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Lollapalooza Survival Guide

Lollapalooza in 2017. Courtesy Eater Chicago, Maclay Heriot

By Naomi Wentz     7/30/19 9:46pm

Summer is here, which means festival season. Chicago is prepping for Lollapalooza, its annual four-day festival in scenic Grant Park. This year’s lineup is packed with musical sensations like Childish Gambino, Twenty One Pilots, Ariana Grande and more. In addition to their high-profile headliners, the festival will also be welcoming a diverse range of rising artists. The one thing that will be harder than finding time to see all the amazing acts will be trying to survive outdoors with thousands of other people during one of the hottest summers on record. To ensure that you have a good time at one of the nation’s most iconic music festivals, here are some tips on how to have a positive, meaningful experience at one of the biggest events of the summer. 

Not Houston, but Still Hot

Although Chicago summers don’t reach the sweltering heights of Houston’s, it’s still a good idea to prepare for humid August weather. Before heading to the festival, make sure to wear comfortable, breathable clothing (athletic wear works best) and to slather on the sunscreen. Like Houston, Chicago experiences frequent rainfall so be sure to check weather forecasts before arriving.  

Water is obviously an important factor for mitigating the effects of summer weather. Like most festivals, Lollapalooza will let you bring a reusable water bottle or hydration pack onto festival grounds as long as it is empty. Water bottle filling stations located around the park will give you access to free water during the entire festival.

Getting There

Lollapalooza usually attracts around 400,000 attendees per year, which is a lot of people to pack into Grant Park. The festival boasts eight stages, a rollerskating rink, a Twitch gaming tent, a kids mini-festival and Chow Town, a food court serving up festival fare from 38 of Chicago’s favorite local restaurants. Large crowds are guaranteed not just around the attractions and stages, but at water stations and bathrooms. Before you go, make sure you have a map of the festival grounds. This information is included if you download the Lollapalooza app which also  has performance schedules and important updates. 

To avoid the crowds, make sure you leave for the festival early and avoid peak entry times which start at 6 p.m. 

For many Texas-based festivals, transportation to the grounds is usually limited to ride-sharing or taking your own vehicle at the risk of paying insanely expensive parking fees. Luckily, Chicago has a robust public transit system that provides festival goers with access to affordable transportation. Grant Park can be reached easily via the Washington/Wabash and Adams/Wabash train stations, both of which serve the Chicago Transit Authority’s Brown, Green, Orange, Pink and Purple lines. There are also 11 bus routes that currently service the park. These lines of transit make it easy to come and go from the festival at almost any time of day.

Finally, if you want to be at the very front of the crowd for your favorite artist (also called “riding the rail”), be prepared to get to the festival at least a few hours before your awaited musician goes on. Staking out a spot usually means not leaving for food, water or the bathroom. Obviously this isn’t for everyone.

Take the ‘Culture of Care’ with you

Music festivals definitely have a sharing-friendly atmosphere, which can make it difficult to know when you may be in danger. Although Chicago police and festival organizers try to keep Lollapalooza as safe as possible, stay proactive and vigilant in order to keep you and your friends safe. With nearly half a million people in attendance and almost nonexistent cell service, you and your friends should stick together at all times. The Main Guest Services tent acts as a meeting point for festival goers who are lost or separated from their parties. 

If you or your friends decide to drink or use other recreational substances, safety should be your No. 1 concern. Never leave anyone alone who is too inebriated to take care of themselves. If you notice someone who needs help, visit one of six medical tents located around the park. Much like our campus alcohol policies, Lollapalooza urges its visitors not to avoid the medical tent because of fear of law enforcement. On their safety webpage, the festival stresses that their paramedics are there to help and are not aiming to get you into trouble. For festival goers who are staying sober, Lollapalooza partners with Soberside to provide a tent where you can get some breathing room from belligerent people or overwhelming situations.

The likelihood of attendees experiencing some form of sexual harassment or assault is a major and often overlooked problem at large festivals. To combat this, Lollapalooza enforces a zero tolerance policy for sexual harassment. Victims of sexual violence or harrassment during the festival are encouraged to visit the medical tents. Lollapalooza partners with nonprofit organizations Between Friends and Resilience to provide tents that serve as safe spaces for festival goers to report incidents of harassment or get support and information. 

With its 30th birthday approaching in 2021, Lollapalooza has certainly moved past the growing pains that many younger festivals run into. Organizers of the Chicago festival know how big of a crowd to expect so they can certainly be trusted to know exactly how many food carts to host, how many port-a-potties to provide, how much security is needed and so on. Nonetheless, preparation is key for any venture.  

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