Nelsonville Music Festival Creekside Stage (photo courtesy of Nelsonville Music Festival)

6 Unique Summer Music Festivals in Ohio

From a beloved annual festival in the heart of Appalachia to a celebration of the music and legacy of the Grateful Dead to an incredible jazz lineup in downtown Cleveland, these events are one of a kind. 

Dark Star Jubilee | May 24–26
If you’re a Deadhead who isn’t traveling Las Vegas for Dead & Company’s residency at the Sphere this summer, you can still have a ball at Legend Valley in Thornville (aka Buckeye Lake) over Memorial Day weekend. Dark Star Orchestra — a preeminent Grateful Dead tribute band known for re-creating classic live shows in their entirety — headline Dark Star Jubilee, playing each night of the festival. Other acts on the bill over the weekend include longtime Jerry Garcia collaborator Melvin Seals & JGB, Greensky Bluegrass, Keller Williams, the Sam Grisman Project (headed by the son of Garcia collaborator David Grisman) and many more.

Trombone Shorty at Tri-C JazzFest in 2023 (photo from Tri-C JazzFest Facebook page)
Tri-C JazzFest | June 20–22
The 45th annual Tri-C JazzFest brings smooth sounds to Cleveland’s Playhouse Square for a lineup of great jazz acts performing in both the elegant grandeur of the district’s historic theater as well as on the outdoor stage on Euclid Avenue. Take 6, Jason Moran and the Bandwagon, Cecile McLorin Salvant, Marcus Miller, Bob James Quartet, Scary Goldings and more are set to take the indoor stages during the fest’s run, while a full lineup of local and regional bands will take the outdoor stage near the giant chandelier that glows in the heart of the city’s theater district. 

Alive Music Festival at Atwood Lake Park in 2023 (photo from Alive Music Festival Facebook page)
Alive Music Festival | July 18–20
The 300-acre campground and 1,500-acre lake of Atwood Lake Park in Mineral City serves as the backdrop for the Alive Music Festival, a contemporary Christian music event that features more than 40 acts. For King + Country, Skillet, Jeremy Camp, Cain, Anne Wilson, Andy Mineo, Stryper, Pillar, Hulvey, David Leonard and Riley Clemmons are all scheduled to take the festival’s Main Stage that is set up in a natural outdoor amphitheater. Seminars, late-night comedy and more complement the lineup of music on three stages, while meet-and-greet experiences and other VIP upgrades are available for attendees.

Inkcarcertion in Mansfield (photo from Inkcarceration Facebook page)
Inkcarceration | July 19–21
Elaborate tattoos, a storied former prison and three days filled with scorching heavy metal music … If this sounds like your idea of a good time, you’ll probably want to do some time at Mansfield’s historic Ohio State Reformatory during the Inkcarceration Music & Tattoo Festival. Breaking Benjamin, Godsmack and Shinedown headline Friday, Saturday and Sunday, respectively, but dozens of bands are set to play over the course of the weekend, including The Offspring, Chevelle, Halestorm, I Prevail, Bad Omens, Parkway Drive, Chimera, Sevendut, Machinehead, Mudvayne, Hollywood Undead, Killswitch Engage, Drokick Murphys, Sleeping Sirens and many more. Camping and hotel packages are available.

Nelsonville Music Festival Main Stage (photo courtesy of Nelsonville Music Festival)
Nelsonville Music Festival | July 26–28
Whether you want to camp close to the music or at quieter spot where kids (and those with earlier bedtimes) can get some sleep, the Nelsonville Music Festival has both. This southeast Ohio favorite at the Snow Fork Event Center spans a range of musical genres. The 2024 lineup includes headliners Killer Mike, Courtney Barnett and Thee Sacred Souls, while Bob Mould, Bonnie Prince Billy, The Felice Brothers and more than three dozen other acts are on the bill. Check out The Sycamore Sessions, intimate performances by festival artists at the Creekside Stage recorded by Ohio University media arts and studies students.

Bash on the Bay Music Fest | Aug. 21–22
Take the Miller Ferry to South Bass Island to check out this perennial summer party that sets up at the Put-in-Bay Airport, which is located about a quarter-mile from the boat line’s Put-in-Bay dock. Jelly Roll headlines night one of Bash on the Bay Music Fest with Oliver Anthony, Warren Zeiders, Ashland Craft and Logan Crosby filling out the rest of the day’s bill. The second night brings Hardy to the stage with Ernest, Drake White & The Big Fire, Tigirlily Gold and Cory Farley also on Day 2 lineup. The Miller Ferry will run later both nights to so attendees who aren’t staying get back to the mainland.