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Yes, we are there yet – best family festivals for 2013

May 16, 2013
by Laura Canning | guides | seasonal

Let there be rock Shurely, we once thought, the whole point of going to a festival was to muddily revel in freeeeeeedom from responsibility for a few days, whether that means freedom from studying, from work or from small offspring? (Especially from small offspring.) But now, things have changed.

Not only are there now festivals galore aimed at families, but you’ll see baggy-eyed parents carrying their kids around the mainstream ones too, trying to open organic juice boxes behind the baby slings, myopically squinting at said juice box for rogue ingredients and shooting death glares to anyone in the vicinity with a naughty potty mouth.

No to this, we firmly say. There are threefold advantages of dumping the kids on the grandparents and heading off sprogless to a mainstream festival: enjoying the festival proper; non-panicking of fellow festival-goers about falling on nearby little Jemima when they’re tired and emotional, and suitable revenge on parents, now grandparents, for not buying you that pony when you were twelve. Win, win and is that another win?

Alternatively, take the entire crew to a family/children’s festival. Heaps of them, there are, with another threefold of advantages: kids are actually supposed to be there; there are activities galore to keep them entertained while you supervise from over the top of a refreshing beverage, and you’re less likely to run into sweary swivel-eyed hippies who might frighten your kids at best and inspire them careerwise at worst. Here’s our top five festivals for kids this summer:

Camp Bestival , Dorset , 1—4 August

Camp Bestival is at Lulworth Castle and is one of the best-known family festivals. There’s free entry this year for ages ten and under, to take part in all sorts of daftness around the site and in the upper and lower kids’ gardens. On offer are circus skill learning, fairground rides, theatre workshops, go karts and live performances by Horrible Histories, Mr Tumble and more.

Book into the relaxed and quiet Sandyholme Holiday Park six miles away in Dorchester which has a children’s playground and games room on site; electric pitches for tents, tourers and motorhomes start from £67.65 for 1—4 August. St Leonard’s Farm Caravan & Camping Park at Bournemouth has a two-bedroom holiday home available from £420 for seven nights.

Beautiful Days , Devon , 16—18 August

Another well-known family festival, Beautiful Days is in its eleventh year in 2013 and will have five music stages, comedy, walkabout theatre and a theatre tent – and licensed real ale areas for the grown-ups. The large children’s area in the middle of the festival is geared up with activities and entertainment for all ages, including dressing up, circus, crafts, theatre, comedy and story-telling. Tickets are selling fast, so book quickly.

There are several available campsites and holiday parks nearby: closest is the family-friendly Forest Glade Holiday Park a few miles away at Cullompton, a four-star site with free heated indoor pool and sauna, licensed shop, adventure playground, indoor soft play and games room. Grass and hardstanding pitches for tents, tourers and motorhomes start from £35 for two nights, or make a week of it and book the Otter holiday caravan from £480 for seven nights.

Image via Just So Festival Just So Festival , Cheshire , 16—18 August

Alas, a clash! Just So is on the same weekend at Beautiful Days, but as they’re at least a couple of hundred miles apart, north-west family festival-goers can head here instead. Just So is ‘a magical weekend of creative adventures’ in the parkland of Rode Hall, with activities for all ages alongside events for ages 0—2, 3—6, 7—9 and 10—12 (and grown-up stuff too so you don’t feel left out); we particularly like the look of the ‘General Larks’ section.

Combine festival-going with horse-riding with a stay at Beaver Hall Equestrian Centre about twenty minutes’ drive from Just So and less than a mile from the Peak District National Park: pony rides are available for all levels including beginner up from £15 and are led by an experienced handler. Hardstanding electric pitches for tourers and motorhomes start from £36 for 16—18 August.

Towersey Festival , Oxfordshire , 22—26 August

‘Some festivals think of children as an afterthought...we give them just as much thought as you big people,’ say the folk at Towersey, who have spent the time since last year’s successful kids’ section of the festival putting together more events and activities for 2013. There are five dedicated children’s marquees this year, with events, entertainment and workshops all laid on. Alack, this is (sort of) a clash with the Galtres Festival below, but with a bit of creative planning and fast driving you could make part of both, or send one kid and one parent to each.

For nearby camping, the family run and peaceful White Mark Farm is around seven miles from the festival, and has non-electric grass pitches available that weekend for tents, tourers and motorhomes from £13 (pick up some farm eggs and homemade jam to bring home).

Galtres Festival , N Yorkshire, 23—25 August

There be a hundred types of cider and beer at this family festival on the edge of the North York Moors National Park, but of course you’re not going to let the kids know that (they can just be puzzledly chuffed at your uncharacteristic good mood). For the young ones, there’s film-making, music workshops, pirates, competitions, cooking and a crocodile cooking show, which we think means chefs in crocodile costume rather than wrestling giant reptiles to the pot. Oh well.

Take your pick from two nearby sites with availability for the weekend: closest is York’s The Hideaway at Baxby Manor , a small family-friendly site with furnished bell tents available from £150 for two nights sleeping up to four. Also nearby is Robin Hood Caravan and Camping Park at Slingsby, which has non-electric grass tent pitches from £40 for two nights, on a family-run park with children’s play area.

See also:

The Spark Festival , Leicestershire, 29 May—9 June

Wychwood Festival , Cheltenham Racecourse, 31 May—2 June

Larmer Tree Festival , Wiltshire, 17—21 July

Bath Festival of Children’s Literature , Somerset, 27 September—6 October