One of the best parts of a music festival is all the amazing food trucks and vendors that show up. But, a classic mistake to make when you’re planning for a music festival is to completely skip over planning some meals from home. It’s important to bring a few hearty, healthy meals that stay fresh in a cooler – or taste great on a grill! So, let’s look at some of the best food for festivals.
If you’ll be at the music festival for multiple days, you’ll need to plan more than just a few meals. Think: breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks. It adds up quickly! Are you just feeding yourself, or will you be providing for your whole group or campsite?
This is our ultimate guide to the best food for festivals, so we want to talk about it all. Nutrition, packing for your venue, cooler space, and more. Let’s dive in.
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Why do you need to plan for food during a music festival?
You may wonder why you even need to bother planning your food for a festival. After all, this is still civilization. There will be food and water at the festival, won’t there?
Food is fuel
You need to plan for food at a music festival because food is fuel for your body, and you need healthy options to keep up your energy. By bringing your own fuel instead of relying on what’s provided, you’re ensuring that you’ll make better nutritional choices to keep you dancing all day long.
Sober in the light of day, you’ll stand in your kitchen and pack things like fresh fruits and vegetables, jerky, trail mix, and premade dishes like hearty pasta salad, frozen burgers (if you’ll bring a grill), Greek salad, and other things that can be kept in a cooler or at room temperature.
Left to your own devices at the festival, when you’re tired, sweaty, and possibly after some drinking, you won’t make healthy, hearty choices to boost your energy. You’ll end up with an overpriced trio of tacos that barely fills you up.
Festival food is almost as expensive as airport food
Speaking of overpriced, there’s another reason you shouldn’t rely on festival food. It can be very expensive!
You need to plan for food at a music festival because festival food vendors know they have a captive audience and will be charging a premium for items. While it’s fun to eat a meal or two from a gourmet food truck, you’ll want to have some free options in your cooler to balance your budget.
Don’t entirely skip the festival food, though, especially because so many festivals are stepping up their food game. A lot of music festivals are turning into food truck festivals with all the options available.
Who doesn’t love a picnic at a festival?
Part of a music festival is all the fun you’ll have with your friends, especially the ones you make at the grounds or campsite! After a totally exhausting day of fun at the festival, what’s better than throwing a dinner picnic and sitting around a campfire or grill?
A portable grill is a clutch music festival accessory. Bring frozen meat in your cooler, and plan the barbeque for day 2 when everything has thawed a little. Burgers, hot dogs, chicken, and foil-wrapped veggies will satisfy everyone. Then, you can break out your s’mores.
How to plan food for different music festival venues
If your festival doesn’t have campgrounds, grilling is going to be an issue. We’re talking about a classic music festival venue here, but don’t just assume everything is going to follow that format.
Take a look at the festival’s website and plan your food for the venue based on that info.
Will you be sitting on a grass lawn or in a stadium? Does the venue have any restrictions on what you can and can’t bring with you? Will you need to carry things with you all day, or do they have a place for your XXL Yeti cooler?
The cooler really will be your most important accessory because, without it, you’re pretty much limited to PB&J sandwiches, trail mix, and beef jerky. But with a cooler, a world of food options opens up to you.
What foods keep well in a cooler?
Packing food in a cooler for a festival is an awesome idea. But, not all food is created equal when it comes to leaving it in a cooler for a few hours. Especially with travel, you need to think about whether or not the dishes you’re planning will work in a cooler.
Foods that keep well in a cooler are durable, won’t get soggy, and can be enjoyed cold or warmed up. Big pasta salads with protein can go in a Ziploc bag. Cut fruits and veggies can be wrapped in foil. Hard-boiled eggs are great to have in a cooler. Skip a freezer block and freeze burgers and hot dogs.
Sandwiches can be hit or miss because the bread easily gets soggy. If you pack a hoagie or a sub, that’ll be food for day one. But, don’t leave it until the very end. Likewise, anything with a lot of sauce or ground meat could leave a big mess in your cooler, so try to pack more “solid” foods to avoid spills.
