Absolute Beginners Bonnaroo Survival Guide
Absolute Beginner’s Bonnaroo Survival Guide
The dates are announced. You’ve already asked for your time off (right?). It’s time to start planning for the best festival of your life! Making it through Bonnaroo is not easy! Seriously, it takes a lot of work. The weather, the walking, and the elements all combine to make Bonnaroo both rewarding and challenging. If you are preparing for your first Bonnaroo, there are things you need to know. Our Bonnaroo Survival Guide will tell you what to expect, how to stay alive, how to stay comfortable, and how to have the best Bonnaroo experience ever! This post contains affiliate links. When you make a purchase using these links it helps support Midtntravel, and we get to keep publishing content for you. Thanks!
What to Expect at Bonnaroo
Starting around November, rumors about headliners will start making rounds on the internet, tickets will go on presale, the Bonnaroo website will start updating, and the excitement starts building! Start working on your high fives!
General Admission Tickets
For 2019, Tickets will be sold in 6 tiers. When the allotment of a tier is sold out ticket prices will increase to the next tier. The earlier you buy the cheaper your tickets will be. General admission tickets get you access to all of the 150+ shows, access to the campground (every vehicle requires a car camping or day parking pass). For most people general admission is the ticket of choice. It forces you to be immersed in the experience of Bonnaroo.
2019 General Admission Ticket Prices
- GA Tier 1 – $279 plus fees
- GA Tier 2 – $299 plus fees
- GA Tier 3 – $319 plus fees
- GA Tier 4 – $329 plus fees
- GA Tier 5 – $339 plus fees
- GA Tier 6 – $349 plus fees
VIP Ticket Information
VIP Tickets get you everything that General Admission tickets do and you also get a lot of special perks.
- Exclusive viewing areas at Which and What stages
- Exclusive Entrance to Centeroo, campgrounds, and Main stage venue
- Access to VIP Campgroud Plaza (with air-conditioning, private bar, wifi, yoga classes, and much more)
- Access to exclusive Centeroo VIP lounge
- Access to the Thursday VIP pre-event party, the Sunday Gospel Brunch, plus more special surprises.
2019 VIP Ticket Prices
- Single VIP Ticket – $825 plus fees (Does not include VIP camping pass)
- VIP Package Deal – $1650 plus fees (Includes 2 VIP tickets and 1 VIP Car Camping Pass)
Parking and Camping
If you plan on bringing a vehicle you will need to get a day parking, RV pass, or a Car camping pass for that vehicle depending on what your plans are.
2019 Parking and Camping Pass Prices
- Car Camping Pass – $69.75 plus fees
- Day Parking Pass – $39.75 plus Fees
GA and VIP are by far the most popular ticket options, but there are some others that you may be interested in looking at. Platinum Package ticket holders get everything VIP offers along with private viewing areas, golf cart transportation from platinum campground to the stage, and lots of other amazing access. If you are only interested in coming for one day, check out the day pass + Nashville shuttle package. No matter how you plan on doing Bonnaroo check their tickets page for the latest information about ticket prices and availability
Ticket Sales Dates
Presale – Usually starts on Black Friday and lasts for a week or so. The earlier you purchase, the more likely you are to get the cheaper tickets.
Tickets On Sale – Usually Right after Lineup Release
Other Things to Know
Roo Clues – Starting around December Bonnaroo will start releasing Roo Clues on Social Media. These are usually picture puzzles that give hints about some of the musicians on the line up. Sometimes they are very plain and easy to guess and sometimes they are very difficult.
Lineup Release – The full lineup is usually released in mid January. 2016 it was released on 1-19 and 2015 it was released 1-13. Shortly after the lineup is released tickets will go on back on sale.
Planning For Bonnaroo
Planning your camp is one of best parts about the roo! You can go minimalist and just bring what you need to make it through the weekend, or setup a luxury oasis for you and your crew to relax at between shows. Although every camp is a little different, there are some things that you should definitely have to make your experience the best it can be!
Camping Essentials for Bonnaroo
Tent – There are a few schools of thought on sleep shelter. Some people use a Tent, and some people use a Shade Canopy with tapestries attached to the sides for increased headroom and airflow. Both work, it is really a personal preference thing. If you go with a tent, it is hard to beat the Coleman 2-Person Sundome Tent for the price.
Shade – A 10 x 10 EZ up awning is perfect for your shade. This is one of the most important things to have at your campsite. Without the shade from this you will be incredibly uncomfortable the whole time you are at camp.
