Have you been to a music festival with your kids? I’ll be honest, when I think about music festivals, I don’t necessarily think, ahh that’s the family-friendly event I should take my child to.
So color me surprised when we found ourselves making an eight-hour road trip to Boise to attend a five-day indie music festival with our four-year-old son.
Let’s back up for a second. Back at the beginning of 2020, when we first moved to Boise to explore if we wanted to live there, one of the first things we noticed when we walked around downtown Boise was the ample storefront signs counting down to the annual Treefort Music Fest.
The signs piqued my interest, and I quickly looked it up to see what this whole Treefort thing was about. I was smitten to see it’s a quirky and creative music festival with different forts covering everything from live music, local food and beer, movement and dance, film screenings, music talks, live podcasts, comedy shows, tech expos, and more.
Cut to 2022, and we were invited down to the festival to see for ourselves if it truly is the holy grail of music festivals. How could we turn down a festival described by Nylon as “the best five days of your life.”
So we went. And we partied. We may have turned our son into a budding rockstar.
Against our better judgment, we stayed out late, ditched naps, and found ourselves dancing our hearts out to local bands. And while it may seem like we threw away all parental caution (we might have a little bit), we did it because we felt unbelievably safe and welcome in the world of Treefort. Somehow, they managed to create a music festival that’s hip, trendy, and…family-friendly.
We loved it so much we included it in our list of 40 incredible things to do in Idaho!
While music is the foundation of the festival, the heart and soul of the event is a gathering that celebrates artistry, innovation, inclusiveness, and community. You feel it when you’re walking around; there’s a vibrant and welcoming vibe that big corporate festivals are sorely lacking. You won’t find garish festival booths with a Pepsi logo beaming down on you, but instead, local Idaho brands that represent the community-driven ideals Boise is synonymous with. For five days, the city comes alive with festival attendees excitedly making their way through the city to get to the next workshop or concert.
Whether you’re visiting Boise with kids or live in the city and are curious about this whole Treefort thing, we’ve got you covered. Here’s my complete guide to Treefort, plus in-the-know tips if you’ll be attending Treefort with kids.
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A GUIDE TO TREEFORT WITH KIDS
What is Treefort?
So, what is Treefort anyway? Will we be building forts? Are there trees involved? Can I play in a fort?
Treefort is an annual indie music festival that brings in hundreds of bands from around the world. While music is the main element of the festival, there are additional “forts” that each have a unique theme. There’s everything from Yogafort, Storyfort, Alefort, Foodfort, Skatefort, Dragfort, Comedyfort, Filmfort, and KIDFORT!
Kidfort is an entire fort dedicated to kids and activities that will light them up.
Best of all, it’s FREE. That’s right; anyone can walk up and enjoy Kidfort. A few additional activities off-site might require payment, but everything within the fort is free.
We loved it there and had a blast trying out all the different shows and activities. We did crafting projects, jump roped, danced at a 70’s disco, watched a shadow puppet show, and listened to a few kids’ bands. But really, that’s just the tip of the iceberg of what’s offered at Kidfort.
The fort is jam-packed with kid-friendly activities that you can experience at your leisure. There were music lessons, a children’s theater, a campfire sing-along, an intro to DJing, a bike rodeo, and more. Because there’s so much to do at the festival, we would often miss some kid’s events so we could see live music or try out another fort. I’m still a little bummed we missed the “dog show.” Children and dogs playing is my kind of fun
Here’s a quick rundown of all the other forts offered when we visited the festival.
ALEFORT: A collection of fantastic regional beer, wine, cider, and unique food offerings.
FOODFORT: The best culinary talents in Boise and beyond come together for food classes, seminars, and delectable delights.
YOGAFORT: Yoga, movement, and meditation classes to nurture your body, mind, and soul. Several of the classes are taught with live music.
HACKFORT: Panels and workshops that explore innovation, technology, gaming, and more. We enjoyed the lock picking lounge and the 3-D printing displays.
DRAGFORT: An exuberant celebration of drag through live performances and talks.
ARTFORT: Fine art in all its forms, ranging from art galleries, live mural paintings, art installations, workshops, and thought-provoking discussions on art.
FILMFORT: A three-day festival elevating independent cinema with screenings, interview sessions, and film panels.
STORYFORT: A collection of storytellers from poets, spoken word artists, journalists, authors, refugees, and more sharing their unique narratives.
COMEDYFORT: Comedy shows doing their best to keep you laughing all night long.
SKATEFORT: A one-day event celebrating live music, rollerskating, and skateboarders. Even if you don’t want to skate, it’s a fantastic event to watch and witness.
MUSIC TALKS: Music lovers will delight in the various music talks discussing the music industry in all its facets, from the artistry, innovative concepts, and how-tos.
Where is Treefort?
The festival’s central home is the Main Stage area at Julia Davis Park. However, the allure of Treefort is that it’s not crammed into one location but instead spread throughout Downtown Boise at various venues. You might start the day taking a yoga class at Sanctuary, walk over to JUMP for a cooking class, take the Treeline Bus to see a live mural painting, and then hop on an electric scooter to see a local band play at a Boise brewery.
How to get around Treefort
Downtown Boise is a small area that’s simple to get around. The five main ways to get around the festival:
- Walk – Most venues are only a 10-15 minute walk away. More often than not, we walked around from place to place
- Treeline Bus – Treefort offers a free bus that takes Treeforters around to the different venues. They even schedule bands to play on the bus, so you can ride just to listen to the bands. It’s also a great way to tour downtown if you’re not from Boise! You can see it’s route here.
