In my most humble opinion, the BEST music festival on the planet. Why? Well first off, because Telluride Colorado, literally is heaven on earth. The most bucolic and historically interesting, tiny mountain village, on the planet. With 24 years of serving up the most incredibly talented blues performers as well as the tastiest malt beverages, this three day event is a home run. Located in the southwestern corner of the state, high in the Rockies, Telluride is split into the Mountain Village, and the town itself. Connected by a FREE and awe inspiring, gondola, which runs year round.
There's GOLD in them there hills! Back in the day, which would be the late 1800's, this area of the San Juan Range, was full of the glittery metal. So much so, that there were more millionaires in Telluride, than anywhere else on the planet. Loaded with gold coin, rumor has it that the ore of the day was stacked so high, the local banks barely had room to hold it all. Butch Cassidy caught wind of this, and became infamous, stealing a sack of $7000 worth of coins back in 1887 with his sidekick the Sundance Kid. Not only is this adorable town filled with great stories, it is surrounded by incredible peaks and the tallest free falling waterfall in Colorado. Bridal Veil Falls comes in at 365 feet, is a great hike and also supplies the hydroelectric power to the towns folk. Regardless of the season, this out of the way location is a destination in itself and sure to not be missed. As for Blues and Brews, well, it tends to land the middle of September each and every year. Be sure to plan ahead with my insider tips:
First off, go to the website and sign up for the Blues & Brews newsletter. They key with this particular festival, tickets go on sale March 1 annually, BUT you don't get to hear about the line up until April or May. Many years, tickets sell out long before the line up is ever even released. This is a 3 day fest, but it is possible to purchase day tickets, should that be more conducive to your schedule. There are a number of side tickets you can purchase as well, for various functions around town. They are all fabulous and even though you may have never heard of the artist, I guarantee you will have a spectacular time. You can also upgrade your ticket to VIP. If this interests you, contact me for further details on the pro's and con's of paying an additional $300.
Accommodation, second. You can purchase a camping pass with your ticket, which is always an adventure. Glamping Huts are available as well and seem to be all the rage, however they are limited and sell out very quickly. If this is your first BB, I would stay in a local condo or hotel, before biting off this aspect of the fest. I also recommend staying actually in the town of Telluride. Mountain Village is lovely, with incredible views and stunning homes and condos. However, at 11 pm when you have been up dancing and drinking all day, it can be a very long wait for the gondola. Sometimes hours. With limited parking in Telluride, the Gondola is pretty much your only option, so unless you are willing to sit at a bar for a night cap or depart the concert early, you are going to be standing in line for a while. You can also choose to stay in places like Placerville and Rico; both are a 30 minute plus drive, on very dark, mountain roads, late at night; where dear and elk, bears etc, are frequently wandering across the road. Not recommended. Go back to drinking all day and the lack of parking if you are wondering why.
Lastly...it's time to figure out how you are getting to this remote mountain town and what you need to bring. Certainly the most direct access is to fly into Telluride. This can be quite costly, depending on where you are coming from, as well as one of the hairiest landings I have ever had in an airplane. It's just the way the airport is laid out and the fact it is surrounded by 14,000 foot peaks. For those with queasy stomachs, there is the option of flying into Durango or Grand Junction, as Telluride provides a daily shuttle. Denver is yet another option, which would be about a 7 hour drive. If you are going to fly, my favorite is Salt Lake City, also in the 7 hour range. Make a week out of your adventure, pick up a car and meander through the glorious red rock canyons surrounding Moab before arriving into the San Juan Mountains. For more information on this option, click HERE. Regardless of where you fly in, you will need to either have some creative packing skills or purchase items upon arrival. There is a packing list included on the map of the festival grounds, if deciding on the VIP option, you will not need chairs or a tarp, as they are provided for you. If you decide to go with the camping option, you are clearly going to need quite a few more camping type items. Remember you need to be prepared for swings between 20 and 60 degrees; snow, sleet, rain, wind and sun. It is imperative to bring layers and a a couple headlamps and or flashlights. At 11 pm when the last song is sung, the stage goes dark and good luck pulling your stuff together in the pitch black whilst 1,000's of festival go-ers, trample over you and your stuff, on their mass exodus.
My final words of wisdom are for your first days of festivities: upon arriving into Telluride, head directly to the east end of the box canyon, where the ticketing booth is located. Bring ID and your confirmation, these kindly volunteers will give you your wrist band and a festival booklet, with venue information around town as well as background information on all the performers, what time they will be playing, and where. Regardless if you are attending Friday's events or all three days, you begin each day by standing in line to receive a number. This number allows you entry when the gates open around 10 am. With that said, you arrive between 6 and 8 am, depending on how important it is for you to be in a prime location upon entry into the festival grounds. See attached map. When we arrived by 7, we got numbers in the 40's range on all three days, this gave us the ability to park our tarp and chairs, with a bit of running (Thank you TOM!) where we wanted them...those who meander in whenever, will not have prime placement and will most likely end up way in the back of the field by the porta potties. None of the volunteers are going to tell you about this number gig, or when to come stand in line. Just believe me. Once you receive your number, THEN you can go fetch yourself a coffee, take a short nap, make lunch or whatever, until the gates open, when you and your number can take your tarp and chairs and set up. Your entire party does not need to be present for this part of the Festival, but it certainly helps having more than one person set up your preferred area. Some folks bring flags, so that the rest of their party can find them in the chaos of brightly colored chairs and people, later in the day.
Remember this is Blues & Brews, and though every day there are a variety of beverage options (food too, some of it quite tasty), Saturday is the big taste. With over 80 breweries giving samples for 3 hours, while incredible live music plays within a few hundred feet. Part of the ticket price and well worth it, for nothing else but to watch the madness. Folks start lining up for the delectable beverage options by 11:30, waiting for the bell to go off at noon. You get an adorable tasting glass as a souvenir, which the plethora of hoppy entrepreneurs are happy to fill, time and time again. Yet another good reason to have housing nearby, as the lines to the toilets become very long, quite quickly.
Telluride is stunning, the entire area takes your breath away. Literally, at 9,000 feet, there is not a lot of oxygen for your poor lungs....
So, take a day on either side of the Festival to acclimate.
Go fly fishing, rent a bike, hike one of the many trails, breath in the scenery.
Both the town and the village are super cute and quite walkable.
Housing is limited, book as early as possible, and remember, it is almost impossible to not have a spectacular time.
Should you like help with logistics or have questions on any myriad of the items listed above,
please do not hesitate to contact me.