Bringing Kids to a Music Festival: A Festy Guide
If bringing a child to a music festival seems like an impossible endeavor, perhaps we can help you think a little differently.
Well, to be clear – since we don’t actually have any children of our own – perhaps these anecdotes from other parents can help clear up the challenges and benefits of having your little ones tag along on your next music festival journey.
We recently had a friend reach out to ask what festivals we thought were the most “family-friendly”. Having been to a couple of music festivals with this friend, we sympathized with her question. Music festivals can be a big part of your summer travel and entertainment plans, but those plans can seem to change drastically when you have your first child (or second or third…)
Since we personally do not have any experience with taking children to a music festival, we decided to go directly to the Festy GoNuts community. After all, this is exactly why we decided to create Festy GoNuts two years ago – so that we can be a resource for all things relative to music festivals! Now here was the perfect time to lean on our community for advice!
Tips for Bringing Your Kids to a Music Festival
Direct from the parents we spoke with, here are some noteworthy tips for taking your children to a music festival.
1. Choose a music festival that is appropriate for children to attend.
Not all music festivals are G-rated, and it’s not always a wise decision to take your children simply because it’s your favorite style of music. Many parents shared that bluegrass and folk festivals tend to bring a family-friendly vibe, so be sure to ask around. Choose a music festival where you know your children will be safe in the crowd, and understand that they may be exposed to a variety of adult-elements.
Wise advice from Jennifer M: “Anticipate the possibility of your child hearing foul language, seeing partial nudity, seeing or smelling pot or cigarette smoke. Have age-appropriate discussions with your child about this prior to the festival.”
2. Choose a music festival that takes families and children into consideration.
Many music festivals strive to create children-specific activities and family-friendly amenities. Chances are that your child is going to want to be entertained throughout the day with things other than music.
Jon R’s advice: “Plan on off-site activities, such as a nearby waterpark or kayak trip. Look for things to do at the music festival, like slip ’n slides or scavenger hunts. I have done a festival photo scavenger hunt with Jaden each time – he has to take pictures of things and earns a prize.”
3. Camp with another family with kids the same age.
The saying “it takes a village” certainly can ring true when you take your children to a music festival.
Jon R. shares with us, “Going with a group of parents is great because you can trade times a bit to allow you more adult time, but it’s not cool to just dump your parental responsibilities on someone else either.”
Make sure you make a game plan and take turns with the other parents so that you can all get the most out of your music festival experience.
4. Have a “security plan” in place upon arrival.
As soon as you arrive at the music festival, create a game plan with your children so that they (and you) feel secure and safe throughout the weekend.
Many music festivals provide white wristbands to children so that parents can write down their contact information in case their children get lost. (If you don’t have a wristband, don’t be afraid to write on your child’s arm or hand using a permanent marker. Better safe than sorry!)
Take a walk around the music festival grounds with your child. Your kids should get familiar with the lay of the land, and they’ll need to know how to find their way back to their campsite.
Finally, make sure your children know how to find medical tents and security so they know where to go in case of an emergency.
“Take a picture of your kids upon arrival, wearing the clothes they plan to wear for the event. This will help if you ever need to find your kid if they are lost. This has not happened to us….yet.” (Tim B)
5. Take the size and space of the music festival into consideration.
Everything is harder when you are toting children around a music festival, so make sure you know what you are getting into before you sign up.
How close can you park your car to your campsite? You may need to make multiple trips to get your festival gear to your campground, so be prepared and pack accordingly.
How far is the stage from your campsite? When the stages and campgrounds are far apart, it can be a workout for you and your children. Being able to easily return to your campsite to take a nap, get some shade and grab some grub can be a real game-changer.
As Jennifer M says, “Take your time! Rest, it’s not a race. With young children, consider returning to your car (or camp) for a pre-packed picnic-style lunch. Kids can grab a nap, sit in the air conditioning (or shade), and decompress before going back into the festival.”
We went to Symbiosis, which is an amazing experience that I highly recommend. However, the farthest stage was over a mile away from camp, and we had to pack a wagon that probably weighed over 50 pounds. Felix got cold and upset halfway through a [String Cheese Incident] set and Jamie took him back to camp.
I was taxed with pulling that wagon back to camp with everything over hills and bumpy ground. By the time I got back to the trailer, I was so exhausted that going back out was not an option. Also, the weather was very extreme, lots of dust, extreme highs and lows in temp.
I would say that attending a music festival of that size such as Burning Man or Symbiosis would be better left to when the children can walk and don’t require as many supplies.
