Country Thunder is a four-day music festival celebrating all things country music that happens annually in Florence, Ariz., (considered the very edge of the East Valley–it’s about an hour away from my Mesa house). But is Country Thunder kid friendly?
I’ve heard it’s a four-day nonstop party from some friends.
Others have told me they take their families (and kids) every year.
So, I was curious enough to say YES to going (without my kiddo) this year to experience it myself.
Read on for my take on if Country Thunder can be a family-friendly experience.
What your kids will see: What to expect
People come to Country Thunder to party, and without seeking anything out, you’re guaranteed to see girls wearing pasties, men in red/white/blue banana hammocks, etc. A lot of women spend the weekend in bikini tops and cutoff jean shorts, a lot of men wear just as little.
You’ll also see lots of drinking games–even if you aren’t seeking it out, just walking around the festival guarantees you’ll witness it. You’ll absolutely see people who have had too much to drink and are struggling.
Inside the actual concert portion, you’ll find vendors with pro-Americana merchandise (duh), but what I was surprised at were all the chewing tobacco sponsored activities. There were several brands with very large tents promoting chew.
There’s mobile tattoo artists, Pinal County sheriffs doing breathalyzer stunts with the crowd, etc. This is all just to get to the actual concerts, so there’s no way to skip this portion of the festival if you have kids in tow.
There were a few inflatables and carnival games, but they were targeted for adults, not kids, although kids could have absolutely done them, too.
The noise level: what to expect
There’s a local bands stage with acts performing all day, the main stage performances begin at 2 p.m., and the headliner performs at 10 p.m. nightly, usually ending around midnight.
From our campsite, we could very easily hear the concerts nightly. Our neighboring campsite also had a large dance floor and speakers big enough for a club, so we heard that, too. As an adult without a kiddo in tow, this was fun and festive, but even with a sound machine, I don’t think the music could’ve gotten drowned out in hopes of getting a kid to bed.
How many kids did I see at Country Thunder?
I was at Country Thunder for three full days and I’d say I saw a total of 20-30 kids (and the festival was saying there were 30,000 people here).
The majority of the kids I did see were 3-9 years old.
Campsites: What to expect
Country Thunder is a nonstop party from the moment you arrive.
Most people camp out for the full festival (RVs, trailers and tents) and really move in for the weekend. Think of an ultimate tailgating set-up, and add more to your expectations. There’s groups smoking meats on full size smokers, dance floors that are set-up on individual campsites, lawn games, full speaker systems blasting music and more.
I noticed it seemed like most attendees buy multiple campsites adjacent to each other and stay with larger groups of friends/families.
The campsites are just inches from each other; there’s zero privacy, zero personal space and zero shade. With the campsite purchase you simply get just the real estate to park something on. There’s no room for kids to run/play much, and no way of fencing in your area to keep them contained.
There are ample porta-potties throughout the full festival (but they definitely get used a lot). There are also portable shower services that tent campers can utilize for $10/shower.
Honestly, 90% of campers here have RVs or trailers, and that’s really I think the way to enjoy this type of set-up, as it does get warm in the day. (If you don’t own one, there are several RV rental companies and I did see lots of those around campsites!)
They’ll have more fun at grandmas
I had a fun time at Country Thunder, but personally would not have enjoyed it if I had brought my three-year-old with me. (Mom hack: the platinum passes are worth the splurge).
It felt like it was very much an adults-weekend, which was so much fun, but personally my days here would have been completely different if I had been in mom mode.
My recommendation: You’ll have more fun, and so would the kids, if they stayed with grandma while you celebrate the red-white-blue country music scene.