If you’re a resident of the Lehigh Valley (and haven’t spent the last few weeks under a rock), you are aware that Musikfest starts this Friday, August 4th. For those not in the know, Musikfest is a ten-day music festival featuring dozens of acts, crafts, street performers, beer, and more fried food than you’d be able to eat in a month. It’s kind of a big deal in this area and I’m definitely a fan. I’ve attended regularly for about seven or eight years now and I usually make it to the festival multiple nights during the ten days (ridiculous work schedule notwithstanding).
I don’t consider myself to be some sort of Musikfest professional, but I’d like to think I’m pretty well versed in the ins and outs of ‘Festing, so I decided to share some helpful tips and tricks that I’ve learned along the way.
A Primer: Musikfest takes up a good portion of Bethlehem, PA, with stages on both the north and south sides of town. The big ticket acts only play on the Southside, so if you only have plans to see Live, Santana or Toby Keith (Why tho?), I’d suggest parking on the Southside to save yourself the headache of navigating your way over from Broad Street. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Musikfest has multiple stages, called Platzes, at which many acts play during each day at the festival. The majority of the Platzes are on the Northside, and I recommend starting your day over there, if not spending all day in that area. You can always hop on the North-South shuttle if there’s a specific act you wanted to see on the Southside. Walking is an option but with the Fahy Bridge (still) under massive construction, I’d avoid it if possible.
Before you go:
Get in the know. Download the app, grab a progam at Artsquest , or familiarize yourself with the Musikfest website. The more informed you are before you arrive the better. You’ll get info on band schedules, where to park and grab the North-South shuttle, where to fill your mug, and where to find your corn.
Follow my friend The El Vee, if you aren’t already(He’s on Facebook too). In addition to his awesome yearly pre-Fest guide(including where to get the best craft and local brew mug fills), his daily recommendations for must-see acts will help make the best of the “music” portion of your Musikfest experience, and his recaps will let you know which acts to look out for next year, if you missed them.
Buy a Mug. Even if you’re only going one day. Get a damn mug(or borrow an old one from a friend). If you’re planning on buying more than one beer it’ll save you a little cash. You can snag one of the fancy-pants light up mugs, but they cost like two bucks more, plus they’re a pain in the ass to wash. Go for the regular mugs; they’re much easier to throw in the dishwasher in the morning to wash the beer funk out. You can snag one at Artsquest or a local Wegmans this week before the festival even starts.
Get Comfortable. Musikfest takes place in August in Pennsylvania. It’s notoriously hot and humid this time of the year. Wear comfortable, light clothes and sturdy shoes good for walking. If you carry a purse I recommend a cross-body type to keep your hands free, and if possible, pick up a large carabineer to clip your mug to your bag or belt when not in use.
Come Prepared, but Travel Light. Bring only the necessities. Will you need cash? Yes, absolutely. Bring your ID and ATM cards too. A small bottle of anti-bacterial hand sanitizer or small pack of baby wipes will help keep your hands clean after using the porta-potties, and if you plan on taking a lot of photos, videos, or spend the day SnapChatting, a portable power bank isn’t a bad idea. If you’re prone to aches, pains, and heartburn like me, bring a small bottle of Tylenol or pack of antacids. At the very least have them available back at your vehicle along with Band-Aids and other first aid supplies, and maybe a cooler with icy cold bottles of water for the drive home.
Suck It Up and Pay For Parking. Unless you arrive hella early or get hella lucky, you’re not going to find a free parking space anywhere near the festival grounds. So park about a mile and a half away and get to stepping, park at one of the shuttle lots and bus in, or pay $10 to park in one of the city lots. Many local businesses/churches offer parking for about $5-7, but aren’t monitored by security, so park there at your own risk.
Food and Drink: Musikfest has a ton of food and drink tents that operate with a ticket system. Northside vendors are strictly ticket-only, while Southside vendors accept both tickets and cash. There are multiple tents that sell tickets all over, right alongside the food and beer tents. Ticket tents accept cash and credit/debit cards for convenience (Buy more than you think you’ll need, trust me on this). There are plenty of businesses on Main Street that sell food and drinks without tickets, but that money doesn’t go to fund Musikfest. Plus why would you go into the heart ‘Fest and eat at Mama Nina’s instead of Take a Taco?
I mean, no shade on Mama Nina’s but they’re open year ’round. Musikfest is only here for ten days. GET THE TACO. Or the gyro. Or any other of the dozens of different delicious delicacies available.
Many businesses offer mug refills at a reduced rate; this is an option to consider if you’re planning on doing any serious drinking at ‘Fest. (Make sure you have a DD, please. Or snag an Uber home.) If you’re good with drinking Miller Light, Yuengling or Coors, most businesses on Broad will fill your mug on the cheap; Musikfest charges at least 7-8$. Some places offer craft and local brews; you can obviously expect to pay a little more for that quality of beverage where available. Side note: Your mug holds non-alcoholic beverages just as well. A little cold water to stay hydrated wouldn’t hurt.
My Food Picks: You can never go wrong with Take a Taco, Pretzel Revolution, Hogar Crea Shish Kabobs, Aw Shucks corn, and Island Noodles. A giant ice cream sandwich from Bethlehem Dairy Store (AKA The Cup) is always a good idea. There are a few new vendors this year that I’m looking forward to scoping out, but I’ll let The El Vee tell you about them (He’s done more research, trust me). On a really hot day a frozen tropical smoothie is a great idea too (and if your mug happens to have rum in it when you get the smoothie? BONUS.).
Have Fun. Don’t Be A Jerk. Yes, there’s booze aplenty. Yes, there’s a ton of people, and yes, it’s really freaking hot. It’s no excuse to act like an ass and get yourself in trouble with the local law enforcement. Have fun, get crazy, but be respectful of the town and other ‘Fest-goers. Also, yes, it’s expensive. Yes, it’s stupid crowded. Yes, it used to be cheaper. And YES, the mugs used to hold more beer. Times change, prices change. There’s nothing we can do about it, so just enjoy while you can. Musikfest only happens once a year, there’s no sense in being miserable about it.
See you at ‘Fest!