How To: Take Your Baby To A Music Festival

BOTTLE ROCK 2015 (Updated May 28, 2015)
After the amazing time we had at Bottle Rock Napa Valley I am beyond excited to join the festival this year to share some of the fun for families at this year's event! My family be there this weekend posting tons of updates, photos and videos of the music, the food, and the atmosphere—make sure you're following Mama's Guide on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see the latest and greatest. If you'll be there look for us! If you're heading to the festival this year with your kids don't miss these three new features at Bottle Rock for 2015:

  • FAMILY FUN ZONE: Bottle Rock really supports having families attend and this year they've added a Family Fun Zone with kid-centered activities and plenty of room for families to stretch out and relax (naptime, anyone?) 
  • LOCKERS! You can reserve a locker in advance or book one on site if available to stash your stuff. This could come in super handy to have somewhere to stick your kid-gear, extra clothes (the forecast this weekend is roughly 80° during the day and 50° at night) and anything else you don't want to carry around all day. 
  • GENERAL STORES: If you leave something behind there will be three stores on site selling drug-store items like wipes, gum, earplugs and stuff to help you stay comfy all day long. 

I have a baby so I don't get to the movies as much as I used to, but I did catch a clip from the movie "Neighbors" where mom and dad debate taking their baby to a party, chanting, "baby's first rave! baby's first rave!" in their living room in an attempt to convince themselves its a reasonable idea. 

Since I didn't see the movie I don't know if they went through with it (I pray to God no), but I had a similar (if less intense) conversation with my own husband about taking Mia to a concert. Music, especially live music, is a big part of our relationship—our first date was the Smokin' Grooves tour in Northern Virginia way back when that tour was still around, and for years much of our disposable income went to concert tickets. 

I distinctly remember Jole sighing as he said, "Well, I guess we won't be going to any more concerts," after Mia was born. We went to Outside Lands while I was pregnant and noticed a good number of kids and even babies there. We wondered if we would we do the same, and we finally got our chance last month when two our of our favorite groups—De La Soul and Outkast—performed at Bottle Rock Napa Valley. 

There was no way we were going to miss it, and we quickly decided taking Mia with us was not only doable but could actually be a lot of fun. So we did a ton of research and a lot of planning, and we had an amazing time. If you're thinking about doing the same, here's some tips for a successful show. 

1. Know Your Baby
No matter how excited you are to see these bands, this means NOTHING to your child. They may nap through the entire thing, they may scream their heads off (and not in an excited fan sort of way) and be incredibly disinterested, or fidgety or cranky. Are they teething? Feverish? In a growth spurt? A few weeks ago Mia woke up in the morning covered in a bumpy rash—roseola. Even the most relaxed baby can have an off day, and it might happen just as you're packing up to head to the show. So don't force it, for your sake and for your child's. Have a backup plan to sell your tickets or gift them to someone else if you can't swing it at show time. And consider that you may arrive at the show only for your little one to have a meltdown and you need to leave early. Babies before bands!

Even at this early age, Mia has shown us that she really enjoys music. Her favorite song is "Happy" by Pharrell Williams (what else?), she's taken kiddie music classes, she dances, taps her feet and generally has a good time around music of all sorts, so we agreed she would probably get some enjoyment out of the experience. 

2. Know Yourself
Just as you need to know your child, you also need to know yourself. How you are going to deal with the inevitable curveballs that will happen? If your child decides to take a huge poop during one of your favorite songs by one of your favorite bands (like mine did), is that going to crack you up or piss you off? If you're a nursing mom, are you comfortable breastfeeding in public? 

 This really nice lady let me sit in her lap, but I'm mostly smiling because of the Cheerios.

This really nice lady let me sit in her lap, but I'm mostly smiling because of the Cheerios.

3. Know The Festival
Does the show you want to attend allow children? Don't assume that because it's an outdoor event or you've been to something else at the same location that this event will allow children of any age. Do some digging on the event website and if you don't see an answer contact the event producers via email or social media to confirm. The last thing you want is to show up only to learn your little one isn't welcome. 

Talk to other friends who've been to the festival before to get their thoughts, but take it with a grain of salt. I have friends who think I should DEFINITELY take Mia to Burning Man, and others who think that's a terrible idea. To each his own (and in case you're wondering, we have no plans to hit Burning Man, with or without kids)!

