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 to from three days to four in 2016 — with the schedule of after-shows also ballooning of late — 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

Bike-sharing programs were practically invented for festivals like Lollapalooza. Avoid being gouged by surge pricing on ride-share apps and parking-garage rates around Grant Park — not to mention the traffic that results when tens of thousands of people converge on one downtown spot — and pedal your way there and back instead. You'll find bike valets on-site at the intersection of Michigan and Jackson avenues, and a 24-hour pass costs about 10 bucks. Or maybe work your way to Grant Park via the scenic Lakefront Trail on your own bike. There’s bike parking just south of the main entrance on Michigan Avenue.

You'll find bike valets on-site at the intersection of Michigan and Jackson avenues.
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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

It’s all about the grub for Lollapalooza venue operations manager Kevin Noonan. “If you aren’t on the fried chicken sandwich craze yet, you’re missing out,” Noonan says. “Don’t worry, Leghorn Chicken” — a Chicago fried-bird temple and one of the vendors dotting Lolla’s Chow Town — “has you covered with their regular and spicy options. Can’t leave Lollapalooza without having an authentic hot dog? Chow Town’s vendor Chubby Wieners will take care of you — Chicago style.” Not all tasty snacks, Noonan says “For those looking for the perfect photo [to post], look no further than Sugar Bliss’ Cake Pops with an edible Lolla Logo.”

Chow Town’s vendor Chubby Wieners will take care of you — Chicago style.
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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.

Everyone at the festival will be crushing data and sapping batteries, but with a portable charger you won’t sweat a dying phone.
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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 into the festival, at Michigan and Congress, is sure to get jammed with too many bodies. Look instead to the entrance and exit at Monroe. It’s less centrally located but also less congested, and if you time your viewing schedule so that your night finishes at the Bud Light stage — which is right by the Monroe exit — you’ll be on the train before it gets swarmed.

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. Follow Columbus Drive

Meandering through the festival and finding the right paths between stages is one of the trickiest maneuvers of the weekend. For longtime Lolla-goer Chris Faron, the most direct route is the best route: “Use Columbus Drive to your advantage. The pedestrian paths provide some shade and foliage, plus some interesting event booths, but they’re not worth your time and energy unless you have time and energy to spare." Faron suggests moving a half block over and walking straight down Columbus. “It spans the length of the festival, and it's wide enough where it rarely gets crowded enough to slow you down,” he says. “Plus, it provides easy access to the Perry's and American Eagle stages.”

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.


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