Last year, my husband and I decided to take our then ten month old son to the Coachella music festival. We have been avid Coachella music festival-goers for about five years now, minus the year I was pregnant. Therefore, we had some experience with the festival and what to expect. Over the past few years there has been a wide controversy around families at the festival. You can read various articles bashing parents for taking their kids to the festival. To name a few famous ones: Alessandra Ambrosio and Alicia Silverstone. Ambrosio took her then 5 year old daughter and Silverstone her toddler son. While I am in no way trying to “defend” my decision through this post, today I share why I decided to take my son, what my experience was, and whether I would recommend it.
What is Coachella?
The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival is an annual festival held two weeks in April in Indio, California. Previously you were able to purchase day tickets, but for a couple of years now, you may only purchase weekend tickets, the festival runs from Friday to Sunday. The festival is attended by half a million people each year, many from all over the world. The festival originated in 1999, back then it was only one weekend but the popularity of the fest has grown so much in 2012 it expanded to two weekends in order to meet the demand. It really is an amazing experience to indulge in.
Why I took my son?
I could lie and say I absolutely had to take my son because I did not have a babysitter, but that’s not the truth. In fact, we had two sets of grandparents willing and able to stick with him for the weekend while mom and dad had some fun. And because as stated above, he was only ten months old, my husband and I’s intention behind taking him to Coachella wasn’t so much for him to “experience” the fest. To be honest, we just thought he was going to have fun hanging out with mom and dad in the fields listening to music and munching on yummy fruit and snacks.
But isn’t Coachella “not” for children?
I can answer this with two words yes and no. Yes, the actual festival doesn’t offer any activities specifically aimed for children. However, they do offer some accommodations that could easily make your time with children at the festival much more enjoyable.
Its good to note that there is no age requirement for the festival and children 5 and under are free.
For example, the medical tents are provided as an option for you to pump in privacy if you need to or breastfeed. At the medical tents you can also refrigerate and freeze either what you pump or milk for your little ones. In my case, my son was still breastfeeding but I was able to breastfeed him out in the field with a cover for the sun. Its good to note that there are also other “activities” that while not geared for children could very well keep them entertained. For example, the ever so famous Ferris wheel. The festival also offers various “tents” sponsored by different brands with different activities. Of course, my son was perfectly content clapping his hands to the music and running around the open fields with the music in the background.
What about the drugs? The crowds?
Before I went to Coachella, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Of course, I had been exposed to the ever so present media coverage of it. The drugs, the overdoses, the fights, the questionable fashion, etc. My personal experience has been completely different, however. Are there drugs? Of course. Are there fights? Yes! In all the years I have been attending (knock on wood) I have never seen anyone passed out or under extreme effects of drugs. Like anything, I think you get the experience you go for. My husband and I usually enjoy ourselves while munching on churros, dole whip, and some drinks here and there. I’m sure there are places in the venue where some questionable things are happening, but we have been good about staying away from that.
While there is alcohol at the venue, you can only drink alcohol on certain areas of the festival ground. You must get ID’ed to get the wristband and then proceed to enter the blocked off area. Of course many people manage to sneak alcohol in and drink it outside of the designated areas. However, I wouldn’t say its something troubling to have children around.
The festival includes over 40 bands each day. The headliners don’t go live until late in the afternoon and that’s usually when the crowds get bigger. My husband and I decided that we would have my son at the festival during the day/early afternoon and take him to my in-laws’ before we came back. Why? Once the sun sets, Coachella gets a little “different.”
In the late afternoon/early night certain smells start to come alive, and the crowds get very unmanageable. I definitely would not recommend younger children around those crowds specially at night. The thing is that all of those crazy people you see on the media are usually up until about 2 or 3 in the morning, enjoying themselves. This means that at noon and before the next afternoon, they are catching up on their sleep. This is the perfect time to enjoy the festival as a family, at least that’s how we did it.
Would I take him again?
Definitely! This year we decided to skip on the festival because well, I was trying to make a statement about a headliner. Long story short, I did not like a headliner that is no longer attending. Now I wish I would have bought tickets haha. Next year my son will be almost three and I think he would enjoy himself a bit more so taking him once again is definitely in the plans.
If I were to continue attending the fest as I get older I would continue to take my son. I want to expose him to events like this and show him through his father and I’s actions that you can have clean fun. I don’t want for him to attend a festival like this when he’s older and buy into the media portrayal of “fun” at these events. This is one of the ways I would want to expose him to the real world while still keeping him close by.
The Essentials & Tips:
My husband is from the Coachella Valley and I have been visiting for over ten years now. However, I am still not (nor I think I ever will be) used to the heat out there. This was my main concern with my little one at the festival, luckily the weekend was not too hot for us. I recommend packing sun screen that is safe for your little one and taking a stroller fan. For us, the fan actually proved extremely helpful for us all spring/summer long due to the super hot weather we experienced in Southern California last year.
Also, make sure you take with you some ear muffs in smaller size. You do not want to just put any ear muffs on your little ones as an improper fit means they will not work efficiently. We also stayed away from the front of the stage and decided to stay away from the speakers.
The festival is on the polo grounds, meaning there is dirt and dead grass everywhere. The seating area is limited and most of the time filled up. What many parents were doing, including ourselves, was lay out blankets/towels on the grass and have a picnic like setup to enjoy the festival.
They sell food at the festival as well as drinks and there are free water bottle filing stations. If your little one has a special diet I would recommend you bring your own snacks. There is however a wide array of food available at the venue, including organic food and fruits.
The only issue I did not have to deal with was my baby using the porta potty. The venue does offer alternative restrooms in trailers and last year those had family restrooms so they do tend to be somewhat cleaner. Whether you are taking your little one or not, I recommend bringing toilet paper or tissues and lots of sanitizer.
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Other than these “essentials” just pack up the same way you would to any outing with little one. Enjoy yourself and have fun!
Have you or would you ever take your children to Coachella or a festival like it? Why or why not? What is your biggest worry? I would love to hear from you. We all have different parenting styles and it always benefits to hear from different points of view.
XOXO – L.