Summer is here, which can only mean one thing: music festival season. Music festivals are the perfect mixture of concert, art, camping, and community – a completely immersive experience. There’s no reason to write music festivals off as something of your past. Modern parenthood means including your children in the things you love. It’s living your life, with kids in tow. Many music festivals curate specific events and areas just for families and kids. Even if a festival does not offer kid specific amenities, here are some tips to make every music festival kid-friendly for you:
Pack smart (and don't forget the flare)
Music festivals are an exciting experience. They are also all day, rain-or-shine, out in the open events. Pack sunglasses, hats, and sunscreen (remember to reapply)! Bring ponchos and boots for rain and mud – there’s always so much mud. In the summer, some regions experience surprising temperature drops once the sun goes down. Pack light weight jackets or hoodies to keep everyone comfortable and warm. Bugs are often an issue in marshy or wooded regions, so bug spray is definitely a must. Baby wipes are a magical camping and festival necessity. Use them to wipe noses, clean hands, and in place of toilet paper in porta-potties.One of the most important items to remember is hearing protection. While many music festivals offer sprawling lawns, even the spaces as far away from the stage as possible will have speakers. Some kids will benefit from wearing hearing protection for longer periods of time, just to combat the overstimulation and constant buzz of such a busy environment. Ems for Kids offers protective earmuffs available in sizes and rated for protection for infants through teenagers (and probably many adults). They come in a rainbow of colors, including patterned headbands to cater to your kiddos’ festival style.
Parent Co. partnered with Ems for Kids because they believe in living a vibrant life with kids in tow.
Give your kids some power
Give them the opportunity to show off their festival style and fashion flair, especially if they have to stay more restrained during the school year. Let them choose the acts they want to see and the events they don’t want to miss. While the festival scene seems laissez-faire, there’s a lot of adult-centered rules and regulations that can lead to acting out. You may need to lean in a little more during the experience. But if you’re able to meet the needs your children have, it will prove for a better overall family experience.
Remember your limits
Meltdowns are not limited to the toddler years. All of these festivals offer jam-packed schedules, so scheduling some down time will be beneficial for everyone. While babies and toddlers may be able to nap on the go, older kids may benefit from a rare nap as well, especially if late night acts will keep them up past their regular bedtimes.
All festivals have water stations. Always keep full water bottles on hand. Feeling thirsty is a sign of dehydration, so encourage preventive water drinking. Kid-centric drinking games are a great way to keep everyone hydrated. Every time you see someone hula hooping, take a drink of water. Every time you hear a drum solo, take a drink of water. (Grown-ups, feel free to play along with adult beverages as well.)
Have a meeting plan
Cell service is often spotty due to networks being overcrowded at busy festivals. Designate a meeting spot and an emergency procedure. At every new area, help your children identify a place where there will be an adult they can trust. If you aren’t close to an emergency station, choose a specific food vendor with an easily identifiable sign or tent. Dig your tent out of storage. Pack your sunscreen, bug spray, and comfortable walking shoes, and don’t forget your hearing protection. It’s time to find the perfect festival for your family! If you’re not sure your family is ready for the full festival experience, single day tickets are available for most festivals. They provide the excitement of the festival experience and the luxury of ending the long day with the comforts of home.
Governor’s Ball is in its sixth year, kicking off festival season in New York City. This year’s headliners include Lorde, Childish Gambino, and Tool. Governor’s Ball Gives Back is the festival’s volunteer program. New Yorkers can earn a three-day GA ticket by volunteering at local nonprofits that give back to the city. Kid perks: Children five and younger are permitted free, and strollers are allowed. While there are no activities with a specific kid label, the “Soberball” area may be a reprieve from festival party culture. The Mini Golf course and Lawn Games are sure to be fun for all ages. Kid-specific rules: The Festival information page specifically states that Children of the Corn are not welcomed. Here’s where you can find accessibility information.
Located on what used to be a giant field halfway between Nashville and Chattanooga, Bonnaroo is the OG modern music festival. 2017 marks its 15th anniversary. This year’s top-billed acts are U2, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, and The Weeknd. Bonnaroo also boasts permanently installed bathrooms with real running water. Nothing screams kid-friendly more than no porta-potties!Kid perks: Attendees two and under are free. Among many exciting activities offered at Bonnaroo, Kidz Jam includes an entire stage dedicated to an almost full day of kids activities centered around music, art, recycling, and sustainability. There’s also a dedicated Family Camping Area (expecting parents welcome, as well).Kid-specific rules: Framed backpacks are not allowed, which includes framed child carriers. Here’s where you can find accessibility information.
