One of the tips for a happy life that I’ve adopted and never looked back from: spend money on experiences, paid for in advance, with the people you love.
With that completely in mind, I broke the bank this Christmas to buy my parents tickets to go to the Newport Folk Festival with me. None of us had ever been, but dad had read about its role in musical history and my coworker Theresa goes every year and raves about it.
After months of anticipation, we finally hit the fest this weekend – and it was everything we wanted it to be and more.
We sat in the sunshine, we rested in the shade, we ate delicious food and shopped at the craft stalls and through it all, enjoyed amazing music. My favorite part: there was a raffle to win a Martin guitar and all you had to do was play a song on a small stage at their booth. Done and done – dad and I started the day by playing a Beatles song and now we can basically retire saying we “played at Newport.” (We didn’t win a guitar but we got free string and I won a t-shirt!).
Here’s what you should know if you’re thinking of checking out the Newport Folk Festival – and you should!!
- Buy a parking pass when you buy your tickets. It was about $20 and made parking super easy. Alternatively, you can take a ferry from downtown Newport.
- Book your hotel 6+ months in advance. That stuff fills up, no joke! We ended up staying 45 mins away and considered that a success.
- Watch the podcasts and playlists as the festival gets nearer. NFF puts together a bunch of great materials, including a Spotify playlist of each artists’ greatest hits so you can figure out who you actually want to see, since the schedules overlap. Also, the app is great for planning and day-of – don’t arrive without it!
- Explore the mansions the day before – whether you hit 1 or 5, it’s a great contrast to a day of music and a cool relic of the gilded age.
- Pack a wide brimmed hat and your own water bottle – there are lots of places to refill and it’s critical to stay hydrated when you’re outside all day. Also wet wipes in case the bathrooms run out of hand sanitizer.
- In theory there are rules about chair height. In practice, people brought really nice, normal height chairs. Decide if you want to go low or break the rules, and bring a blanket either way – use it to claim your space at the Fort stage as soon as you get through the gates.
- Keep sunscreen on you constantly. There’s very little shade and it’s easy to get burnt, especially if you’re putting water on yourself to cool off!
- Arrive early. We pulled into the parking lot at 9:10 (gates open at 10) and were able to breeze through security so we were able to enter as soon as the gates officially opened.
- Check out the craft stalls and souvenir stands early – since we went on the last day of the festival, things were getting sold out!
- Also check out the actual musical venues early so you know what the options are. The best set we saw was JP Harris, who played for 25 minutes in a small space tucked into the fort! Others rave about the museum stage and the eclectic crowd that passes through there. Know the possibilities even if you end up staying at one place all day.
I would say more about the music – Ian Fitzgerald, Alabama Shakes, the chair massage I got while Glen Hansard was singing – but really, the thrill for me was having a new adventure with my awesome parents. Onward to the next one!