6. Be aware of the weather.
Music festivals can’t guarantee good weather, and some are located in areas that see drastic changes in temperature from day to night. Extreme weather changes may mean a lot of extra packing and forethought. Keep an eye on the weather right up to the day you leave, and be prepared with appropriate gear for any occasion – rain, heat, and cold!
7. Plan on missing some music.
Your child may decide that they are ready to head back to the camp while your favorite band is playing, and that’s okay. When you bring your children to a music festival, you are making the effort to spend quality time with them.
As Timothy B put it, “Be prepared to leave at any moment. Kids are unpredictable and sometimes you just have to pack up and roll out. Mentally prepare yourself for the possibility of missing the artist/band that you most wanted to see.”
12 Packing Tips For Bringing Your Kids to a Music Festival
Create a child-friendly packing list for your family music festival experience. Start with the basics that you’ll need to be successful at any music festival, and then take into consideration the items that will be necessary for your children to be comfortable. We asked a group of parents what was the most important items they would pack when taking their children to a music festival, and we created this list of packing tips to help you out!
1. Your child’s favorite snacks
All parents know that children can be picky eaters, so don’t assume that the music festival will have everything that your child wants to eat. Pack their favorite snacks for the campsite – and to bring into the festival grounds! When your child gets hungry while your favorite band is playing, you’ll be glad you brought their favorite treats to keep them happy for a little while longer.
2. Water and refillable bottles
Almost every music festival will provide water-refill stations throughout the grounds and near the campsites. Locate them upon arrival, and make sure you bring refillable bottles for you and your children. Some festivals may require you to bring in your own water – find out ahead of time and bring more than enough!
4. Sun and Skin Protection
Protect your child’s skin from the sun and bugs! Pack hats, canopies, and lots of sunscreen! Being able to set up a shade canopy with a blanket near the festival stage is a bonus you’ll find at kid-friendly music festivals. Also, don’t forget bug spray and a quality first-aid kit.
5. A Wagon or Cart
We heard over and over again that having a wagon with heavy duty wheels is a must when bringing your children to a music festival. It makes it easier to cart the kids – and their food and toys – back and forth from the festival to the campsite. When they tucker out at the show, they’ll have a comfy spot to take a nap as well.
Side Note: It can also be a great place to store your beer!
Tip: For older kids, bring a bike or skateboard! It makes them more mobile and less tired.
6. Lots of activities and toys
Your children may not be quite as entertained by all of the musical acts as you, and you don’t want them to end up bored and crying to leave the festival. Bring their favorite books, non-electronic toys, art supplies, and games. Hula hoops are always a hit, and can keep your child dancing with others their age for hours!
TIP: Bring a blanket to put down at camp to create a space for your children to go play and create away from the adults.
7. Toilet paper and wet wipes
Nothing is worse than going to the port-a-pot at a music festival and realizing it’s out of toilet paper – except when your child is involved! Pack an extra roll or two of toilet paper, and you’ll be all set in case of an emergency. “Butt Wipes” (or wet wipes) are not only great for bathroom times, but perfect to have around the campsite for general cleanup and make-shift “showers”.
8. Comfy PJ’s and Night-time Sandals
When it comes to bed-time at a music festival, you want to make sure your child feels comfortable and can sleep easily. Bring items that will make your child feel right at home, including their favorite pajamas, stuffed animals, and blankets.
TIP: Easy slip-on shoes for night time potty runs are as important for kids as adults.
9. Rain Gear
Children love to play in the rain, and there’s always a chance of rain at a music festival. Be prepared with raincoats and rain boots – and choose ones that you don’t mind getting muddy!
10. Extra Cash
Let’s be honest – you’re probably going to have to do a bit of bargaining with your child at the music festival. There are vendor and food booths everywhere, and you’re going to have to give in at some point. Bring extra cash so you don’t have to hit up those expensive ATM’s when your children hit you up for some money.
11. Light-Up Jewelry
Glow sticks are all the rage at music festivals, and they are great to mark your kids when the sun starts to set. A great tip from one of our parents was to find LED light-up jewelry instead of single-use glowsticks – it’s better for the environment and helps eliminate extra trash for the music festival staff to clean up.
TIP: Light up shoes are also a great way to keep an eye on your kids and keep them looking awesome at the same time!
Be sure to pack flashlights for you and your children. You can find ones that will attach to their belt loops so that they will always have one on them. It can be tricky navigating through the music festival grounds and back to your campsite at night, so make sure you have something to light the way.
