Governor's Ball is NYC's Festival for a Family of Music Lovers

Los Angeles has Coachella, Chicago has Lollapalooza, and San Francisco has Outsidelands. It’s time for the Big Apple to catch up with its own large-scale music festival in an out-of-the-way venue, and Randall’s Island is as good a place as any to start! In the footsteps of Woodstock and with its echoes of Bonnaroo, the Governor’s Ball Music Festival (June 2-4, 2017) unites the boroughs by bringing headliners to the tiny island between Manhattan, Queens, and the Bronx each June.

In typical New York fashion, it can’t decide on any one genre, subculture, or generation to please, so headliners include everyone from Kanye West to Kings of Leon, Guns ‘n’ Roses to Vampire Weekend. How’s that for diversity? Whatever your kid’s genre or band, you’re likely to find something to please everyone at this casual-dress ball.

Randall’s Island or Bust

The fest takes place at Randall’s Island Park, which takes up most of Governor’s Island, situated just between Harlem, Manhattan; Port Haven, Bronx; and Ditmars Steinway, Queens. The festival has made an effort to beautify the park and the island through its years of use, and the continued focus on recycling, composting, and trashing keeps it more clean and tidy than your average music fest.

Unlike most music festivals of this size and scope, there’s no camping in Randall’s Island Park, and the adjoining wastewater treatment plant doesn’t make for a very friendly vacation atmosphere either, so your best bet is to stay on one of New York’s other fine islands – like Manhattan!

Festival partner Hotels for Hope is your best option for finding a nearby hotel, and you can filter based on area, amenities, and price so you’re sure to find the hotel that’s the best fit. Best of all, each booking results in a donation to Answer the Call, a non-profit aiding the widows and children of NYC firefighters and police killed in the line of duty.

Make your way to the island via the shuttle from Brooklyn, a ferry from Manhattan, or the usual variety of buses, subways, bikes, and taxis that zigzag across the city with regularity. You can even walk across the footbridge from Manhattan if you and your kids are feeling super fit.

Ticketing and Practicals

Tickets are available in the springtime for the June festival, but don’t wait too long to make your purchase for a single day or full weekend. In addition, make it easier on yourself – and your kids – by linking your (removable) festival wristband to your credit card, which will allow you to make purchases throughout the festival by swiping your wristband and entering a pin code. Children under five attend the festival for free.

Slather on the sunscreen, but don’t forget the umbrellas and layers, too. You never know what’s in store for you in New York in June. Although the fest will (mostly) go on, rain or shine, it was once washed away by a tropical storm and mud bath. Plan accordingly.

If you’re a little frightened by the implications of mud-soaked kids, adult porta-potties, and the general chaos of a festival, gather some friends and rent a cabana. There’s room for 20, so although the price tag seems expensive, it might be worth it if you team up with another family. The “premium cabana experience” will put your group in sight of the main stage with comfy seating, private bathrooms, drinks, merch, and a buffet included in the price.

Festival grounds are open 11am - 11pm daily, but you should probably focus on the mornings if you’re going with young kids to avoid the biggest crowds.

image via Forest Woodward

Eat, Drink, and Be Merry

The three-day fest’s outsized focus on diversity and inclusivity is evident in the food lineup too. This is not your average tacos and hot-dogs festival. Think hipster-Brooklyn: artisan vendors source many of their products locally and vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options are common to almost all of the stalls. Think gourmet food truck eats, ethnic-hybrid combos, and plant-based alternatives to just about everything, so there is something for even the pickiest kid. You can even get spaghetti in a to-go cone.

Make sure to pack water bottles and refill them at the free water stations. Outside liquids, except water in sealed containers, aren’t allowed past security. If you plan on drinking inside the festival grounds, make sure to bring your valid ID and a designated driver older than your child.

Kids will particularly like festival activities like mini-golf, the silent disco, a photo booth, and MTV’s “noise lounge.” Stop by the art installation area and have your photo taken with a reproduction of Lady Liberty’s head. You’ve probably never been so close to international celebrity.

If your kid’s favorite artist is playing the festival, be sure to bring a CD, poster, record, or other merch because the artists will be available for signings! Remember: Patience is a virtue, and screaming is almost musical when you’ve got ear plugs in.

image via Forest Woodward

Keep it Classy at the Ball

Although GovBall takes its lineup, location, and festive atmosphere from other festivals, the atmosphere and organization is something a little different for which parents can breathe a sigh of relief. While it’s still got an energy and spontaneity to it, you can relax a bit when you return to the city for a nice, comfy hotel bed every night just miles away from the party.

Planning on attending the GovBall with the kids? What are other music festivals you’re looking forward to this year? Share with us!

Cover image via Forest Woodward/The Governor's Ball

Tags : travel   hip happenings   music festivals   new york   

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