This past weekend my baby daughter got to experience her first ever music festival. We spent a good chunk of Saturday, as well as Sunday evening, down at Fort York/Garrison Common experiencing Field Trip. Now in its fourth year, Field Trip is about as family-friendly as a music festival gets. There’s an extensive kid-focused “day camp,” lots of kid-friendly food (including pizza) and a very laid-back atmosphere (it’s the kind of event where someone quickly apologizes if they bump into you).
Still, it is a music festival with lots of people, loud noises and unpredictability. Because of that, I was a little worried about how Baby would take it all in. Thankfully, she seemed to really enjoy Day 1. She was mostly all smiles and she even squeezed in a short, early evening nap. Headliners The National went on at 9:30pm and we were able to catch over 45 minutes of their set before we decided we should head out with our sleepy baby. Once home, she ate and then immediately settled into an almost five-hour long stretch of sleep, which is great for her.
Sunday was a bit of a different story. A mid-afternoon storm led to the festival being temporarily evacuated. Thankfully we were still at home when that call was made. We headed down shortly after 5:30pm, after the threat of lightning had passed. But while we missed the storm, we did get to experience a sun shower. And then we got to experience a very cranky baby. After hearing three songs by headliner Robyn, we were out of there.
Knowing when to leave the festival was one thing I learned this past weekend. Below are more details on that tidbit and a few other points I picked up on how to have a smooth Field Trip experience with a baby.
- Plan Your Arrival Time Carefully
Sure, maybe baby will have an afternoon nap at the festival. Or maybe he won’t and he’ll end up melting down and you’ll have to leave early. To avoid that second scenario, wait to attend the festival after any early/mid-afternoon naps. If there’s an early performer who you really want to see or your child takes a late afternoon nap, consider having your partner come down after baby’s nap is over. Alternatively, since Field Trip does allow in-and-out privileges, you could leave baby with a babysitter who brings him down.
- Bring A Stroller
Yes, really bring a stroller and no, it doesn’t have to be an umbrella one. There is lots of room at Field Trip and as long as you pay attention and use common sense (like not taking it into the crowd), wheeling a big stroller around is completely acceptable (and very useful for carrying your items). Just note that most of the festival area is grass or dirt/gravel so make sure your stroller can easily go off-road.
- And A Big Blanket
I used to never bother bringing a blanket to festivals because I used to spend most of my festival time either standing or dancing. And when I did need to sit down, I simply used the sweater that was tied around my waist (correct, I have never been featured in any fashion magazine’s festival best-dressed). This year, I spent about half of my time on the ground, holding Baby or watching her crawl. So I was very happy that I’d brought a large, water-resistant blanket to protect us from grass stains, dampness and the uh, memories of the many dogs that call Garrison Commons their playground.
- And Everything Your Baby Needs
To my knowledge, there is no baby-friendly tuck shop on site. So before you leave the house, make up you have ample diapers, wipes and baby sunscreen. Be sure to also bring a good-sized changing pad since you’ll be changing any diapers on the grass.
- Be Prepared To Bail And Be Flexible
I’ve already seen The National multiple times and while I like Robyn, I’m not a huge fan. So I was okay with not staying to the end of either of their sets. If you absolutely have to stay until the show is over, seriously consider either leaving baby at home or sending her home early with your partner or a babysitter. Because not leaving when baby decides it’s time to go will only result in an angry, overstimulated child who likely will punish you with a sleepless night. For the same reasons, also prepare to be flexible with your itinerary. Sure, you may want to see Artist XYZ but if baby needs to nurse or some quiet time, you’ll need to adjust your plans. Again, if you absolutely have to see full sets from specific acts, leave baby at home or bring a partner who’s okay with missing out.
- Exit Via The Accessible/Artist Entrance
We accessed the festival via its western entrance, which is off Strachan Avenue and involves carrying a stroller down a long set of stairs. Thankfully, you don’t need to deal with those stairs when you exit as the accessible/artist entrance doubles as a barrier-free exit point. It’s located on the south side of Garrison Commons, though the exact location may change a bit each year, depending on the festival layout. Using it does add a bit of time to your exit but we preferred that over carrying a stroller up the the stairs.
Assuming that next year’s lineup is somewhat decent, we’ll be back and ready to experience Baby’s second Field Trip.