For over 20 years, Billings’ Magic City Blues Festival has rocked and rolled the city with up-and-coming and well-established music acts for a two-day urban festival.
Attracting locals and travelers from around the country, this is a signature event for beautiful Billings, the largest city in a tight-knit agricultural state.
Located at the MetraPark near the Yellowstone River, this early August festival features a Friday and Saturday lineup of some of the world’s most talented music acts, as well as a charity-aligned live art competition using garbage cans as an unlikely medium.
Music City Blues has long been considered the party of the summer, and for good reason (Side note: we’re also huge fans of the Montana Brews & BBQ in July!).
Started by Montana native Tim Goodridge as a sideline gig while he looked for a “real job,” Magic City Blues has clearly made a splash in the local community in ways he couldn’t have expected.
Tapping into Billings’ thriving food truck culture, attendees can expect fresh and savory local goodies to snack and sip on while they enjoy their new favorite bands.
As its name implies, blues make a big appearance at Magic City (with Keb’Mo’ appearing twice!), but it’s also a home base to indie rock, bluegrass, and classic rock favorites.
That means there’s something for everyone in the family, although you probably shouldn’t expect “Baby Shark” covers any time soon. You’ll have to keep that one to the car ride over!
If you’re visiting from out of town, we recommend staying a few more days to explore this gorgeous south-central corner of Montana. Check out the Pictograph Cave State Park for a walk into the art of antiquity, view the Rimrocks, or fish and paddleboard at Lake Elmo State Park just a bit north of the city.
There’s something new to visit every time you come through Billings, so on that note, let’s explore the ins and outs of this powerhouse festival.
Magic City Blues Event Details
Love it or hate it, Magic City Blues is a rain or shine situation, but they’ve got a few other tips and tricks to help you have the most epic festival experience of the summer. Here are a few basics before we get into the meat of this urban music festival in beautiful Billings.
- Dates: August 5 & 6, 2022
- 308 6th Ave. N, Billings, Montana
- (406) 534-0400
- Admission: Advance General Admission: $119; VIP Pass: $265; VIP Reserved Seat Pass: $305
- Contact: Pam Goodridge for Magic City Blues
This festival is an Experience with a capital E. Between the lineup, food trucks (hi, grilled cheese!), drinks, and the garbage can art, Magic City Blues is pretty, well, magical.
Come on inside, we know you’re as curious about the garbage can art auction as we are!
Admission, Music, & More
There are a few available ticket options, starting with the Advance General Admission Pass starting at $119 and the VIP Festival Pass at $265. This VIP section is limited to 1,250 people and includes exclusive bar access and restrooms, as well as the opportunity to bring one lawn or camp chair per person.
Then, there’s the VIP Reserved Seat Pass, which includes all the same plus a reserved seat at an intimate round table, so no need to bring a chair. And of course, prices do go up once the dates get closer!
Magic City Blues only sells two-day tickets, not a one-day pass, but luckily, passes are transferable if you’d like to give one night’s ticket to someone else. And where can you buy these tickets? Purchase them online at the MetraPark website, or at the MetraPark Box Office.
Additionally, you can conveniently purchase General Admission tickets at Holiday Stationstores in the Billings areas – but if you’re VIP, stick to the website or box office.
Keep in mind this function’s organizers don’t mail out passes, and passes will be emailed to you. Check your spam folder, just in case!
In an interesting move that certainly sets Magic City Blues apart from numerous other festie faves, babies and children do need a pass in order to enter the premises. Yes, that includes all children under 12!
While we wish the organizers would make an exception for littler noodles, we understand the need to have everyone accounted for.
Another thing you’ll want to consider is that, for your safety, this is a no-re-entry festival, meaning that once you enter the festival grounds, you won’t be able to come and go.
But since food, drinks, and bathrooms will be on-premises, just sit back and enjoy the shows. You’ll want to soak this experience in!
Some important specs: doors open at 4:30pm each day and the music starts at 5:30pm – here’s a sample line-up for this year’s festival so you can choose from the three stages accordingly.
Every festival has a list of do’s and don’ts, and Magic City Blues is no exception, starting with the chair situation. Every person can bring one lawn or camping chair per festival pass, but there are also a few picnic tables and bleachers to station yourself at on a first-come, first-serve basis (Be kind to your neighbors!).
