Last Updated on June 25, 2021
For many of us, summer means music festival season. And this year, especially, as the country comes back to life after a year of quarantine, it’s time to rekindle friendships and enjoy the vibes.
Even though drugs and alcohol are commonly used at festivals, you can still enjoy the festival while drinking less—or not at all. And most festivals these days explicitly offer nonalcoholic choices, as the sober-curious1 movement increases. (And why shouldn’t pregnant women or designated drivers enjoy good music?)
We’ll give you some tips, so you can still hear your favorite artists with your favorite people, while remaining in control of your sobriety.
Above All, Stay Hydrated
Since it’s summertime, many popular festivals can happen on days when the heat can be sweltering. It’s important to drink water (or other hydrating alternatives, like sports drinks or seltzer), simply for health reasons. No one wants to leave a festival—and friends—in an ambulance, because of heat exhaustion.
But it’s also important to be mindful of your thirst, and how to quench it without turning to the beer vendor nearby.
Bring a water bottle with you—or two, if you’re going to be outside in the sun for a long time. These days, most festivals have bottled water for sale. Though of course, if you want to use less plastic, it’s good to bring your own.
One trick some people rely on: fill a bottle half full of water and then freeze it. When you’re ready to pack the bottle, fill the remaining space with water or juice. As the ice melts, it will keep your drink cold.
If plain water seems well, plain, adding a small amount of lemon or lime juice to your water (1-2 teaspoons per quart should do the trick) will make it flavorful and refreshing. And especially if it’s very hot, you want lots of encouragement to drink more water.
Choose Your Festival Companions
Make sure your festival friends—whether old or new—are not just “OK” with your sobriety, but are committed to encouraging you. No one should be asking you, “Why aren’t you drinking?” There’s no reason to spend time with people who don’t support you and your journey.
It’s also a good idea to have people with you—not only for the companionship, and exchanging excited comments during a particularly great set. It’s also good to have a friend there in the (hopefully unlikely) event that you have a heat exhaustion problem, or some other medical issue.
Mindfulness, For the Zillionth Time
This is not the year to attend a festival that seems like something you “might” like. Go to hear artists you genuinely enjoy. You will find yourself lost in the music, and less inclined to be tempted to drink, “to make things better.”
The whole point of going to a festival is to hear musicians you love2. And you may be surprised to find out that you actually enjoy the festival offerings even more when sober3. Pay attention to your surroundings, and silently ask yourself, “Am I having a good time?”
Plus, you will likely have clearer memories4 of what you heard, who you talked to and the conversations you had, and that delicious Indonesian-spiced skewer you ate—even what the festival stage and grounds looked like.
We Can Help You Stay on Track
If you think that a festival will be better with alcohol, maybe it’s best not to go. And remember, if you have chosen not to drink, it’s likely that some aspects of your life will need rethinking. Some events may not be as appealing as they once were.
But the bottom line is: If going to a music festival sober seems too daunting, don’t do it! Your brain, your body—and hopefully your friends—will respect your decision.