With the absence of the Pachanga Latino Music Festival in Austin this spring, I headed south of the border this weekend to see if the Pa’l Norte fest in Monterrey, Mexico, might be a good alternative for Central Texans. The two-day music festival, which launched in 2012 and drew about 134,000 festivalgoers this year, has been gaining buzz in the Mexican festival circuit and beyond.
As a veteran music festival goer, I found that Pa’l Norte has a lot to offer both Latin music nerds (like me) and those seeking to kick back and enjoy the festival atmosphere while soaking up the sounds of spring.
Here are five reasons to check out Pa’l Norte:
- Hanging out in Monterrey rocks. From its Barrio Antiguo (Old Town District) to upscale rooftop bars with dramatic mountain views of the city, Monterrey has something for every festgoer. While cartel-related violence kept tourists away from Mexico’s third largest city for years, the crime rate in recent years has reduced dramatically and the city has been rebounding nicely. Music fest visitors should take time to visit some of the city’s main attractions beyond the festival grounds like the Paseo de Santa Lucía, which is the city’s version of the Riverwalk. Don’t leave the city without trying some of the city’s famous cabrito, or goat meat.
- It’s closer than you think. Although there’s an international border between us, Monterrey is just a 45-minute flight from San Antonio. It’s a six-hour drive, though, authorities still recommend against that. If you’d rather check out Coachella, that’s more than 17 hours away driving to California. Or maybe you want to hang out at Lollapalooza in Chicago? Well that’s more than 16 hours on the road.
- More bang for your buck. Pa’l Norte festival two-day passes range from $56-$76 for general admission. VIP two-day tickets range from $112-170. A three-day VIP ticket at ACL is $1100. We chose to stay at the luxury Habita Monterrey Hotel, which cost $130 a night on Expedia. It’s hard to beat that price for the same quality hotel in Austin. Using the ride-sharing service Uber, which launched in Monterrey last year, and the city’s efficient subway system made it easy and affordable to navigate the city without a car at an affordable price.
- Awesome music, of course. From legendary acts like rockers Caifanes to emerging artists like alternative pop duo Pedrina y Río of Colombia, the musical offerings are diverse. There’s also plenty of non-Latin music acts, too. This year rapper 50 cent, German DJ and music producer Felix Jaehn, The Original Wailers, Naughty by Nature and Irish indie rock band Two Door Cinema Club were among the performers.
- It’s an idyllic setting for a fest. The festival grounds are at Parque Fundidora, a sprawling park on the former grounds of a steel foundry that also feature youth baseball fields, a Ferris wheel, ponds and paddle boats. With the backdrop of the picturesque mountains that ring the city, it’s the perfect place for a weekend of music.