When you are young, free and single, the idea of bringing children to a music festival sounds like hell on earth. After all, who wants to spend their festival dragging a pram through mud, or hunting for toddlers in a mosh pit?
Well, luckily, this is no longer the only option. While you are still very welcome to try to keep track of your kids on a rainy weekend in Glastonbury, it doesn’t have to be like that.
The current crop of family-friendly festivals have managed to strike the perfect balance between ‘grown up fun’ and ‘kid-appropriate’. Think watersports, dressing up boxes, kite displays, miniature railways, and cardboard cities; alongside coffee stands, cocktail bars, big-name headliners and world class DJs.
This year, there is a huge range of kid-friendly festivals to choose from, all offering a unique blend of the creative and the quirky. Take a look at our top seven choices, and prepare yourselves for a summer staycation which actually promises to be fun for all the family.
Location: Escot Park, Devon
Date: 21-23 August
This award-winning festival just keeps getting better and better. This year, Beautiful Days boasts another eclectic line up featuring the likes of House of Pain, Happy Mondays, Gogol Bordello and Wilko Johnson, as well as all the usual fringe activities and some of the best children’s entertainment on the UK festival scene. The Children’s Area at Beautiful Days is curated by the Majical Youth Theatre and features workshops, funfair rides, music, comedy, theatre and lots of other activities for children of all ages. What’s more, because the kids’ area is situated between the Main Stage and the Big Top, you can plan your perfect family day with minimal trekking.
Don’t miss… The Circus of Horrors – it’s too scary for younger kids but teenagers will love the gory spectacle of watching a man pull a sword out of his throat.
Location: The Great Tew Park, Oxfordshire
Date: 10-12 July
Cornbury Festival describes itself as “civilised, charming and irresistible”, and it’s not wrong… This is a quintessentially English festival, complete with bunting, cider and Morris dancers, who weave through the crowd when you least expect to see them. The laid-back, homespun vibe makes it the perfect place for families of all ages, and although the Children’s Zone is expertly kitted out with balloon shows, fancy dress, circus skills and musical workshops, the chances are that they’ll be just as entranced by the bright lights of the Disco Shed, headline acts such as Lulu, Razorlight or Tom Jones, and the roaming entertainers.
Don’t miss…the food! This is one of the few festivals who actually take their catering seriously, and a sponsorship deal with Caffe Nero means you can get a mean cappuccino (or babyccino) first thing in the morning.
The Deer Shed
Location: Baldersby Park, North Yorkshire
Date: 24-26 July
This festival was dreamed up by a group of parents who were sick of the sub-par entertainment on offer for kids at other festivals. At The Deer Shed, it’s all about the kids – we’re talking eight tonnes of play sand (and a whole shedload of buckets and spades), a soft play area, a cardboard city (yes, a cardboard city), and a huge sports field bursting with activities. There’s even a milk-warming centre for the babies.
This might be a child’s dream festival, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t anything for the parents! This year’s headliners include a rare appearance by cult folk singer John Grant, as well as other contemporary folk favourites such as James Yorkston, Emmy the Great and Damian Dempsey. Billy Bragg headlines on the opening night, while The Unthanks close the festival on Sunday evening.
This year’s theme is ‘Up in the Air’, so keep your eyes on the skies and you never know what you might see!
Don’t miss… the cardboard city. Did we mention the cardboard city?
Location: Croft Farm Waterpark, Gloucestershire
Date: 7-9 August
It’s a festival at a waterpark – what more could you ask for? While the parents will be attracted to the stellar line up (this year’s headliners include Ash, Embrace, Billy Bragg and The Magic Numbers), the kids will also have plenty to be excited about. Expect storytelling, face-painting, circus acts, gladiator dueling, bungee running, arts and crafts and the ever-popular Lakefest Treasure Hunt. But the real draw at Lakefest is – you guessed it – the lake. Kids (and adults) can take part in all sorts of watersports, including banana boat rides, aqua zorbing, kayaking, sailing and 6-man katakanuing.
Bring a sense of adventure and all the swimming gear you find.
Don’t miss…zorbing on the lake. The most fun you can have on the water while staying completely dry.
Location: Lulworth Castle, Dorset
Date: 30 July – 2 August
The original family-friendly festival is still hitting it out of the park when it comes to themes and activities. This year the theme is ‘Into the Wild’, and the Camp Bestival crew are taking it very seriously indeed. At the Dingly Dell, families will learn basic survival skills together, including how to make a fire in the wilderness, how to identify trees, and how to build a home for faeries.
There is a comedy club for kids, a range of theatrical workshops, a soft play area for the tots, and a series of great wilderness-inspired films such as Madagascar and Up. The Den caters specifically to teenagers aged 13-17, and includes an exclusive Q&A with Professor Green, plus live performances and DJ sets from the likes of Rob Da Bank.
Apparently there are also a few bands playing on the main stage. But let’s face it, the most fun is to be had running around the site in a home-made owl costume, while wearing a leaf mask and looking for faeries.
Don’t miss… The Jungle Book Bedtime Story – read by celebrity guests such as Sara Cox, Michaela Strachan and Dick n Dom. The perfect way to end a busy day, no matter how old you are.
Location: Tarnside Farm, near Aspatria, Cumbria
Date: 28-30 August
Set along the coastal edge of the Lake District, Solfest is a haven of tranquility. Between storming sets by Maximo Park, The Joy Formidable, KT Tunstall and The South, festival goers can relax in the Healing Gardens, trek through the beautiful surroundings or catch a spot of teddy parachuting with the kids. The kite displays are a popular draw, so bring your own home-made creation if you want to get involved!
Don’t miss… The Solfest Community Musical – a nature-themed performance by local residents that everyone is welcome to join. Just make sure you turn up for rehearsals on the Saturday, and be there with your instruments in hand for the Sunday afternoon performance.
Chilled in a Field Festival
Location: Bentley Wildfowl and Motor Museum, East Sussex
Date: 31 July – 2 August
Chilled in a Field won the prestigious gold award by Festival Kidz last year, marking it out as one of the UK’s best family-friendly festivals. This year, it looks set to build on its success with a “fantastical” offering of fun, games, music and dancing. Why not start the day off with a spot of glitter wrestling, followed by a session on the tree-top zipwire? Then get the kids ready for bed at the ‘No Sleep Til Bed Time Family Disco’, where the dress code is simply ‘pyjamas’ and everyone has to dance and dance until they’re ready for bed.
For the parents, there is a coffee-tasting workshop, a well-stocked bar (which also offers cashback), live music all day, and a host of DJs and video artists lined up to keep the party going all night long.
Don’t miss… the Miniature Railway – a tiny purpose-built track which takes adventurers of all ages on a 20-minute tour of the beautiful grounds. Just watch out for the geese!
For a better night’s sleep take a look at our featured holiday accommodation near to the UK’s best family festivals.