Review: Why CarFest is a great family-friendly festival
What I loved about it:
This family-friendly festival is right on my doorstep in Hampshire and every year I enjoy popular music acts, amazing local food and drink and a fun atmosphere – whether I take our daughter or not! Plus you can’t beat the incredible CarFest sunsets.
Value for money (out of 10):
I love attending this family-friendly festival...
…just a few miles from Basingstoke is the site of CarFest South; where over 75,000 people descended over the August Bank Holiday weekend. This is the UK’s largest fundraising festival and is the brain child of radio DJ Chris Evans.
2022 is the year it became seven festivals in one which meant there really was something for everyone. New additions included SpaFest where attendees could join in with relaxing yoga sessions and eat from a variety of vegan food vendors. And StarFest became bigger than ever with huge crowds for Russell Brand, Rob Brydon and Jimmy Carr.
So what makes CarFest such a brilliant family-friendly festival?
Firstly, you can take in picnics and soft drinks. Those of you with children will know how expensive it is to feed them at festivals and so this is fantastic! It’s not unusual to see families with large cool-boxes on wheels as they bring in enough food for the day.
You can also bring in chairs and trolleys. People will go and set up their chairs near the music stage, and then leave them there for the day. Though I wouldn’t suggest leaving valuables there, I have left my chairs/blankets many times with no issue. A top tip is to set up near a walkway as well so that you can easily access your seats in-between food and toilet trips.
What is there to do during the day at CarFest?
There was a huge kids section with plenty of free activities such as bubble play, sandpit, crafts, colouring, football games and lots more. A marquee area played host to several live shows including dances with CBeebies friends and opportunities to meet Pudsey. Plenty of freebies are given away too; we received a Pudsey cuddly toy, and a couple of books from the McDonald’s Young Readers bus.
In the FoodFest area you can sign up to free foodie activities like cookie and cake decorating which is a great way to spend some time entertaining the whole family. There was also additional paid for entertainment such as the world’s biggest bouncy castle.
Older children appeared to spend most of their time in the funfair which was full of classic rides – the Waltzer, Ghost Train and Fun House among them. A ferris wheel dominates the skyline and offers panoramic views over the festival site. There’s also a Young Drivers school where children can have a go at driving in a safe environment.
Plenty of families enjoy watching the action on the race-track. It’s an opportunity to see a variety of vehicles drive past, from supercars spinning donuts to vintage vehicles pootling past. You can bid on various cars to join in as a passenger, or see if you can spot celebrities too. I’ve seen Paul Hollywood and James Martin in their cars in the past.
But is the music any good?
In my experience CarFest caters to a wide range of pop music fans. Regular attendees are acts like James Blunt, Texas and a special CarFest supergroup which in 2022 was made up from The Feeling, Rob Brydon, Max Harwood and Freya Ridings. Headline acts were Rag n Bone Man, Kaiser Chiefs and Paloma Faith. My stand-out act were Steps – they stole the show with an excellent set list and we were all dancing and singing along.
A few more things which make CarFest an excellent family-friendly festival – there’s a baby changing tent with samples from local business Child’s Farm, microwaves to heat baby food and several highchairs. There’s a lovely breastfeeding tent where you can sit somewhere quieter and more private. There’s also a Lost Children tent where you can personalise wristbands for the family in case you were to lose them.
Why should you book for 2023?
Chris Evans revealed plans for One Big CarFest in 2023 which will solely take place on the Hampshire site, on 25-27th August 2023. Early bird tickets are available from 8th – 11th September at 2022 prices, though if you miss this then tickets go on general sale in November. The music lineup will be released in November ahead of the general ticket sale too.
Since CarFest began 10 years ago, they’ve raised over £19 million for UK charities and why wouldn’t you want to be a part of that? The fundraising creates such a lovely atmosphere and Chris Evans is very much at the forefront of this, acting as compere throughout the weekend.
Another top tip of mine is to attend on the Friday; not only is it cheaper but it’s also the day when the freebies are more likely to be available. And you’ll also find the FoodFest area well-stocked with lots of free tasters! There’s so much to do though that a weekend ticket is the best way to fit everything in.
CarFest definitely receives the Girl About seal of approval – see how to book tickets via the link below, and see you in 2023!