The Riverbend Festival is a music event that takes place in Chattanooga, Tennessee every year. There is a bend in the Tennessee River on which the City of Chattanooga was built, and the inspiration for the name of the event comes from this. It is ranked among the top American music festivals and has earned several national awards.
The first ever Riverbend Festival took place in 1982 as a five-day event. Over the years, it has grown in popularity, and currently, over 650,000 people join the celebrations annually from different parts of the country and the world.
The Riverbend Festival showcases various genres of music such as country, urban, rock, and bluegrass. Multiple stages are set up all over the venue where over a hundred musicians and bands perform every year. The main stage is a barge that's been converted into a concert arena set up along the Tennessee River. Various local and national companies sponsor different stages.
Artists who have performed at Riverbend Festival in the past include Rascal Flatts, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Martina McBride, Michelle Branch, Johnny Appleseed, Trisha Yearwood, The Avett Brothers, Little Big Town, Steven Curtis Chapman, Sheryl Crow, The Beach Boys, Goo Goo Dolls, Dierks Bentley, and 3 Doors Down.
You can choose to attend a single day of the Riverbend Festival or all four days. General Admission passes, Club Passes, and VIP passes go on sale a few months before the event. They range in price from $60 (single-day General Admission ticket) to over $800 (four-day VIP pass).
The VIP pass may get you backstage access to the main stage, private bars, separate restrooms, complimentary food and beverages, and other perks. Children under the age of five can enjoy the festival for free as long as they are with a ticket holding adult. For more information on tickets and pricing, take a look at the official event website.
Chattanooga is situated along the Georgia border in the southeast part of Tennessee. Three major highways, I-24, I-75, and I-59, intersect in the region. The Riverbend Festival takes place in the downtown area at the scenic 21st Century Waterfront on Riverfront Parkway. Traffic is not usually a problem in the downtown area, but you can expect it to be quite hectic on the days of the event. Don't forget that you will likely cross a bridge or two near this festival.
There are plenty of paid parking options in the downtown area. Metered parking is available on most streets. There are also several paid parking garages, which accept larger vehicles and RVs, but remember to check the length and height of your camper. The area tends to get quite busy on the days of the festival, so you may prefer to park your rig at your campsite and use public transportation to get there.
Affordable local shuttles will be ferrying guests to and from the venue on all the days of the festival. The designated pick up and drop off areas are mentioned on the website. If you're looking for a unique experience, you can take a water taxi or a boat to the park and enter the festival through a different gate.
Onsite camping on the grounds will not be permitted. Book a spot at a campsite or RV park nearby in advance.
There are several RV parks located 10 to 20 miles away from Chattanooga. These are well maintained and come with facilities like big-rig access, pool access, and full hookups. Since Chattanooga is located along the Tennessee River, you can also enjoy outdoor activities like fishing and boating or go on scenic hikes.
Bikes, skateboards, rollerblades, skates, scooters, or other personal motor vehicles will not be allowed at the Riverbend Festival. Most parts of the parkway are wheelchair-navigable and accessible parking is available near the main gate. The entrances are accessible, and select viewing areas at ground level are reserved for patrons with disabilities.
Opt for comfortable, warm weather clothing like jeans and t-shirts. It can get a bit chilly after sundown, so dress in layers or take a light jacket with you. It's a good idea to wear waterproof shoes, carry a rain poncho, or consider other attire for rain in late May.
Backpacks are prohibited, but you can carry a small bag or purse. Pack it with a few essentials like sunscreen, sunglasses, bug spray, earplugs, and a portable charger. If you'd like to take a blanket and stretch out near the main stage, you'll need to purchase a pass to access the blanket seating area.
Protect yourself from the harsh sun and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. If you need assistance with anything, you can approach one of the volunteers. They will be wearing special “Event Staff” t-shirts and official ID badges, so you’ll be able to identify them easily. In case you lose something, head to the lost and found tent close to the main entrance.
Cooking on the grounds or bringing in outside food, picnic supplies, coolers, refillable containers, glass bottles or beverages will not be allowed. RV parks and campsites in the area allow cooking, but you'll need to bring your own appliances and materials. There are convenience stores in the vicinity, where you can pick up any essentials you need.
The food scene in Chattanooga has exploded in recent years. Chefs and restaurateurs are using locally sourced produce to churn out some delicious food. Some of the must-try items are barbecue, fried chicken, and Mexican street food. Many of the restaurants and bars have live music in the evenings, which you can enjoy with a refreshing cocktail.
When it comes to food, you'll find much more than the usual festival fare at the Riverbend Festival. There will be several vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options on offer. You'll need to wear an age verification wristband to purchase alcoholic beverages. You can get this by showing a valid ID at any of the beer or token locations. Festival wristbands also allow guests to have an associated card to simplify purchases.
All bags and belongings will be searched before entry. Security personnel will be present at the entrances and will also be present inside the park during the events. For safety reasons, no chairs will be allowed on site before the gates officially open. Anyone violating the regulations of the festival will be removed from the venue.
Riverbend Festival is a rain or shine event. The weather is typically warm and sunny in Tennessee, but May has been known to bring some showers. It is likely to get pretty crowded, so carry a rain poncho so you can avoid waiting in a long line to purchase one. In the rare event of severe weather, you can look for direction from festival staff at that time.
First Aid tents will be located throughout the venue. They will be staffed with trained professionals and festival volunteers. You can head to one of these if you need assistance or simply flag down a staff member. Each first aid station will also have accessible restrooms, which are reserved for patrons with disabilities.