If there were an award for great festival names, Bluesapalooza would surely take the top spot.
Thankfully, the organizers haven’t relied upon their ability to string a few lovely syllables together. They’ve also killed it with the fest too.
The annual four-day event, which takes place on the first weekend of August, attracts some of the world’s top blues musicians. Then, it ramps up the party by hosting around 100 different craft breweries.
And finally – yes, we’re not done yet – it takes place in Mammoth Lakes, a beautiful mountain resort in California’s Eastern High Sierra.
So, endless craft beer? Top blues music? Beautiful Californian setting? Sign. Me. Up.
If you want to join, get up-to-speed with the in-depth guide to Bluesapalooza below.
The history of Bluesapalooza
The first Mammoth Festival of Beers and Bluesapalooza (to give it its full title) took place in the parking lot of Mammoth Lakes’ Whiskey Creek Restaurant. There were ten breweries, a barbecue grill, and a local garage band playing on the restaurant’s roof.
The plan was to use the fest as a way to get Mammoth locals sampling the delights of handcrafted beers. Well, it seems to have worked. In its second year, the festival grew with more blues bands and lots more beer. And from that point on, the legendary festival has grown and grown.
Now, the parking lot has been replaced by a spot in Mammoth Lakes, a beautiful location of pine trees sat 8,000 feet above sea level, near Yosemite National Park.
Where to Get Tickets
If you’re an out-of-towner, you can buy tickets from the Bluesapalooza website. Alternatively, if you’re passing through Mammoth Lakes, pop into Mammoth Brewing Company Tasting Room where passes are available. You can also purchase your tickets at several of the lodges in Mammoth.
There’s quite a selection of tickets available. The four-day pass is the best value for money. But you can also get two-day tickets or individual days if you’re time-limited.
If you’re only interested in the blues (or you’re underage), you can purchase music-only tickets, which will get you into the concerts. Tickets are expected to sell out, so make sure you get them well in advance.
Music at Bluesapalooza
Don’t let the name confuse you, Bluesapalooza is much more than blues. The annual fest also serves up a healthy dose of R&B, soul, and rock ‘n’ roll.
If you’re a big fan of the genres, you’ll recognize several names on the line-up. However, there are plenty of up-and-comers to keep you on your toes too.
The festival takes place over two stages: the Bluesapalooza Main Stage and the Minaret Stage. Both run from around midday until late (just after 11pm, usually).
Drinks at Bluesapalooza
Aside from the music, the big attraction at Bluesapalooza is the drinks. Breweries from across the country are invited to pour with around 100 attending over the weekend.
To pay for drinks, you will need an RFID wristband (available at the main gate). It’s just like a typical festival wristband but with a chip linked to either your credit card or pre-loaded with cash. Clever.
First, you’ll need to activate your band (you can do that at a festival bar). At this point, you’ll be given a choice of pre-loading with cash or connecting it to your credit card. If you tend to get a bit spend-happy after a couple of drinks, the cash option could be safer.
If you’re looking to sample a wide range of drinks, some tickets – the Blues/Brews tickets – come with unlimited beer tastings. The tastings last four or five hours. Plenty of time to make your way around a few of the stands.
Where to Stay
Are you tingling for adventure? Stay in one of the nearby campgrounds and enjoy sleeping beneath the California night sky. The closest site to the festival is Camp High Sierra. There’s space for tents, trailers/RVs, plus a games center with ping pong and board games. The real bonus: free hot showers for all guests. An absolute must after a day of beer and music. Please use them. For all our sakes.
Alternatively, there’s the Mammoth Mountain RV Park and Campground, which offers spots for tents and RVs. The site has some fantastic amenities, including hot showers, picnic tables, and an indoor heated swimming pool and spa.
If you chose the camping option and don’t want to bring all your baggage or valuables, make sure to secure them at a luggage storage facility in Reno (or whatever city you fly to). Luggage storage services like Bounce have drop-offs in major cities across the planet, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Oakland.
I get it, sometimes you need a cozier place to rest after a long day of beers and blues. So, instead of camping, stay at one of the nearby lodges. Accommodations are available for most party sizes with five-star rooms available.
For some good deals, head to the Bluesapalooza website, where you’ll find partner lodges offering discounts and special offers.
Packing list for Bluesapalooza
- Photo ID with your birth date on it
- Clothes (bring layers)
- Cash (some vendors only accept cash)
- Plastic or metal water bottles
- Sturdy shoes
- Beach chair
- Sun hat
- Sleeping bag
- Ground mat
- Food (vendors are available on site if you don’t want to bring your own meals)
- Solar-powered charger
Things Not to Bring
- Professional cameras
- Outside alcohol
Getting to Mammoth Lakes is a bit of an adventure. You can fly into Reno, but be prepared to make a 3-hour drive to the festival site with a rental. You can also fly in to LAX, but plan for a 5-hour drive from the airport. Or, jump the daily flight from LAX to Mammoth Yosemite Airport with United Airlines (only available during the summer months).
If you’ve opted to camp near to the festival, you could walk or cycle to Bluesapalooza. However, there’s also a free shuttle from the Eagle Lodge parking lot if you’re a little further away. Avoid driving to the festival if possible. Parking is limited. Plus, no-one wants to be the designated driver anyway!
If you’re going to hit up the ultimate festival of blues and brews, remember that it’s a long weekend. Pace yourself. It’s easy to go all out on the first day when energy and excitement are running high, but there’s plenty of time to enjoy yourself.