So you were lucky enough to land an elusive pass to Lollapalooza? The Chicago fest is in its 25th year so you're in for a big year. Now you’ve got to research where you’re staying, figure out what to pack, sift through the festival’s FAQ, etc. Except, you don’t because we already did it for you! Consider this your survival guide, detailing how to get to the Windy City, where to stay, what to wear, what to bring and, most importantly, the inside tricks to maximize your fun.
Flying / Driving
If you somehow haven’t booked your flights yet, you're not totally screwed. Considering the festival is this weekend, dropping around $400 on round-trip airfare to Chicago should be expected from most locations–not the worst deal ever, considering you slacked. Wherever you're flying from, be sure to book that travel ASAP!
Lollapalooza stands out as having one of the better situations in terms of how to arrive to the festival. If you're at a hotel nearby, you can walk through one of Grant Park's two main entrances (one on Congress & Michigan and the other on Columbus & Monroe). There is also a TON of public transportation available in Chicago...for more details, just check out this page.
If you're driving, there are four underground parking garages with security at your disposal. Check out Lolla's parking page as well.
There's even a safe haven to park your bike if you're into that, and you can rent a bike as well! If you need a ride, though, download Uber and use the promo code "LOLLA2016" for a free ride (up to $15) if you're a new user.
Don't forget the entrance is at the intersection of Michigan and Congress, in addition to a North Entrance at Columbus and Monroe. (Look for where all the festivalgoers are walking towards)
WHERE TO STAY
There's no camping at Lollapalooza, so if you haven't booked your hotel yet, you're going to be at the mercy of picking at what's available with only days left until the festival. Lollapalooza provides a hotel finder on their website, which you can check out here.
If you have a large group or are looking to save some cash, try one of our alternative options...
Air BNB is an innovative alternative to hotels. If you’re not familiar, the site lets people list extra rooms, apartments, houses, basements, closets, bathrooms–whatever–and rent them out for a night, weekend or more. As of publication time, there are still plenty of places available for Lolla weekend.
Couch Surfing is similar to Air BNB, and has a reputation for making friends out of strangers. Your best bet here is probably to find someone in Chicago who's going to the festival each day and will let you pitch in for gas.
Don't forget the obvious way to crowdsource a place to stay. Odds are you don't personally know everyone who follows you on Twitter–so send out a tweet asking about any extra rooms! The same goes for Facebook. You never know if you'll get lucky.
WHAT TO WEAR
At time of publication, the weather forecast for Lollapalooza 2016 calls for a mix of thunder and rainstorms for the first three days, and then sun on Sunday. However, as Lolla-goers in 2012 discovered, it can never hurt to expect the unexpected. The 2012 festival was marked by bad rain and high winds–over 60,000 people had to evacuate Grant Park for several hours. We doubt that'll happen again, but just in case, we're looking out for you with our tips on this page.
In general, you'll experience mild summer weather, so this is a great time to check out our festival fashion guide or this 2016 festival hairstyle guide if you want a few pointers for a new outfit. You're not camping, so you'll actually be able to shower–a huge plus of Lollapalooza.
Here are some other essential items to bring along:
- Backpack – You’ll be carrying at least a few pounds and a backpack distributes that weight evenly. Save yourself unnecessary pain and leave the shoulder and cross-body bags at home.
- Two pairs of comfortable shoes - Flip-flops and heels are terrible life choices at fests. Bring sneakers or boots or something you know will keep your feet comfortable for 12+ hours each day. And this is no time to buy a new pair of shoes, either...you’ll want to make sure your kicks are broken in already. If you do feel blisters coming on, it’s time to use that second pair of shoes we told you to bring.
- Shorts – Honestly, Lollapalooza is probably the one festival where you can get away with wearing pants and still be comfortable. But it's still summer, and no one likes a soaked pair of jeans if it rains, so make your call wisely.
- Raincoat – Because rain.
- Bandana – Use it to keep the sweat off your face, drench it in water to cool down, even call upon it for some shade–having a bandana handy is the mark of a festival-going pro.
