We went to Coachella Music Festival 7 years in a row.
My first Coachella Music Festival was in 2012, years after the festival made a name of itself and right around the time Instagram became popular. Growing up in Southern California, I always knew Coachella was a big deal, but it wasn't until years into my adulthood that I could afford the tickets for this 3-day festival held in April of each year and honestly not really knowing what to expect from it or how to prepare for it. I was clearly in for a surprise.
2012 was the year they had the 2-Pac hologram performance, so I would say I was one of the lucky ones to have experienced it. 2012 was also the year Coachella decided to expand to two weekends to accommodate the popularity of the event (and also their pockets of course). The expansion was a success creating an easier way to access tickets to this sold-out event as well as creating a bit of rivalry between the two weekends: The Weekend Oners: The younger crowd, ones who want to be seen and doing it for the 'gram and The Weekend Twoers: The more mature ones who are more chill, who are there for the music and don't care for the green grass. Having experienced both weekends, I can make this judgment.
Throughout the years, Coachella has changed their ticketing format to try and improve the purchasing process, while at times it has improved, other times it was just a nightmare trying to buy tickets. I was always fortunate to be able to buy my tickets during the "pre-sale" and using the layaway plan to help with the increasingly high costs of attending the festival. In my honest opinion for festival and music lovers, I always suggest people buy their tickets during the presale, which is usually around June, for the following year's festival, then when they announce the lineup in January before opening up the General Sale, you can then decide whether you want to sell or keep your tickets. This way you're guaranteed a ticket instead of fighting for one during the General Sale in January.
The lineup has varied as well, from hip hop heavy to alternative rock to EDM to pop. Each year's lineup always had a little bit of something for everyone. To me, the festival has been about the experience itself and of course experiencing it with friends. With that said, I encourage those attending the festival solo or with a small group to make friends during the festival! It is truly an amazing experience when you have people you can hang out with and rely on during your time there, especially during an emergency!
Our first Coachella, me, my boyfriend (who is now my husband) and our friend did car camping and brought one tent, a couple of chairs and a few items in our cooler. By our 7th year, our camp had grown to approximately 35 friends, up to 12 car camping spots, and plenty of food, drinks and camping gear to last at least a week of camping for all of us. Needless to say, we became pros at it. And yes, I highly recommend camping as well because it's like summer camp, you make friends with strangers, the party lasts all day and night, and you can go in and out of the festival freely without having to wait hours for a shuttle to take you to and from the campground to your Airbnb or hotel.
If you are camping, prepare to arrive early Thursday morning to get in the security line to get the best camping spot as they are first come first served. in 2019, Coachella started selling "premier" camping spots which are supposedly the first few rows closest to the entrance of the festival, which I thought was ridiculous, as many did too since those passes didn't sell too well. We always camped from Thursday to Monday, even though the festival itself is only Friday to Sunday. This gave us enough time to set up camp, relax, enjoy the entire festival along with camp activities, and also not have to rush to pack up and leave camp after the festival ended on Sunday. This festival essentially was considered an annual vacation time for some of our friends who joined us every year.
The weather during Coachella is 80% hot (dry desert heat), 20% windy, 10% mild. We never experienced any rain or extremely cold weather, which is not to say would never happen, but Coachella weather in April is pretty much consistent every year. The only time we felt it was too cold for us was our first Coachella in 2012, our first night the temperature fell below 40 degrees fahrenheit! So we always pack some warmer clothing for the evenings in case the temperatures do drop below my comfort zone! High wind is probable, sometimes mild but we've had some incredibly strong winds that knocked our campsite into pieces! None of those experiences harmed anyone but flying tents and canopies can be quite scary, so always prepare for strong winds and stake down your camping gear as best as you can.
The music festival itself can be overwhelming with multiple stages covering acres of land, so I always tried not to stress myself out and allow plenty of time to walk around and enjoy the festival as opposed to running from stage to stage and bumping into the crowd. Since this is one of the biggest festivals at the beginning of the year, some of the acts will likely be touring throughout the rest of the year, so if you miss an artist at Coachella, keep an eye out for when they announce more show dates that may be near you or possibly other music festivals.
FOOD AND DRINKS
Food and drinks can be expensive inside the festival so it's best to budget accordingly. For campers, you can always leave the festival and go back to your campsite to grab a bite, but if you're staying at Airbnb/hotels, you can't bring food into the festival grounds so it's best to eat before arriving in the festival and pick a couple of "must-have" foods to purchase for once a day. It's possible to try to "sneak" foods into the festival if you get a security guard who's a little bit lenient during the search but I wouldn't recommend it because if caught, you have to either consume it right there or throw it away, which would be a total waste. As mentioned before, we learned throughout our 7 years of attending Coachella what type of foods to bring and cook, and drinks to hydrate ourselves, we never ran out of food and always end up having plenty leftover, which is still cheaper than buying food inside the festival.
Speaking of hydration, bring empty bottles or hydration packs to fill at the free water filling stations. As mentioned before, it gets very hot at Coachella, with average temperatures in the 90's, sometimes reaching over 100 degrees! So you want to always stay hydrated as best as you can. I can't tell you how many times I've seen people passed out due to the heat.
Will there be celebrities? Yes.
Will you see them? Maybe.
Will you recognize them? Probably not.
We've seen our fair share of celebrities at Coachella but for the most part, you won't even recognize them because they blend right into the crowds. When we see one, we've never asked for photos because they are there for the same experience as we are, so we leave them alone and let them enjoy it.
We've also encountered people selling drugs, undercover police looking to buy drugs, sex in public, broken car windows, bee hives on a car bumper, girls bringing a different guy to her tent every night, guy getting caught stealing phones in the crowd, people overly sharing their marijuana, people passed out drunk at 10am.
I've never had a bad experience at Coachella even when I had my phone stolen in 2012 from one of the charging stations, I still had the best time of my life.
Our last Coachella was in 2018, we decided that we wanted to spend our money and explore other major music festivals. It was a hard decision for us because it became an annual event for me and my friends and honestly, I did feel a little FOMO when April 2019 came around, but I absolutely felt content with it and look forward to experiencing other music festivals throughout the world that may also have a place in our hearts.
Have you been to Coachella Festival? Or any other festivals? Share your experiences with us and comment below!
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