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How to survive a major festival
Making the most of a multi-day music or arts fest
Every year, hundreds of thousands of people make annual pilgrimages to places like The Farm and Black Rock City for massive music and arts festivals. People keep going back because these events can be extraordinary, near-religious (no, really) experiences. However, they can also be total bummers if you aren’t well prepared.
Here are several tips for not simply surviving, but thriving, at a major festival.
Know what you’re getting into
If buying tickets and packing your tent is the extent of your planning, you are going to be flat-out miserable. Remember, festivals like Bonnaroo, Burning Man, or Coachella
are gargantuan events that usually play out in the crippling heat of summer with a mind-boggling array of things to see and do.
Lodging. You don’t always have a lot of options when it comes to accommodations (they just don’t have hotels in the Black Rock Desert), but many festivals are in major metropolitan areas or close enough to a gateway city where you can secure a hotel. For example, Coachella is very close to the luxury resorts of La Quinta, Indian Wells, and Palm Springs. If you plan well in advance, you might not even have to sell a kidney to afford a room.
Schedules. Music festivals can have hundreds of musical acts, not to mention comedians, performance artists, etc. In order to avoid a case of fatal FOMO (fear of missing out), you need to schedule out your priority events. But be prepared, it is inevitable that the two musical acts you are most excited about will play on two separate stages at the same time. That’s just the festival teaching you a lesson in JOMO (joy of missing out).
Know the culture of the festival
Since most big summer music festivals run several days or—in some cases—weeks, you will be spending a lot of time among your fellow festival-goers. Just like if you were traveling to a new country, it is smart to have a clear idea of the culture—food, customs, etc.—of a festival before you make the journey.
Food. Each festival has a unique food scene that can range from carny fare to high-class culinary delights. Bonnaroo, for instance, is increasingly known for its bacchanalian array of food options. Each year, the festival hosts tons of vendors from around Tennessee and beyond. Yes, you can still get just about anything you want fried (it is the South, after all) but you can also count on a surprising selection of healthy, clean, and artisanal food.
Conduct. Many festivals have clear guiding principles that shape the culture of the event. A perfect example is “the Code” at Bonnaroo. The Code is, in part, a commonly agreed-upon commitment to positivity, sustainability, and not being “that guy,” and has grown over the years until officially adapted and codified. Another excellent example is the 10 Principles of Burning Man, which are foundational to the festival.
Know your needs and limits
There is a very fine line between a lot of fun and too much fun. Since many summer festivals offer multiple days of around-the-clock activities, music, and parties, it is very easy to burn out really fast. So you aren’t stumbling around the festival like an extra from The Walking Dead with a hangover on day two, you should go in with a clear idea of what you need to stay healthy and, well, conscious.
Viewfinder Tip: As trite as it may sound, have a plan to stay hydrated. Summer festivals can be scorching hot, so be prepared!
Get some sleep. If you’re tent camping, you are at the whim of your neighbors when it comes to sleeping. Plan to catch some early morning z’s when things tend to quiet down. Also, leave lots of free time in the schedule to nap in whatever shade you can find. You’ll probably have plenty of company.
Stay healthy. Even if you plan to dance your butt off, you might want to take some time for more centering and rejuvenating exercise. Many festivals offer all sorts of great exercise and wellness activities. For instance, we attended an amazing morning-yoga session at Bonnaroo, as well as participated in the Third First Annual Roo Run 5K alongside some of the festival’s amazing musical talent.
What big summer festival do you plan to attend?
If you are taking a road trip on your way to a summer festival, you’ll need a place to rest your head. Check out HoJo, with locations all over the country, for a wallet-friendly hotel option.
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