Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival: Tips for Families

Moms, dads, grandparents, and godparents: Are you looking for a special occasion to dedicate to some one-on-one bonding time with your kid? Check out our series of hip happenings that will give the two of you secrets to share and a ritual to return to year after year.

Looking for peace, love, and a lot of high fives this summer? Steal away to 700 acres in Manchester, Tennessee, for all the friendship, positivity, and teamwork you can get from a music and art camp nestled in the woods.

Fest fans have adopted Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival  as the Burning Man of the South, but at half the size, with a heavier bent towards music, and no desert sandstorms, it’s a little easier to bring your kiddo. With the vibe here as crunchy as Woodstock and as friendly as the small town south, it’s the perfect place for your child to learn the ways of a hippie subculture long since forgotten in the cold, hard city. Grab your camping gear and begin to radiate positivity as you teach your kid the art of being Bonnaroovian.

Prepare Thyself

Before your journey toward love and bartering, you’ll have to first purchase tickets the old fashioned way: online at the Bonnaroo website. Kids five and under are free, but if your child has reached six, you’ll need to shell out some cash. Tickets include an environmental sustainability fee for making on-going improvements on the farm where Bonnaroo is held.

Although most Bonnaroovians choose to camp on-site (there is a special family campground) and either bring a tent with them, or rent one that’s already set up, you can also get an RV pass to bring your big rig or actually rent an RV at the event. Others choose to sleep off-site at nearby hotels that offer shuttle service to and from the farm. 

Once you’ve taken care of the big details, it’s time to prepare thy child. Sunblock, a sun hat, rain gear, loose clothing that covers all, and heavy-duty earplugs are must-haves for parents and kids alike; you’ll want to pack extra jammies and disposable diapers (great to have even if your kid is mostly trained) for your young one.

Baby wipes can come in handy for all ages when camping. Bring some rags and water for sponge bathing and keeping slightly less messy. But with limited showers (check out the Pods), you might just have to accept smelling like a hippie for four days. Don’t worry— it’s not quite enough time for dreadlocks to form.

It’s probably easier to take care of your main meals at the festival, but bringing granola bars, fruit, and breakfast cereal along is a good call. Most importantly, you’ll want to bring water bottles and several gallons of water. You can get water at the festival’s Refill Revolution and the campground Pods, but you’ll want to have some water to access in your tent, too. At least a gallon per day is a good rule of thumb.

Play as a Team

When you arrive at Bonnaroo, expect that your kid will encounter overstimulation, loud music, nudity, and the gentle waft of Lady Jane. If you are an experienced festival-goer, you know the rhythms of most attendees and might opt to spend more time in the festival grounds in the mornings and late afternoons.

You and your spouse might want to add a third adult to the party too, if your kid is especially young (think under seven). That way naptime, night-time, and showtime can all coexist, and each of you will be able to escape at any given moment.

The festival lineup includes bands, comedy shows, and a mini film festival, so plan your days carefully but be prepared to be flexible. Keep out of the main melee at shows, and don’t forget the earplugs. You might want to outfit your kid with a whistle, too; just in case you get separated.

Respect the Farm

There’s a lot to see and do beyond the main events, making walking back and forth just as exciting as anything else. Art cars and parades bring zany fun to the festival day and night. Visit the Christmas Barn for festive summer reindeer and glittering lights. Wander over to Planet Roo to meet some green warriors, learn how to start a garden, sit under some sustainable oak tree art, and learn how to take care of the farm (another tenet of Bonnaroo ethics).

Best of all, Kidz Jam is a space between two stages with kid-themed activities, musical instruments, performances, and games that make the festival extra-special for your young ones. Activities are designed for parents to participate with kids (not to babysit kids) so prepare yourself to jump into this world, too.

Don’t forget water-themed spectacles like the makeshift Slip-and-Slide of Splash-a-Roo and the Magical Fountain at Centeroo where everyone can get wet, stay hydrated, and cool down.

Stay True to the Roo

With sustainability, hugs, and general helpfulness as the main guidelines for Bonnaroo, it makes sense to bring these values back into the world with you, and your kid should too. Use the microcosm of a happy hippie festival experience to show your child that the adult world doesn’t have to be as harsh and unfriendly as it sometimes seems.

After all, the more Bonnaroovians who mix and mingle out in the world, the happier the planet will be!

Ever attended a music festival with the kids? Share your experience with us!

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