Utrecht Festival Survival

Festival season is upon us, ranging from street festivals to massive music festivals. Even in the city center of Utrecht you’ll find an increasing number of festivals going from spring until autumn. Some of the newest are the Trek Food Truck Festival and Klein New Orleans. Trek is coming up on it’s third year, while Klein New Orleans is going to be celebrating it’s second year in a couple of weeks. Both have been massive successes. Plus, there’s my absolute favorite, the autumn edition of the Bock Beer Festival.

Maximize is putting together a list of top festival hacks from a variety of bloggers for all sorts of festivals and they’ve invited me to get involved. You can get involved, too, by commenting here and using the #UltimateFestHacks hashtag. I’m particularly interested in learning about others’ tips for Trek, as that festival just gets bigger and busier each year! For now, though, here are some of my tips that work for pretty much all of the three festivals I’ve mentioned.
Klein New Orleans

Get there early.
You may be tempted to go to any of these festivals later in the day/early evening, but if you wait, you’ll end up in long lines amid a crush of people. We usually hit the Bock Beer Festival around 3 p.m. on the Saturday, and it’s still busy, but you can more easily find friends in the crowd and not have to wait in too long a line to try the various beers. For the Trek festival, the earlier the better. It’s busy almost right from the start and the lines just get longer and longer as the day goes on. As for Klein New Orleans, get there from the start, as well, so you can take part in the Second Line.

Scope out your options in advance.

Most of the festivals post information on their website or Facebook page about who and what will be there. If you’re limited on time and/or budget, or there with a group of friends, you can decide what is most important to you and aim for those areas first. Trek, in particular, has so many food vendors set up throughout the Griftpark that making that first choice can be overwhelming, especially if you’re with a group of people. If you can all agree in advance on one place to start, that will tide you over while you plan your next excursion.

Have plenty of cash.

Most festivals don’t take PIN cards and there aren’t always cash machines nearby (although there is one near the Bock Beer Festival, but the lines get long there, too). Try to get some smaller denominations and coins, too, so the vendors don’t have to use up all of their change. If you’ve done some advance research, you might have an idea of how much things cost. For example, there’s a set fee for the glass you’ll get at the Bock Beer Festival and then there’s a set price for the tokens you need to get the beers. Always buy more tokens than you think you’ll want. We ALWAYS end up buying more and the lines are much longer by then. You can turn them in at the end if you don’t use them and get your money back.


Especially when it comes to the food at Trek and Klein New Orleans, the lines can be long, and if you want to try lots of things, sharing is a great way to cover all your bases. At Klein New Orleans, we ordered both the gumbo and the jambalaya and then split them between us. Though there’s a crawfish boil planned this year, which might require a serving all to myself! At the food festivals like Trek, you’re bound to want to try so many things that if you share dishes, you won’t end up too full after the first few stops.17933083269_d8605e3727_m

Be adventurous.

One of the great things about sharing is that it’s a good excuse to try things you aren’t quite sure about. With two or more people eating, it won’t go to waste if you don’t like it, but it’s also a good way to try things you might not otherwise go for on your own.

Wear comfy shoes.

Be adventurous with the food, not your footwear. At most of these festivals, you’re going to be on your feet for a long time. You’re also going to be in some big crowds where there’s the potential to have your toes stepped on or to get splashed with spilled something or other. You probably want to skip the heels and delicate sandals, as boring as that may be.

So what are your favorite festivals and tips for surviving and making the most of them?

They Startle Easily

Bock Bier Festival in Utrecht

Ledig Erf Bock Bier Festival
It’s that time of year again! Time for the annual bock beer festival at Ledig Erf! Lots of delicious bock beers from a variety of breweries, and various typical Dutch snacks to soak up some of the alcohol.

The festival starts tomorrow and runs through Sunday. We’ll be there Saturday afternoon, hoping the rain stays away. It’s always been gorgeous the past years we’ve gone. Hopefully our luck hasn’t run out! Say hi if you spot us.

If you go, take cash. You pay a deposit on a glass (which you can keep or return for your money back) and you buy coins that are used inside the tents to pay for the beers.

As well as looking forward to seeing friends and drinking tasty beers, I’m also looking forward to seeing what strange, new creatures will be roaming the festival this year.
Friendly CreaturesStrange Creatures

The “Baaaaa” Beer Festival

Bock Bier
Saturday afternoon, we headed down to the southern tip of the old city center to take part in the annual Bock Beer Festival. Held at Ledig Erf each year, the three-day festival is a great opportunity to try a variety of mostly local bock beers, the traditional autumn beers. In all, there were 22 beers from which to choose and each one was surprisingly different. All of the ones we tried were lekker!

Ledig Erf Bock Bier Festival

Last year we met up with Amy in NL and her husband, and this year our group expanded to also include A Georgia Peach Abroad. The more the merrier! Just as our group expanded this year, it seemed like everyone else’s group expanded, as well. Despite the overcast weather — although fortunately there was no rain — the crowd on Saturday afternoon was bigger than we remembered it being last year.

When you’ve got 22 beers to choose from, it can be difficult to decide on which ones to try, since we certainly weren’t going to be trying them all. Our initial plan for the day was to start with the ones with the oddest names. As a result, we tried the Lipreader (Butcher’s Tears), the Slobberbock, and considered the Maximus Bock, but got sidetracked instead by the Steenbrugge Abdijbok.

One thing I did remember from last year were the horned creatures wandering through the crowds. Last year, they were a bit more “woodsy“; this year they had a steampunk vibe. When I first spotted them this year, one was having a baaaaaaa-off with a young boy. However, when they spotted me and my camera, they seemed a bit startled. You know how woodland creatures can be skittish.

They Startle Easily

Still, after a few tentative sniffs, they soon realized I was friendly and then it was all smiles! I didn’t even have to lure them in with a tasty Slobberbock!

Friendly Creatures

Beer and Protests

Ledig Erf
The forecast for Saturday is sunshine and decent temperatures, so I think we might head out to a couple of different things going on this weekend in town. It will be a bit of social consciousness and a bit of social libation.

First off, in support of Occupy Wall Street, there’s going to be an Occupy Utrecht event Saturday at the Domplein. With a general aim to global change, there will be speakers and open debate, beginning at noon. At 13:30, the event will move on to either Amsterdam or Den Haag. If you’re curious, there’s more info and other links at this site.

When the event moves on, I think we’ll move on to Ledig Erf to check out the annual Bockbier Festival. I think there will be around 65 bock beers available for tasting, including De Leckere’s Rode Toren. I’ve become quite the fan of De Leckere, the local Utrecht brewery with many beers named for historically important people and places here in Utrecht. The festival itself is free; the beers cost money, of course. It could be a fun way to spend some of the afternoon, especially since there will also be live music.