You’re a parent and a live music fanatic— and you hate the thought of missing out on an incredible concert-going experience. But you aren’t sure that a wild-and-boozy Bonnaroo field trip is an ideal outing for your little rock stars.
Don’t let anyone tell you that music festivals
can’t be family-friendly: believe it or not, major music fests like Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, and even Austin City Limits include space and programming just for kids and families.
If you’re excited to share the wonders of live music with your kids, but worry if the overall experience will be painless and fun for everyone involved, here are 5 tips to help guarantee a good time with the kids
at any music festival.
1. Prepare for weather, accidents, and meals—and be ready to tote it all. To get the most out of a music festival, expect to do a lot of walking. Also, be aware that you’ll probably be away from home, your campsite, or your hotel all day. So make a list of anything your children might need, and figure out how to pack the items so lugging them around won’t be such a chore. Good items to store your stuff in include:
- A comfortable, spacious backpack
- A good off-road stroller or wagon with a lot of storage space (some festivals will rent these out)
- An insulated lunch bag with cold-packs
- All of the above
Other must have bag essentials include:
- Water bottles: reusable Brita filtered water bottles are excellent—you can refill them practically anywhere and still have great-tasting, clean water.
- Noise protection: older kids can use foam earplugs, while babies and toddlers might need kid-sized noise-blocking earmuffs.
- Sunscreen, spare sweaters, and raingear: for hot days, chilly evenings, and spur-of-the-moment rainstorms.
- A large blanket or towel: to stay comfortable while rocking out on the lawn.
- A change of clothes for each child: in case little Bob Dylan has an accident while you’re en route to the Port-o-Potty 200 yards away.
- A first aid kit: enough said.
- Bug spray: to ward off any persistent, punk rock mosquitos.
- High-protein snacks: like almonds or trail-mix, to keep everyone’s energy stabilized.
- All necessary baby gear: diapers, bottles, pacifiers, the usual.
- Baby wipes: even if you aren’t bringing a baby, they’re good to have.
- Portable meals: like sandwiches, or other foods that will keep well in your insulated lunch bag and don’t need to be heated up (though most fests always have unique and delicious food available for purchase on site.)
- Hand sanitizer: to keep tiny, busy hands clean and ready for snacks when a lavatory isn’t anywhere in sight.
- A few favorite toys or some coloring books and crayons: in case the kids need some downtime.
- A bag for trash: to help quickly and easily dispose of diapers, wipes, snack wrappers and the like between trips to the garbage bins.
- A flashlight: for help navigating any unexpectedly dark festival acreage in the evenings.
2. Keep a kid-friendly schedule by planning for meals and naps. Before you leave, check out the family concert lineup and times, and make a schedule for what shows you plan to see. That way, you’ll have an easier time figuring out how to fit in meal breaks and naps—yes, naps! To help avoid meltdowns, it’s a good idea to maintain kids’ normal daily routines as closely as possible, from snack breaks to snoozes. Lots of festival-going families will pack a small pop-up tent
in order to give their tots a private space for their regular naps, or at least a little quiet time.
3. Have an advanced listening party for your kids featuring the music they’ll be hearing and seeing live. Every live-music fanatic knows it’s not nearly as fun to watch a concert if you can’t at least sing along to some of the songs. Download the bands you plan to see, and play their music for the kids in the car, during playtime, or during meals weeks in advance. It’s even a good idea to look up live concerts of the bands on YouTube, so your kids can get an idea of what to expect, and get jazzed up for the experience.
4. Keep close tabs on your kids, and be sure they know what to do if they get lost. Perhaps more important than exposing your kids to the music they’ll be hearing, is helping them memorize your cell phone number. Make a game out of teaching them your number, perhaps by turning it into a song they can learn. Then, be sure to point out the security guards at the festival (maybe even introduce them to one) so they know which uniformed people to seek out if they lose track of you. You can also instruct your kids to look for other parents with children who can help them find an event staffer for assistance. (And don't forget to practice your phone-number song a few times during the day.)
5. Be patient, be flexible, and choose to have fun. No matter how much time you spend planning your family music festival experience, the idea is to have a good time. Family-friendly music festivals usually have a lot more going on than just music, from vendors to outdoor family activities. Let your kids’ interests guide you a little bit, answer their questions, dance along with them, and pay attention to their snack-and-sleep cues to help keep meltdowns at bay.
Music festivals are a fun, memorable, all-day (or multiple-day!) outing for your family, so don’t feel intimidated. Exposing your children to live music can be an incredibly enriching experience for them—just be sure to keep everyone safe, happy, and comfortable, and don’t forget to take a ton of photos!
Where to go?
Here’s a short list of upcoming family-friendly music festivals:
Kidsville at Joshua Tree Music Festival
May 12-15 and Oct. 6-9
Joshua Tree, CA
Kidz Jam at Bonnaroo
Kidzapalooza at Lollapalooza
Pickathon Independent Music Festival
Happy Valley, OR
Austin Kiddie Limits at Austin City Limits
Sep. 30-Oct. 2 and Oct. 7-9
Taste of Country Music Festival
Labor Day Weekend
Kaaboo Music Festival
Del Mar, CA