Music festivals are an exciting place to bond with your family, particularly if you have music-loving children and like to plan your vacations around your children’s interests. And, some of your favorite music festivals have worked to ensure that their youngest guests are cared for and having fun. Here are 5 that are particularly great for families. Note that music festivals are typically in the summer and most haven’t announced their lineups for 2018 — but you can start making travel plans now.
This venerable event, originally started by Jane’s Addiction lead singer Perry Farrell in 1995, is the grandaddy of American music fests, with a focus firmly on rock/indie acts. It’s one of the kid-friendliest around thanks to its Kidapalooza event, a fest-within-a-fest with its own stage that’s open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. Kid-rock groups play all day long, or families can check out skateboarding demos, make their own music videos, visit the rock star photo booth, even get a rockin’ new hairdo. Lollapalooza does not allow camping, so plan to book a hotel for your visit.
When and where: Buenos Aires, Argentina, March 16-18; Santiago, Chile, March 16-18; São Paulo, Brazil, March 23-25; Chicago, United States, August 2-5.
The bands: Major hitmakers are the big draw here. The 2017 Chicago fest included Muse, the Killers, Chance the Rapper, and Arcade Fire, while the international 2018 fests boast Calvin Harris, The Smashing Pumpkins, Foster the People, Skrillex, and Jack White.
Tickets: Range from $169-$180 for a one-day pass for adults; two children age 10 and under are free with each paying adult.
Marking its 16th anniversary in 2018, this four-day festival started out as a jam band/folk rock fest, and still stays true to its roots by featuring bands like Phish and Widespread Panic amongst more top-40-friendly acts like Jay Z and The Black Keys. Multiple stages host diverse musical styles — attendees shouldn’t be surprised to see and hear classic rock, hip hop, jazz, bluegrass, reggae, electronica, even gospel, a potent attractor for families with similarly eclectic tastes. Younger attendees may want to stick close to the Kidz Jam stage, with art, activities, and music for families; teens and tweens may beg to be allowed to check out Top 40 acts like Tove Lo and Dua Lipa without parents in tow. There’s also a dedicated Family Camping Area with campers who go to bed early, and get up early, too.
When and where: Manchester , Tennessee, June 7-10.
The bands: The headliners of 2017 were U2, The Weekend, The xx, and the Red Hot Chile Peppers.
Tickets: Kids age 2 and under are free; single-day passes run $210 and up; four-day tickets start at $299.50. Attendees who want to drive to and/or camp at the event also need a car camping pass or a day parking pass, $40-$60.
Taking place every Labor Day weekend in Seattle, this major music fest began as a free city-sponsored arts fest in 1971 with local acts. It has grown to a three-day behemoth, with national touring acts along with the homegrown Pacific Northwest talent that Bumbershoot has always showcased. Families may be spending most of their time in YoungerShoot, the age-10-and-under kids’ zone curated by the Seattle Children’s Museum. It’s truly a cut above most music-fest family offerings, Youngershoot offers hands-on science experiments, Seattle Symphony musicians demonstrating their art, kid-friendly acts, and a sprinkle station fountain where families can cool off and still hear the music. Camping is not permitted at Bumbershoot.
When and where: Seattle, Washington, September 1-3.
The bands: The 2018 isn’t set in stone yet, but 2017 boasted the likes of Lorde, Flume, the Roots, Flo Rida, Haim, and Spoon.
Tickets: Three-day passes start at $235; VIP passes at $425. Kids aged 7 and under are free with a paying adult.
One of the newer fests out there, this San Francisco music fest takes place in Golden Gate Park, which means that all the family fun typically available in the park (a world-class playground, paddleboat and pedal-surreys for rent, hiking, horseback-riding) are options if your children tire of the music. The park is surrounded by restaurants and city bus routes, too, so leaving to eat something besides festival food (though Outside Lands is noted for its gourmet California-cuisine food offerings), or coming and going from your hotel doesn’t always involve an expensive parking pass — note that no camping is allowed at Outside Lands, so you will have to have your overnight accommodations arranged. Your family may spend most of its time at Eco Lands, which has a farmer’s market, worm-composting demos, bikes to pull apart or screw together, and art activities for kids.
When and where: San Francisco, August 10-12.
The bands: Outside Lands tends to draw hip indie and nostalgia acts: Empire of the Sun, Belle & Sebastian, Duran Duran, Metallica, Radiohead, Gorillaz.
Tickets: Kids aged 2 and under are free. Single-day tickets start at $170; a three-day pass begins at $415.
This Milwaukee giant is billed as the “world’s largest music festival,” and if you see it, you’ll believe it — there are 11 stages, hundreds of acts, and 11 solid days of entertainment taking place from the last Wednesday in June through Fourth of July weekend. Families may want to make the Northwestern Mutual Children’s Theater and Playzone their headquarters to see performances from kid-rock acts, dancers, jugglers, puppet artists, and magicians, play on the giant playground, or just enjoy convenient (and sometimes even line-free) bathrooms. In between musical acts, families can also ride rides — the Summerfest ferris wheel is legendary — or enjoy the fest’s lakefront location in paddle boats or on splash pads. Camping is not allowed at Summefest; factor hotel costs into your budget.
When and where: Milwaukee, June 27-July 2; July 4-8.
The bands: So many bands play at this fest that fans of everything from 1980s rock to country to indie can find someone to like and listen to. Past headliners have included Pink, Dierks Bentley, The Shins, and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.
Tickets: Compared with other high-money tickets, these prices are extraordinarily gentle: free for kids 2 and under, $8 for children age 3-10; $13 for 11 and up weekdays, $20 for weekend admission. A three-day pass is just $48.