Destinations Rock Harder and Smarter: 10 Insider Tips to Lollapalooza

by Kevin Warwick | August 03, 2018

Photo courtesy of Lollapalooza 2017

Lollapalooza is enormous — no surprises there.

Stretching through Chicago’s Grant Park for one mile from end to end, the yearly festival includes seven daily stages of music as well as a “Kidzapalooza” to aid in distracting anyone under the age of 10 from melting down smack dab in the middle of a headlining set.

Kids actually aren’t the only festival-goers prone to meltdowns. Since Lollapalooza expanded from three days to four in 2016 — with the schedule of after-shows also ballooning — navigating the fanfare of the festival (while keeping fresh in the process) has become something of an art form.

Below, find some tips for thriving during Lollapalooza weekend:

1. Forget the flip-flops

This simple but crucial advice is care of Chris Faron, a festival attendee who hasn’t missed a day of Lollapalooza since 2005. “Every year I see lots of flip-flops and sandals,” Faron notes. “It only gets worse for your feet if it rains and there are mud pits everywhere. I started including insoles in my sneakers to make things easier on the rest of my body. This year I invested in waterproof hiking boots designed for walking eight to 10 hours a day.”

2. Consider biking there

Lollapalooza offers ample bike parking just south of the main entrance at Ida B. Wells Drive and Michigan Avenue. Remember to roll with your lock to keep your bike secure while you’re at the show. Forget your lock? Check in with ChainLinks, which will be hosting a complimentary bike valet next to bike parking. It will be providing repairs, maintenance and bike safety tips.

Lollapalooza offers ample bike parking just south of the main entrance at Ida B. Wells Drive and Michigan Avenue.
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3. Find the best photo spot

Photographer Alison Green, who has shot Lollapalooza for six years running, believes that the best perspective often isn’t the one that’s dead center, swallowed by the crowd. “You can get so much closer and have such a better view if you hang wide,” Green says. “Especially with shooting. I always go wide. If the artists are worth their weight, they’ll work both sides of the stage and come to you.”

4. Chow down in Chow Town

You can’t leave Lollapalooza without digging in to the food. Kevin Noonan, C3 Presents vendor operations manager, gives insider tips on what to try out:

“If you’re looking for that OMG moment, look no further than XO Marshmallow’s Ooey Marshmallow Goodness. Need a blast from the past instead? Visit Cheesie’s Pub & Grub whipping up unique spins on your childhood classics like specialty grilled cheeses and deep fried PB&Js. Want to do as Chicagoans do? You can’t go wrong with a classic Chicago-style hot dog from Chubby Wieners, or by visiting the new Pizzeria In the Park presented by Connie’s Pizza located next to the Bud Light Stage.”

5. Set a meeting spot

You’re guaranteed to get separated from friends during a mega festival and eventually you’ll want to link back up with everyone. For a Lolla pro like Kris Langager — who’s been attending the fest since 2006 — that doesn’t need to be complicated. “Pick a spot to meet at each stage. If throughout the day the group separates,” Langager says, “you can meet up with friends at the same show by going to the same spot. It needs to be specific but not exact.”

6. Charge your phone on the go

Though there is a mobile-charging area by the lockers just through the main entrance and west of Columbus Drive, a more prudent move is to pocket your own portable charger. The charging station can and will get overrun, not to mention that it’s located out of the action. Everyone at the festival will be crushing data and sapping batteries, but with a portable charger you won’t sweat a dying phone as the day ramps up to the headlining sets.

7. Embrace the fanny pack

You want to pack light? Makes perfect sense. Still, for the few essentials you do need to transport through and around throngs of glitter-soaked wild children, Chicago-based music writer and Lollapalooza veteran Josh Terry is all about practicality. “A fanny pack might not be the most stylish option,” Terry admits, “but wear one packed with sealed water bottles, hand sanitizer (you never know what you’ll run into in a portable restroom), sunscreen, a festival map and ear plugs — especially if you’re not worried about teens making fun of you.”

8. Enter through the side entrance

The main entrance to Grant Park will be at Michigan Avenue and Ida B. Wells Drive, in addition to the North Entrance at Columbus Drive and Monroe Street. Refer to this map for guidance.

9. Hit the express lane with Lolla Cashless

Simply, it means less time in line and more time for music. Marketing Director Patrick Dentler of C3 Presents, the production company behind Lollapalooza, explains, “Our Lolla Cashless technology allows fans a speedier alternative to cash or cards so they can purchase food, drinks or merch with the tap of their wristband and get back to the music.”

Lolla Cashless technology allows fans a speedier alternative to cash or cards.
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10. Cool down

Fans are encouraged to bring an empty, refillable water bottle to help reduce plastic. Last year fans poured enough water to fill over 1,119,276 water bottles, bringing the number to over 4.9 million since 2010. Take a break from the sun in cooling buses located by the medical tents on Balbo or Jackson Drives, or enjoy the breeze from cooling stations scattered around the park.

Kevin Warwick

is a Chicago-based editor and writer who has spent over a decade covering arts and culture for publications like the Chicago Reader, Bandcamp, A.V. Club, Reverb, Chicago magazine and Pitchfork.