For the second year in a row we spent the last weekend of May at BottleRock Napa Valley-that's the whole family, not just mom and dad. The first year was an adventure; this year we were seasoned pros making our way around from stage to stage. If you've read my post about taking a baby to a festival and you're wondering where to start, I highly suggest BottleRock. We saw even more families than the year before including a mama and her precious six week old! The BottleRock team is all about making things comfortable for every guest, even the tiniest ones!
I'm amazed that even with all the food, drink and music packed into such a small space, it never really feels crowded, just what you want when you're taking your kids somewhere. This year the family fun zone offered a relaxed space for kids and parents to chill out, complete with bubble machines (always a hit), an amazing face-paint artist and balloon art. Mia and I bought a great lunch from the Whole Foods Culinary Garden and had a picnic on our blanket in between acts, and we were far enough from the stages that she could forgo her ear protection for a while and give her ears a break!
With other music festivals I've attended the footprint is so huge that it's hard to imagine lugging a kid and associated gear around to all of the different stages and eating areas, getting to the bathrooms and more. They are also so crowded that its hard to imagine putting down a blanket and spreading out, something we did at every stage this year. We were able to find room close enough to hear the music but far enough away to have our own little stretch of land all over the festival. With BottleRock the crowd flow never feels too packed, and all the lines for food and drink moved quickly (our longest wait was for Morimoto's fried ribs and it was TOTALLY worth it). Even off-site parking is just a 10 minute walk away so getting in and out is a breeze.
Any event is only as good as the other people enjoying it with you. It doesn't matter if your favorite band in the world is playing your favorite album ever, if everyone around you is a jerk you're not going to have a good time! Thankfully this was not the case at BottleRock! On day one I brought Mia to the festival solo because my husband had to work, but I wasn't worried about being there by myself because I already knew from last year how awesome our fellow concert-goers would be. There were so many instances where people extended us small but much-needed courtesies, from holding doors or making space for our stroller, to distracting her with beach balls while I folded up our blanket at the end of the day. Those acts of kindness made a big difference in our experience.
A major benefit of a festival is the chance to hear new bands. So many parents I know get stuck in a musical rut once kids arrive—you can only listen to Raffi so many times before you feel a little stabby. Even though the name is "BottleRock" the music covers all genres from pop, hip-hop, folk and yes lots of rock. This year the evening headliners included No Doubt, Robert Plant and Snoop Dogg, all amazing artists. During the day we discovered new-to-us groups like Con Brio, Finish Ticket and Trampled By Turtles and got to hear new music from Los Amigos Invisibles, one of my favorite groups. And even with her ear protection Mia ran around, clapped and danced and had enough fun to ensure a loooong nap on the way back to San Francisco!
If you're music lover and skip shows now that you have kids, I highly recommend BottleRock as a great opportunity to get an awesome dose of live music for the whole family. Early-bird tickets for 2016 are already on sale and we've already marked our calendars. Hope to see you there next year in Napa!