Room at Sierra Nevada Brewery
Sierra Nevada Brewery’s feelings are clear, “We love good music almost as much as we love good beer.” Hence the brewery has its very own intimate live music venue, the Big Room, on the premises – a hidden hot spot for seeing the best in Americana/roots music. Upcoming performances include Calico, Carlos Reyes, Poor Man’s Whiskey, Darlingside and more. Beer + Music + Dancing = Winning. We’ll drink to that!
17. Portland, OR – Oregon Zoo Summer Concert Series
Love animals and music? The Oregon Zoo has got you covered. In 1979, the Oregon Zoo became the first in the U.S. to host a Summer concert series. 36 years later people are still enjoying fantastic live music under the stars after a day of animal exploration and learning. This year’s lineup features performances from Weird Al, The B-52’s, Cheap Trick/Peter Frampton, Trampled by Turtles/The Devil Makes Three, Ziggy Marley and more.
18. Portland, OR – MusicfestNW
MusicfestNW’s claim to fame is that it’s Portland’s largest music festival (Aug. 21-23). So it’s no wonder that they’ve drawn some big name headliners: Foster the People, Beirut, Modest Mouse, Belle And Sebastian, Twin Shadow, Milo Greene, etc. I could go on for days but why bother, just go check out this indie music heaven for yourself!
19. Seattle, WA – EMP Museum
EMP Museum in Seattle is a Sci Fi + Music + Pop Culture mecca that will leave you geeking out for days. Current music exhibits include Wild Blue Angel: Hendrix Abroad 1966-70 and Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses. They’ve also got a Guitar Gallery with 55 world-changing guitars from the 1770’s to the present, the IF VI WAS IX sound sculpture, and an interactive Sound Lab where you can play and experiment with different instruments.
20. Seattle, WA – Bumbershoot
Say goodbye to Summer with one last hurrah at Bumbershoot (Sept. 5-7). Celebrating their 45th year as one of Seattle’s biggest music and cultural events, 2015 promises to be their best yet. In addition to dance and comedy performances, this year’s musical lineup boasts performances from The Weeknd, Chance the Rapper, Cake, Flying Lotus, Fitz & The Tantrums, Babes in Toyland, Faith No More, Ellie Goulding, Hozier, Bassnectar, and so many other great acts, it’s making our heads spin. Get out there and do it!