Image: Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival
Jeff Gentner  /  Getty Images
The Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival is held on June 12-15 on a 700-acre farm in Manchester, Tenn. Acts include: Pearl Jam, Jack Johnson, Willie Nelson, Chris Rock, B.B. King, Robert Plant. Tickets: Four-day pass ($244.50) includes camping costs; VIP package ($1,165) includes two VIP passes.
updated 6/5/2008 3:29:03 PM ET 2008-06-05T19:29:03

Summer music festivals are no longer just for roving college students and intermittently employed Gen Xers. Savvy concert promoters and event producers are now catering to different age groups with luxury accommodations and entertainment for children — even pricey extras, like music lessons with rock stars.

Music festivals such as these, say organizers, provide an experience that people return for year after year. At the seven-year-old Bonnaroo festival (June 12-15) in Manchester, Tenn., this means pairing acts like Pearl Jam, Robert Plant and Willie Nelson with free morning yoga classes, nightly dance parties, an onsite hair salon and a 24-hour cinema tent.

"Our sensibilities as producers," says Bonnaroo co-founder Rick Farman, "has always been to make the concert bigger than the concert, to make it an event and include a lot of different elements that we're passionate about."

Several organizers repeat this refrain, but each festival varies greatly. The key to enjoying one of the summer's many music fests is selectivity — the more sophisticated the experience you're looking for, the pickier you should be.

Location, location, location
While some promoters have chosen urban backdrops like San Francisco, Baltimore or Denver for their festivals, others have stayed old-school, transforming farm land or open space into festival grounds. This often means camping with 20,000 other concert-goers, which can be less than ideal. But some festivals offer either experience.

The Pemberton Festival (July 25-27), held in British Columbia and featuring acts such as Coldplay and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, allows concert-goers the option of camping on-site or retreating to a nearby ski resort or lodge. Unlike most overnight events, camping at Pemberton is segregated by age: One area is designated for families and another is for those 19 years old and above. If deluxe accommodations are important, the Four Seasons in Whistler or any number of well-appointed bed-and-breakfasts are right nearby.

At a daily festival, like All Points West (Aug. 8-10) at Liberty State Park in New Jersey or Outside Lands (Aug. 22-24) in San Francisco, there's no hassle of camping, but there is the added challenge of finding a nearby hotel and convenient transportation. Liberty State Park has stunning views of the Manhattan skyline and Statue of Liberty, but the area is accessible mostly by light rail and ferry. On-site parking is available only for those who carpool.

If you have your heart set on seeing one of the headliners (such as the edgy rock band Radiohead, the enigmatic singer-songwriter Cat Power and surf rocker Jack Johnson), your best bet is to book a room in the West Village or Tribeca, since the ferry service to Liberty State Park runs from lower Manhattan.

Maximize the value of your ticket
To get the most out of any festival, consider purchasing a VIP pass. Though they cost as much as three-times the regular admission, a VIP pass will guarantee a higher level of service. At Bonnaroo, where VIP admission is $1,169.50 for a pair, the special treatment includes preferred parking, seats closer to the concert stage, nicer shower and restroom facilities and VIP-only events. Regularly priced passes start at $209.50.

Image: Glastonbury Festival
Anthony Devlin  /  AP
The Glastonbury Festival is held on June 27-29 on the Worthy Farm in Pilton, England. Acts include:  Jay-Z, Leonard Cohen, Dirty Pretty Things, Vampire Weekend. Tickets: $301.20.
At other festivals, VIP treatment comes for a smaller price. Fans of '80s hair-band acts like Bret Michaels (lead singer of Poison), Warrant and Tesla can get VIP passes to the Rocklahoma festival (July 9-13) in Pryor, Okla., for $400. The pass entitles ticket-holders to up-close seats and meals and beverages.

With or without a VIP pass, many of these festivals offer cool extras. At Rocklahoma, $2,000 will get you an hours-long session with a festival musician. The evening ends with a 10-minute set before a roaring rock 'n' roll crowd. Mark Nuessle, president and general manager of Catch the Fever Music Festivals, which organizes the event, says the sessions haven't been advertised, but half of the slots are already sold.

All Points West organizer Ken Tessler says he may add additional components once the event date nears but is currently planning an interactive art exhibit and will host an eco-village where audience members can learn about environmental issues. At Pemberton, local outdoors companies will take concert-goers horseback riding, whitewater rafting and hiking for an additional price.

Pemberton's approach reflects a growing sophistication in catering to music-festival crowds. It was important to give attendees the choice between the camping and luxury experience, says Pemberton promoter Shane Bourbonnais: "We're trying to build our campground into a mini-resort."

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