For the past 4 years, my daughter and I have a tradition. We spend one whole day together at Jazz Fest. We both love the music, people and food. My husband isn’t a huge fest guy, but if the band is right, I can talk him into going. Because I’ve been taking my girl to Jazz Fest, I’ve learned some ins and outs of surviving Jazz Fest with kids and having it be enjoyable.
Driving is one option, although parking can be tricky. Your best bet with driving would be to park at one of the lots that are offering paid parking and then walking the rest of the way. These are usually schools and churches. Expect to pay around $30 to park all day. If you want a free street spot, be sure you park legally. Tow trucks are out in full force. You don’t want to ruin a great day with your car being towed! The streetcar also runs near the fest (Canal line and the Carrollton line). And the RTA buses also have special Fest routes. Check the RTA website for all the details.
Ticketing and Keeping Track of Your Child
One of the best parts about Jazz Fest is that children aged 2-10 only pay $5. Children under 2 are free! The downside is you cannot purchase these tickets in advance. They can be purchased at the gate the day you are going. When you buy your child’s ticket, they give you a little security bracelet with a number on it and a tab with that number for you to keep. You can register information and hand it in at a booth by the Kids Tent in case your child gets lost. While we do this, we also take another precaution. I write my contact information on my child’s arm with a Sharpie. They also make cool tattoos that do the same thing. Be sure to also talk to your child about what to do in case they get lost. Jazz Fest is crowded. You don’t want to take any chances. If your child is a runner, think about using a stroller that day. A stroller with large wheels like a B.O.B. will be easiest to maneuver in dirt and grass.
Lower Your Expectations
This is the best advice I can offer. Have a basic plan, but don’t expect to see every band circled on your cubes. Navigating the crowd with a small child is difficult enough, and truthfully, sometimes the kids just want to hang out and take in the sights. Don’t try to rush from one stage to the next. You will get stressed and so will your child. Pick a stage and hang out there for a bit. We personally love the Fais Do Do stage for the mornings. When we need a break from the heat, my kids love to get their praise on in the Gospel Tent. The Grandstands are air conditioned and offer a lot of entertainment as well. You can see cooking demonstrations and art exhibits. If you are there with a partner, rotate watching the child. This ensures that you get to see a band you want without having to bring the kid to something they might not be into.
Go To The Kids Tent
I’m not saying spend all day here, but it’s in a nice open area of the festival grounds with plenty of room to run around. They also have crafts and activities set up for the children in this area along with some child-friendly foods. There are also bathrooms near the kids tent that tend to not be as “used” as the others. Which brings me to my next point.
Prepare for the Potty
Let’s face it. Jazz Fest port-o-potties tend to be disgusting. To combat the nastiness, we actually bring our own potty seat. We use the Potette, which sits on top of the seat and is small enough to fit in a backpack. We also try to take potty breaks when we are near the Grandstands so we can use the indoor bathroom. Kleenhanz are a must for after using the potty. Our hands are clean without having to wait in line to use the sink (which is usually out of soap). They also double as a way to wipe down the Potette after using it.
Pack Like You Are Camping
Because you basically are camping for the day. My kids are finicky eaters and don’t look forward to crawfish bread the way I do. So I pack food and snacks for them. And lots of other things too. Some basics to stick in a backpack or bag: a waterproof blanket to sit on, a reusable water bottle (there are filling stations), lots and lots of sunscreen, a misting fan (available at the dollar store), hats, some small toys to play with (we love Tegu blocks and bubbles), and hand sanitizer. Optional items like noise cancelling headphones may make the loud music easier for your little to enjoy. You are allowed to bring in snacks for the kids. If you don’t want to wait in line or deal with the hassle of finding the water filling station, you can bring in factory sealed water bottles. Also allowed are the 12-pack sized soft-sided coolers.
Keep It Cool and Comfy
Jazz Fest isn’t the time to break out your child’s fancy shoes or best outfit. It’s hot. Let them be kids. Dress them in some light cotton clothes and comfortable shoes. Hats are a must. A mango freeze or rosemint tea are great ways to cool off when it gets hot. Don’t be afraid to let them get dirty. As long as they are having fun, let them be little.
Jazz Fest is not all about the music. It is an event that builds a sense of community. I’ve made countless “fest friends” just by talking to the families and people surrounding me. Last year a woman gave my daughter a beautiful handmade bracelet because seeing her brought back memories of taking her child to Jazz Fest. So while you may be tempted to fit in all the music you can, take a break and just wander. Check out the Folklife Village and learn about the traditions of generations past. Look at the Crafts in the Marketplace.