Midwesterners come out of hibernation in the Summer when the 70-degree temps beckon everyone outside. With the weather at it’s prime, Ohio’s camping conditions and natural attractions shine. You can splash in Ohio’s crips waterfalls, wander its deep gorges and caves, and revel in the cliff-top vistas that are nestled in Ohio’s Southeastern green space. The Nelsonville Music Festival in Ohio’s Hocking Hills is a summertime celebration of local music, community, food, beer, and the region’s natural beauty.
This laidback, community-oriented music festival takes place at Robbins Crossing on the Hocking College campus in late May or early June. The festival prides itself on being just the right size, intimate but full of energy. “Any bigger and you’d lose something,” Andrew Bird says. The chill vibe of this festival brings back patrons of all ages year after year. Over 90 music performers make up the entertainment at NMF. Musical guests are a hearty mix of small, regional bands alongside national headliners. The venue boasts a main stage of course, along with three supporting, intimate-style stages: a Porch stage, a “No-Fi” cabin featuring performances using no electricity, and a Boxcar Stage in, you guessed it, a repurposed boxcar.
Feel good about your festival experience at NMF because it operates on the Zero Waste principle, with over 90% of waste diverted from the landfill using recycling and composting methods of disposal. Food vendors are required to use recyclable dishware and encouraged to source locally.
With more than just music to keep you occupied, NMF hosts local artisan vendors, food trucks, a beer garden, a parade, a bike tour, a skate ramp, and a children’s play area for extra fun. Kids 12 and under enter free with the purchase of an adult pass.
Music festival weekend pass tickets go on sale starting in late February and begin around $150. Fortune favors the early bird for NMF passes as weekend passes go up in price every two weeks leading up to the festival. Nelsonville residents may be eligible for ticket discounts up to 50%. Members of the Stuart’s Opera House (the festival’s official host) also receive discount offers. Teen tickets are half price; youth can attend with the accompaniment of a guardian and purchase of an adult ticket. All Nelsonville Music Festival tickets are E-tickets. Wristbands allow festival-goers to come and go fro the venue. If you opt to purchase festival tickets by the day (starting at just $6), these tickets are not available for purchase until April.
Camping passes are not included in the purchase of a festival ticket and must be purchased separately. A motorhome camping pass must be purchased by each member of the party separately from music festival passes. An RV camping pass includes electric hookup and a 20’ x 40’ space for your motorhome, trailer, or camper, and a vehicle. Primitive camping passes are also available but offer no electrical or water hookup and share the same campground as the RV’s.
The Nelsonville Music Festival is held in Nelsonville, Ohio, about an hour’s drive Southeast of Columbus, Ohio. The festival takes place at Robbins Crossing historic village on Hocking College grounds, a local technical college. Roadways in the area are reasonably motorhome friendly and usually meanders through farming areas. Depending on your chosen route, you may follow the Hocking River as you near the venue site.
Primitive campers and RV campers park by their campsite. The main parking for the festival is right across from the campground. With a wristband, you can easily pass between festival grounds and the parking lot and campground. Parking is included for those who purchase primitive or RV camping passes. Daily parking is available across from the festival grounds. Vehicular access to the festival closes an hour after the last musical guest performs, and opens again in the morning.
The nearest airport is the Port Columbus International Airport (CMH). From there, it is an hour and forty minutes ride by bus. To take a bus from the airport, hop on the Go Bus (which often leaves twice a day), and disembark at the Nelsonville Hocking College Bookstore which drops off riders in the parking lot used for the festival. For a full bus, schedule visit ridegobus.com.
Primitive camping shares the same campground as RV campground, nestled in the Hocking Hills alongside the Hocking River. RV campsites off electric hookups only, so don’t forget to fill up your freshwater tank before entering for the weekend! Generators are not allowed. All RV’s, including their tow vehicles, must fit in a 20’ x 40’ space. RV camping passes must be purchased by each person, not per vehicle, so make sure everyone in your party has obtained their own pass for camping.
Coolers and provisions are allowed in the campground, but may not be taken into the festival. No glass bottles of any kind are permitted. Ice and firewood are available at the main camping gate. No outside firewood is allowed. Small grills and camping stoves are permitted. Fires within fire rings are also allowed. Fire rings are not provided, but you can bring your own. As a Zero Waste festival, Nelsonville Music Festival requires the use of biodegradable plastic bags for garbage, and phosphate and sulfate free soaps.
