Music Festivals with Kids

Parent Q&A

  • Family Friendly Music Festivals

    (7 replies)

    I saw there were other posts about this, but was wondering if anyone had updated insights from the last couple of years.

    We are thinking of attending a music festival this summer with our will-be-then-about-two-year-old. We are ideally looking for something outside of the bay area and with camping opportunities. A couple options we have found that seem to be family-friendly are High Sierra and Strawberry Music Festival. Has anyone had recent experience for either with a toddler? Or any other festivals that would be toddler-friendly? Thanks so much!

    Oregon Country Fair! It's amazing, and super family friendly!

    If you're into electronic music at all, the best family friendly festival is Lucidity Festival in the Santa Barbara mountains in April. They have a family area with tons of stuff for kids to do. You can camp right there also. There's a play structure, a few domes, tie-dying, beat boxing, smoothie making, jewelry making, etc. Our son loves it. It's the first place that we ever let him leave our immediate supervision. While people party, there aren't roving gangs of drunken frat boys like at other festivals. I never interacted with anyone who made me uncomfortable. No nudity at this one. Here's a link:

    A great family-friendly festival with live folk music in the Kate Wolf festival in Laytonville over the last weekend in June. It's a older crowd and I didn't notice anyone grossly drunk. There isn't the play area for kids like at Lucidity and you're camped in a parking lot instead of where the fun is. But it's still a really good place for kids. And there's amazing shopping. Bring cash because internet reception up there is spotty and it can be hard to pay with a card. The Black Oak Ranch is amazing. It's where Wavy Gravy's Hog Farm is. There will be nudity at the river where people are swimming but not elsewhere. I'm not concerned about nudity but some people are.

    Strawberry is also an awesome festival. It was my very first one that I ever went to. I have not been back as a parent but I think that I would feel okay about bringing a kid. When I was there I didn't notice any kind of kid area but that could have changed. The crowd there is a lot older and pretty professional about their partying. There's a lot of alcohol but I don't think that it attracts roving gangs of frat boys. The music was amazing if you like bluegrass. There was also other types of live music.

    I haven't been to High Sierra but that one looks like a drinking festival to me. Probably lots of drunk college kids. Excessive drinking makes me nervous (I love to drink but drunk men around my young son put me on high alert). I probably wouldn't choose this one but maybe a parent with experience will weigh in.

    There are a lot of festivals that I'd never take my son to. These include Burning Man, Symbiosis, anything held in Belden, any type of metal festival. It's not the nudity that's an issue for me but the excessive alcohol (and non-peaceful drug) consumption. Belden is doubly scary because the Feather River is right there and I'd be nervous the whole time about my son falling in. There's a lot of theft there, I blame it on the local meth heads. 

    As you might have noticed, I divide festivals based on how much alcohol people consume. If people are drinking all day and night, I worry too much to leave my son unsupervised for even a minute. To me that's not fun and I don't want to deal with it.

    We had a great time at Oyster Fest last year.  It was in May.  Sunny weather, lots of kids, babies and dogs.  Passion Pit played, and it was a great social event for parents and kids alike.  It is just one day in Golden Gate Park.  When I was young and hip, I didn't think it was that cool, but last year it felt like a god send! 

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Summer festivals with a 2 year old?

March 2011

Before our son was born my husband and I spent the summers going to festivals, outdoor events and camping. We were too tired last year to go anywhere but we're thinking of taking our two year old on the road this summer. We already know about High Sierra and Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. Any other suggestions on local family-friendly festivals or events within a reasonable (day+) drive? Camping, music, swimming, nature,fun stuff all welcome. Andrea

Yea, summer festivals!! I found out I was pregnant at High Sierra, and our daughter has been going since she was 2 yrs old. Another good one is the Oregon Country Faire near Eugene. You can find info at It's a 3-day fest the week after High Sierra. It's only during the day, and there are many things for kids to do, including a whole kid area and a childcare area. The only downside is that you can't camp onsite unless you are a volunteer. But, there are many campgrounds nearby. We camped at the nearest State Park last time, and it was great! Happy Festival!! dawn
Caveat: I have never been to any of these events with a 2-year-old, although I have seen some 2-year-olds at some of these events. Your 2-year-old's unique, so this list is only a starting point. Revel at your own discretion! :-)

Strawberry Music Festival at Camp Mather near Yosemite. Memorial day and labor day weekends. Weather is a bit unpredictable but the music is great and the setting is heavenly. Lots for little ones to do.

Two-Day Town in the Livermore Valley

Apple Blossom Festival (spring) and gravenstein apple fair (august) in Sebastopol

Cotati accordion festival

russian river jazz festival monterey jazz festival

I worked many autumn Renaissance faires as a street 'hawker' and feel they are frankly too hot and intense (Indian summer, in-your-face shakespearean theatrics) for toddlers - but FABULOUS for anyone age 4 to 99. I also enjoy the Vallejo Pirate Festival on Father's Day, but there are a lot of cannons going off, plus big inebriated people with swords. Hopland Solar Living festival San Francisco Carnaval (May) Berkeley Kite Festival How Berkeley Can you Be? San Francisco Sunday Streets I think Niles occasionally has events relating to Charlie Chaplin and choo-choo trains.

