Four years ago, at age 24, I started feeling like I was chaperoning Lollapalooza. With the ascension of the festival’s electronic stage, Perry’s, its resultant crowd of college kids, and a growing number of artists born in the 21st century, Chicago’s biggest music festival has also become its most teen-friendly. And I say that as a former Lolla Teen myself.
These days, most people I know steer clear of the madness in Grant Park. But if there are acts that you want to see at Lolla, there’s a way to do it without getting trampled by crop-topped Gen Z-ers. Lollapalooza is a hellscape, but a survivable one. Here’s how to do it as a full-grown adult.
Secret cocktail lounges
Two years ago, Lolla introduced a 21-and-up cocktail lounge at the eastern edge of Buckingham Fountain. The drinks aren’t cheap — $13 to $14 a pop — but the shady enclave does offer a nice reprieve from the crowd.
This year, there are also lounges to the east of the Grant Park and Bud Light Stages, but the central location’s distance from music (and preponderance of expensive drinks) makes it the least appealing to younger festival-goers.
Da Beers Garden
Get it? Do you get it? Do you get why this beer garden in Chicago is called “Da Beers”? The shady grove just northwest of Buckingham Fountain isn’t roped off to underage kids, but it’s still a solid spot to relax. Plus, if you’re not into Bud Light — or can’t stomach paying $9 for a can of it — this bar sells Goose Island, Stella Artois, cider, and more. You know, for your refined, adult palate.
If you can afford this, more power to you? A four-day VIP pass to Lolla is $2,200, or $650 for one day; for platinum, it’s $4,200 for the weekend or $2,800 a day. You’ll get free booze, massages, food from avec, Dove’s Luncheonette, and PQM, and rides around the park on golf carts. It’s an obscene amount of money, but a surefire way to have a teen-free weekend (Unless that teen is Malia Obama).
Avoid Columbus Drive
This main festival thoroughfare divides Perry’s Stage from the rest of Lolla. It also connects the festival’s north and south ends and hosts Chow Town, where the majority of food stands are. Consequently, Columbus Drive is almost constantly overrun by packs of inebriated fans. On paper, it’s the most direct route from one main stage to the other, but you’ll need a full-body massage and 60 minutes of therapy after traversing it. Use the Hutchinson Field/Buckingham Fountain route instead.
You know where the teens aren’t? Kidzapalooza, Lolla’s version of daycare. If you have time to kill between sets, unwind at this stage for the little ones (which, bonus, also hosts skateboard demos on a miniramp).
Practice rudimentary self care
You know how your mom used to tell you to wear sunscreen, drink water, and eat a big breakfast? Your mom was right. Sealed bottles of water and sunscreen (no aerosol cans) are permitted inside the festival grounds, as are empty water bottles and/or CamelBaks. In fact, CamelBak-sponsored water stations live all over the festival, and there are 20% more this year.
Another thing: I’m not going to tell you to smuggle alcohol into Lollapalooza. All I’m going to say is, I’ve been told by 60-year-olds that when you look like a 60-year-old, security doesn’t check your bag and water bottle as thoroughly as they do 20-year-olds’.
Stretch before and after
It’s a dorky tip, but Lollapalooza is gigantic. The whole event stretches a full mile long. It’s basically a workout, so treat it as such. Do some solid stretching in the morning before you go and in the evening before bed. Teenagers’ bodies can bounce back from a 15-mile walk no problem; ours, not so much. Also: Wear footwear with arch supports.
Eat ahead of time
The food at Lollapalooza can be less than enticing, and there are few even remotely healthy options to fuel you through the day. I’m not saying don’t eat at Lolla—especially if it’s hot and you’re drinking. But instead of downing multiple festival meals that’ll make your body feel worse, come full.
The smaller the group, the better The Lolla
Teenagers move in hoards of eight to 40. Adults, on the other hand, ought to stick to six or fewer people. Four, in my opinion, is the optimal group size for a big festival. The fewer the people, the fewer schedule conflicts. That said…
Come with a plan, but not too much of a plan
It’s good to know ahead of time who you want to see and in what order, but things come up: artists start late, rain delays rearrange the schedule, or you discover all your friends want to see someone different than you. Go with the flow and keep your expectations as low as possible.
Don’t go all four days
Four days of Lollapalooza is so, so much. So much walking, so much drinking, so much listening, so much sun. Even if you bought a four-day pass, consider bowing out for a day with a lineup you’re lukewarm about. The human body wasn’t made for four-day music festivals, so don’t force it.