Firefly Festival premiered in 2012. It has quickly earned the reputation of “the biggest music festival on the east coast.” This year’s headliners include Bob Dylan, Chance the Rapper, and The Shins. Amenities include on-site tent camping and glamping. RV camping sites are also available, with access to hookups at the premium price option. Kid perks: Kids eight and younger are admitted into GA spaces for free, and kids two and younger are admitted into VIP spaces for free. Firefly does recommend that you bring a copy of your child’s birth certificate or passport to verify their ages. (This is a smart safety precaution for any festival.) Kids will enjoy making their own bandanas at the Toyota tent, taking part in the many yard games in VIP, and lounging in Firefly’s famous hammocks. Kid-specific rules: While strollers are allowed, wagons are not, which may mean a lot of walking for younger kids who no longer fit in a stroller. While the event may not have a specific space catered towards kids, it directly benefits them, which truly makes this a top kid-friendly festival. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is the official charity of Firefly music festival. Fundraising options can earn you cool Firefly swag, free tickets, and even an artist meet-and-greet! For accessibility information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
4-Peaks is a smaller scale festival located on Stevenson Ranch in Central Oregon. Featuring local jam bands and unbeatable views, it stakes its claim as the “best little festival in the west.” This year’s headliners are moe., Railroad Earth, and Infamous Stringdusters. You can choose to tent or RV camp. Yurts are also an option, newly introduced this year. Kid perks: Kids under 10 get in free. Spend time at the Kids Zone and enjoy nightly movies under the stars. Here’s where you can find accessibility information.
Telluride Bluegrass Festival offers more than just traditional bluegrass. Located in the mountains of Colorado, Telluride is always held the weekend closest to the Summer Solstice. Dierks Bentley with the Travelin’ McCourys, Norah Jones, and Dispatch headline this year. Tent and RV camping without hookups are available. Kid perks: Children 12 and under are free. Telluride’s family focused events include daily activities in The Family Tent as well as a parade and talent show!Accessibility information: Handicap parking is available with a valid handicap permit.
Electric Forest Festival takes place over two weekends with major acts including String Cheese Incident, My Morning Jacket, Bassnectar, and Nahko and Medicine for the People. Tent and RV camping is available. Electric Forest Festival welcomes attendees to become members of the Forest Family.Kid perks: Children two and under are free. The Forest Family recommends, among many other supplies, to pack water toys and face paint.Kid-specific rules: No framed or large backpacks for carrying smaller kiddos allowed. No wagons, strollers, or carts allowed, either. This is not kid-specific, but an important rule that Electric Forest Festival highlights is that Native American Headdresses are both sacred and ceremonial, and therefore prohibited as fashion accessories. Here’s where you can find accessibility information.
Summerfest once held the Guinness World Record for “The World’s Largest Music Festival.” Luke Bryan, Paul Simon, Pink, and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers are among the top-billed acts this year. Kid perks: Kids aged two and under are free, with discounted tickets for kids ages three to 10. Stroller rentals are available for $4 (cash only). Be prepared to spend most of your time in the Northwestern Mutual Children’s Theater and PlayZone. This central location includes a huge playground and daily kid-friendly performances. Bathrooms are also located nearby. Kid-specific rules: While strollers are permitted at the festival and available for rental, they are not allowed inside the American Family Insurance Amphitheater. No wagons.Here’s where you can find accessibility information.
Initially started by the singer from Jane’s Addiction, Lollapalooza now hosts international festivals, with the first Parisian festival to happen in July. The top billed performers in Chicago this year include Wiz Khalifa, The Killers, The Head and the Heart, and The Arcade Fire. Featured Kidzapalooza acts include the School of Rock Allstars.Kid perks: Kids 10 and under are free. Lollapalooza features Kidzapalooza – an all inclusive kids area, labeled a “festival within a festival.” Kidzapoola features family-friendly music and kids activities from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. Kid-specific rules: Framed backpacks, wagons, and carts are all prohibited. For accessibility information, email email@example.com.
Bumbershoot takes place in Seattle Center yearly over Labor Day weekend, marking the unofficial end of summer. Flume, ODESZA, and Solange are among the big names this year. Bumbershoot actually means “umbrella,” so one of many perks of this event is that umbrellas and parasols are welcome – even encouraged.Kid perks: Kids seven and under are free. Strollers are allowed, but restricted in some areas. Bumbershoot offers an amazing KidSafe program, which supplies children with numbered wristbands with your contact information registered to that specific numbered bracelet. If your child does get lost at Bumbershoot, this allows Bumbershoot staff to find your information and reunite you a.s.a.p. (For festivals that do not provide this service, you can write your info – name, phone number, and any important medical information – on a homemade bracelet or sticker for your kiddo to wear.) Be sure to make your way over to YoungerShoot Kids’ Zone, specially curated by the Seattle Children’s Museum and designed for kids 10 and under. Bumbershoot will also organize a list of all of the events that, although not specifically made for kids, are kid-friendly in nature. It will be available on the Bumbershoot website closer to the event date, so check back for more kid-friendly recommendations. Kid-specific rules: No wagons or carts allowed, and no strollers in KeyArena or Memorial Stadium.Here’s where you can find accessibility information.
Even though most kids will be back in school, this festival technically still happens in the summer. The Meadows Music & Arts Festival just started last year in October 2016. It’s run by the same company that puts on the Governor’s Ball, so most of the same rules apply. For more kid-friendly activities, feel free to contact their team. As this festival is new, they have plenty of room to grow and are open to suggestions.Kid perks: Children five and younger are permitted free, and strollers are allowed. Like the Soberball of Governor’s Ball, Sober Meadows offers a substance free crowd that may be beneficial for families. Kid-specific rules: No hover boards (just in case you got your kid one last Christmas).
Here’s the accessibility information.
When choosing a music festival, do not rule out festivals without kid-specific events. While the extras are nice, kids there for the music will have a great time regardless.
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Parent Co. partnered with Ems for Kids because they believe in living a vibrant life with kids in tow.