Since the Bonnaroo line-up was announced last week and tickets went on sale this weekend, I figured I would write a post on an experience EVERYONE should make time for: a music festival! Like other more widely known music festivals such as Coachella and Lollapalooza, thousands of people embark on an adventure across the U.S. to attend Bonnaroo.
This last June I decided to cross an item off my bucket list that has been there since high school: going to a music festival. So, for Christmas, I gave Sarianna two crafty handmade tickets redeemable for any music festival of her liking. Which festival though? There are so many options! Coachella, Bonnaroo, Hangout, Sasquatch, Lollapalooza, South By Southwest, the list is endless.
The official lineups began to trickle out at the beginning of the year. Of course, being the selfless person she is, factored in my musical opinion as well. What a sweetheart. It ended up coming down to Hangout Fest and Bonnaroo. After some date, pricing, and lineup deliberations we decided on Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee. We decided “car camping” would be our best option. You know what that meant… Road trip!
We’ve driven to Nashville before so we pretty much knew what we were expecting in terms of the drive. On the other hand, I was unaware the campgrounds opened Wednesday night. Do your research, kids! The closer the festival got, the more I realized we would have to leave after I got off work on Tuesday and drive 18 straight hours to Manchester. I definitely didn’t want to get stuck camping in BFE by leaving Wednesday morning, so that was our only other option.
I don’t know about you, but I’m a planner. I assume you are too if you’re reading this post. Like me, you want to be prepared. Granted, I’ve only been to Bonnaroo once, but I feel like I learned A LOT of festival dos and don’ts over this glorious five day stretch on “The Farm.” So here are a few tips I learned that will hopefully help relieve your stress.
Two words: E-Z UP
You will spend way more time at your campsite than you think. Tennessee in June is hot. Shade is nice. We ended up sharing our E-Z UP (THESE are super handy as well) with our camping neighbors, a nice couple from Santa Cruz, California. They only had a tent and after the sun comes up in the morning, those tents can get nice and toasty. Also, bring camping chairs and a card table. THIS will suffice. I enjoy having a foot rest so I really liked THIS TYPE of chair. Really, any kind will do though.
Glass is prohibited so make sure to bring cans of beer and plastic bottles of liquor. You don’t want to have to throw away all your booze (or kombucha) at the entrance. That wouldn’t be a good start to your magical Bonnaroo experience!
Pro Tip: On the note of shelter, make sure you stake both your tent and E-Z UP securely into the ground. At one point during our stay, we got the honor of witnessing a random whirlwind tearing through the camp. This sucker took tapestries, towels, tent flys, etc. into the air. Thank Baby Jesus our neighbors were at their campsite when this anomaly happened. Their flimsy E-Z UP was violently taken to be with the Lord. (I don’t know the quality of their tent-staking ability or, dare I say it, lack of stakes) …but luckily they all quickly sprang into action before it did any real damage to their stuff.
Arrival to the Festival Is Complicated
Like I mentioned earlier, I was unaware they opened the campsites on Wednesday night at 8:00PM. I believe I found that tid-bit of information out the week before the festival. I assumed they would open Thursday morning. If I would have known this beforehand, I would have planned on taking Tuesday off of work so we could leave Tuesday morning and split the drive. Oh well. You live and you learn.
While sitting and enjoying some BBQ in Nashville for lunch on Wednesday, I was browsing a few Reddit articles and found out that the first ones in line into the festival for GA Car Camping end up getting directed all the way up to BFE instead of the assumed closer spots. So we wasted some time in Nashville and then headed on south to Manchester.
There are a few entrances to the festival so either randomly pick one or plan out which to use. We chose the Interstate-24 route and didn’t spend nearly as much time in line as others we talked to. Since the lines are long and EVERY car gets searched, fill up on gas, grab some snacks, and hop in line.
The video below gives a really good picture of how BIG Bonnaroo is. You don’t want to get stuck too far out… You’ll walk for DAYS! Haha
On the other hand, some yearly attendees like to get there on Thursday. I definitely didn’t want to run the chance of getting a camping spot super far away from Centeroo. We planned on having most of our meals at our campsite and definitely didn’t want to have to trek a mile. On that note…
There are a ton of meal options in the pods as well as Centeroo. If you plan on buying every meal while you’re there, more power to ya. I wasn’t about to spend that much money. We decided to attempt the dry-ice-in-the-cooler method. It worked really well and I would highly recommend it if you’re on a budget or just prefer bringing and cooking your own food. If you decide to, here is the how-to:
Wrap a couple of blocks of dry ice in a towel (or newspaper) and toss that stuff at the bottom of the cooler. Don’t really toss it… Dry ice can mess up some coolers so be sure you don’t let it touch the bottom or sides, or your skin for that matter.
