A guide to taking children to festivals

If you find festivals stressful, there are notable exceptions, which are worth travelling to see.

Confession time: I don't like festivals.

There's something about the heaving crowds, interminable queues and false bonhomie that sticks in my craw.

Like the character George Costanza from Seinfeld, I yearn for a "festivus for the rest of us".

To me, this is an alternate festival circuit in which:

  • You don't have to line up for 20 minutes for a soggy kebab.
  • You don't have to wear a plastic glass of wine around your neck.
  • Someone else looks after your children while you sit back and relax.

This last point is extremely important.

After boarding various modes of public transport, or battling through the traffic to find a park, you end up spending the rest of your time making sure you don't lose each other in the crowd.

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Frankly, it's stressful. However, there are notable exceptions, which are worth travelling to see:

Woodford Folk Festival

Gotta love the hippies. They have 50 acts and more than 100 workshops for children. Some of my friends' kids have grown up at this festival (and I don't mean in an Age of Aquarius funny-smelling-cigarette kind of way). You can camp on site and self-cater. 

Sunshine Coast Hinterland, December 27–January 1; see woodfordfolkfestival.com.

Sydney Festival

"Concerts in the Domain, circus performances in Hyde Park and the chance to climb through the giant art installation Higher Ground," the blurb reads. Summer in Sydney is simply stunning. And the best thing is most of the shows are free.  January 8-26; see sydneyfestival.org.au/2015.

Melbourne Christmas Festival

Santa's in City Square (for the kids, not you), and the Town Hall is illuminated in the colours of Christmas and the Myer windows are telling the story.  November 28-December 25; see thatsmelbourne.com.au/Whatson/FortheKids/Festivals

St Kilda Festival. Also in Melbourne, early next year is this fun and funky festival  with children's performers each Sunday on the Kidzone stage. January 31- February 8; see stkildafestival.com.au.

Australia Day in the Park

Is there anywhere better to celebrate our national day than the nation's capital? I think not. The iconic Children's Concert, rides, and games are all free, followed by a "fireworks spectacular" over Lake Burley Griffin. (Are there any fireworks that aren't spectacular…? I think that might be tautology…!) Anyway, it's all here. January 26; see visitcanberra.com.au

Fremantle Festival

Go West for Australia's longest-running festival. The good news is, it's also well run and family-friendly. The Children's Fiesta features storytelling, plaster painting and water slides. On now until November 9; see fremantlestory.com.au.

You know, maybe festivals aren't that bad after all.

They expose kids to music, art and food they might not have encountered before.

And they can be fun, as long as you follow these three rules:

  • Keep an eye on your kids at all times (or, with older kids, make sure they have a mobile phone).
  • Balance the time between performances aimed at adults and kids, or you risk Miss Seven screaming, "No more jazz!" 
  • Catch public transport, to avoid the horror of traffic and parking. It's also cheaper and less stressful.

That way, it can be a festivus for ALL of us.

tracey.spicer@fairfaxmedia.com.au; Twitter: @spicertracey

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