Grab your friends and pack up the RV or campervan for a trip to Chicago for a music fest like you have never seen or heard before. Chicago presents the North Coast Music Festival to thousands of rock, hip hop, and folk jam music lovers annually. On Northerly Island in Chicago, Illinois, you can find dozens of new and old artists from around the country as they spend two days and nights from early afternoon until late into the night jamming out your favorite hits.
Northerly Island is a tiny peninsula that only has one way in or out, so you don’t have to worry about getting lost, and the Chicago Transit Authority provides plenty of public options for local travel. Once you get there, you will notice there are two gates for your convenience, one for lawn seats and one for grandstand and VIP seats. This cuts down on the time you may spend looking for the spot you are going to be enjoying the music from at NCMF.
You will also find a bunch of food and drink choices all around the lawn, as well as by the VIP seating. The festival offers reservable lockers for your valuables and vendors with various merchandise for sale such as t-shirts, CDs, and other musical paraphernalia. This is an event to remember and come back to year after year.
The tickets for the North Coast Music Festival range in price depending on the type and what day you choose. For example, one-day basic tier-one lawn tickets have been under $50 in recent years. But if you want a VIP ticket for the whole weekend, this has been known to go for as much as $500 with an average price of approximately $300. If you happen to show up without a ticket, there is a box office out in front of the arena that is open throughout the weekend.
Chicago driving can be tricky as the city always seems to have something going on, so plan to get there early. If you are driving an extra-large campervan or RV, you may have some issues getting around and under some low overpasses. Avoid some parts of Lakeshore Drive near Columbus Drive, where there are several known low clearance bridges, often noting heights of 13' 6". Some side streets west of Lakeshore Drive may reach a low clearance of 11' 8". Make sure to check this information and make arrangements before heading to the Huntington Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island.
There are several parking lots near the festival, but only the Adler Planetarium Lot has spots for oversized vehicles, and these are limited. The Adler Planetarium Lot is only available on Friday, and you must prepay for your spot. Motorists may want to plan other options, such as leaving your RV at the campground and taking public transportation.
One thing Chicago is known for is its transportation availability. The Chicago Transit Authority has busses and trains available throughout the city that will pick you up and drop you off at the East Museum Lot. Passes and tickets for all of these can be bought in advance online, by phone, or in person. You can also take the Cook County Metra Rail System or use a rideshare app or taxi service.
North Coast Music Festival does not offer onsite camping, and guests are not allowed to sleep in a vehicle on the island, even if it is an RV or campervan. However, you can find suitable campgrounds, RV parks, boondocking spots, and even some parking lots just off the island that allow you to reserve spots for the night.
Some other campgrounds around the Cook County area just off the island have RV options, some with water and electric but most are just dry camping spots. There are also two lots that allow for overnight RV parking in Chicago at the 18th Street Lot by Soldier Field and Lot B on 31st Street. Make reservations well in advance for this popular music fest.
Getting around on the island is easy with shuttle services to and from the Huntington Bank Pavilion. Once at the concert, it is all walking, dancing, and sitting for the night as guests are not allowed to use any kind of motorized vehicles, skates, skateboards, etc. Wheelchairs and strollers are allowed, and there are special ADA accessible restrooms as well as concession stands.
Dress for summer but bring some extra clothes like a rain poncho or jacket, jeans, and a long-sleeved shirt or two. Although it is hot in Chicago during the summer, this event takes place at the end of summer, and Chicago’s weather at that time can vary from hot to cold within the course of a day.
Guests are allowed to bring in a single compartment bag or backpack, but be aware that there are separate lines for those with bags because they have to be searched and will take more time. You may need a debit or credit card if you want to buy anything and bring some cash just in case. You can have small cameras and GoPros for video and pics but no selfie sticks or tripods. No coolers or ice chests are allowed either.
Bring a water bottle or hydration packs for water as they have several water refilling stations to keep you hydrated. You are also allowed to bring personal misting fans, sunglasses, and a hat to keep the sun off. Remember to bring some sunscreen and bug spray since you will be outside.
Cooking at the campsite depends on what your campground allows at this time of year and what amenities they offer. If you are staying in a campsite with a campfire grill, bring along some charcoal and fuel or a campfire stove just in case the campground does not have hookups. Bring along plenty of drinking water and make sure your tanks are full. If you need anything, Chicago is full of places from convenience stores to grocery and retail stores where you can buy food, ice, snacks, or whatever else you may need.
You will find no shortage of restaurants in Chicago. The region is known for several food styles, such as the Chicago-style hot dog and Chicago deep-dish pizza. It doesn’t matter whether you want a burger, chicken, tacos, or a fancy steak dinner, you will find it all in this area near Lake Michigan.
Although vendors may vary, you may encounter sponsors such as T-Mobile, The Patron, Illinois Lottery, and Monaco, as well as some art installations. Some may include t-shirt sales, beer, and other drinks, and there are several water refilling stations where you can refill your water bottles for free.
The Chicago Police Department works in conjunction with the Huntington Bank Pavilion and North Coast Music Festival staff to provide the best security possible. While you may or may not see security personnel there, you can be sure that they are there, keeping an eye on things. If you see something strange, report it, and if you do not encounter security, call 911.
The weather in Chicago in September can vary from hot and dry to wet and cold. The average high temperature in early September in Chicago is 75 degrees while the low is about 54 degrees. However, being right on the water, the weather can be iffy no matter what month it is. It can vary from 90 degrees to 50 degrees over the course of one day, so check the forecast before you go.
There are two main first aid tents in the Huntington Bank Pavilion area. The first one is outside the gates in between gates one and two. The second one is inside the lawn area between the Patron and the Hangar in the southeastern section of the lawn. The closest hospital, if needed, is Mercy Hospital on Michigan Avenue less than three miles from the festival.