Country Jam USA is one of the longest running festivals in the entire USA and with good reason! For nearly three decades this Eau Claire, WI institution has put together one of the best dog-gone country lineups out there, showcasing everything from Grammy award winners to fresh local faces, with a vibe that’s more laid-back and mature than the constant partying that sometimes comes with festivals. It’s also family-friendly, with plenty of space to keep the kids entertained. The magic happens over three days across two stages, and you’re not gonna want to miss a minute, so load up your RV and prepare to camp!
There are far more reasons to camp out than just convenience, though. Located in the beautiful Chippewa Valley, the Whispering Pines campground really lives up to its name. The sites are well-shaded, and although you have a lot of privacy, people are pretty sociable, and friendships form fast. Not only that, but the festival organizes live music sessions, especially for campers.
The organizers of Country Jam like to keep things simple and focus on what’s important: the music. Organized activities are not a focus, but you can join a volleyball team, chill out with your fellow festival-goers at one of the saloon bars, or simply take a wander around the perimeter of the grounds and soak in the scenery. Make no bones about it; if you’re crazy about country and like to keep things chill, this is the place to be!
Tickets for July generally go on sale in October of the previous year. A three-day ticket usually costs around $180, with discounts for students and military service members, while a single-day ticket should set you back about $100. Reserved seating starts at approximately $300, with VIP packages, including perks like artist meet and greets and complimentary food, go for between $650 and $4,000. You can also purchase add-ons, like access to an exclusive ‘Country Club’ for around $200, or to the Party Pit (the area right at the front of the stage) for about $150. Ages four and under go free.
Camping is purchased separately from the festival tickets. The most budget-friendly option is a site at Whispering Fields for around $90, but there’s no shade, no hookups, and your RV must be under 30 feet. Big Rigs have two options: an electric site for about $450 or a non-electric site for around $280. Standard sites are usually $120 for vehicles under 40ft and $165 for larger rigs. Electric sites for vehicles under 40 feet go for around $350. Check the Country Jam USA website for details.
The festival grounds are located around 90 minutes from Minneapolis, nearly three hours from Madison and just over three hours from Green Bay. Eau Claire itself is just off I-94 and is fairly easy to get to from all nearby urban areas, but many roads in the town itself are subject to closure during large events. Check the Eau Claire Sheriff’s Office website before you go for further details.
When it comes to parking at Country Jam, you can have convenient, or you can have budget-friendly. You can park in the general parking area outside the festival gates for $15 a day or $40 for the whole three days, or you can get a free shuttle from one of the offsite parking lots located around Eau Claire. If you’re camping, space for one vehicle is included in the price, and you can purchase an extra spot for $20. Some ADA-accessible parking spots are available closer to the festival gates.
If you’re coming from Minneapolis, you can get a bus to downtown Eau Claire and arrive in two and a half hours. Buses from Green Bay take around four and a half hours, but if you’re coming from Madison, you’re all but out of luck; it’s a journey of over 12 hours with three connections. Shuttles run from downtown Eau Claire to the festival at designated intervals. A three-day shuttle ticket will set you back around $35, and you can get a day pass for $15.
All campsites have access to showers, vault toilets, and a camp store. Campers at Whispering Pines get access to a couple of extra perks, including a bar that serves Bloody Marys in the morning! Whispering Fields is the cheaper option, but you’ll want to book Whispering Pines if you can; the whole campground is a wooded wonderland, and you’ll be guaranteed a shady site. There’s a strict curfew for all sites. If you’re traveling with children, have sensory sensitivities, or just want a little peace and quiet, quiet camping is available in the Whispering Pines campground.
The area around Eau Claire is pretty popular year-round with keen anglers and outdoorsy types, and you should have no problem finding a place to stay. There are several full-service, family run RV resorts within a 20-minute drive of the festival grounds, or if you’d like to get back to nature a bit, you can stay in one of the state or county parks in the area.
Golf carts, bikes, and ATVs are all banned at Country Jam, so the only real way to get around the festival grounds is on foot. Fortunately, the area is relatively compact, and there’s no great distance between the parking lot, campground, and concert area. In terms of accessibility, all campsites at Country Jam are considered ADA-accessible, but bear in mind that the ground at both the campground and the concert area can be a little uneven.
July in this part of Wisconsin isn’t just hot, it’s pretty humid, too. Consider packing plenty of cotton or lightweight shirts. Country Jam sees its fair share of long lines, so make sure your shoes are sturdy and comfortable, and if you’re wearing cowboy boots, break them in beforehand. Rain isn’t unlikely, so bring a light, waterproof jacket. A broad-brimmed hat and sunglasses are also a good bet.
If you’re camping in Whispering Fields and planning on hanging out during the day, you’re definitely going to need a canopy or some other sort of shade structure. Lawn chairs are allowed at Country Jam, and if you’re not bringing one, you’ll want to have a tarp with you. That ground can get pretty muddy!
Country Jam USA prides itself on being family-friendly, but noise is still a concern for little ears. Make sure to bring ear protection for young children. You’re going to be camping near several large bodies of water; bug spray is a must, or you’ll be scratching all the way home. There’s a first-aid tent on site, but it never hurts to have your own kit in case of minor cuts and scrapes. Of course, sunscreen is essential. There are free water-filling stations around the festival grounds, so bring an empty bottle with you.
Fires are allowed at Country Jam, as long as they’re kept within a metal ring. Cook to your heart’s content, but make sure you have it all down the hatch before you head into the festival; outside food is not allowed. The camp store stocks a few essentials, but they can be pretty pricey. You’ll find a pretty decent selection of supermarkets and grocery stores in Eau Claire.
A three-day wristband grants patrons in-and-out privileges, so you’re free to leave and check out the restaurants in Eau Claire whenever you please. The town has seen something of a foodie renaissance in recent years, and you can find everything here from down-home American favorites to excellent sushi. Most restaurants are independently owned, and with a little hunting, you should be able to get your hands on something vegan or gluten-free.
Generally, the food at Country Jam is delicious, calorific, but sees little variety. The festival often partners with a select group of restaurants, and offerings tend toward burgers, pulled pork, pizza, and other such classics. If you have any special dietary requirements, you might want to prepare meals or check out the restaurants in Eau Claire.
Country Jam is pretty serious about security, and that means you’re likely to spend quite some time waiting in line. Everything is going to be searched, backpacks are banned entirely, and you’ll save yourself a lot of time and trouble if you put all your stuff in a clear bag (small clutches are also permitted). The Eau Claire Sheriff’s office has a significant presence at the festival, and both the concert area and the campground are patrolled by private security at all times.
At this time of year, breathing the air around Eau Claire can feel like inhaling soup. You’re going to sweat a lot, so drink plenty of water. This goes double if you’re drinking alcohol as well. Summer storms are not unheard of in the area. In most cases, the show goes on come rain or shine, but the festival has evacuated due to dangerous weather conditions in previous years. If you feel unsafe, leave or ask staff for information at that time.
Country Jam USA has two first aid areas: one near the main festival gates and one in the campgrounds. Both are staffed by emergency medical technicians. You’ll find general practitioners, emergency care, and a pharmacy in Eau Claire. None are more than a twenty-minute drive away from the festival grounds.