- Bike – Boise is a biking city, and the festival is bike-friendly, offering long rows of bike racks to park your bike.
- Electric Scooter – Once my son took a ride on the electric scooter, it was over for us. He was NOT going to walk when we could fly on a scooter. Easy to find and simple to use, there are electric scooters available from Lime, Spin, and Bird on every street in the downtown area.
- Uber – If you need to go longer distances, Uber and Lyft are readily available.
How much is Treefort?
There are several different options for tickets for Treefort. First things first, kids 12 and under are FREE when accompanied by an adult with a Treefort pass. You can choose from a full festival pass, a zipline pass that gets you to the front of the line, a main stage pass, and a single-day pass. Since prices change and Treefort could change from year to year, check their website for the most up-to-date info.
If you want access to all the forts, your best bet is to get a complete festival pass.
Remember, some forts are free! When we attended Alefort, Artfort, Kidfort, Skatefort, Storyfort, the podcasts, and Music Talks were free and open to the public. Can we all do a happy dance about that? That is part of what makes Treefort a collective community experience.
Also, if you’re predominately interested in Kidfort, most of the activities happen on Saturday and Sunday.
Where to stay when visiting Treefort
If you’re visiting Boise for the festival, the best place to situate yourself is in downtown Boise. Everything will be within walking distance, making it easy for you to walk back to the hotel for breaks from the festival. We’ve stayed at The Grove Hotel and The Inn at 500 Capitol, and both are lovely hotels. Each offers complimentary bikes and has wonderful restaurants. They are comparable hotels, but we liked the Inn at 500 Capitol better since they have fun, individualized rooms, a fireplace in every room, and a complimentary shuttle to various places. The Grove Hotel does offer slightly better views of the mountains and city.
If you want extra amenities like a washer and dryer or a kitchen to cut costs, your best bet is to find a VRBO in the downtown area. Here are a few cute options in downtown Boise:
Tips for attending Treefort
–Bring a reusable water bottle. The festival is plastic-free (thank you, Treefort) so bring your favorite insulated water bottle (we love Hydroflask!) that you can refill at the water refill stations. We saw water refill stations at the Main Stage and Alefort.
–Download the Treefort App. If you do nothing else, then you must do this. It’s an easy-to-use app with info on the different forts, directions for getting places, the complete line-up, updates on how long lines are for popular events, and a day-by-day schedule. You can even create your own schedule on the app. I also like that you can go directly to an artist’s Spotify or YouTube page to listen to their music. I can’t say it enough, get the app!
–Take breaks. Loud music, crowds, and an overload of stimulation can send kids (and you) reeling. We took a lot of breaks from the festival. The great thing about Treefort is that it’s spread out, so if you’re done, you walk one block, and you can be out of the festival’s hub. We suggest walking over to JUMP and letting your child climb on the giant rope pyramid or scooting down to the Boise River to throw rocks and run around. If you’re looking for more activities, check out our article on the best things to do in Boise with kids.
–Visit other forts. While Kidfort may be the main highlight if you’re Treeforting with kids, the rest of the festival has plenty of age-appropriate activities. The app tells you which activities are 21+, so it’s a good starting point for finding suitable events. That being said, the content might not be age-appropriate, so use your own best judgment when looking for fun outings. We went to Yogafort and attended an all-ages dance class and Artfort to see art installations and live mural paintings.
–Keep a loose schedule. If you’re planning to do a few days and will be going to Treefort with your kids, I think an open schedule is the best way to go. Have a few “must-do” items on your list, and then wander around, letting yourself be guided by the sights of the festival and the rhythms of your family.
While wandering the festival, we came upon a funky van with a basketball attached to its roof. It was called Rigsketball, and it’s where bands in the festival play against each other. My son was enthralled! They even let him get in on the action and play for a little while. One of our favorite memories and completely unexpected.
–See a nighttime concert. While being out late at night with your kids (especially if you have younger kids) might not be your first choice, I recommend trying it for one night. Nighttime has a different energy, and being out with our son while the moon shone down was a special kind of magic that we all enjoyed.
–Wear comfortable shoes. It feels obvious, but you’ll be walking around a lot. Make sure you have shoes for yourself and your kiddos that won’t leave you agonizing.
–Bring headsets. The sound levels vary from venue to venue, but regardless you’ll want earplugs or headsets. They were giving out free earplugs at the main stage area, but I found they weren’t adequate for my young child since he would pull at them when they were in his ears. Headsets like these are a better choice for babies and these for young children.
-Bring a stroller, wagon, and/or child carriers for ease of transport. I saw a mom with her Beau Jardin Wagon and I thought, she knows what’s up. I love those wagons for festivals and beach days.
–There are bathrooms. There are porta-potty bathrooms available at all forts.
-Prepare for wandering kids. Some events will draw large crowds, and if you have a young child who tends to wander off, have them wear something around their neck that says their name with your phone number on it. Also, teach them to recognize what a Treefort volunteer looks like (they all wear the same shirt).
Is Treefort good for kids?
Lastly, I want to take one short moment to express why Treefort is amazing for kids. Besides the incredible variety of forts offered, there’s something so visceral about having your child experience live music. It’s bodily, primal, and good old-fashioned fun. I’ve been very conscientious about my child developing a relationship with the natural world, but there’s something to be said for just as voraciously exposing your child to the humanity of the arts.
Treefort exceeded our expectations of what a music festival could be like with a child. If you’re curious at all about Treefort, we highly recommend it! See you next year at Treefort?
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