NOTE: Outside Lands and Treasure Island Music Festival both allow kids. 

4. Know The Venue
Start Googling right away to get a sense of the space you'll be in and what surrounds it. In Napa we were in the middle of town, so we would be able to get anything we might need relatively easily. But if you're heading out to some remote location, keep that in mind as you prepare.

Most festivals are really good about sharing set times and sticking to them, so if there are specific bands you want to see you can plan your day around them rather than hanging around wondering when the groups you want to see are coming on. Again, check out the festivals websites and Facebook pages for details.

5. Pack Smart
The must-haves:

 We let Mia play around in her ear cans to get used to them before we went to the show.

We let Mia play around in her ear cans to get used to them before we went to the show.

  • Hats
  • Sunblock
  • Sound protection 
    • This is a big a requirement for your little one—we liked these from Amazon and saw several other families using the same brand. We tested them on ourselves at home and they work quite well. Make sure you try them on and get your kids comfortable with them before the show so they won't take them off, and find time and space to remove them so their little ears get a break!
  • Layers (mostly for baby, but if you get chilly at night, and definitely if you're going to Outside Lands, take a jacket)!
  • Blankets/chairs
  • Water bottles and sippy cups
  • Breastmilk/Formula/Baby food (pouches are great for this)
  • Snacks (pro tip: although most venues won't allow you to bring in outside food, a few snacks for kids—and mom/dad of course—should be fine. Just don't show up with a picnic basket).
  • Diapers and wipes
  • Changing mat
  • Hand sanitizer
 Why are you guys so happy? Are you eating Cheerios?

Why are you guys so happy? Are you eating Cheerios?

Are you stroller dependent or a babywearer? Each has their pros and cons at a festival. The stroller holds a ton of stuff BUT you have to push it around and keep up with it all day. Babywearing leaves you hands free BUT you have to carry everything, so you can't take as much stuff. We opted to wear Mia in our Lillebaby All Seasons carrier and take two backpacks (one small, one regular), and I saw folks doing both ways. It's really up to what makes you and your baby comfortable and what will work for a long day.

NOTE: Outside Lands offers lockers so you can stash your items if you get bogged down. Treasure Island does not allow strollers, so you must use a carrier/wrap or plan to carry your baby in your arms all day. You don't want to do that!

6. Scout It Out
Once you arrive, your first stop should be the festival grounds map. Many festivals now have an app so you can even download that in advance to do your reconnaissance. You want to know where the bathrooms are, best routes to the stages you want to see, and where the medical tents are. 

7. Plan Your Escape
In your pre-baby days you may have hung at the festival in the sun all day, drinking your way through set after set, and headed home (with a designated driver of course) or crashed wherever you found yourself at the end of the night. Those days are over, and one of the worst parts of any big event can be leaving. 10,000 or more people exiting one venue late at night usually means delays of some sort. 

 Earlier in the day we started with Mia in front in the carrier, and around bedtime I put her on my back. I put the hood up and she went to sleep at her regular bedtime, and we rocked out for another hour before it was time to go!

Earlier in the day we started with Mia in front in the carrier, and around bedtime I put her on my back. I put the hood up and she went to sleep at her regular bedtime, and we rocked out for another hour before it was time to go!

Study the event beforehand so you know where you are in relation to where you're parking and have a backup plan. Many festivals shuttle people back and forth to remote lots and getting back to your car at the end of a long day can be a bear—our friends eventually walked almost five miles to their car after waiting more than an hour to board a shuttle. Or use public/alternative transportation. We left a little early and even though we were outside the gates we could still hear the end of Outkast while we waited for our Uber to arrive. 

8. Have Fun! 
We had an amazing time at Bottle Rock with Mia. She's already into music and we noticed her waving her hands and bouncing to the beat several times during the day. She smiled and crawled around and charmed her way into lots of arms and laps, and people even came over to get their picture taken with her or came to show and share the pictures they'd snapped of her. AND she got a shoutout from Posdnuos (aka Plug Won) during the De La Soul show, and then got her picture taken (along with Daddy) with Dave from De La afterward. Those are some amazing memories!

I know there must be a million other things to think about here, so I encourage you to share your concert going wisdom in the comments!

 Who is that guy? Does he want some Cheerios?

Who is that guy? Does he want some Cheerios?


For specific information on upcoming local festivals, here are the email addresses to contact them directly: 

Outside Lands:
Treasure Island: