I love summer, and I know that I’m not alone in my deep enjoyment of the warmer months. Celebrating the long, hot, life-giving days of summer is an ancient and universal tradition. We humans have been celebrating in this way for as long as anyone can remember—from the pagan celebration of the summer solstice (celebrated since Neolithic times) to the Sun Gods and Goddesses of the ancient Greeks and Romans to our contemporary festivals and parties—it seems that getting together with good music, good food and good people is what summer was made for.
Well, here in New Zealand, we’re blessed with a wide range of fun-filled summer festivals. But the festivals I’m most interested in are those that blend a joyous celebration of the season with a healthy dose of consciousness, mindfulness and a deep respect for people and place.
These festivals are family and kid friendly, they don’t wreck havoc on the places they occupy—in fact, they may actually enrich them—and they offer experiences for communal growth and transformation.
Without further ado, here are my top picks for the best summer festivals in New Zealand: family-friendly, fun and a true celebration of the summer months.
Convergence is a little different from your standard summer festival. This annual New Year’s festival, held at Journey’s End Campground just north of Christchurch is a co-created event. At Convergence, festival attendees contribute their skills and energy, and create the event together, as a community. Your contribution could be whatever you want or are able to do: from stoking the fire, cooking meals, providing massages, performing music, holding a workshop or cleaning the toilets.
The Convergence website describes the event as, “An inclusive gathering open to people of all ages, beliefs, and backgrounds. The event is GE free, alcohol and drug-free, dog free and eco-friendly… The following eight principles are embodied at the Convergence Festival: Community, Sustainability, Co-creation, Participation, Awareness, Self Responsibility, Healing and Personal Growth.”
Courage My Love founder and CEO Persephone Singfield has written about her experiences at Convergence Festival, which she attended with her ten-year-old son. When recalling the New Year’s Eve celebrations at Convergence she writes, “I wanted to freeze this moment in time, bottle it, continue living it forever as it was filled with such deep meaning and beauty. We were hundreds gathered to celebrate NYE [New Year’s Eve] without the density of drugs and alcohol. After days of sharing our hearts, it was inexplicably intimate and whole. It gave me such faith in humanity.” Read Persephone’s whole post here.
Evolve Festival is held in sunny Nelson, and it’s well known for its relaxed and low-key vibe and a focus on the health and well-being of individuals, the community and the earth. It features an array of workshops and seminars on everything from permaculture, shamanic healing, and sustainable business development to meditation, yoga, and sound healing.
If you’re intimidated at the thought of going to a large festival, Evolve offers a good alternative. It’s small enough to maintain a relaxed, chilled out vibe, but big enough to attract renowned musicians and performers from all over the world.
It’s also a very affordable way to spend the weekend. An adult ticket for the entire event will only set you back $35 and children under twelve are free. The whole festival is kid-friendly, and there’s also a special kids zone with crafts, dance, circus skills, face painting and yoga for children. Courage My Love founder and CEO Persephone Singfield will be presenting at Evolve Festival 2018.
If your children are getting tired of attending summer festivals that welcome children, but aren’t designed for them, then you’ll be pleased to hear about the Just So Festival, the first arts camping festival in New Zealand to that is solely dedicated to kids and families.
Their website paints an enchanting picture, “With a love of stories and childhood escapades at its heart, Just So Festival enables families to step out of their day to day lives and into a wonderland of world-class literature, arts, theatre, dance, music, comedy and creative pursuits together.”
Expect live music, forest fairies, family yoga, campfires, circus skills and a Tribal Tournament. Lost children will be cared for by the registered child carers at the Welfairy Tent, and there are nappy-changing and baby–feeding tents available.
Held in the pristine environment of Kaitoke Regional Park—less than an hour out of Wellington—this UK import sounds like a LOT of fun and a treat for parents and children alike. Accommodation is camping or glamping.
Wanderlust is the global pinnacle of yoga and consciousness festivals. Birthed in the USA in 2009, Wanderlust festivals have been happening down-under since 2013.
Described as an “all-out celebration of mindful living,” Wanderlust festivals always feature all-star lineups of yogis, musicians and inspiring speakers, and the NZ’s edition is no exception.
Courage My Love founder and CEO Persephone Singfield describes Wanderlust Festival as “A cacophony of stimulation, a riot of energy and a whirlpool of people both holding on to and letting go of themselves. All this in the transit of a busy schedule built around a powerful practice – YOGA.” You can read more of Persephone’s musings on Wanderlust here.
The average Wanderlust audience is 85% female with an average age of 33, and families and children are welcomed with open arms. Kids aged 13 to 15 years are able to attend the regular yoga classes with a festival pass and a ticket-holding parent or guardian, and children 12 years and under have free access to the musical performances when accompanied by a parent or guardian.
There are plenty of other fun activities for kids at Wanderlust—take your little ones on a guided hike, go for a dip in the lake, visit the art installations, browse the Mindful Marker or enjoy a tasty local bite to eat at the Food Co-op.
A variety of accommodation options are available in the area, including on-site camping.
I was once lucky enough to be gifted a free ticket to WOMAD—a World Music festival in New Plymouth—in exchange for my babysitting services. Although I spent much of the festival keeping a watchful eye on three young kids, I had an amazing time because WOMAD is an unbelievably child-friendly festival.
Not only do they offer a free children-only space with its own clowns, entertainers, and art workshops, but the entire event is resolutely designed to appeal to children and families. A love of music—all kinds of music—is what unites WOMAD festival goers, and it’s this love of music, not drugs, alcohol or hard partying, that is at the heart of the WOMAD experience. I spent many contented hours at WOMAD totally immersed in an astounding variety of musical acts, and the kids were equally enthralled.
Kids love music, WOMAD loves kids, kids love WOMAD… At least, that’s my experience! As with any large festival, big crowds of people can overwhelm kids and parents alike, so if you’re not a fan of large-scale festivals, this may not be the one for you.
Biophilia is a 3-day festival held in Queenstown. Described as an ‘Art, Music and Wellness adventure’, it features local and international artists, educators and musicians and—appropriately, considering that it’s in one of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring parts of the country—it is an ‘immersive outdoor festival’ (Read: bring a tent and leave no trace).
I consider a festival’s drug and alcohol policy to be a reliable way to ascertain the true character of a festival, and I really dig what Biophilia has come up with. Their website proclaims: “No Alcohol or Drugs Please,” because, “We don’t require intoxication to be free. We get loose, without the hooch. We get high, on a natural supply.” Please do note that while Biophilia welcomes children and families, the festival programming mostly caters to adults.
For even more ideas check out our Pinterest Board SUMMER | Festival Inspiration
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