20 life-changing Black culture moments to experience by train this summer

Our top 20 events that are an Amtrak ride away.

As the sun shines a little more brightly and the days get longer and warmer, it’s time to fill in your summer calendar.

Summer thegrio.com
Summer, summer, summertime ! It's here so what do you have planned? Follow our guide for some of the hottest events. (Courtesy of AFROPUNK)

Get your summer wardrobe ready because it’s almost that time of year.

As the sun shines a little more brightly and the days get longer and warmer, it’s time to fill in your calendar with music festivals, outdoor excursions cultural experiences and dance parties that will make wish summer could last forever.

For those of you who are interested in exploring events along the East Coast, we’ve made your summer planning easy!

Here’s a list of our top 20 events that are an Amtrak train ride away.

Governors Ball Music Festival Randall’s Island — NYC
June 1-3, 2018

Governors Ball Music Festival thegrio.com

BACARDI presents the BACARDI UNTAMEABLE HOUSE PARTY at the 2017 Governors Ball Music Festival at Governor’s Island. (Photo by Rob Kim/Getty Images for Bacardi)

Next on our list is one of this year’s hottest music festivals. Travel to New York City for this year’s Governors Ball Music Festival to see Jack White, Travis Scott, Eminem, N.E.R.D, Khalid, Post Malone, 6lack, 2Chainz and Halsey.  With more than 65 artists performing, you have your pick of whom to watch and on what stage. This music festival is on Randall’s Island Park, which is located in the middle of the East River, situated between Manhattan, the Bronx, and Queens.  Express yourself in any way you see fit and come ready to party!

Capital Jazz Fest — Columbia, Maryland
June 1-3, 2018

Save the date for this year’s Capital Jazz Festival which will take place at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland. This outdoor festival is celebrating 24 years of incredible musical displays and this year is no different. Check out the all-star line-up with performances by Anita Baker, Earth, Wind & Fire, Brandy, Diana Krall, Ledisi, Joss Stone, Fantasia, and more. Thousands of people travel from all over the country for this event.  Why not be one of them and come people watch, mingle, eat, drink and relax to music by some of your favorite artists.


Roots Picnic — Philadelphia
June 2, 2018

the roots picnic thegrio.com

PHILADELPHIA, PA – JUNE 7: The audience is seen at “The Roots Picnic” music festival at Penn’s Landing on June 7, 2008 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo Jeff Fusco/Getty Images)

This one-day event at Festival Pier in Philadelphia is hosted by comedy legend, Dave Chappelle, making tickets highly sought after. The Roots Picnic will have three stages — one for music performances, one for podcasting, and the one for lifestyle panels. There is literally so much packed into one day that you’ll have to prioritize what to do first.  Get ready to see artists like Lil Uzi Vert, Dirty Projectors, and The Diplomats plus listen to insightful commentary from personalities like Angela Rye who will leave you feeling inspired and energized.

Tip to remember – dress comfortably.


Veuve Cliquot Polo Classic – NYC
June 2, 2018

Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic thegrio.com

Polo players take part in The Tenth Annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic at Liberty State Park on June 3, 2017 in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Dotted with Veuve Cliquot’s signature golden umbrellas, Liberty State Park transforms into a crowd of fashionistas drinking champagne while “watching” a polo match. Très chic! This is the perfect event to look as fashionable as you possible while mixing it up with NYC tastemakers.

Check the website for tickets and more information.

Taste of Charlotte – Charlotte, NC
June 8 – 10, 2018

The Taste of Charlotte thegrio.com

Enjoying the eats at The Taste of Charlotte. (Screengrab from TasteofCharlotte.com)

Mark your calendars for a weekend of food, live music and so much fun in the heart of Uptown Charlotte. The Taste of Charlotte is on Tryon Street and spans six city blocks from Stonewall to 5th Street. Come and sample some of the most delicious food ever from more than 100 restaurants. There’s definitely something for everyone. Plus, enjoy shopping with local vendors and street performances.  Admission is free and is a perfect setting for a family outing or a first date.

Festival coins can only be purchased at designated booths, so identify them before you arrive to ensure you have the best experience at restaurant and beverage stations.

Odunde Festival – Philadelphia
June 10, 2018

The Odunde Festival thegrio.com

A view from The Odunde Festival known as the largest African American street festival in the U.S. (Courtesy of Odundefestival.org)

Odunde, which means “Happy New Year” in Yoruba, is the name of what just might be the largest annual African American street festival in the country. It takes place on 12 blocks in one of Philadelphia’s oldest, historically Black neighborhoods. Take a trip over to experience why the Odunde Festival attracts a half a million people annually who come for the music, (there are two stages with live entertainment), food, and an authentic marketplace with clothing, home décor, and jewelry imported from Africa, the Caribbean and South America.

