Everyone loves a good festival! Whether you’re looking for a city-wide party, some delicious local food, or a chill day with your friends, festivals are cause for excitement and camaraderie.
We’ve compiled a list of some of the most entertaining and exciting college festivals in the country, so that you can plan your next trip or take some inspiration for your own gatherings!
- Crawfest (Tulane University)
- #Fest (Ohio University)
- Rites of Spring (Vanderbilt)
- Sun God Festival (UCSD)
- Slope Day (Cornell)
- Arts Festival (Boston College)
- Colorado College Music Festival (Colorado College)
- Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (held in Washington, D.C.)
- Jazz Reggae Festival (UCLA)
- Festival of Books (USC)
- D2 National Championships Festivals (rotating location)
Crawfest at Tulane University
20,000 pounds of crawfish? Sign us up! Free for Tulane students and faculty and just $10 for everyone else, admission includes all-you-can-eat crawfish, food, and beverages. If the unlimited seafood isn’t enough, local New Orleans vendors, artists, and musicians (including student bands) adorn the festival for an electric atmosphere that can only be found in Louisiana. Held on the Berger-Family lawn with over 12,000 annual attendees, Tulane’s Crawfest festival brings the best of the New Orleans spirit to students and community members alike.
#Fest with University of Ohio
This isn’t just an on-campus festival—the Number Fest (#Fest) is a city-wide series of festivals lasting an entire week! Ohio University and the city of Athens, Ohio, work together to bring fun to the town all week long. Each main street picks a night to hold a festival, and everyone flocks to that street to enjoy the city’s local vendors, food, and music. At the end of the week of street festivals, Ohio University hosts the largest festival with incredible musical acts, from Kendrick Lamar and Steve Aoki to Marshmello and Rezz.
Rites of Spring at Vanderbilt
Nashville is the national hometown of music, country and otherwise. Vanderbilt’s Rites of Spring is always a beloved festival, where some of the best national and local acts come to play. Food trucks adorn the streets, so Vanderbilt students and Nashville-ites can chow down on their favorite southern cuisine while listening to some of the best music America has to offer. It’s like one huge tailgate!
Sun God Festival at UCSD
This is one of the coolest music festivals on the list, because it pairs music with environmental consciousness. For its 20,000+ attendees, Sun God offers a variety of acts, from DJs to comedians to live performances. The second day of the festival is an “ideas festival,” where there are networking opportunities and business-pitch competitions to the backdrop of incredible musical performances. Best yet, the environmentally-conscious event helps fund local FM 94/9’s “About the Music” fund, which donates proceeds to San Diego school music programs.
Cornell’s Slope Day
Next up, dating back to 1901, we have one of the oldest and most-popular festival traditions. Slope Day is cherished by Cornell students, alumni, and Ithaca residents alike. When this festival first started as “Spring Day” in 1901 (and for 50 years thereafter), there were acts like circuses and mock bullfights. Things have changed a bit in recent years, focusing more on music with headliners like Duke Ellington, Grateful Dead, Kanye West, Snoop Dogg, Ludacris, Ben Folds, and so many others. Some people even dress up in cool costumes for this event. Cornell held a virtual Slope Day this year because Big Red students were not willing to sacrifice one of their favorite events of the year for anything.
Boston College Arts Festival
BC’s Arts Festival brings in about 16,000 visitors annually to watch talented students and faculty artists perform music, theater, dance, poetry, film, painting, sculpture, and other arts. There’s a competition, a cultural night, dance shows, literary readings, children’s activities, artwork for sale, and so much more. With about 70 events and 1,400+ participants, it’s a huge festival that celebrates the beauty of the arts for Boston College students and the entire Boston community.
Colorado College Music Festival
The Colorado College Music Festival is the culmination concert of a three-week intensive program for talented student musicians. The 35th anniversary celebration exhibited 35 musical concerts from faculty artists, festival fellows, student musicians, and more. Anyone who loves unique chamber music, from classical to contemporary, will fall in love with the symphonies echoing throughout the Cornerstone Arts Center during the Colorado College Music Festival.
Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival
The Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) isn’t just one school festival—it’s a national event. Over 20,000 students from 700 colleges and universities nationwide come to Washington D.C. every year to participate. For 50 years, the KCACTF has become one of the premier festivals for students and faculty to get on the stage and share their theater skills and insights. They offer performances, competitions, and scholarships for both productions and individual students, in areas like playwriting, acting, directing, design, and dramatic criticism. The Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival is truly one of the most beautiful and prestigious college festivals for those in the performing arts.
Jazz Reggae Festival with UCLA
We’re mildly obsessed with this festival, and UCLA students and local community members certainly are, too. The first day of the Jazz Reggae Festival is for “jams” and the second focuses on reggae, so there’s music for everyone’s taste. It’s less about the headliners and more about the unique feel of the event, with a particular emphasis on local and student projects. We also love that there’s a focus on sustainability— the festival continuously works to lower its carbon footprint each year.
L.A. Times Festival of Books
In conjunction with the L.A. Times, the Festival of Books is hosted on USC’s campus and draws thousands of students and community members each year. This literary extravaganza is a favorite for even non-English majors. With previous visits from legends like Stan Lee, Ariana Huffington, and Buzz Aldrin, this festival attracts some of the best modern authors for readings and signings. The festival also offers music, artwork, film screenings, and of course lots and lots of books.
D2 National Championships Festivals
This Olympic-style festival brings together Division II sports teams to compete in national championships over several days, all at the same site. Rotating fall, winter, and spring sports, this festival gives student-athletes the opportunity to network, gain exposure, and celebrate their sports. The D2 National Championships Festivals have opening and closing ceremonies, community outreach events, social opportunities, and even an “athlete village” atmosphere to facilitate relationship-building. We love that this festival prioritizes sports and school spirit while enhancing the social-wellbeing of student-athletes.
Popular College Festival Themes
Want to start a festival on your campus? Many of the biggest and best festivals began with student organizations looking to bring in money for their group or an associated nonprofit. It can happen for you and your school, too!
Some popular college festival themes include:
- Music festivals (i.e. concerts)
- Food festivals
- Sports festivals/championships
- Cultural festivals
- Arts festivals (performing, studio, written, etc.)
- Business festivals (networking, pitch competitions, etc.)
Brainstorm with your organization, fellow students, and faculty advisors to come up with some unique festivals and events you could launch for your school and community. Remember to include local businesses and surrounding community attractions for a festival that really takes off. You can find some ideas to get you started here.
What do you think is the most entertaining college festival? Does your school have any cool events? Share this article with a link to your favorite festival to spread the word and make it better than ever!