Music festivals are a wonderful time for people to come together to bask in the warm glow of sound waves and the literal glow of the summer sun. And a trying time to avoid the dreaded t-shirt sleeve and sandal tan and endure ringing in the ears for days to come. More than two decades after it began as a US tour, Lollapalooza has blossomed into one of the biggest fests in the country, thanks largely in part to corporate and city collaboration that helped cultivate it into the three-day behemoth in Grant Park that it is today. This year’s sold-out festival will exhibit just over forty music artists per day on eight different stages, an entire ‘town’ of curated food vendors, a plethora of hooked up sponsored areas and material goodies to buy and even an art gallery or two.
We want to help you make the most of the weekend so take a look at our tips below!
Going to a music festival as big as Lolla is basically like going on a three-day hike, except there are kickass bands playing music and slightly more drunk people everywhere. Grant Park is over 300 acres in size and Lolla takes up almost every inch of it, so be prepared to walk and stand a lot. Make sure you make time for sustenance and rest so you don’t fizzle out half-way through the weekend. If you’re there with friends, set up meeting times/places in advance because cell service will suck and most areas will be too loud for a proper phone call.
What to bring and What to wear
Here is what the mom/girl scout/Lolla veteran inside me recommends you pack for the fest:
- Two factory-sealed water bottles (up to 1L each) and/or a CamelBak
- Sunglasses or a sun hat
- Bandana, hair ties, headband
- Hand sanitizer
- Toilet paper or tissues
- Phone charger
- A big plastic bag or giant ziploc — to sit on or keep your valuables if it rains
- Face/baby wipes
- Poncho or small umbrella (chance of t-storms on Friday and early rain on Saturday)
- Light jacket for the nighttime chill
Ladies, for ideas on cute yet appropriate festival fashion, check out our article about what to wear to Pitchfork; the same rules apply here. If you want to err more on the side of too-practical, work out clothes are also a good fall back since they are comfortable and wash and dry easily.You’ll probably get dirty with mud and sweat so don’t wear anything you’re too attached to.
Music: Have a game plan, but be open
This is priority number one. Due to the high number of artists performing at Lolla and the size of the venue, there will inevitably be some difficult choices. In order to prepare, you can make a custom schedule on the Lollapalooza website that will sync up with the Lolla app on your phone. Or you can go old school and just circle your choices on the schedule and map. However, don’t marry yourself to your selections. I’ve been going to Lolla for a decade and I can say with confidence that the ‘unknown’ artists put on some of the best performances. Who knows; maybe you’ll find your new favorite band!
Travel time is both a curse and a blessing. The fest is big and crowded so give yourself ten minutes to get from one stage to another, and more time for bigger acts. If you want to be up front, be prepared to camp out a spot for a while and/or elbow your way through some people (actually, don’t do that because it’s douchy). Keep in mind that hanging back for a show does has the added benefit of being able to leave a stage area faster and adequate sitting room to give yourself a break.
Food & Drink
This is priority number two because you need to eat to live. True facts. You’re not supposed to bring in food (and I’m totally not officially recommending that you hide some mixed nuts or meal bars in your backpack…) so it can’t hurt to have a meal before you go. Luckily for you and your taste buds, 2013 gives us another edition of Lolla’s Chow Town, which always boasts a surprisingly great spread of mostly Chicago-based restaurants that provide a delicious twist on basic festival foods. Be prepared to be awash in pizza, hotdog, burger and barbecue choices because, America.
For pizza we recommend Chow Town newcomer Bar Toma’s bomb ass fresh pizzas that will give you a food energy boost but not weigh you down as much as Connie’s or Lou Malnati’s. For hot dogs we like both the bourgie noms from Franks ‘n’ Dawgs and the ever-illusive lobster corn dog from Grahamwich, the restaurant of chef Graham Elliot who is also Lolla’s culinary director that selected the Chow Town lineup. Big Fork will be serving their original Niman Ranch bacon sausage with Templeton Rye Barbecue Sauce and pretzel bread, a meal that would make Ron Swanson break down in happy-tears. For dessert, grab something from Glazed and Infused if you’re interested in tasting some of the best doughnuts of your life, or go to the always-good Original Rainbow Cone for a sweet flashback of begging to your parents at the Taste of Chicago circa 1995. If drinking water isn’t cutting it get a limeade from Best Squeezed Fresh Lemonade. As for alcoholic beverages, beer choices are mostly limited to major brands, and there should be a few sponsored bars around as well so keep your eyes peeled. If you’re low on cash or only want a snack, many places offer smaller or sharable foods, especially at the Lolla Farmers Market. Just like with everything else, give yourself time to stand in line, and don’t forget to actually enjoy your meal!
Got any recommendations of your own? Share them in the comments section!
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