Looking for more info on how to camp with your kids – not just at Music Festivals, but anywhere?
Check out this informative guide from CampingCooks.com:
Some of our other favorite things to bring to music festivals that kids and grown-ups can all have fun with!
Meet the Experts!
Don’t take it from us. Our only offspring is a pink Unicorn named Neil.
These are the real experts on bringing kids to music festivals, the ones who have learned all of these helpful tricks and tips through trial, error, and most likely some tears.
These wonderful souls are ensuring that another generation of hula-spinning hippies are putting a little hope in the world for all of our futures!
Perri and Dave have two children, Evan and Zoey. They have been taking their children to music festivals for the past 6 years, since Evan was only 2 years old. They enjoy Strings & Sol and Rockygrass, and have even started to take their kids to day-festivals and various concerts, such as Phish Dicks and Dead & Co.
“At the first Strings & Sol, Zoey discovered that she could get unlimited virgin mudslides at the bar. She loved the poolside bar! She also got to play bingo with Leftover Salmon which she really loved. Overall, we really love taking our kids to festivals because it gets them out of their routine, away from screens and they love that we give them tons of freedom.”
Rich Stoler and his wife have been taking their two daughters to Delfest for the past seven years. Their children, now 10 and 15 years old, have also enjoyed attending Grey Fox and Susquehanna Breakdown.
“One year, Delfest asked for attendees to create and submit a short video singing “Come on People Now, Smile on Your Brother (Come Together)”. Our daughter and I created one, and it was shared on the main stage with many others submissions as part of an overall theme throughout the fest. This was a special moment to share with her!”
Cari and Jamie Messerschmitt have been taking their son, Felix, to music festivals since he was 4 months old! They’ve learned a lot of lessons with taking such a young child to a music festival, and they’ve got some great stories to share!
“[We took Felix to] the total eclipse at Symbiosis 2017 in Oregon. We got up early and pulled him up to the viewing area. When the eclipse happened, I really didn’t think that as a 1.5-year-old he would really understand what was happening. Boy, was I wrong. During full totality, Felix looked at me, looked at Jamie, grabbed his wagon, and started shaking his head back and forth screaming in glee! It really affected him! It was absolutely amazing. I started crying, it was such a surreal experience in every way. Absolutely amazing!”
Timothy Brown and his wife have been taking their two sons to music festivals since they were infants, and have continued to introduce them to the music festival scene four years later! They tend to opt for the convenience of hotel rooms while their children are young, and are looking forward to taking the family to Peach Festival this year!
“[We took our children to] Dead & Company at Jiffy Lube Live (Bristow, Va). We were hanging on the lawn. I took the oldest for a little walk…err…maybe just so I could buy a beer. We were walking around the top of the lawn and my oldest son pulls my arm, “Daddy, they’re starting to play ‘Fire on the Mountain’. Let’s go back to Mommy. She loves this song!” He sat on my shoulders for the rest of that song and was singing along…almost on pitch! We had been listening to quite possibly the best version of that particular song by the Grateful Dead (Cornell ’77), and he had become particularly attached to it. He was so freakin’ happy. So was I. I can’t wait to enjoy more moments like this.”
Jon Rosenberger has taken his son, Jaden, to music festivals since he was 5 years old. They’re a father-son team, and really enjoy the family-friendly atmosphere at Hoxeyville.
“My favorite story was the first Hoxeyville (in 2011). We went VIP, and we got a private (Greensky Bluegrass) show Thursday night as part of the early entry. Jaden loved the Greensky Bluegrass sound and couldn’t wait to be up front. After a few minutes, he had me hold him and then promptly fell asleep in my arms as we stood 7 feet from Paul (Hoffman) in the early evening. Paul, whom I know, laughed his butt off that they put him to sleep for his first Greensky show!”
Jennifer Marie has been taking her son and daughter to day-festivals since they were 4 and 10 years old. She appreciates the art and entertainment that can be found at music festivals, and loves that her children have a true appreciation for music.
“Fringe Fest was my favorite, although it was the least-kid friendly in many respects. High-heel drag race down Main Street, Burlesque shows with nudity were behind dividers so they couldn’t see. But I enjoy exposing my kids to diversity. It was in the late afternoon to evening in the fall so the weather was perfect and it wasn’t terribly crowded.”
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For a first-year music festival, after a year without any, Tico Time Bluegrass Festival was absolutely perfect. What time is it? TICO TIME!