American Black Film Festival – Miami Beach
June 13-17, 2018

ABFF thegrio.com

Will Packer spoke at “Girls Trip” red carpet screening during last year’s ABFF at Olympia Theater At Gusman Hall in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for Universal)

Sponsored by HBO and Cadillac, the American Black Film Festival (ABFF) has the reputation of being one of the coolest film festivals in the country. Festival goers flock to Miami for our nation’s largest celebration of Black film. Actors, directors, writers, and film enthusiasts come together over a span of five days in the most tropical destination along the Eastern seaboard.  If you were planning a trip to Miami this year, make sure it coincides with ABFF.  Get a festival pass, watch some great films, relax at the beach and enjoy the Miami nightlife. Sundresses, shorts and bikinis are always welcome attire.


Firefly Music Festival in the Woodlands — Dover, DE
June 14-17, 2018

Firefly Festival thegrio.com

FireFly Music Festival is set among lush wooded landscapes and an opportunity for you to see both renowned headliners and emerging artists. (Courtesy of Fireflyfestival.com)

Firefly Music Festival is the East Coast’s largest music and camping festival that spans four days in Dover, Delaware.  Set amongst lush wooded landscapes, it attracts a cool millennial crowd who likes to travel to see their favorite artists perform on a big stage. This year’s festival includes Eminem, the Killers, Arctic Monkeys, and Kendrick Lamar—along with many more. Immerse yourself in this experience and make friends with other festival goers during this unforgettable concert camping series. Bring what you need (tent, sleeping bag, pillows) and enjoy the local comfort food and drinks at the Brewery, the Nook, and Firefly Eats.


DC Jazz Fest – Washington, DC
June 16-17, 2018

The 2018 DC JazzFest thegrio.com

“Hamilton” star Leslie Odom Jr. and Robert Glasper’s new Jazz supergroup, R+R=NOW will appear at this year’s D.C Jazz Fest. (Courtesy of Getty and album art)

One of the great things about the D.C. Jazz Fest is its mission: to provide enriching and entertaining jazz performances and programs that introduce students and adults from all walks of life to jazz, our nation’s singular original art form. The annual music festival features some of the most acclaimed jazz artists as well as emerging artists over a two-day period in our nation’s capital.  This year, check out GRAMMY award-winning Leslie Odom Jr. and Robert Glasper’s new Jazz supergroup, R+R=NOW, Ivan Lins & Friends, Maceo Parker, Christian Scott, Ben Williams, and more. The DC Jazz Fest is all about good food, good music and great times, so travel to our nation’s capital with your friends and be entertained.


Juneteenth Celebrations, Various Cities
June 16-17, 2018

Naomi Williams (L) and D’Emanuel Grosse Sr (R) taste the sweet potato pie entered in the cook-off contest at the Juneteenth, Black Independence Day celebrations at Nichol Park in Richmond, California. (Photo by David Paul Morris/Getty Images)

Commemorating the end of slavery in the United States, yes, Juneteenth festivals do come with a heavier background than others on our list. However, it is one of the most joyous celebrations and festivals of African-American history displayed all over the country. There’s hardly a time where more African-Americans of all ages and walks of life can come together and gather for reflection and rejoicing. The food, family, and friends are all synonymous with this all-important get together, so find a way to get out and enjoy the weekend before the unofficial Black Independence Day (June 19, 2018) in your local community.

There are festivals planned in just about every major city around the country including Atlanta, Philadelphia, cities within the Carolinas,  Brooklyn, NY, Daytona Beach and more


Bayou Boogaloo Music & Cajun Food Festival – Norfolk, Virginia
June 22-24, 2018

The annual Bayou Boogaloo Music & Cajun Food Festival is a festival that is inspired by the vibrant spirit of New Orleans and the melting pot that is the Bayou culture. It takes place in Town Point Park along the Downtown Norfolk Waterfront and is now in its 29th year.

This three-day festival features two stages of national recording artists, authentic Cajun food, and a cultural and shopping experience that will make you feel like you’ve been transported to New Orleans.

All festival attendees are encouraged to dress in outrageous styles (or whatever makes you comfortable) and make it a trip to remember.


Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival – Brooklyn, NY
July 10-15, 2018

BHF ’11 – Kanye West Assists Q-Tip with “Award Tour” from Javier Martinez on Vimeo.

This weeklong celebration is devoted to uplifting hip-hop culture and offers a range of education, entertainment events, panels, exhibitions, movie screenings, and a family friendly block party for everyone to enjoy. Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival organizers have designed this event to be all-inclusive that supports an atmosphere of unity, peace, and good vibes for all.

Don’t miss the live interview series with Rakim, the DJ showcase, performances by Yasiin Bey and Talib Kweli dance battles and more. The events take place at various locations so be sure to check the website for all of the details.

Curlfest – Brooklyn, New York
July 21, 2018

Curlfest thegrio.com

Natural hair, don’t care. Join the festivities at Curlfest. (Courtesy of curlygirlcollective.com/curlfest)

Curlfest is all about #naturalbeauty, natural hair, pride in our heritage and celebrating it all at the same time. Both women and men are encouraged to attend (and bring your kids so the appreciation starts early.) There will be vendors selling jewelry, food, clothing, and more.  Make sure you preview demonstrations of new products by various hair care brands and get your swag bag filled with some of the best beauty products on the market (or just starting out) tailored just for you.

