The Monterey Jazz Festival is the longest continuously-running jazz festival in the world. The 58th edition, September 18-20 at the Monterey County Fair & Event Center, features a wide variety of jazz legends and new favorites, including 2015 Artist-In-Residence Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Showcase Artist Chick Corea, and Commission Artist Ambrose Akinmusire.

While it is difficult to cover the nearly 100 musical events taking place on eight stages over the weekend, the Festival has compiled a list of the 10 best things about the Monterey Jazz Festival—both for returning fans or newcomers—that describe why JazzTimes readers have voted Monterey as “World’s Best Festival” in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2013, and 2014. Click here to purchase tickets to the 2015 Monterey Jazz Festival.

1.    The shopping.

There are over 75 different vendors selling art, clothes, CDs, music memorabilia, and much more from all over the world. Take a piece of Monterey back with you!

Shopping at the Monterey Jazz Festival

2.    The food.

The Monterey Jazz Festival has incredible food vendors. There’s Thai, BBQ, Korean, Jamaican, vegetarian, desserts, and many more, offering a wide taste of the world on the West Lawn. It’s also a great place to lie down on the cool grass if you need a rest, too.

Food Vendor the Monterey Jazz Festival

3.    Meeting new friends.

Many fans have been coming to the jazz festival for decades, so it’s like a family reunion. It’s a community of music fans who are extremely knowledgeable, very passionate, and friendly, so don’t hesitate to strike up a conversation, especially to share a new artist that you’ve just discovered.

Grounds at the Monterey Jazz Festival

4.    Artist spotting.

The Fairgrounds is literally covered with jazz artists who walk the same paths at the fans. You might see some of your old favorites, or meet a new favorite too, especially at the Amoeba booth for signings. You might even see Clint Eastwood!

5.    Beautiful fall weather.

Monterey can be many things in the fall—warm, chilly or just plain gorgeous. Be prepared for all sorts of climates, but when the moon is out, expect a magical night of music under the stars, or a day of excitement under the shade of the oak trees.

6.    Being part of history.

The number of legendary concerts that have happened at Monterey Jazz Festival are many. People still talk about Charles Lloyd’s 1966 Forest Flower performance, Herbie Hancock’s controversial 1972 set, Tony Bennett’s awe-inspiring moonlit debut in 2005,  Trombone Shorty’s explosive show in 2010, and Davina and the Vagabond’s out-of-left-field stunning debut in 2013. Who will it be this year?

7.    Pet some instruments provided by Yamaha.

Did you ever want to play the drums like no one is watching? Our longest-running partner, Yamaha, has been providing a variety of drums, keyboards, guitars, and basses on the Grounds in the Instrument Petting Zoo as part of our “Family Day” on Sundays. Stop on in and shred on that instrument you’ve always been too shy to try!

8.    Premier Club.

If you want the ultimate hospitality experience at Monterey, the Premier Club (located in the Turf Club) is the place to be. Catered by AQUATERRA (voted best caterer in Monterey County) and showcasing wines from Official Partner, Scheid Vineyards, Premier Club access is a relaxed and upscale way to enjoy your downtime from being out on the Grounds or in the Arena.

9.    A wide variety of incredible music.

“This is a full-service, style-inclusive festival…the best in the west and probably the best American festival overall” wrote JazzTimes. With eight stages, you can sample all of the current trends happening in the jazz world, with a few crossover genres thrown in as well, along with the genuine legends of jazz. From Wynton Marsalis to Chris Botti to Pete Escovedo and Snarky Puppy, we have you covered.

Chris Botti

10.    The vibe.

“The people who come here like this vibe, and follow this music enough to plan their whole vacation around it. There's a real loyalty to this whole experience,” said National Public Radio about their trip to Monterey. Once you’ve experienced the laid-back informality of Monterey, it may become a yearly bucket-list item for you.

Hanging out at the Monterey Jazz Festival