Tent Stakes – Make sure you have enough tent stakes (and a few extras) to keep your camp firmly planted on the ground. A strong wind will blow a tent across the field (or further) if isn’t staked down properly.
Bedding – A comfortable pillow, and both light and heavier blankets are essential. I know I said it is miserably hot in Tennessee in June, but every once in a while, we have a cool evening and a decent blanket. I recommend you use your sleep set up a few times before Bonnaroo to test what you like and what you don’t. Bonus points for testing it outside.
Decor – You want your camp to be awesome and easy to find. There will be a sea of Coleman tents and blue EZ up awnings, you need to do something to make yours stand out. Otherwise you will be stuck wandering around the campground at 4am trying to find your stuff when all you really want to do is sleep. Tapestries, Totems (be sure to check the rules), and Flags all help identify campsites. Some people buy balloons too.
Clothing, Costumes, and Other Important Stuff
Clothes – You need clothes that are comfortable in the oppressive heat. This is different for everyone, but I prefer loose fitting stuff. Some people do bikinis, some do less (please wear sunblock). A good hat is a great thing for keeping the sun off, but wear it a few times before you go. I’ve been through a few shade hats that either didn’t feel right, or actually retained heat and made it worse. It is also a good idea to bring rain gear. It doesn’t rain often, but staying dry is nice.
Shoes – Shoes are a big deal. You need some shoes to kick around camp in (flip flops that double as shower shoes are a great choice), shoes to wear to Centeroo, and Rain Boots (optional). The shoes you wear to Centeroo should be sturdy and comfortable. You will be doing a lot of walking. I have averaged anywhere from 8 – 15 miles per day walking around Bonnaroo. I really wouldn’t want to do that in flip flops.
Costume – Costumes are one of my favorite parts of the Roo! I have actually never worn one, but the creativity that people put into their costumes is amazing. Friday Night is prime time to see some amazing things, but people usually wear them throughout the weekend. Get crazy, be a pirate, be a space pirate, be space, whatever you do have fun!
Baby Wipes – These things are gold! You will want to clean up a few times during the day and there is not a much better option than a good ol’ Baby Wipe to get the job done. They get you clean without having to wait in line or pay for a shower and they don’t take up much space at all. There is no reason not to bring them.
Chafing Prevention – The conditions and extra walking at Bonnaroo can lead to some problems if you aren’t careful, but there are a lot of options out there to keep you in top shape. Some people like a stick and some like powder. Doesn’t matter what you use, but use something. You do not want to walk 15 or so miles with chafed thighs. Seriously.
Electronics – Phone, camera, charger, flashlight or headlamp (using your phone for a light in the porta-potty is a dangerous game), and extra batteries. My preference is a headlamp because it allows you to keep both hands free. You will be grateful for the light when have to make a restroom run at 3 am. I promise.
Cash – Most vendors will take a card. I like to bring cash (you never know). You can survive Bonnaroo on very little if you want too. I usually budget at least $100 per day. This is high for most, but it includes merchandise and food. To set your budget, think of how many meals you plan on eating at camp vs Centeroo. Food items are around $10 a piece, beers are around $7 inside Centeroo, and other drinks are around $5 (these are very rough estimates). Add up all of your meals, add a little merch money, and then add some emergency cash. You never know what will happen and having a little cash stored away can really help you along the way. Keep this emergency cash stored away from your spending money.
Important: At least once, and preferably more, before you get to Bonnaroo, you need to practice setting up your camp. Ideally, you should be able to set up in any conditions that you may encounter (dark / windy / rain). You do not want to learn how to pitch your tent at Bonnaroo, or even worse find out that the new tent you brought is missing poles. Your campsite will be about 10 x 10 (unless you go VIP) and be located next to your car. Be sure you can set up in this space.
Double Important: The most important thing to bring with you is a positive attitude. There are going to be things that are frustrating, let it happen and move on. You are about to embark on an amazing adventure. If you come with a negative attitude you are going to have a bad time.
Food and Cooking at Bonnaroo
There are incredible food vendors at Bonnaroo. There are a few that you can not miss, but you don’t have to buy every meal from a vendor (it gets expensive really quick. Instead try to cook a few meals at camp to save a little money for other things.
Cooking – For me a Camp Stove, cook ware, and dishes are more than enough. I prepare breakfast and lunch at the campground and the rest of my food is purchased inside Centeroo.
