Ten Things for Parents to Know About Coachella

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The Coachella Music Festival is around the corner. Though I’ve attended a good number of concerts with my own kids — some when they were tender tweens and a few as teens — nothing compares to the size and scope of Coachella. 

I’ve slept in a parking lot, waited in line for hours without water or a bathroom for Jonas Brothers tickets, and endured screaming teens at venues like the Gibson Amphitheater and the Honda Center. But this did not prepare me for the epic experience of the Coachella Music and Arts Festival in Indio, California.

Coachella 2011

Coachella 2011

Music and Art at Coachella 2011. Photo by B. Valle

Three days for this Coachella newbie were very long and tense. Each day started at 9 AM with my soon-to-turn-16 fashionista getting ready with a photog-attracting outfit. The right Coachella look is essential. Otherwise, your child will feel out of place and stick out in an uncool way. Can’t have that, right?

 We then headed out to arrive before the gates opened at 11 AM to avoid the lines and parking traffic. This bit of planning made a big difference in how the day would turn out.

Parking close to the entrance, getting by the check points — two searches and pat downs to go through — were best done early when the lines were short and the heat not as intense (topping at 101 degrees one smoldering day!).

Before you think I’m a cool mom and all that, let me confess to you I had no idea what I was getting into. Though I didn’t hang around all day with my teenager inside the polo grounds — she met up with two girlfriends she planned outfits and play lists with beforehand — I was ‘around’ just in case. Only a couple of negative incidents punctured a relatively peaceful festival experience for us.

One scary moment was during the Mumford and Sons concert where my daring teen got to the front of the crowd and was physically suffocated by the masses pushing her against the railing.  She had to ask security to pull her out before she bruised up more than just her arms from trying to avoid getting squished.  Though this was the #1 band she was there to see, she had to forgo her spot less than ten minutes into the set, and sit with the guards who pulled her out.

The next ordeal was late on the final day.  Scrambling to get from one stage to the other, the Canon SLR fell out of my daughter’s bag and she only realized it once installed for Kanye West’s closing set. Though I was sure the camera was history, many kept telling her to go to several lost-and-found kiosks because they “were especially good this year” and had heard people were turning in all kinds of things: iPhones, purses, cameras, etc.  She walked for what seemed like miles to the central lost-and-found where everything had already been gathered before closing time, and there it was!!!

Checking through the photos to make sure it was her camera, we saw this one.

The good Samaritan who found the camera took a picture of himself before turning it in!!! Thank you who ever you are!

Except for these incidents, and the heat and humanity not withstanding, Coachella was an experience not soon forgotten. While the music played (loudly) in the background, I kept an eye out for celebs walking around the grounds without body guards or huge entourages.

Eden Sher, better known as Sue Heck from the hit T.V. show The Middle, was casually singing and dancing next to my www.CrumpetsandT.com blogger during a concert.

Eden Sher is Sue Heck from The Middle with http://crumpetsandt.blogspot.com/ teen fashion blogger Bianca Valle at Coachella 2011. Photo by B. Valle://crumpetsandt.blogspot.com/

Eden Sher is Sue Heck from The Middle with http://crumpetsandt.blogspot.com/ teen fashion blogger Bianca Valle at Coachella 2011. Photo by B. Valle

For those of you wondering if an event of this magnitude is appropriate for your teenager, here a few things I learned that might help you decide to do this next year.  Prepare for the three-day-music marathon and follow these helpful hints. You can thank me next year!

1. Buy your tickets the day they go on sale!  Tickets sold out in 6 days, and next year they’ll sell out even faster. Reserve your  hotel the same day you purchase your tickets. Try staying in the La Quinta or Indian Wells areas which are closest to the site. Most of Palm Springs is sold out this weekend since it coincides with many schools’ Spring Break as well. (The camping situation looked like a lot of fun, but I’m not one to do well without a real bed.)

