Is Jazz Fest fun for the whole family?

IMG_0272I’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:

  1. Invited Jacob’s awesome sister Sara to help us corral the crew.
  2. Bought tickets for the first Saturday since the wisdom says the weather is generally cooler the first weekend.
  3. 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 sunscreenIMG_0325
  • 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.

IMG_0389The 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 jacob.coralearned this year:

  1. Give yourself the best adult: child ratio possible!
  2. Strollers are an excellent way to bring what you need, but not have to carry it all!
  3. 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!

Do you bring your family to Jazz Fest? What are some tips to keeping it a fun and memorable experience?

12 COMMENTS

  1. If our schedule allowed, Mark and I would move to Mid-City for two weeks and go to the fest daily! Since it doesn’t, we always go the first Friday and the second Thursday or Friday. We also usually make our way down for one weekend day of strictly mommy and daddy time.

    This year was Jane’s second Jazzfest. We took her last year at five months. Yes, we got some very judgmental looks, but in the end, we had an amazing day together as a family. This year, Jane was old enough to understand more of what the fest was about. We brought her instruments, and she LOVED playing her tambourine to John Mayer.

    We discovered that she isn’t ready for a whole boudon ball, but she will try a bite here and there.

    I highly recommend the fruit salad for toddlers. It is chopped into perfect little finger pieces. Jane had a blast picking up all of the apples and eating them. It’s her favorite word currently.

    Happy fest!

  2. A 2.5 hour nap? In a stroller? While fun was going on all around him? Jealous! We let Thatcher “skip” his nap during the day parades at Mardi Gras (he just won’t nap in public like that) and the next week he learned to climb out of his crib. Coincidence? Who knows. However, I LOVE that your family did this and had fun doing so. I’d love to bring our kids one day but right now the thought stresses me out, not so much because I think they wouldn’t like it in the moment but mroe because I think they’d be a total mess afterwards!

  3. This was our little girl’s third fest (27 weeks pregnant, 10 months, and 21 months). I have always gotten looks/comments but we want to raise a child who has experience the New Orleans life since we will probably not always live here. However, we do jazz fest much differently. We come early to set up a camp at our stage of choice and pretty much stay there all day. This year at 21 months, she loved it! We managed a little over an hour nap on me an life was good. I do recommend bringing snacks an plenty of water and sunscreen. Other than that, just takes a little of creative entertaining! Glad to know that I am not a terrible parent for “torturing” my baby as one stranger told me as we left Saturday!

    • Ughh, Leah. I hate that someone told you that. Last year, a woman looked me in the face and said to her friend loud enough for me (and everyone else in New Orleans) to hear, “Who brings a baby to Jazzfest?”

      The answer was, me. Someone who wanted to share this amazing experience with her family.

      good for you for showing your little one that music and culture are so important!

  4. What a fun day!! I hope to one day bring Addison to Jazz Fest so that she can experience a small part of the rich culture NOLA has to offer. Excellent tips Courtney!

  5. Thanks Courtney! Sounds like y’all had fun. I’ll need to revisit this if we decide to brave the fest next year.

  6. Do you think it would be enjoyable for a 21 week pregnant woman? I have never been and I wasn’t sure if it would be too tiring or still fun.

    Thanks!

    • I think it would still be fun! I’d suggest going on the first weekend rather than the second as it tends to be cooler. And know that there are some inside venues that can be a nice break from being outside. Bring a picnic blanket or chair and find a nice spot to relax and enjoy the food/music!

    • I went 2 years ago and I was somewhere between 20-25 weeks (I can’t remember anymore) and I had a blast! We were there to see 2 bands I’m in love with so missing wasn’t really an option for me. We did have to hit up the grandstand for an hour midday when it got really hot so I could cool off but we brought some 1 liter bottles of water and I was able to stay hydrated and had a lot of fun! We also brought a blanket so we could sit down in the shade when I felt the need to.

  7. I have brought all of my kids every year since they were babies. My middle son’s first fest was at 4 months old. My daughter’s first fest was at 6 weeks old! They LOVE Jazz Fest. They have seen Elton John, Billy Joel, EricClapton, Simon and Garfunkel, and so many local bands. Who cares what anyone else thinks? Bring your babies and have fun!!

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