I’ll be honest. I’m not hard core when it comes to concerts, festivals, parades, and many other New Orleans hallmark events. I enjoy them but I’m happy to leave a little early, skip the last parade, or watch from afar. So the thought of adding small children to a big event like Jazz Fest gave me serious pause.
My Jazz Fest history includes one high (Jazz Fest 2011 – just me and my husband on a day long date in temperate weather) and one low (Jazz Fest 2006 – my first, and a rainy, muddy memory!) But after four years of living in New Orleans, I’ve really warmed up to the spirit of this city. At 8 months pregnant, I sat out Jazz Fest 2012, but was looking forward to Jazz Fest 2013. We figured this year was as good as any to introduce our children (ages 3 and 10 months) to the fun. But would it actually BE fun, I wondered?
We decided to hedge our bets as best as possible, so we:
- Invited Jacob’s awesome sister Sara to help us corral the crew.
- Bought tickets for the first Saturday since the wisdom says the weather is generally cooler the first weekend.
- Went out to Zoo to Do for Kids the night before, keeping our 3 year old up until after 10pm.
Well, the last one was an “oops,” but what’s a family to do in a city with so much fun?
We let baby Cora get her morning nap at home and then off we went! We parked at a friend’s house and walked the final blocks.
Our Jazz Fest packings included the typical baby items + the following items which proved really useful:
- Hats for all
- Extra sunscreen
- Empty water bottles to refill at the Grandstand
- Healthy, kid-friendly snacks (granola bars and dried fruit)
- Baby headphones
- Picnic blanket
- Ergo baby carrier
- BOB single stroller (great for shade, naps, and for carrying things!)
At first, we stuck to tents and covered venues because even at 83°, it was very warm and very sunny! We had come with three objectives: hear the Panorama Jazz Band, visit the Kids Tent, and see Ben Harper. After checking out the blues and jazz tents, we went to the covered Lagniappe Stage to hear our chosen band. This was important because the lead singer/clarinetist, Ben Schenck, is Jack’s music teacher at the Waldorf School. Jack is a big “Mr. Ben” fan and so we knew he’d be excited to see him perform. We were not disappointed (by the performance or by Jack’s reaction!)
We then caught the end of the Lost Bayou Ramblers at the Fais Do Do stage. This was our first outside stage of the day, and we found a spot for our picnic blanket. Jack didn’t pay much attention to the music, but he was happy to have a snack and listen to me read. Cora was happy just to crawl around.
The heat drove us next to the Plum St. Snowball stand, giving Jack a red mustache for the rest of the day. We made a brief attempt to visit the Acura Stage, but it was too crowded for our crew, so we decided to head to the Kids Tent. By the time we got there, Jack had fallen asleep in the stroller, so we made our way over to the Gentilly Stage to set up in time for Ben Harper. This has been my favorite spot each Jazz Fest, and we were able to spread out and enjoy the music. Sara, Cora, and I made the rounds of the food vendors and came back with crawfish bread, an alligator pie, and some Angelo’s Bakery macaroons.
After an amazing 2.5 hour nap, Jack’s first words were, “where is the Kids Tent?” since that had been where we’d been heading when he’d fallen asleep. I walked him over but, sadly, at 6:30 everything was packed up! He wasn’t too broken-hearted, but I know he would have had fun at the games and crafts I’d seen there earlier.
In the end, Jazz Fest was fun for this family!
Of course heat, crowds, and loud noise don’t guarantee a perfect day, but 7 hours of time together, great music, and new experiences do give you an authentic and special New Orleans memory. We’ll definitely be back, and I’ll be sure to remember the following three lessons learned this year:
- Give yourself the best adult: child ratio possible!
- Strollers are an excellent way to bring what you need, but not have to carry it all!
- Sunscreen is your friend. (I saw several people who forgot this rule!)
I will never be a good Big Chief VIP candidate (sorry honey), but attending Jazz Fest with my family at least once each year is a tradition I think we just started!