I can officially say that I have been on both ends of the music festival spectrum- attending with a child and attending without one. And it’s not as scary as you think. Just a few years ago, I was that girl at Coachella witnessing a mom with a 6-month-old strapped to her chest thinking, ‘what is she thinking?’ Then, just last month, I was that girl with my 15-month-old, trekking to the stage to see Tom Petty at Arroyo Seco Weekend thinking, ‘I’m so glad she is getting to enjoy this!’ And to be honest, chasing my daughter, Meyer around on the grass, weaving in and out of people, making sure that she stayed hydrated and didn’t fall on someone’s blanket was very similar to taking care of my drunk girlfriend at the Stagecoach Festival. My advice for any mommies looking to bring their little one to a music festival? Be prepared, relax and have fun! And even though they probably won’t remember the experience, you will always be able to remind them how much of a cool mom you were.
Be prepared. I’m not going to lie and say I wasn’t nervous on Day 1 of the festival. Especially because it was the inaugural year, so no one had any idea what to expect. And judging from all my past music festival experiences (pre-baby) like sneaking flasks through security in my pants, not remembering half of the night and plowing through crowds trying to get to the front of the stage, I knew that this one would be different. My husband and I are taking Meyer to New Orleans in October for the Voodoo Music Festival, so we figured that the Arroyo Seco Weekend would be a good (and local) trial run. We packed the Baby Jogger City Mini stroller (folds up to a backpack if it’s not needed), the Baby Bjorn (just in case), loads of sunscreen, a bright pink hat (which we ended up losing), a sweatshirt in case it got cold at night (which she never used because it was over 100 degrees both days that weekend), a change of clothes, a blanket, Baby Banz headphones, an abundance of wipes, diapers, anti-bacterial spray, a bottle of water, an empty sippy cup (they had stations to fill your water bottles) and snacks for her. The good thing about bringing the baby (and I emailed before just to double-check) was that you could bring outside snacks, milk and water for the child, whereas the regular patron had to buy everything inside the venue, and we know how expensive that can be. And don’t think I wasn’t tempted to throw a mommy cocktail in Meyer’s lunchbox and claim it was her juice but I wasn’t going to risk getting my family kicked out. The mommy in me shut down the former party girl that day.
Have fun. Because it was such an unusually hot weekend, we tried to get there later in the day to avoid overheating. Luckily, we had friends that were already there, so we were fortunate to already have a space reserved close to the stage. But, if your family is traveling solo, and depending on the location, I would advise staying back from the stage to avoid the crowds and to have an easily accessible way out just in case there is an unexpected tantrum. Again, we were fortunate that at this venue, we had an exit nearby, there was plenty of room where we were sitting and were close to the stage to boot. We set down our blanket adjacent to our friends, applied more sunscreen to Meyer, gave her some water and a snack and proceeded to head to the cocktail area. Hey, parents can still have a little fun, right? Not to mention that there were giant misting fans next to the bar that Meyer couldn’t get enough of. Now that we had a happy baby and a drink in hand, we were ready to do this! At this venue, the local children’s museum had a large tent set up so even Meyer got to have fun. Banging drums, reading books, climbing around on giant blocks and pillows and coloring. It was definitely a bonus that most music festivals don’t offer. Hats off to the Arroyo Seco Weekend for being the most kid friendly venue that I have experienced thus far.
Even though Meyer was having fun people watching, running around and listening to the music, all babies are different and you will know what your baby will be able to tolerate. I knew Meyer loved music and dancing so there was no doubt that she was going to have fun but you know your child the best and must know what they will be able to put up with. If they cry when they hear loud music, then music festivals just aren’t going to be the place you want to bring your baby. Don’t try to force it and make yourself miserable in the process. And remember, no matter how much fun you are having or how many more songs you want to hear your favorite band play, you must remember that your number one priority is in the stroller, not on the stage. You need be patient with your baby and remember that this wasn’t her choice to be here, it was yours.
Relax. For the most part, Meyer loved grooving to the bands, staring at all the lights on the stage and kicking it with us on the blanket. She did have one tiny meltdown during Alabama Shakes because I wouldn’t let her shove the entire stick of string cheese in her mouth (horrible mom, right?) but I handled that one with ease. It’s all about taking a deep breath, removing yourself from the situation and distraction. I walked her away from the chaos, rocked her in my arms, hummed along with the music and she eventually fell asleep. And yes moms, babies can sleep during music festivals! After her nap, she woke up one happy baby again and was ready to see Tom Petty. Who knew Meyer was such a fan of the Heartbreakers? It was as if she only had eyes for Tom….completely mesmerized. If you are a mom that has a strict bedtime schedule (as I am), you can let it go for one weekend and let your child enjoy the sights and sounds. But if they decide to scream during the set, that would be your cue to head home. When the baby is ready to go, you pack up and go. No questions asked.
My husband and I were talking on the ride home about what we would change when we take Meyer to her next music festival. We agreed that we were glad that she got to experience Arroyo Seco Weekend but thought maybe next time we would just do one day with her instead of two. As with any music festival, Sunday nights are always killer! Most likely, you have to go to work the next day, so staying out late is no fun for anyone. The first night (Saturday), we left around 10:00 pm and Meyer fell asleep on the car ride home. I had already changed her into her pajamas before Tom Petty came on, so we just rolled her into her crib when we got home. On Sunday night, we managed to sneak out of there around 7:00 pm, which still threw her off from her normal bedtime routine but at least it wasn’t past 10:00 pm for the second night in a row. Mother Nature also wasn’t very lenient with us that weekend, as it was over one hundred degrees both days, which was even too hot for us! But all those factors aside, she really seemed to enjoy the scene, dancing and clapping along to the bands and spending some sweet quality time with her cool parents.