I went to my first music festival as a carefree 20-something. It involved camping, no showers for three days, and scenes from port-a-potties I’ll never forget (it was as bad as you’d imagine). We had a blast, but I never thought I’d agree to another festival — never mind at age 40, with children.
But a couple years ago we decided to bring our family to the Austin City Limits Music Festival. The main driver at the time was to see one of our favorite bands that would not be coming to Boston anytime soon. After attending both last year and this year, we’ve considered making this a yearly trip! If you love the idea of an experience like this, let me share why it’s worth the time and effort it requires to orchestrate — and I’ll also share some of the things we’ve learned.
Why we go
Music is central to our family; it’s constantly playing in our home and in the car. To spend three days seeing live music is an invaluable experience to us. I love the look of recognition on my girls’ faces when a song comes on they recognize. I love the way they jump to their feet to dance.
Austin, Texas, was not on the family trip “to do” list. Going to this festival allowed us to see what Austin offers beyond the festival, including a beautiful bike trail we frequented, excellent food, and a welcoming community.
The festival is completely outdoors and is filled with music lovers (inclusive of many families) from all over. There are activities for the kids in addition to the music, such as painting, instruments they can play with, and various performers that keep all of us entertained.
What we’ve learned after two years
A time change paired with late nights threw all of us off. You all know what that looks and feels like. We prioritized our kids’ sleep and rest in an effort for us to enjoy the bulk of the festival (and really for everyone’s health, well-being, and sanity).
Make it like home
We rented a house that was walking distance from the festival grounds. We kept a similar schedule to what we’d do on the weekends and brought key items from home as we would for any other vacation; the girls adjusted to the “Texas house” quite well.
We can all agree that a fed child is a happy child. We did a normal grocery fun for the necessities and made sure we left for the festival full each day. The festival was great for experimenting with different food choices local to the area for dinner.
Rent — do not take
Our kids are little and require lots of big “supplies” (car seats, high chairs, cribs). For a reasonable fee, we rented it all. It saved us a tremendous amount of physical and mental stress while traveling.
It’s hard work, but it’s worth it
I can’t lie, it really is. This was a family adventure (versus vacation). I recall the exhaustion, but I can’t help but want to expose my kids to more experiences versus “stuff.”
I knew we needed to go back to the festival again when the girls were talking about it 10 months later (even the 20-month-old in her own way). A trip like this is so crazy at times but so worth feeling your family bonds strengthen with music as the backdrop.
In the words of one of our favorite musicians, Ben Harper:
“Music is the last true voice of the human spirit. It can go beyond language, beyond age, and beyond color straight to the mind and heart of all people.”
With all that is going on around us these days, I can’t help but to want to surround our family in this way.