For music lovers, one added benefit of longer, warmer days is the return of the summer festival. The next few months are packed with country music festivals featuring your favorite artists, seemingly endless sunshine, and of course, ice cold drinks. But you don't have to be a seasoned concert-goer (nor an energetic college student) to have a good time at one of these weekend-long events.
The secret is to go at your own pace—and don't feel pressured to see every act just to get your dollar's worth. To test the waters, we went to the first major festivals of the season: , Coachella's countryfied sister, held in the very same event space in the Indio, California, desert, happens to be the genre's highest-grossing festival in the world.
Here, attendees exchange hippie headbands for cowboy hats and gladiator sandals for boots and do-si-do under a neon moon to some of country's brightest stars. This year's headliners were Florida Georgia Line, Keith Urban, and Garth Brooks, with talents including Kacey Musgraves, Kelsea Ballerini, and Brothers Osborne rounding out the lineup.
What to Pack
Cowboy boots. Wear you don't mind getting dirty—not sandals, not heels (not even a wedge, ladies!), nothing pricy, and nothing that will give you blisters during those long days on your feet.
Bandana. —not for the "festival" look but for the dust in the air; that wind coming off the surrounding mountains is no joke.
Sunglasses. Even when the sun goes down, will protect your eyes from aforementioned dust.
Sunscreen. If you only bring one thing off this list to your summer music festival, . Make sure it's memories (and maybe a t-shirt) you bring home from the desert as souvenirs—not sun-damaged skin.
Folding chair or blanket. You'll see all ages at Stagecoach, including older guests kicking back in (only those with low backs are allowed) or . No matter your age, you might also want to wrap the latter around your shoulders when it cools down.
Tissues. I've used many a concert port-a-potty, and not one of them has ever been equipped with toilet paper. — some hand wipes or sanitizer for after!
Water bottle. , and under 40 ounces. Liquids (other than lip balm or sunscreen) are not permitted at security, but you can refill it at hydration stations inside. You'll be glad to avoid the overpriced agua at the food stands.
Tunes. Not for the festival, of course, but for the carpool over. There's nothing quite like listening to Kacey Musgraves croon about her Space Cowboy's Silverado through the speakers of .
A (small) bag. You'll need . Nothing too big or bulky, please! Security won't let you in with a large bag, anyway, and your fellow festival-goers will thank you when the crowd inevitably gets cozily close. Hands still too full? and stow away your stuff.
Where to Stay
The more hardcore can actually . Many music festivals—including Stagecoach—offer camping. Bonus: Campers can take full advantage of tailgating with family and friends (old and new) throughout the weekend.
We were treated to the trendy , but we could have camped right in the bed of our
What you'll need: truck bed tent ($80, )
How to Get Around
Speaking of Chevy (which, full disclosure, provided our ride for the weekend), cars really are the best way to travel, at least at Stagecoach—as long as you have a designated driver. Oh, and carpool if you can, both for the environment and for the chance to win one of .
We tried a bus and Uber, but considering the long walks and waits, you're better off parking in the provided lots (free!). You'll still have to trek on over to the entrance, but at least you'll have your ride lined up afterwards. The comfy seats of our pickup were a welcome respite post-headliner performances.
Depending on where you stay, there's also a which could get you to and from the venue.
What to Eat and Drink
Festival food has gotten so much better, with a range of options including, of course, BBQ. Guy Fieri's Stagecoach Smokehouse served up savory styles from all over the country. Just be prepared to pay more, unless you're packing your own picnic for the tailgate.
When outside the fairgrounds, check out (formerly a Denny's) at the Ace for breakfast and Pioneertown's iconic for dinner and a show. For cheap food fast, there's always the In-N-Out Burger drive-thru.
What (Else) to Do
Just because each day packs a full lineup doesn't mean you have to see every act. In fact, that would make for three very long days and nights (and probably you swearing off festivals for good). Choose shows sparingly to avoid burning yourself out. Spend that free time exploring (Honky Tonk Dance Hall, Half-Pint Hootenanny, the Ferris Wheel, and more), lounging by the pool at your hotel, or checking out nearby attractions such as the Salton Sea, Salvation Mountain, Pioneertown, or the .
A handful of brands also host during the weekend. While some are invite-only, others are open to the public or to ticket-holders.
However you decide to do Stagecoach, remember that it's all about having a good time with good people, set to good music. Who knows, as the Garth Brooks song goes, you might just meet some new friends in low places.