- Watch – Your iPhone has many purposes whilst at a festival. You’ll need to update Twitter and Instagram, obviously. Keep in touch with friends when you split up to watch different sets. One thing you don’t want to do is keep whipping it out and wasting that precious battery life just to check the time. Bring a cheap, waterproof watch for that.
- Extra socks – Because soggy socks can make you hate your day.
WHAT TO PACK
At the end of the day, it’s better to be overprepared than to regret not bringing something. Make sure you bring a backpack for your everyday essentials. And if you're wondering whether you can bring that metal sword (or whatever) check out the official Lolla guide of allowed and prohibited items. Especially note that you are not allowed to bring folding chairs! Onto our checklist:
- Water – You can bring two factory-sealed water bottles at a maximum size of one liter per bottle. Take advantage of this! You'll be able to refill them all day and save a fortune on expensive water at concession tents.
- Cash – Most transactions will require cash. There will probably be ATMs, but expect long lines and hefty fees.
- Sunscreen – Extremely important, but make sure it isn't in an aerosol can or Lolla can confiscate it. We suggest a cream with SPF 50 or higher, along with a small sunscreen stick for extra protection on your T-zone, ears and shoulders.
- Poncho – Lighter and easier to pack than an umbrella, but just as effective. Effective enough, anyway.
- Hand sanitizer – Because outdoors.
- Phone charger – Work days are long. Festival days are longer. If you have an iPhone, look into charging cases or portable.
- Lightweight towel – To sit on during down times.
- Bug spray
HOW TO HAVE THE MOST FUN
Make a Plan – You’ll have to worry about coordinating when you're leaving and meeting up with friends since you're probably driving or taking public transportation. Pick a place and time to meet if you're going to be separated, because you're going to have at least one friend whose phone dies. Also remember that as the day progresses, the grounds will get more and more packed. So if you're trying to meet somewhere (at a specific stage or landmark) at a certain time, take walking time into consideration.
Break Your Plan – Festivals are about adventure and discovery, so don’t treat your plan like a class schedule. See the sets you want to even if your friends aren’t as jazzed about them. If you’re walking past a band you don’t know, but dig the sound, stop and listen. Just go with the flow.
Avoid the Hottest Time of the Day – If you can’t stand the heat, go later in the day. You might miss out on discovering some new bands, but you’ll have loads more energy going into the night. Try to plan some time to just sit in the shade, maybe during an hour when the lineup is thin for you. Luckily, Lollapalooza ends early–by 10pm each night–so you shouldn't need to take too much time off.
Drink Water Constantly – Passing out is the opposite of fun. As is nursing a brutal headache, taking a trip in an ambulance, etc. Keep the water flowing (among whatever else you’re putting inside your body) to avoid a medical emergency.
Eat Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner – Lollapalooza has something called Chow Town. Even if you ignore the benefits of proper nutrition, you have to go to a place called Chow Town. It's the rules. But really, your mind is going to be so stoked on watching great bands that it won't remember to get hungry. So make sure you're either eating proper meals or constant light snacks.
Prepare for the Worst – Make sure your name, e-mail address and phone number are in your wallet in an obvious place. Consider putting labels on your phone and camera too. Nice people return these items all the time, so make it easy for them to find you.
Live in the Moment – Instagram, Twitter, Facebook–they’re hardwired into our lives now. But your festival experience will be much better if you’re actually experiencing it, so let your social network wait. Take photos but upload them later. Save tweets as drafts and choose the best ones after the set ends. And let’s be honest: You’re never going to watch those iPhone videos again anyway.
Don’t Be That Guy – This isn’t a private show, so be respectful of fellow festival-goers and the friendly vibe. If you’re tall, don’t wear a top hat. Don’t block other people’s view with a giant inflatable monkey or lots of sitting on shoulders. Don’t shove aggressively through the crowd. If you can’t get any closer without groping people, stay where you are. Don’t litter. Maybe consider toning down on the PDA with that stranger. Just be a nice person.
Watch Lollapalooza founder and Jane's Addiction frontman Perry Farrell reveal how Lolla comes together each year:
Watch Kiiara preview her upcoming set at Lollapalooza 2016 and why it's "kind of funny and really weird" that the first time the Illinois native is attending the Chicago fest is as a performer.