Bring your water bottle, sunscreen and your best bohemian chic style. Check the website for additional details regarding exact location and ticketing prices.

Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival – Martha’s Vineyard
August 6-11, 2018


Guests attend the “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” Screening Hosted By Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center in 2013 in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. (Photo by Gail Oskin/Getty Images for The Weinstein Company)

For more than a century, African-Americans have flocked to Martha’s Vineyard during the summer months making it an exclusive, but culturally relevant vacation destination for Black folks across the Diaspora. If you’ve never been, the film festival is the perfect reason to take a trip there and discover what makes the Vineyard so special.

Everyone dresses on point, so bring you’re A-game, soak in the culture and enjoy this tiny island off the coast of Cape Cod.


Africana Virginia Beach Boardwalk Festival – Virginia Beach
August 24-26, 2018

Africana Virginia Beach thegrio.com

Head to the FunkFest Beach Party at the Africana Virginia Beach Festival.

The Africana Virginia Beach Boardwalk Festival is lively, vibrant and the perfect way to end a wonderful summer. Experience live music, authentic ethnic food and cultural dance performances. Save your energy for the FunkFest Beach Party, which is the entertainment highlight of the entire festival. The music is the best of old-school funk, so be ready to dance to tunes from legends like James Brown, Sly and the Family Stone, George Clinton, and The Ohio Players. This festival is family friendly and has a fun energetic vibe.


Afropunk – Brooklyn, New York
August 25-26, 2018

 AFROPUNK thegrio.com

AFROPUNK Brooklyn 2018 is where you can feel the music, free your mind, and enjoy a lineup of ground breaking icons and emerging talent. (Courtesy of afropunkfest.com/brooklyn)

Mark your calendars because this is one of the hottest events this summer. AFROPUNK Brooklyn is the quintessential, international music festival and has now expanded to cities around the world. The lineup is straight-up bananas this year and includes Erykah Badu, Janelle Monae, Miguel, Lion Babe, Yuna, Tyler the Creator, The Internet, and Jaden Smith.  This festival is absolutely worthy of a trip to the Big Apple and you will quickly understand why once you step foot inside Commodore Barry Park.  Don’t be surprised to see local artists, musicians, influencers and fashionistas in the crowd.

Trends are set here, so come AFROPUNK ready with whatever you chose to wear.


Made in America Festival  – Philadelphia
September 1-2, 2018 (Labor Day Weekend)

Made in America is famous for being curated by none other than legendary rap master, Jay-Z. With HOV as an organizer and backer, you can trust that this festival is filled with the right vibes, music, and spirit.

Made in America has live music from artists you know and love with genres ranging from rap, hip-hop, rock, EDM, House, and more.  Last year, the festival showcased 21 Savage, Jay-Z, Solange, Cardi B, J. Cole, Yung Lean and more so we can’t wait to see who they have tapped into this summer. Say bye-bye to summer in the biggest way possible.

Subscribe to the newsletter for updates and details.

House in the Park – Atlanta  
September 1-2, 2018 (Labor Day Weekend)

House in the Park also celebrates Labor Day weekend by hosting one of the best dance parties in Atlanta. If you love House music, then you need to be one of the 15,000 people who take part in this cultural phenomenon of music, energy and expressionism. House in the Park is high energy and encourages people of all ages and races to unite in the name of dance. Bring a blanket, food, water and plenty of stamina so you can rest, replenish and hydrate between dance sets.

Word to the wise—if you’re a heavy sweater, bring a change of clothes. Believe us when we say, you’ll thank us later.  Follow House in the Park on Instagram for additional details.


The Meadows Music & Arts Festival— Queens, NY
Date: TBA

Rappers David Jude Jolicoeur and Kelvin Mercer of De La Soul perform onstage during the Meadows Music And Arts Festival – Day 2 at Citi Field on September 16, 2017 in New York City.

The Meadows Music & Arts Festival debuted as a huge success in 2016 at the home of the champion New York Mets in Queens, NY. In 2017, artists including Jay-Z, Run the Jewels, Migos, LL Cool J, M.I.A, De La Soul, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Queens native, Nas performed. We are all waiting patiently on the big announcements for this year’s roster of talent. It’s guaranteed to be a festival you don’t want to miss.

Be stylish and comfortable because you will likely be on your feet for hours.  Join the mailing list to be the first to know exact dates and list of performers.

Subscribe to their mailing list for updates and details.

ONE Music Festival –  Atlanta  
September 8-9, 2018

Formerly a one-day event, ONE has expanded into two and is back this year bigger and better than ever. Look for twice as many artists packing in twice the amount of fun into one festival. Jill Scott, Yasiin Bey (formerly Mos Def), Jidenna, Too Short, and Tank were headliners in 2017. This summer, check out the festival in Atlanta’s Central Park for die-hard music lovers with a strong community spirit, so be prepared to make new friends and take lots of Instagram-worthy pictures.

Keep checking the website for the latest on this year’s lineup.