A Parent’s Guide to Outside Lands With Kids

Your kids have rocked out (on mind numbing repeat) to Yo Gabba Gabba with bands like The Killers, Chromeo and The Flaming Lips. This weekend at San Francisco’s Outside Lands Festival these very acts (sans the Gabba gang) will come alive on stage. If you were lucky enough to snag tickets and want to make a family day or weekend out of it, here’s what you need to know to navigate Golden Gate Park and get the most out of your experience.


photo credit: TJ DeGroat via Flickr

Set Up Your Base Camp
You’re way past your single, no kids festival going days of darting from stage to stage. Arrive early and claim a spot with a blanket that you can use as your base camp throughout the day. Before the big crowds roll in for the evening and night shows the less crowded spots to set up are the picnic tables just past the windmill at the Lands End Stage (aka the Polo Grounds), on the far south side stage right of Lands End, or up on the hill adjacent to the Sutro Stage (aka Lindley Meadow).

Let’s Talk Music
Each day is brimming with awesome bands from bluegrass to country to pop to electronic, all of which will be a great introduction to the live music experience for your kids. The daytime shows are much less crowded so your kids can dance, sing and rock out freely. For a the full schedule and set times click here. Some of the acts who we think will be fun for kids are listed below:

Friday, August 8:
Greensky Bluegrass— 1:10-2 p.m. at the Sutro Stage
Chromeo (it’ll be like Yo Gabba Gabba but better)—5:05-6:05 p.m. at the main Lands End stage

Saturday, August 9:
Local Natives—3-4 p.m. at the main Lands End stage
Deer Tick—4-5 p.m. at the Sutro Stage

Sunday, August 10:
The Brothers Comatose—1:20-2 p.m. at the Panhandle Stage
Paolo Nutini— 1:50-2:40 p.m. at the main Lands End stage

Bonus: Want to check out the bands ahead of time? Or, are you not going but still want to get in on the music? Check out this playlist from Spotify that showcases some of this year’s best songs.


photo credit: Adam Rugel via Flickr

Music to Every Foodie’s Ears
Since this is a San Francisco festival, you can expect culinary eats, wine and brews from the Bay’s best purveyors and restaurants. With over 70 restaurant and food trucks, you could actually spend the entire festival wandering around sampling the goods. Nosh on eats from the Bacon Bacon or Chairman food trucks (at the former get the bacon fried chicken and at the latter go for the pork shoulder on the baked bao). Or, grab some Gilroy garlic mac and cheese from Homeroom, fish tacos from Tacolicious, or sloppy joes from AQ. Don’t forget dessert–for that you’ll want to beeline it to Choco Lands (yes there really is a land dedicated to chocolate) to pick up cupcakes, liquid chocolate bars or Red Tricycle’s Editor’s favorite sweet treat, an amazing s’more that’ll have you singing your own tune of happy.

Beyond the expansive food offerings, you’ll also fine Wine Lands and Beer Lands for the over 21.

Good to Know: You can bring in two factory sealed water bottles up to one liter each. Or, bring an empty Nalgene or reusable container and head to a refillable water station located at either Eco Lands or Polo Fields (you’ll need to shell out $1). There aren’t any water fountains available.

Bathrooms, Clothes & All That Jazz
Two words: porta potties. Expect to use them. Expect to wait in line. In past years, the least crowded during daytime hours were the toilets on either side of the Polo Fields–one where the VIP entrance is and the others elevated on the track behind the Heineken Dome. While there are hand washing stations we suggest bringing your own sanitizer.

And, since this is San Francisco in the summer AND in Golden Gate Park expect Karl the Fog to make a big time appearance. While you may have fleeting fantasies of dressing your kids in cute festival duds (especially if you’re coming from 90+ degree East Bay weather) don’t. Bring layers (think jackets, sweaters and even hats if you plan to stay the evening) and be happy that you did.

Another must-bring besides layers is hearing protection. Over the ear muffs seem to be the most popular but use whatever you child will wear. Your kid might be comfortable with swimming ear plugs or the foam plugs that come in lots of different colors.


photo credit: DavityDave via Flickr

Veteran Tips:
• Put a wrist band on your kiddo with your phone number in case they get lost or separated from you. Due to the crowds, expect bad cell service so consider writing ‘please text me’ on the band as well.

• Before going read this list of things you can and cannot bring into the festival. Most notably you cannot bring large framed backpacks so leave those at home (regular sized or unframed are fine).

• Since this is a music festival in the city you’ll likely encounter a fair amount of drinkers and smokers. Just be prepared to answer any questions your kids might have.

• If you’re with a big group we suggest bringing an inflatable animal like these from Amazon that you can hold up and wave around when your party needs to either spot you from a distance or follow you through a crowd. It may sound silly now, but it’s a life saver when you’ve gone to grab a slice of spicy pie with a toddler in-tow and you need to find your fam. Some festival goers resort to balloons but these just get lost and blown around in the windy Park atmosphere.

Outside Lands 411:

Where: Golden Gate Park, Polo Field with two entrances: one on the South and one on the North. Click here for a map.

When: August 8-10, 2014

Time: Gates open at 11:00 am, Music starts at 12:00 pm.

Friday: 12:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Saturday: 12:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Sunday: 12:00 pm – 9:45 pm.

Get there: The first thing you have to plan for is the crowds. There is public transportation to and from the event but it tends to get overwhelmed. Parking is so limited so we suggest dropping off your passengers before you look for a spot so your little ones don’t have to walk too far. If you are driving, expect delays, which is why we suggest either taking public transport or riding your bike. Bike parking however is free and if you start from the South side of the park, downhill. There will be valet bike parking on site.

Online: sfoutsidelands.com

Have you gone to OSL with kids? Tell us about your experience below!

— Timothy Wang & Erin Lem