Great options for festival breakfast meals
The best meals for a festival will taste good, give you energy, and are easy to pack, prepare, and eat. Here are some great options for festival breakfast meals.
No-grill festival breakfast
- Parfaits with fruit, yogurt, and granola
- Dry cereal and nut mix
- Hardboiled eggs (be mindful of your festival neighbors!)
- Instant oatmeal
- Breakfast bars or protein bars
Grilled festival breakfast
- Homefries (prepared before and wrapped in foil)
- Breakfast sandwiches
- Egg muffins (prepared before and wrapped in foil)
So, that takes care of breakfast! But what about lunch at a festival?
Best lunch choices at a music festival
Honestly, lunch might be your best option for trying out that food truck you’ve been smelling all day long or have heard so much about on social media. They’ll also most likely be close to the action, and you don’t want to miss out on any great acts. So, why not try a little of the amazing food being served up at the festival and support some local vendors?
If you’re not lunching from a food truck, here are the best lunch choices at a music festival.
- Wraps (keep dressing on the side if you can)
- Pasta salads with protein (chicken, chickpeas, etc.)
- Cheese and meat rollups
- Hardboiled eggs, veggies, and hummus
Don’t rely on just trail mix or jerky for lunch. Those are great snacks, but you’ll need something with more protein, carbs, and fat to keep you going. Making a bunch of wraps and keeping them in the cooler is a perfect way to get a great lunch without much effort.
Dinner at the festival
Plan some time for dinner so that you don’t miss any of the headliners when they go on. The worst thing is having to go hungry because you didn’t time dinner right.
A quick dinner for a festival can be essential, but it’s also fun to enjoy the spirit of the grounds or campsite by grilling up some burgers or hot dogs for dinner.
You can also try to find some time to grill them ahead and enjoy them hot or wrap in foil for later. If you don’t have a grill, cold salads with noodles and protein are perfect.
You can enjoy a great food truck dinner if you ate a homemade lunch too. The important thing is to stagger your buying to conserve your funds. One of the best ways you can do that while avoiding being hungry is eating well – and eating smaller portions more often.
Packing snacks for a music festival
Snacks can make or break your festival experience. You absolutely should pack plenty of snacks to enjoy while you’re at the festival. Here are some great options to keep you full, fueled, and ready to dance all day long.
- Hummus, pita, and veggies
- Hardboiled eggs (we like these because they’re great fuel and they come in their own non-plastic packaging)
- Cheese and meat rollups
- Trail mix
- Protein bars
- Granola bars and nut butter
The name of the game is to get enough protein and fat to keep you satiated. Pick high-fiber carbohydrates to keep you full of energy.
Junk food at festivals
Obviously, you can have some unhealthy stuff, too, like chips and cookies, but these won’t actually keep you full and full of energy. They’ll only make you feel crappy at the end of the night, so bring some healthy snacks, too, or you’ll be drained after a sugar crash with no energy to close out the show!
Stay hydrated for the show
The last thing we want to touch on, food-wise, is keeping hydrated during festivals. We know it can be a total bummer to wait in a huge line for the bathroom, but trust us, hydration is so, so important, especially for music festivals in the summer and in hotter climates.
Bring lots of drinks to a music festival, especially non-alcoholic and low or no-sugar ones.
Pack a case of water along with electrolyte mixes like Liquid IV, Gatorade, or Ultima. Coconut water is a great source of natural electrolytes, which help you keep your water instead of flushing it right back out.
Electrolytes should be the first and last thing you drink during the day. Get plenty of water, and your body will thank you by keeping you going long into the night.
Best food for festivals – Final thoughts
Food is important, especially at a music festival. You’ll be burning through a lot of energy dancing, walking from stage to stage, and standing around. Keeping your body nourished will help you enjoy the festival.
No one has a good time when the hunger hits, and all you can think about is how good the $30 burrito smells.
One of the best parts of food is enjoying it with others. Let us know in the comments some of your favorite festival meals and how you remember sharing them with your festival mates. We hope you get some use out of our tips for the best food for music festivals.