Earlier this year, a debate raged on Twitter, and later on Facebook, as to whether or not children should be allowed at Jazz Fest. At 4 years old, my twins have attended 3 times, and, Baby Sister just experienced her first. Clearly, we are in camp “bring the kids”, (especially since tickets for kids 2-10 are only $5) and, this year was our first time going as a family of 5.
While a day at the Fest without kids sounds like fun, I think it’s important to expose them to all the cultural experiences New Orleans has to offer. I know that if I didn’t bring them, I’d spend the whole time thinking how much fun they would be having. If you’ve never tried it or are overwhelmed at the idea of lots of little people in a hot, sometimes muddy, crowded environment, here are some tips for managing the chaos of multiple kids and the Fest.
Coordinate your Fest schedule with your kids’ schedule. Gates open at 11 and the party goes until 7pm, which is a long day for little ones. If your kids are good at napping on the go and can catch a snooze in the stroller, they may be able to swing it. Mine cannot, so we plan accordingly. We usually go to see one of the headliners so we’re looking at an evening show. We’ll usually let the kids get a short nap at home and then head over. We may not get to see everyone we’d like to see or have time to aimlessly wander the Fairgrounds, but having kids that aren’t melting down from total exhaustion and seeing the artist that was our first priority is worth it.
Check out the tents – but not necessarily the kids’ tent. To get a break from the sun (or the rain), stop in one of the tents. Economy Hall has traditional Jazz, and the Gospel Tent is another great one to check out. There’s also the WWOZ Jazz Tent and the Blues Tent, all providing shelter from whatever weather Louisiana spring has sprung upon us, with great entertainment while you rest (that is, if you’re not up and dancing). Of course, there is the kids’ tent, but, you can go to a puppet show or kiddy concert anytime. Jazz Fest comes but once a year, providing an incredible opportunity for kids to experience the music local legends who otherwise play in clubs, bars and other venues not necessarily suitable for kids.
Prepare for all weather conditions. It’s been ridiculously rainy and the fairgrounds get muddy, meaning boots are a must. Except rubber boots are also really hot when it’s 90 degrees and sunny. We were prepared for all conditions, with boots, sandals, ponchos, sunglasses, sunscreen and plenty of bottled water to stay hydrated (you’re allowed 1L per person and we take full advantage of that). And, of course, a change of clothes and some towels in case of a downpour is always a good idea, too. While you’re at it, some plastic bags for wet or soiled items is good to have, too. Whatever the weather, we were ready; an uncomfortable kid is not a happy kid and everyone should be happy at Jazz Fest.
Bring your biggest beast of a stroller. Even if your kids don’t regularly ride anymore, the Fest is a very long day with a lot of walking, and it’s not uncommon to see kids beyond typical stroller age riding. NOLA streets + potential mud can easily lead to bumpy rides and stuck wheels if you try to go light and bring the umbrella stroller, so bust out the beast of a jogging stroller and you’ll glide over broken Gentilly sidewalks and not get stuck in the muddy infield. Bonus for bringing a big stroller: a basket underneath to carry all the things (because face it, life with kids is way easier if you’ve got all the things with you).
As with just about everything in life, Festing with kids is very different than it was pre-kids, but it’s also so much better with them. One of those “you know you are a parent” moments is when you spend more time watching your child’s reactions than you spend watching the show, and that’s exactly what we’ve experienced. Watching their faces in awe as they saw a live performance from an artist they hear all the time,at home, hearing them sing along, and make friends with their fellow concert goers was one of those magical Jazz Fest moments. I won’t lie; the exhaustion that follows brings a whole new level of Jazz Fest Tired (which is similar to Mardi Gras Tired, but with more sweat and mud) but it’s worth it.
Happy Jazz Fest!