Friday, February 14, 2020

Boston Calling, Creating a Family Experience

*I attended Boston Calling last year via a media pass. This post is about my experience and what families can expect going into this year and coming years. All opinions are mine.

When I first became a mother, I was did what a lot of us do, and I cut back on some of the outings that I most loved to do before becoming a parent. This included seeing concerts and heading to outdoor festivals. Living outside of Boston, we have a pretty great music scene and knowing that Boston Calling supports a lot of local artists, I had always wanted to go...but, KIDS. But wait, people are bringing their kids to Boston Calling? Yes. Boston Calling is actually pretty kid friendly, with a bit of preparation from savvy parents.

 Guster has a special place in my (and Boston's) heart dating back to my teenage self so I most definitely wanted to go and as a fan, my 5 year old son had started listening too. He had very loosely inquired as to when he would get to see Guster and since I'm no fool, I was like kid, you get very cranky after 7pm so I don't know when we'll get to see Guster together.  So when I heard that they were playing the 2019 festival, and at 4pm no less, I knew that I wanted to go and try to take Wes as well. But was/is Boston Calling really family friendly?

So first, I'll start by saying that in order to go to Boston Calling, or any event as a parent with children who wants to enjoy themselves, you're going to want to go prepared. I mean, I prepare myself to a trip to the grocery store so since I knew that we were going to be gone, literally all day, that I'd need to beef up the bag I was packing. Keep in mind that they do not allow backpacks, I think I got away with mine because it's more like a purse. Next time I would probably bring a bag and consider a locker inside the festival. But all that said, Boston Calling has done a good job of making the atmosphere very family friendly, especially during the day. Let's start by saying that kids 10 and under don't need a wristband. I saw kids of all ages, from people baby wearing to older kids and then of course, little guys like mine. Boston Calling is welcoming of kids but you know your children best so keep their thresholds in mind for any of the things I'll mention in the rest of the blog.

What can you expect

You can expect to take either public transportation or catch a ride share to the Harvard Athletic complex.  I usually drive and park almost anywhere I go but there is literally nowhere to park close to the grounds. We took the redline from Alewife into Harvard Square then caught a Lyft back and forth to the train. It was easy peasy. If we could do it, anyone can. There's bike parking on site if that's your style or if you're kids are older, you can walk from public transportation to the grounds. More info on this piece can be found in the BC FAQs.

You can expect to be in the weather. Whether it's raining, very cold for May or extremely hot for May (which was our experience), you're going to be outside the majority of the day. There are a few places of "shelter" but you shouldn't plan to be able to take refuge there for good portions of time as they are being used for different acts and performers. With kids of any age, they will no doubt get whiny so just be prepared to listen to it a bit (or alot depending on your kids lol) and give them time to chill in between the things you want to see.

You can expect there to be crowds. Obviously, right? With kids, you may not want to rush the stage for obvious reasons but the beauty of the layout is that there is plenty of space to sit back, a good distance from any given stage and enjoy the music. I took Wes fairly close to the stage for Guster but it was a decision I made based on the crowd, the timing (it was daylight), I had my cousin there to keep an eye out and I had made friends with the group around us who sort of took it upon themselves to create space for him. Had it been the evening, I would have hung back so that I could keep any eye out. As much as Boston Calling welcomes people of all ages, these are still outdoor concerts so you'll want to make the best decision for your crew. I have been to other festivals, like Lollapalooza, and Boston Calling does not have a drunken, druggie or messy vibe to it. Though there were crowds, I did not feel unsafe, even as it got later into the evening.

You can expect a good amount of walking. The stages are not miles away from eachother but you do have to walk to and fro depending on what acts you want to see. This is a music festival afterall... but with kids, their legs are smaller, their attention spans are somewhat shorter and you're going to want to give them time to sit, even if it's in the shade on the ground, before asking them to move on.

You can expect there to be plenty of food and beverage vendors. We had our choice of so many different types of food and drinks. My little guy chose ice cream and Sprite but I was able to choose from a variety of different meals, all of which accepted cash and credit cards when purchasing. I, as a prepared mother, had snacks like fig bars and applesauce pouces in my bag but when faced with all the awesome options, Wes wanted nothing to do with my ho hum purse food.

If you're a nursing/pumping parent, keep in mind that I checked in with the team and there is no designated area for this purpose at this time. I'd say that there may be the opportunity to use the Arena area between shows or even during as it's dark in there during shows and there are actual bathrooms in there, not portable toilets. At best, you'll be figuring this out on the fly but I'd wager that if you're adventurous with your baby, you're up for it!

What should you bring

A lot will depend on your kids' needs and wants but there are some general things that I would suggest you bring. Wear comfortable shoes, bring hats for the whole family, sunglasses if need be and pack factory sealed snacks and water. If you require special sunscreen for sensitive skin, you'll want to pack that but I was happy to see that Boston Calling provided dispensers, much like you'd find in bathrooms, that actually had sunscreen there on site. Even the most prepared parents might pack an almost empty tube of SPF so I loved watching all the people taking advantage of the free sunscreen there.

You can bring a factory sealed water bottle or an empty one to fill at the hydration stations that Boston Calling has spread across the grounds. You'll want to stay hydrated and keep your crew hydrated no matter the weather. That's just good festival etiquette. I brought my Nalgene and just attached to my backpack strap for the day and it worked like a charm.

I bought Wes a pair of concert headphones and I'm glad I did. It was very loud for him but with the headphones, he was living the dream and I could enjoy the music without having him whining at me. We even used these same ones for Kidz Bop later in the Summer. I think these are a good bet for any parent bringing their kids to a show. I tried using the little foam ones with Wes and they just did not fly. Better safe than sorry, especially when you're spending good money on tickets.

Lockers are available if you need to bring more than you can actually carry throughout the day. Lockers will be available as a safe & secure place to store your belongings while at the festival. For your convenience, they have lockers available both inside and outside of the festival. You can reserve your locker INSIDE the festival in advance here. Lockers are $15 per day or $40 for the three day weekend.

I didn't regret bringing Wes to Boston Calling. If you're the type of parent that wants to take the time and opportunity for adventure with your music loving kid, then this is as good a festival as I've been to that creates a welcoming atmosphere for the crew. With some normal family preparation, you can head to some of your favorite acts one day with kids, then head back in evenings for headliners wit friends. With the wristbands, your flexibilty is right there, so it's what you make of it. We're headed back this year to see some awesome acts, so would love to hear about your plans to take in some Memorial Day weekend music!

Have any questions about Boston Calling? Check out their FAQ page for more info on the day. You can search for tickets here. You can follow them on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook

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