2. Fifteen is the absolute minimum age I would recommend for a child to attend a music festival of this size and scope of music genres. Though your teen’s buddies may have different bands they want to see, make sure they meet up at different times during the long days. Side note: I saw parents with babies walking around in 100 degree heat — not sure what they were thinking!

3. If possible, get a ticket for yourself for peace of mind (they’re not cheap, but well worth the expense for young, first-time Coachella-goers’ parents). It is not easy getting in and out of the venue without the high tech, chip-loaded and encoded bracelet should an emergency arise — and believe me, it will.

4. Get a copy of each day’s concert schedule and have your teen mark the time and name of the performance she’ll be attending each day so you know where to find her if needed.

5. Cell phone reception was pretty good and very reliable at the Empire Polo Grounds where Coachella takes place. Make sure your kids have a cell on them, and on all the time. We had a two hour limit to check in via call or text. If we hadn’t heard from them after two hours, we’d be on our way into the venue (it didn’t happen, but the threat helped).

6. Money. At least $40 per day for food, water, and cab fare just in case. T-shirts were about $25 and would be extra.

7. Carry your camera, cell phone, refillable water bottle, hat, extra pair of shoes, sunblock, etc in a side bag or backpack. There are water stations to refill bottles, but sometimes they are far from the concert tent, and lines can be long. A bottle of water was about $3.

8. Take breaks from the heat and mayhem in the air-cooled tents. H & M had the Conscious Experience tent which offered a chance to touch up make up, complimentary deodorant (<– more peeps should have taken advantage of it), and hair supplies.

Inside H & M Conscious Experience tent at Coachella 2011. Photo by B. Valle.

9. Food is plentiful and a good variety. From organic to vegetarian the offerings were better than average junk food. Average price was $7.00.

10. Get there early! Gates open at 11am on the dot. You can get free parking and get through the lines for the slow and thorough pat downs before the first concerts start around 11:30am.

All the shenanigans you’d expect from a concert setting like this were there; plenty of illegal substances and paraphernalia were openly used; there’s uninhibited drunks and loud party goers in great numbers, too. Police were there in force, and you could see and feel their presence all over the grounds. I heard it was one of the events with the lowest amount of arrests (6) for the 3-day festival.

Overall, this music adventure was very positive; except for those two bad situations, people were very nice. It was the communal feeling of sharing something other-worldly that made the variety of music lovers be civil and considerate, well, almost everyone.

Crazy as it sounds, I’m actually glad for this eye-opening experience I shared with my two-days-shy-of-16-year-old and the other 100,000 people there — I might even consider doing it again just to experience the exhilaration and amazing vibes the Coachella Music Festival is known for.  


  1. Anonymous says:

    Great tips Suzette! My daughter (she'll turn 18 this summer) wanted to go and unfortunately, (cough, cough) we didn't get tickets in time.When I was in high school (and I was young) I saw so many concerts without having a parent nearby. Like you, we prefer to go with our kids. Even if that means waiting the concert out in the parking lot (husband has done that several times).

  2. Anonymous says:

    Jennifer, It was A LOT of fun, and stress! The heat is something else, too. For me, knowing Robert Downey Jr. and Leonardo DeCaprio were walking on the same grass as me justified what I endured. Glad there's always next year!

  3. Anonymous says:

    I am a long way from Coachella although by the time my daughter wants to go in 8 years, I will be into the bands but not all the other stuff. Shouldnt they have a parents tents with flat screens and computers.
    That said, would love to see Kings of Leon.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Hi NYCsinglemom, Love your idea about the parent tent!!! Though the VIP tents required a more expensive ticket, I think that would be the only other place we could hang out.

  5. Gian Molero says:

    can my minor daughter enter with my 19-year-old son?

    • Suzette Valle says:

      Hi Gian, since your son is considered an adult, then yes, she can enter with him. However, depending on your daughter’s age, be aware that their are drugs, alcohol and behavior that may not be appropriate for your daughter.


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