We know this is a rain or shine festival, but umbrellas aren’t allowed on premises, as well as large bags or purses. And since there will be fantastic food and drink vendors on-site, as well as concessions, please don’t bring outside food or drink to the MetraPark.
Probably most importantly for you during the summertime, personal water bottles, Camelbaks, and coolers are not allowed on premises, but you’ll have plenty of opportunities to hydrate once inside the festivities. After water comes the bathroom, so do know there will be bathrooms available on-site, as well.
Food & More
Beyond the numerous ways to hydrate from water to craft beers and more, you won’t have any issue finding a delicious drink to sip on – and hopefully not spill.
But we know this is a no-entry situation, so you need to know that the food vendors at Magic City Blues are truly exceptional.
You can purchase anything from BBQ to Thai food to egg rolls to gyros and more, all from local Montana food trucks and vendors. MetraPark has worked hard to highlight local food vendors you’d eat from in the streets of Billings, and we think they’ve done an excellent curation job.
Our absolute favorite is the Montana Melt food truck with achingly satisfying grilled cheeses, but those fresh and crispy egg rolls always seem to make it into our bellies.
You certainly won’t go hungry at Magic City Blues – not with so many great options! They may change a bit from year to year, but they’re always on fire. It’s like a little food city!
And that garbage can art? It’s actually an auction that features live art during the festival, from 4:30 pm to 8:30 pm on both days.
Twelve Billings area artists have the opportunity to create art from garbage cans, and a silent auction will be held on both evenings with the winning proceeds going to a charity of the artist’s choice.
If you’d like to participate and you have a visual spark, this is a great way to get a free festival pass and express yourself for the chance to do good in your community. We love this creative and giving aspect of the festival.
You know what they say: another man’s trash is another man’s treasure!
By now, you’ve figured out that Magic City Blues packs a two-day punch as only a day-only urban festival could, meaning no camping is allowed on premises. But we’ve got all kinds of great recommendations for you below under Accommodation. We know you’ll find something that gets you in a bluesy, Montana spirit!
As for pets, we’re sorry to say that you’ll have to leave your furry and scaly friends at home, no matter how much they’d love acts like St. Paul and the Broken Bones and Keb’ Mo’ (Yep, that goes for emotional support dogs, peacocks, and hamsters!).
The only exception is ADA registered service animals that have been individually trained, and for good reason. Do you really want an emotional support peacock running around during your favorite set? Maybe don’t answer that!
There’s also plenty of free parking on a first-come, first serve basis. We recommend looking into the nearby MetraPark Upper Parking Area, as well as closer to the Montana Fair Racetrack.
Since you’re going to be so close to the Yellowstone River, you could always bike over from Jim Dutcher Trail, depending on the rain or shine. And there are always rideshares like Uber, Lyft, or good old carpooling – just know you have plenty of options.
So many suggestions! Starting with the closest spot at only a 10-minute walk – and one of our tried and true beauty rest locations – we adore the Country Inn & Suites by Radisson. Their proximity is helpful, but we’re bigger fans of their indoor pool and, um, complimentary cookies. (If you know you know!)
You’ll also find the Boothill Inn & Suites, whose hospitality comes from the small things: individual Keurig coffee makers, two hot tubs, and a fitness center.
Another big hit? The Dude Rancher Lodge, a low-key accommodation with a paranormal twist. Don’t let that spook you, though – they’ve got 56 cozy, little rooms and a cute little restaurant and coffee shop. This place has character, making it our top pick of the bunch!
We’ve included a few more hotels and inns, but since you’re attending a festival, let’s highlight some exceptional camping spots.
Check out Yellowstone River Campground for its many amenities and family-friendly areas, and there’s always the Billings KOA Holiday, another great family option.
If you’re visiting from out of town, take an opportunity before or after the festival to check out the numerous historical and natural sights around Billings, from Pictograph Cave State Park to the Moss Mansion Museum. See you at the fest!
- Country Inn & Suites by Radisson
- Boothill Inn & Suites
- Dude Rancher Lodge (Our top pick!)
- Rodeway Inn
- Northern Hotel
- Best Western Plus Clocktower Inn
- Cherry Tree Inn (Great sauna!)
- Yellowstone River Campground
- Billings KOA Holiday
- Billings Village RV Park