A New Orleans Tradition for Every Family: Seven Tips For Surviving Jazz Fest With Your Toddler

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.

Getting There

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.

Most of all, enjoy seeing it all through the eyes of your child.

7 Responses to A New Orleans Tradition for Every Family: Seven Tips For Surviving Jazz Fest With Your Toddler

  1. Lauren April 14, 2015 at 6:31 am #

    Thanks for the great article! We are taking my toddler to Jazz Fest for the first time & I am thankful I found your blog. We are staying on the Lake across the bridge so I’m thinking of driving in and catching the cablecar, unless someone can give me a tip on a paid parking lot I can count on being safe near the fairgrounds.

  2. Megan Albritton April 14, 2015 at 8:08 am #

    There is paid parking at Holy Rosary Church and Cabrini School, both which are close to the Fairgrounds. Plus the walk is very scenic and great for people watching. Enjoy Jazzfest!

  3. Adrienne April 22, 2015 at 6:19 am #

    Love this! Y’all do such a great job with informative and interesting articles people actually want to read 🙂 I don’t even live in New Orleans any more, but I’m visiting this weekend with a 1 year old and almost 4 year old and we are attempting Jazz Fest! Your article gives me hope I’m not crazy.

  4. Tara April 24, 2015 at 9:27 am #

    When we brought our kids last year, we parked at the park & ride at Marconi Fields and a bus then picks you up from there and drops you right inside the gate, you can buy tickets for the kids at the car park. It was wonderful, no dragging chairs and bags for miles, and skipped the queues going in. Trick is to go early. We set up a base camp under the Gentilly Tree and then just wandered all day. We also cut out about half an hour before the last act finished – which was a bummer as it was Alabama Shakes and they were ON FIRE!! Have fun (and I used the bathrooms at the top of the grandstand all day! Little girls and portaloos are a so stressful!)

  5. Kerri terraniva April 27, 2015 at 2:08 pm #

    Hey! Taking my 14mo twins to the Fest this coming Thursday. What’s the best option for umbrellas to keep the sun from blasting them all day? Thanks!!!

    • Megan Albritton April 27, 2015 at 7:09 pm #

      Hmm. Not sure but I do know that they have little umbrellas you can attach to a stroller that provide a lot of shade. I saw them on Amazon and with Prime they could be here by Wednesday or Thursday. We also like hats with brims like the ones at Little Sun Hats. If you set up camp by the Gentilly stage, there is a big tree over there where lots of families hang out because its shaded. There is also a tree that provides shade by the Fais Do Do stage. Don’t forget the Gospel Tent, Economy Hall Tent, or Kids Tent. Lots of shade to be found. Hope this helps! Enjoy the fest.

  6. Katie April 1, 2017 at 4:03 pm #

    I’m 35 now and I was a Jazz Fest toddler myself back when. This year will be the first visit for my newest addition (4 months old) and the 4th and 11th time for my older kids. I don’t remember what it’s like to do Jazz Fest without kids! I bring plastic Mardi Gras cups for sancastle building on the track, bubbles, a beach blanket, umbrella for immediate shade, sunscreen, snacks galore and the stroller for naps. There’s a whole other list of things I bring if it’s threatening rain. Lol. We go every day and though it’s exhausting at times, it’s our own Happy little world of sorts. Barefoot dancing, great food, music we won’t hear anywhere else, people from all over the world and also from our own backyards. We love it!

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