I'm not associated with Steven Restivo productions, but they put on a lot of good events, so check their web site.

Also check local park & rec web sites - Berkeley, Oakland, Albany, Alameda, Fremont all have cool stuff going on that they announce periodically.

* yea, verily, foresooth

High Sierra Music Festival- Good for little kids?

July 2008

My family is going to High Sierra Music Festival in Quincy this summer. It is a 4 day camping festival over July 4 weekend. We've done this twice before but this time we have a 3.5 yr old and a 9 month old. The weather is usually very hot during the day and cold at night, and dry. Facilities are limited (some showers, a few bathrooms, mostly porta potties) and the campgrounds are very crowded so we won't have a whole lot of space. Has anyone been to a camping music festival with kids and how did you like it? What tips do you have and what would you do differently? I'm worried about keeping the kids comfortable during the hot sunny days and warm enough at night. Our baby usually sleeps with us so it'd be easiest to continue that arrangement in the tent, but how do I do that with sleeping bags? Any veterans of High Sierra have any input? What child activities did you like? Thanks. anon

We have done High Sierra the last two summers with our daughter (1.5 and 2.5y at the times)and it was great! Here are my recommendations:

- A big wagon to drag them around in, with a sunshade if possible- my daughter often fell asleep in the wagon, padded with blankets. We used the plastic little tykes one, and it rolled everywhere easily
- Stay in the family camp area if you want quiet at night (we didn't last year and it was fine for us, but it definitely wasn't quiet
- Definitely get the family pass for the pool- we went every day last year when the temp was 105. Having the pass also lets you not wait in line as long when the pool is crowded. There are also good showers at the pool, so that is where we mostly got clean!
- Earplugs- there are some great soft, waxy ones that they sell in most drugstores- you basically can break to be the right size and smoosh them into the kids ears so it covers the opening- this let our daughter sleep through concerts in the evening and we knew we were protecting her hearing for the rest of the shows

The kids area could be better, but they did have some nice shade to relax in and some good toys, and arts/crafts/playdoh for a nice break. The kids parade is fun, but I think more for older kids.

Oh- and bring any fun dress up clothes for your older one if he/she is into that... Have a great time! We are sadly not going this year, but will likely be back next year. Last year after we came home, my daughter was playing ''music festival'' for weeks- she would climb in and out of her play tent and say, ''Now let's go hear some music!'' Rockin' Mama

April 2006

We have a pass to the High Sierra Music Festival happening in Quincy this June and would love to hear about anyone's experience. We are two adults, a seven and a three y.o. Was it a good experience for the kids? Too crowded? Too smokey? Too loud? Too too?! Is there good swimming on the grounds? Enough showers? Any info would be greatly appreciated! Thanks in advance. Not with the band

My husband and I attended High Sierra Music Festival twice before kids and loved it; we went last year, and will wait another year or so before going again when the kids are a little older--but I think your kids at their ages (and you parents) would have a blast. It felt very ''child-friendly''; dedicated kid-music stage all day, activities and play area for the kids; lots of families. We had no interest in camping on site (seemed a shame with such beautiful wilderness all around to camp in a parking lot), so we opted to drive in each day from a campground near Buck's Lake We had a great time camping there-it was beautiful and only about a 20-30 minute pleasant drive into the festival. Our problem was that both kids still needed naps during the day, so it was logistically not very easy to coordinate that with coming and going to the festival. Hope that helps! Lynn
My husband and I went with our daughter the last two years (3 months and 15 months). It's a great place and you can totally create your own experience. Some of the stages are loud, so we just stayed in the very back where my daughter could play and dance. But there are 4 stages so you are guarunteed to find a kind of music/volume that you like. I saw lots of kids there having a blast. There is a pool right outside the gates and we went there every day for a couple hours to get out of the heat. Showers exist, but there are lines. I showered at the pool cause it didn't take as long, or if you are up early with kids the lines aren't that bad. It's a fun way for me and my husband to hear music, see our friends and spend time with our daughter. Go for it . sirena
I'm not with the band, either, but I've been going to High Sierra for 9 years. In fact, up until this year, my husband and I have worked or volunteered for the festival because we love it so much. We even spent our honeymoon there! That said, we only started taking our daughter last year when she was 2 1/2. We decided to wait because she was a bad napper and a very ''spirited'' baby and toddler. We were afraid that the noise at night would freak her out or that she would wake everyone else at 5AM. Here's my experience of HSMF with a child:

