Your kids sit at rapt attention watching child musicians perform onstage, then head over to the crafts tent to make superhero capes while you sneak off to hear an A-lister rock out on the big stage.
That’s the scene at Musikfest, an annual summertime blowout in Pennsylvania that focuses not just on music but also on other creative activities—and just happens to be a perfect getaway for adults and kids alike. It’s part of a growing trend toward inclusiveness and education that festivals are using to grow their audiences and get a new generation hooked on arts of all types.
Fortunately, family-friendly festivals aren’t relegated only to the summertime season—you can find them happening from spring to fall, all over the country. Here are some of our faves.
Where: Joshua Tree, Calif.
When: Mid-May and early October
What it is: Twice a year out in the Mojave Desert, an eclectic mix of global groove and dance music meets the personal expression of visual arts and movement. The artists aren’t household names, and that’s exactly the point—the festival’s up-and-comer lineup emphasizes the growth potential in everyone, while a “Kidsville” area focuses not just on music, but also on activities like painting and yoga for children.
Where: Bethlehem, Pa.
When: Early August
What it is: A-list music stars and local performers fill the packed schedule, along with comedy shows and dance performances, some of them free. What kind of music do you like? Pop, rap, country, polka, classical? You’ll find it (and more) here. Kids won’t only be in the audience—they’ll be on stage, inspiring other kids with their music and dancing. Plus, the festival offers opportunities for children of all ages to participate in crafty art projects, interactive activities and rides.
Where: Happy Valley, Ore.
When: Early August
What it is: Indie, rock, country bluegrass, R&B and more combine to form this event founded in 1999. Add a layer of eco-consciousness, including a menu of locally sourced food (after all, you’re just 16 miles from downtown Portland), and you have a festival that keeps getting bigger and better. For teens and under, the festival entertains with circus training, wilderness survival activities, a family-focused stage, and crafts. Too much excitement? Wind down with massages, yoga and acupuncture.
Where: Hunter, N.Y.
When: Early to mid-June
What it is: Calling all country music fans: Some of the genre’s biggest names make their way to the Catskills each year to perform at this relative newcomer to the festival scene. Want a break from the music? Take the kids up on the ski resort’s chairlift and be rewarded with great views out over the mountains. Then take advantage of the ropes course and zip line.
Where: Del Mar, Calif.
What it is: Just don’t call this annual Southern California gathering a “festival.” KAABOO wants to shift the paradigm of what an arts and entertainment experience can be, including the addition of some comfortably modern touches. (Portable toilets? So old school.) You’ll find an A-list music lineup complemented by world-class comedy, cuisine, craft drinks and contemporary art. And the entire family can enjoy the pool, beach, and massages.
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Here’s how to have the best-ever music fest road trip.
Photograph by Ted Colegrove