Coolers – Keeping your food and drinks cold is important and challenging. You should have a couple of coolers if you are bringing food (you should). One for drinks / condiments, and one for meat. It is important to use a heavy duty cooler, not something that won’t hold ice for 24 hours. Unless you can secure it I do not recommend bringing a highly expensive cooler, it is too easy for something like that to walk away from camp. I recommend covering your cooler with blankets for extra insulation.
Dry Ice is the most effective thing to keep your stuff cold if used correctly, but if you can’t get it or don’t feel comfortable using it, Freeze 2 liter soda bottles full of water to keep in your cooler. The mass of the ice makes them melt slower and they keep your stuff cold. Bonus: when they melt, you have ice cold drinking water!
Food and Drink – I usually bring my food for breakfasts, and light lunches, along with some filling snacks. Granola bars, beef jerky, bread and lunch meat, and chips. Bring whatever you want to eat just make sure you can keep it cold. You do not want food poisoning at Bonnaroo. Bring a lot of water, check Bonnaroo’s limits on the amount of Alcohol you can bring (no glass bottles), and bring soda if you want.
Trash – When you come through the gate you will receive a couple of large bags for your trash and recyclables. Use them! The volunteers from Clean Vibes have to walk the entire grounds of the farm after the festival is over and pick up every piece of trash, cigarette butts, or worse. If your bag gets full check with the information pod nearest you for an extra. Do the right thing.
Do Not Bring These Things to Bonnaroo
Glass, weapons, illeagal drugs, kegs, fireworks, drones, bicycles, pets, glow sticks, laser pens are all prohibited. To see an updated complete list of items not allowed at Bonnaroo, check their page (see complete list here)
Getting to Bonnaroo
The trip is half the fun! Plan your route, get your friends together, find some good music and start driving to Tennessee. Once you arrive in Tennessee you will note a heightened police presence. There are typically 3 large music festivals going on the weekend of Bonnaroo (CMA, Bonnaroo, and Riverbend). You will be fine, obey the speed limit, drive safely, and don’t start partying before you get inside and you should make it to Manchester without being bothered by police.
Understand that when you arrive in Manchester there will be traffic up to 20 miles from the festival, and you will be in line for hours. Make the best of this, be kind to people and you will be just fine. The police directing traffic may route you past the festival and have you turn around to approach from the opposite direction although it is irritating, they have mastered getting people in the gates. Trust them. Once the gates open, the line will start moving and you will go through a security check point where they will check your vehicle for prohibited items (glass, smuggled people, weapons). If you didn’t bring any of these things, you will move through security pretty quickly and be directed to your campsite. If you did bring these things, why???? They will find them and you will slow the line down.
Once you have been directed to your camping spot you need to get your camp set up. You did practice right? Good. Once you have your site ready, look around you. Is your neighbor having trouble? Help them. If not just go talk to them, you are going to meet people form all over the world the weekend of Bonnaroo, get started early.
Everyone should (if you are physically able) camp in GA at least once. It is, in my opinion, the absolute best way to experience Bonnaroo. If you refer to our Bonnaroo Survival Guide, you will make it through just fine. General Admission gets you admission for all four days of the festival. In 2016 Bonnaroo added a requirement to purchase a Camping or Parking Pass if you intend to Camp or park on the grounds. You will be in walking distance to porta-potties, paid shower facilities, and information pods.
You will also be crowded in with a bunch of other festival goers. This is not a bad thing. You will get to know people from all over the place and have a fantastic time. Many people have made lifelong friends in the campgrounds, some have even found their future spouse. The walking distance to Centeroo from GA sites can be anywhere from just a few minutes to around 45 minutes. The GA Campground is huge so it really just depends on where you get parked (there is no secret arrival time for the best spot as it changes yearly). You can rent a locker inside Centeroo and leave a lot of your things in it so you don’t have to take multiple trips back to camp. Be sure to arrive at Centeroo early for your chosen show; the line to get in before a big show can be long.
Kind of like GA, but with a lot more comfort. VIP tickets are sold in pairs, and get you access to private VIP Centeroo entrance, a camp lounge, closer camp grounds, a poster and T-shirt, air conditioned bathrooms, and free showers. There are also VIP viewing areas at What and Which stages. If I could afford it, I would likely camp VIP these days. I prefer things a little tamer and a little more comfortable. The VIP campground is located right near Centeroo so the walk is measure in steps instead of minutes, and there is rarely a line at the VIP entrance to Centeroo.