Nearby campgrounds are situated less than 30 minutes in several directions from Hocking College. RV parks with full amenities, as well as quieter, more primitive campgrounds, are nearby waiting to be your home base for the weekend. Nelsonville area natural attractions include Wayne National Forest, Burr Oak State Park, and the Wallace H. O’Dowd Wildlife Area.
For a greener festival experience, consider riding your bike to the Nelsonville Music Festival. If traveling from Athens, OH, hop on the Hockhocking Adena Bikeway and make the 21-mile trek to Nelsonville. Bicycle parking in the bike corral is safe and efficient. Minor bicycle repairs are available with help from Athens Bicycle. The bike corral has set hours and locks up at night, so you can rest easy knowing your bicycle is safe and secure. Skateboards are welcome the NMF skate ramps may not be ridden anywhere else in the venue during the festival.
Temperatures for an Ohio Summer are often between 70 and 80 degrees during the day. Some areas of the venue do not have shaded audience seating, so be prepared to protect yourself from the sun with items like hooded clothing, sunscreen, a hat, a bandana, and sunglasses. At night, temperatures drop into the 50’s, so bring layers to bundle up if you’d like to sit around the fire or attend an evening concert.
As a security precaution, only clear bags, clear backpacks, small clutches, and fanny packs are allowed into the festival. No large purses or other bags will be allowed on site. Bags must not exceed the designated size limits. As an alternative, you can bring a one-gallon clear zip-top bag.
If you are bringing water into the festival, it must be a factory sealed water bottle. Non-glass containers like a stainless steel tumbler or a camelback are also allowed but must be empty upon entering the festival. Drinking water is provided on the festival grounds.
Don’t forget a headlamp and backup flashlights. Campers often find it helpful to identify their site with a flag or balloon, safely staked down outside their camper or tent. Camping chairs are also allowed into the festival areas. Umbrellas are prohibited as they obstruct viewing of the stage. Other prohibited items include weapons, drugs, drones, outside food, sky lanterns, fireworks, and glass of any kind. Access to ATMs within the festival is limited, so bring cash for the weekend.
When leaving your campsite, make sure all valuables are locked up, either in your tent, RV, or vehicle. Drinking water is available once inside the festival. Portable toilets and hand washing stations are also located throughout the festival. Limited showers stations are available for campers in some campgrounds.
Small camp stoves, grills, and fire rings (if you bring one) are permitted at the festival campground. You may want to plan to bring food with you so you do not have to leave the event, but grocery options are located within three to five miles of Hocking College if needed. If you cook with a wood burning fire, remember that outside firewood is not allowed. Firewood may be purchased on site but not scavenged from the area.
As a college town, Nelsonville is home to a variety of convenient dining options. You’ll find chain eats and fast food choices lining the streets within five miles of the college area. All restaurants sit along the main drag of Canal Street, a vigorous walk from the festival grounds via the Hockhocking Adena Bikeway. You will have your pick of meal options in this small but busy community in Southern Ohio.
Food vendors are onsite at the festival and offer a variety of cuisines. In the morning you can find bagels, coffee, and espresso. You’ll also find festy eats like shaved ice, BBQ, hot dogs, pizza, and burritos. Vendors change from year to year but are usually local businesses with plenty of new items to try.
Nelsonville Music Festival ensures guest safety by enforcing a strict clear bag policy. Only clear bags and backpacks, small clutches, and fanny packs are allowed in the festival. Police Officers also patrol the main gate and the festival grounds. If you have an emergency, find festival staff or a police officer. In emergencies, dial 911 and tell the dispatcher you are the Nelsonville Music Festival while being aware of the nearest identifiable structure or landmark.
Enjoy the Midwest at its most glorious time of year! Ohio Summer days can reach 80-degree temperatures, but cool off to the low 50’s at night. Some afternoons see thunderstorms, so bringing rain gear is advised. No need to run that AC at night. Crack open those windows and listen to the Hocking River right outside your RV.
Medical assistance is available at the campgrounds and the festival in the onsite Medical Tents. For emergencies, always dial 911 and give detail about nearby landmarks to your location at the campground. Service animals will be permitted; remember to bring certifications. It is always best to include prescriptions and ADA certifications in for ease of communication and a smooth transition through security.