Final Frontier | The Hangout Festival

The Hangout Festival on the Alabama Gulf is a beachy-keen version of Lolla that offers springtime fun for families.

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  • Hangout Music Fest, Gulf Shores, AL

Hangout Music Fest, Gulf Shores, AL


Love yourself some Lolla? Imagine a Lollapalooza on the beach: ocean breezes, white sand, a swimming pool where your family can cool off between favorite acts, and no long El lines. Well, good news! There really is such a thing—the Hangout Music Fest in Gulf Shores, Alabama, each May.

Now in its third year, the Hangout Fest regularly sells out its 35,000 tickets because it offers a Lolla-style music experience, with amazing acts over three days (this year’s event, May 17–19, features Red Hot Chili Peppers, Dave Matthews Band and Jack White), except with the family-friendly benefit of being held on the Gulf of Mexico. Among the five stages is Shaka Island, a Kidzapalooza-style area created by Tor Hyams, the man behind both Kidza and Austin Kiddie Limits.

“We could do beachy things here that just would not work in Chicago,” Hyams says of Shaka Island, which includes a mammoth sand mountain with tunnels buried inside for little ones to crawl through. But there are also familiar kid pleasers here that you’ll recognize from the fest back home: School of Rock–style workshops, drum circles, instrument petting zoos, hair-painting and tattoo stations, and, of course, a stage where family-friendly acts play all weekend.

Shaka Island has safety features the other four stages don’t, including a fence that keeps the underage crowd separate from the hard-core partiers. And it’s adjacent to the beachside Hangout restaurant (thehangoutal.com), which, among other things, means access to plumbed restrooms instead of porta-potties. There’s also plenty of shade here (something in short supply at the other stages), plus access to all of the Hangout’s other fun toys: misting stations, foosball and Ping-Pong tables, amusement park rides and midway games.

“People can rent a condo right on the Gulf of Mexico, look at the sunrise, go to the pool with kids, listen to some bands, go back and shower,” says fest founder Shaul Zislin. “But our competitive advantage is the beauty of the venue. It makes it [feel like] aVIP festival, but with general-admission prices. At Lollapalooza, you have to deal with traffic. Here, you just have a beach vacation.”

Advanced passes are $209; regular passes $229. VIP advanced passes are $899; regular VIP $999; day-of $1,199. VIP packages include perks such as air-conditioned restrooms and gratis snacks. Kids ten and under are admitted free with paying adults (up to two kids per person). For more info, go to hangoutmusicfest.com.

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