Bonnaroo Survival Guide
It is unbelievably hot and humid in Manchester in June. The average temperature is around 90 with humidity sometimes around 90%. Weather like this is dangerous under normal circumstances. When you add alcohol or other types of consumption to the picture the risk increases exponentially. The on site medical team treats more heat related issues than anything else. PLEASE DON’T DIE; drink more water than you think you should. As soon as you think you have had enough, drink a little more. Water is available all over the farm for free at fill stations. Bring a refillable container (I’m a fan of the Hydro Flask 40 oz Double Wall Vacuum Insulated Water Bottle) and keep it full. I’m also a huge fan of the fresh-squeezed lemonade you can get there, and I usually have at least a glass a day.
Shade is also limited on the farm. Be sure you wear comfortable clothes and a big hat that will protect you from the sun. Wear sunblock and reapply frequently, nothing sucks worse than getting severe sunburn at a festival and having to suffer the rest of the weekend. Also skin cancer is not cool. Personally I don’t venture to Centeroo until late afternoon unless there is a show I absolutely can not miss.
Are there drugs at Bonnaroo? Yes. I am not advocating the use of illegal drugs, but the fact is that they will be there and people will be using them. I am a firm believer in risk mitigation. If you choose to indulge, be safe. Be aware of what you are putting into your body. Keep an eye on your friends, and other festival-goers. If you see someone in trouble, check on them. If you are not comfortable doing that, go get medical and have them check on them.
Speaking of medical, they are there to help you. The medical tent is a safe place, do not hide things from them. It is important that if you or your friend ends up in the medical tent that you tell them everything that has happened including drugs that may be in your system. They are not going to turn you over to the police or anything like that. They are there to keep you from dying.
Are you in addiction recovery? You won’t be alone, there are sober groups that go to Bonnaroo every year. Soberoo is a bunch of good folks who love music and music festivals and are committed to maintaining their sobriety. They hold multiple meetings daily.
Whats a Centeroo you say? Well, Centeroo is the main grounds of the festival. This is where you will find all of the stages and the majority of the activities. Shade is scarce in Centeroo, during the day you will find people cooling off in the mushroom fountain, resting under the few trees, or chilling under the tents at the back of what stage. Be generous with your space if you score some shade. You will get to meet some good people and help them stay cool. There are 4 main stages: What, Which, That Tent, The Other Tent. Be sure you know what shows you plan on seeing and how to get to each stage. Your guidebook will have a map in it and there are information boards posted inside Centeroo. If you get lost, just ask someone, they will help you find your way.
The Mushroom fountain is a great place to cool off and a good landmark to meet up with friends at. It’s also a good place to catch a spontaneous parade. Jake and Snake’s Christmas Barn is hopping at night, and the Silent Disco might just blow your mind! There is so much to see in Centeroo, you could spend all weekend just exploring it!
Other Cool Spots
There is no way we could put all of the cool things to find in our Bonnaroo Survival Guide. We will list a few, but you are sure to find more. When you do be sure to come back and tell us about them.
The Grove – Located behind the grind, is a cool wooded area with lights, art exhibits, and some performance art. Definitely a nice place to chill in a hammock!
Shakedown Street – 3rd Ave has a short strip of vendors known as Shakedown Street. There are also a few stages where you may catch some killer shows. Be on the lookout for a Jahman Brahman set at anytime.
You will be sad. You will feel like you are leaving your childhood home, but don’t fret you get to do it again next year! In the weeks after Bonnaroo you will be easily distracted, and find yourself daydreaming about all the beautiful people on the farm. You might hear a song on the way to work that sends chills up your arms and immediately transports you back to the farm. These things are normal, cherish them.
Unfortunately, you will also likely get Bonnaflu. Bonnaflu is the nickname for the horrible sinusitis (or worse) that comes from spending a weekend in dusty conditions, with extended periods of dehydration, and questionable hygiene practices. There are things you can do to help prevent it blow your nose, wash your hands, drink fluids, but sometimes the dust is just too much.
Pace yourself. Bonnaroo is a huge endeavor. You will not be able to see everything your first year. Pick a few musts, but leave room in your plan for change. By far the best experiences I have had at Bonnaroo were the spontaneous ones. And don’t worry, you’ll be back next year.
Don’t use our Bonnaroo Survival guide as your only source of information. Be sure to check Bonnaroo’s site for updates, also check out Inforoo and Reddit. Both have a ton of information and community members that are happy to help guide you through this awesome experience. Are you a Roo Vet? What advice would you give to new folks? Is it your first time, ask any questions you have in the comments.