I’m back from FloydFest, a multi-day music and arts festival that takes place the last weekend of July in beautiful Floyd, Virginia. I’ve attended a number of times and am always pleasantly surprised to see such a wide range of ages at this family-friendly event. Thousands of families make this an annual tradition, and it’s not uncommon to see little ones having a grand time with grandparents. Festivals are an interesting way to see a number of artists in a short amount of time. In the case of FloydFest, participants can also enjoy a number of outdoor activities in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, along with the healing arts (massage anyone?), workshops on a variety of topics and some seriously good food (I’m talking about you, Sugar Shack Veggie Thing).

It’s estimated that there are hundreds of music festivals in the United States annually, plus thousands of other festival genres that range from religious and cultural heritage to food and drink. Reading, roses, the Renaissance, and radishes all are the subject of festivals, as are storytelling, science, and sailing. Horror films, hot dogs, and hot-air balloons all take center stage for a few days, and it’s hard to think of a subject that does not have a festival devoted to it! Many take place over several days outside and offer festival goers camping options that range from primitive camping to “glamping” to full luxury accommodations. If you’re headed to a festival, here’s 8 tips to get the most of it:

Expect Changes: Travel delays and illness happen, and line ups are subject to changes- even for headliners. Be open to change, and check out artists you’ve never heard of with an open mind. A few of my favorite bands to see live are ones I just happened to stumble upon walking around festivals on my way to see other acts!

Wear Good Foot Wear: Choose function over fashion when you’re walking miles and living outdoors. Waterproof boots such as hiking or work boots are ideal when paired with some comfy, quick drying socks. If you prefer sandals, choose ones that are strapped to your ankles and feet. Rain and dirt can quickly make deep mud when thousands of people are walking through it, and flip flops and slip on shoes won’t cut it. I remember one festival when the rain quickly caused mud up to your calves in major walkways, and it was full of flip flops and broken fashion sandals!

Hydrate: Drink lots of water- even more than you think you need. Bring a refillable water bottle and refill it often. Most festivals have water filling stations to encourage you to drink up!

Be Mindful of the Sun: Many a festival goers good times have been dashed by sun poisoning or sunburn. Wear a wide brimmed hat or visor, and apply sunscreen throughout the day. Light layers are a smart choice for clothing and seek shade when you can.

Prepare for Rain: Rain does not need to ruin a good time even for an outdoor festival, and you’ll be more comfortable if you’re prepared. Bring a lightweight raincoat or poncho with a hood, and wear waterproof shoes or sandals you don’t mind getting wet. An umbrella can also help you enjoy the show- just be courteous and stand back as to not block the view of others

Meet Other People: One of the most enjoyable aspects of attending a festival can be meeting others that share your interests.  Talk to the guy in the funny hat, ask that woman wearing the t-shirt if she’s seen that group. Festival goers tend to be friendly, life-loving kind of folk, and you’d be missing out if you kept to yourself and your companions.

Camp Considerately: If you’re camping, you’ll probably find yourself in very close proximity to your neighbors. Remember the golden rule and be a good neighbor. This is not the place for 3am hooting and hollering or loud romantic encounters. Be courteous and pick up after yourself.

Try Something New: You’ve got all day (or days) so why not take the time to expand your horizons? Whether it’s learning about a cause, product or service at a festival booth, or attending a workshop a little outside your comfort zone it might turn out to be a highlight of your festival experience.  Last weekend at FloydFest I took a self-defense workshop and also learned how to play disc golf, which has been on my bucket list. Both turned out to be a real highlight of my weekend.

Festivals can be an interesting getaway, and chances are there are several within a few hours of you this year.  Have you attended a great festival? I’d love to hear your tips and festival suggestions below!