On the road again: twelve of the best outdoor festivals in NL

Photo: Depositphotos.com

Tickets for Lowlands and Down the Rabbit Hole are long gone, but there’s plenty of other events to get you moving and/or grooving during the 2024 festival season. Hit the road, blaze down a bike path, or ride the rails to get to everything from music fests to food cart fiestas.

Rollende Keukens, 8 – 12 May
You can really sink your teeth into this food cart and ‘mobile kitchen’ festival that takes over a big chunk of Amsterdam’s Westerpark every Hemelvaart weekend. Along with stuff like hot dogs and various deep fried Dutch staples like bitterballen, there’s always something weirder and wilder to try. Prior editions have featured meat from Canada geese culled to prevent them from slamming into planes at Schiphol and those burgers made out of seaweed.

There’s also live music and other entertainment. Admission is free and the cooks keep going until 11 PM each night.

Oerol Festival, 7 to 16 June
Set sail for Terschelling to enjoy this vibrant arts festival that dates back to 1982. The ten day gathering is the largest event of its kind in Europe. Those willing to make the journey can check out over two dozen street theatre performances, live music, lectures, and landscape art installations. Highlights for this edition include the rapper and songwriter S10’s first theatre show and a ‘soundwork’ by the art collective Totomboti.

Oerol takes place on the Wadden Sea island of Terschelling

Best Kept Secret, 7 – 9 June
Despite the name, the secret to this music fest’s success has been common knowledge for a while now. It’s an annual celebration held at Safaripark Beekse Bergen that combines top acts with lesser known ones from the worlds of indie, folk, rock, hip-hop, electronica, or a combination of two or more of these genres. PJ Harvey, Slowdive, St. Vincent, Viagra Boys, and the French dance music maestros Justice are a few of the bigger draws for 2024. The Lodge is also coming back this year. It’s a ‘restobar’ with unique food concepts and brunch offerings that are quite a few steps up from the fries and rice bowls you’ll find at similar events.

Pinkpop, 21 – 23 June
Believe it or not, tickets are still available at the time of this writing for the long-running music festival that has once again been bumped out of its traditional Pinksteren weekend slot. This typically happens whenever the holiday is too early in the spring, which makes attracting rock and pop acts too difficult for the organisers (and the weather usually too fickle for many music fans).

Photo: @Kmeron via Flickr

Pinkpop got started in 1970 and continues to draw big crowds and acts every year to the festival grounds at Megaland in Landgraaf. This time around, the lineup includes Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith, Avril Lavigne, Nothing But Thieves, Måneskin, Hozier, Greta Van Fleet, and many more.

Parade, 21 June – 1 September
Parade is a touring theatrical festival that takes place in several cities across the Netherlands every summer. It’s along the lines of Edinburgh Fringe and recalls the days of olden times when troupes of actors and troubadours would roam from town to town in caravans.

The line-up includes dozens of short performances that feature everything from dance and surreal kookiness to mimes and acrobats all staged in tents. You never know quite what you’ll find at Parade, but it’s rarely ever boring. It’s also popular!224,000 people attended the 2023 edition.

North Sea Jazz Festival, 12 – 14 July
Tickets are going fast for this annual bonanza that takes place every July in Rotterdam. Even though it’s the world’s biggest indoor jazz festival, there’s something for everyone. Along with popular artists from the world of jazz like Chucho Valdés and Darcy James Argue, Sting, André 3000, Christone ‘Kingfish’ Ingram, and Brittany Howard will be there this year. Raye, who set a record with six wins at the 2024 BRIT Awards, is also on the bill.

Lizzo at the North Sea Jazz festival in 2023

Bospop, 12 – 14 July
Roll back the clock and party like it’s 1977 all over again at this (mostly) rock fest in Weert. Alice Cooper, Heart, and John Fogerty are three of the headliners for 2024 and they’ll all be playing sets on the 12th. Toto is heading over there on the 14th. Younger acts like James Blunt, DeWolff, and the never dull Gogol Bordello will also appear throughout the weekend.

Kwaku Festival, 13 July – 4 August
What began as a Surinamese festival mostly focused on football in 1975 has since turned into a multicultural and multi-weekend extravaganza. It takes place in Amsterdam every summer at the Nelson Mandelapark. Along with musical performances and food stands that specialise in African and Caribbean fare, there’s film screenings, workshops, kid-friendly events, football matches, and more.

Rotterdam Unlimited Zomercarnaval, 23 – 27 July
Now in its 40th year, the annual festival will once again bring thousands of dancers and dozens of carnival groups and floats to the streets of Rotterdam for an epic Caribbean-style parade on Saturday the 27th. There’s also other events, performances, and parties in the days leading up to the big day as well as the mercado, a large outdoor market.

Pluk de Nacht, various dates in August
There’s nothing quite like watching a movie under the stars in the summertime. There’s just one problem here in the Netherlands: it doesn’t get dark enough until around 11:00 PM during a big chunk of the season. This is why many outdoor film fests don’t take place until August when twilight begins at a more reasonable hour.
This one will take place in Amsterdam and Utrecht this year.

Photo: Jurriaan Esmeijer via Pluk de Nacht

The films haven’t been announced yet, so visit the Pluk de Nacht website in the weeks to come for updates. Are those two cities too far away? Then check the event listings for your community. There’s a good chance a local film or cultural group will host a few outdoor film screenings this summer.

Grachtenfestival, 23 August – 1 September
Details are limited and the lineup is still under wraps for this festival that takes over some of the best venues, locales, and sometimes an actual canal or two in Amsterdam every summer. The dates have been locked down, at least.

Grachtenfestival brings young classical and jazz acts and performers to the nation’s capital. Altogether, it typically features around 250 concerts, lectures, workshops, and other gatherings in an average of 100 different locations scattered across the city. Prior editions have featured performances in the Rijksmuseum bike tunnel and on the ferries that cross the IJ. 

Mysteryland, 30 August – 1 September
The annual electronic music blowout will once again wrap up the country’s outdoor music fest season on the outskirts of Haarlem. It’s also sure to once again feature an elaborate main stage that looks like a Disney parade float designed by Banksy. The lineup this year has DJ/producer Nicky Romero, the Italian techno duo 999999999, and Charlotte de Witte, a Belgian DJ who whips up a unique blend of minimalist electronica and acid house.

If you’re unfamiliar with the overall vibe of this long-running fest, look no further than the NSFW trailer over on Instagram that includes a woman bathing in a kitchen sink alongside a gigantic eyeball.

BUT THAT’S NOT ALL! Additional events this festival season include: the Holland Festival in Amsterdam, Festival Classique in Scheveningen, Haarlem Jazz & More, and Amsterdam Pride.

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