Get a car pass or else you'll have to cart the kids and all of your stuff on a bus from the lot to the festival. Camp in the Shady Grove family area furthest from the main stage: it's shady and quieter at night. Bring a wagon (or bikes)for transporting stuff all over the festival. If you can, bring an extra adult so that you and your spouse can have some alone time for the night shows. There's a kids' area with programs (and clowns)all day long, as well as a parade. The pool is right next to the fairgrounds (near Shady Grove), but it gets crowded, so be prepared for standing in line. Kids have a great time, and festival folks LOVE kids. Some considerations, though...The late- night shows can go until 4AM sometimes, and the woodmill next door goes all night, so it's not a silent night. Also, you should be comfortable having your kids around partying people...because they're everywhere! HSMF is not as family- friendly as Strawberry, but if your kids like music, they'll have a good time. Unfortunately for me, my daughter loved everything EXCEPT the music last year! See ya there! Dawn

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass with Kids

Sept 2007

Any recommendations, advice about going to Hardly Strictly Bluegrass with kids?We've recently been venturing out with our kids to free concerts in the city (Stern Grove in particular). And feel we've learned the tips and tricks to making it a fun experience. Has anyone taken preschoolers there and would recommend it? I imagine transportation/ parking will be the big hassle. Old timey family

Hey there, We've gone to this every year - both with and without our kids. I have to say it's WAY more fun without them. That said, we've gone with friends who have a six year old & we have a six year old and a two year old. When the six year olds were babies, it was a breeze. Once they turned about 3 or 4, it became a bit of a drag - just because sitting around listening to music isn't their thing. Two years ago they made a mad dash & got away from us during a point when the crowd was all standing. What a nightmare to find them again. Last year we hired sitters and had a great time sans kids. So, I'd say, it's doable with kids but be on your toes, be ready with some fun blanket toys and distractions and be ready to wander around a lot (and hear a lot of whining...) -Getting a sitter this year, too!
We went to Hardly Strictly Bluegrass two years ago when Dolly Parton was there. Our kids were 5 and 6. We took BART from Oakland, transferred to the N Judah, got off at 19th Ave. and walked into the park. That wasn't the best route as it was a pretty long walk to the actual location. Coming back out we caught the bus up Fulton, which is the closest. However, we had to wait for several very full buses to pass by first. So either you need to frame out the day in everyone's minds as a BART/bus adventure along with walking around to all the different stages, or I think I'd recommend driving, parking somewhere in the Richmond district a few blocks away, and either walking or busing from there. Not the best eco-option, but with two little ones it may save your sanity. As far as the festival itself, the headliner stage you won't be able to get near at all, but the rest of the stages will be fine. And even though you can't get near the headliner stage, you'll obviously be able to hear just fine. Honestly, I'm not quite sure it was worth it.....but maybe if we had started out going into the park in the right place, my recommendation might be different! Laurie

Taking a child to the Strawberry Music Festival

March 2005

We are planning to go to the Strawberry Music Festival over Labor Day weekend this year. We have never been before and are taking our 7-year old son along. I understand that the festival is very spread out, with lots of different camping areas and activity areas. I would like to find out which areas are the best for camping with a child. Is there such thing as a ''quiet'' area? Also, what advice do you have for what to bring? Do most people cook or buy food there? Any advice is greatly appreciated. Yvonne

Strawberry is MADE FOR KIDS! There are plenty of camping areas that are fairly quiet. Just look for an area that has lots of families and it will be pretty quiet. We always try to stay near hidden meadow loop. During the day the lake area is filled with kids activities and the music is nearly always enchanting to the kids while it's on at the main stage. This is my six and a half year olds 5th festival upcoming and he looks forward to it all year long. I hope you're planning on going with a couple of other families as this makes it even more enjoyable, you can share child care etc... THis is by far the best kid friendly multi day music festival experience that I've attended in the country. Enjoy? love strawberry!
Strawberry is a great place for kids. There are kid activities for all ages, including lots of art and make-it-yourself activities for the 7 year old, storytime, songtime, a beach, and a lake. However there is really no such thing as a ''quiet zone'', except by agreement of a few people camping together. It is considered pretty much OK to have music jams late into the night. These are never obnoxious in the wild party sense... but the better the music the more likely it is to keep going. Food is readily available for purchase, pretty good, and not so painfully expensive. Many many people visit Strawberry every year, camp with the same group in the same traditional spot, and cook great food. Bryce
We've been taking our Daughter to Strawberry since she was an infant. When you go in, veer to the left toward the store and camp in the area behind the store. It's near a playground and not too far from the lake. This area is more quiet than the areas closer to the stage, but you can never be guaranteed a quiet camping spot. Part of the charm of Strawberry is people getting together and jamming on acoustical instruments late into the night. Think of it as live lullabies. The food for sale there is fine. To make things easy, we usually just bring lunch and snack food and buy the rest. As for what to bring: DO prepare to rain!! It doesn't always happen, but if it does, you'll be MUCH happier if you came prepared. mmann