WARNING: Science can hurt sometimes and it’ll give you a real nice burn if you touch it.
Next, cover that with a bag or so of regular ol’ ice. The dry ice will keep the real ice frozen for days. Our ice barely started melting on Saturday, and we stocked it all on Tuesday afternoon. What is that, around 80 hours it lasted? Not too bad.
Pro Tip: Make sure you freeze all your meat and such beforehand so the dry ice lasts longer. Put all that frozen stuff at the bottom. Then pack all the other yummies on top of that. The less empty space there is in the cooler, the better. You could probably even toss a bag of regular ice on top of everything just for funzies.
Every morning (or the night before) pull out all the stuff you plan on having that day and stick it in a regular cooler. It will thaw and voila, you’ll only have to buy a bag of ice on Sunday. That’s all we ended up having to buy.
Try to only open the dry ice cooler once a day. The dry ice will keep longer if you don’t keep opening and closing it a bunch. Every time you open it, the cool air escapes and is replaced with the warm outside air. This causes the ice to melt faster. Make sense?
We also took extra special measures to try and keep everything cool. We put blankets around the cooler during the car ride and kept it in the shade while at our campsite. Easy enough.
Because we packed our own food, we got to eat yummy chorizo and eggs in the morning and even juicy steaks for lunch. Which brings me to my next point…
If you want to cook your own stuff, bring a portable stove. Some of them can get pretty pricey but I found a butane stove for only $15 on Amazon. I got a butane one because it seemed like the propane ones ran about twice as much. The Bonnaroo website doesn’t mention anything about butane (it only mentions propane and charcoal) but the security guy didn’t say anything when he checked the car out. If you don’t want to risk it, go with propane.
The website says you can bring a container of propane 5 lbs or less or just stick with two of the small green canisters of propane per grill and you’re good to go. We used about one and a half of THESE. Not too bad. I can fit a full-sized skillet on the one I got. It was super handy. I used it to boil water for coffee too! French press coffee mutha-trucka! Yum.
Bring Sunscreen and TONS of Water
Bring it. Period. Don’t even question it. Just do it. A hydration pack is your best friend. THIS is the newer model of mine and I absolutely love it. Hydrate! Hydrate! Hydrate! If you think you need a drink of water, get a drink of water. If you don’t think you need a drink of water, get a drink of water.
It’s Expensive to Shower
Many people spend their entire Bonnaroo experience not taking a single shower. Seriously. You may turn into one of those people when each shower costs $10 and you have better things to spend that $10 a day on… Like booze or tapestries. A nifty way around that is a portable camping shower hose like THIS ONE. In hindsight I would’ve gotten one. I ended up just using one of those plastic 2 gallon arrowhead water jugs. It works almost as well. Some people just shower at the water stations in the pods. Awkward. I guess that’s an option too, if you’re into that.
You Will Need Earplugs
You will not regret bringing these. People who attend Bonnaroo develop the superhuman ability to party until 6am and then turn around get in the shower line before 10am… Rinse and repeat. I don’t know how they do it. Probably drugs. Only way, guaranteed. While us normal human beings require sleep, earplugs will let you accomplish said sleep. Just like the sunscreen situation, you’ll thank me later.
Bonus: Bring a Portable Battery Powered Fan
Like I mentioned previously, it gets hot. Period. Air circulation in your tent when you need a mid -day nap to prepare for those late nights ahead is KEY. The shows go LATE into the night and you don’t want a hot tent to keep you from enjoying your power nap! Get an inexpensive fan, like THIS ONE to help keep it cooler!
Most importantly, bring a good attitude.
As they like to say on The Farm, “radiate positivity” and have fun.
“People may be weary at the idea of living four days in campground conditions with portable toilets, but I would say it’s an easy trade for a weekend of music, friends, art, entertainment, and most importantly, a much-needed escape from reality everyone needs.” –Amy Marino
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Above image found on bonnaroo.com