Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Contributors & Editors

Susana Spiegel

Recovery Writer and Advocate

Last Update on November 7, 2023

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What are sober tents at festivals? Festivals are those joyous havens where people come together to celebrate art, community, and the pure exhilaration of live music.

Something magnetic about these events goes beyond the lineup; it’s the energy, connection, and experience.

However, amid the pulsating beats and glowing light shows, another side to the festival experience is often glossed over substance abuse.

Here’s how the recovery community solves the problem by opening sober tents at festivals.


Sober Spaces at Music Festivals

Recognizing the need for more inclusive and safe environments, a new initiative is partnering with music festivals to create designated sober spaces for attendees.

These sober spaces aim to allow everyone to immerse themselves in the festival experience, minus the substances.

Because everyone deserves to experience the magic of a music festival on their terms, don’t you agree?

Stay with us as we delve deeper into this transformative movement, setting a new festival culture standard.


The Universal Appeal of Sober Spaces at Music Festivals

So, what options exist for festival-goers who seek the energy and community of the event without the omnipresent influence of alcohol and drugs? The answer lies in the burgeoning concept of sober spaces.

These specially curated areas are more than just a sanctuary from the party scene; they are inclusive zones designed to accommodate everyone—from those actively choosing sobriety or in recovery to designated drivers, seasoned festival-goers looking for a break, or parents aiming for a family-friendly experience.

Sober spaces offer a safe and supportive environment where attendees can hydrate, socialize, and truly enjoy the music and vibes, all while free from the pressure to partake in substances.


The Benefits of a Sober Tent

But the benefits of sober spaces extend beyond just those actively avoiding alcohol or drugs. Here are some to consider:

  • Inclusivity: Sober spaces create an environment where everyone is welcome, regardless of their lifestyle choices, fostering a more inclusive festival culture.
  • Safety: These areas provide a haven for those in recovery or choosing sobriety, minimizing the risk of relapse in an environment filled with triggers.
  • Wellness: Sober spaces often offer amenities like hydration stations, comfortable seating, and sometimes even wellness activities like guided meditation or yoga, contributing to overall well-being.
  • Social Support: Being surrounded by like-minded individuals can offer emotional and social support, making the festival experience more enjoyable for those who prefer to remain substance-free.
  • 12-Step Meetings: Some sober spaces host 12-step meetings, providing an invaluable resource for those contemplating recovery.
  • Family-Friendly: Parents can enjoy the festival vibes and introduce their children to live music in a more controlled and appropriate setting.
  • Respite for All: Even for those who partake in alcohol or substances, a sober space can offer a much-needed break from the intensity of the main festival grounds.
  • Alternative Entertainment: Some sober spaces offer additional forms of entertainment like acoustic sets, art installations, or board games, providing a diverse festival experience.
  • Resource Availability: These spaces sometimes have resources like pamphlets or counselors to provide information on substance abuse, mental health, or other related topics.
  • Designated Drivers: Offers a comfortable environment for designated drivers to relax and enjoy the festival without the pressure to drink.


Including these points can further strengthen the argument for why sober spaces are an essential and beneficial feature at music festivals.

Whether you’re the designated driver looking for a temptation-free hangout, a seasoned festival-goer needing a respite from the intensity, or a parent wanting to share live music’s joy with your children, these areas offer a universally appealing oasis.

It’s not about casting judgment on those who engage in substance use; instead, it’s about broadening the festival experience to be more inclusive. In these spaces, the music is still the focal point, and the atmosphere retains its festival spirit—only with a more laid-back vibe.

Sober spaces enrich the festival experience for all, making it a celebration worth its name.


The Growing Need for Sober Spaces at Music Festivals

Music festivals are more than just a celebration of art and sound; they’re a unique amalgamation of community, expression, and, often, substance use.

Whether it’s the sea of cups and bottles or the smell of marijuana wafting through the air, the role of alcohol and drugs in the festival experience is hard to ignore.

While these elements might be part of the appeal for some attendees, they pose a significant challenge for those looking to enjoy the event sober or for those recovering from substance abuse.

The expectation to partake in substance use is almost ingrained in the festival culture.

From beer tents and pop-up bars to groups taking shots near the main stage, temptations abound. But what happens if that’s not your scene, or you’re actively trying to avoid such lures?

Thankfully, a wave of change is on the horizon, as there is a growing recognition of the need for more inclusive, sober spaces at music festivals.

Whether you’re attending for the love of music, art installations, or the sense of community, everyone should have the opportunity to fully “enjoy” the festival on their own terms.


The Risks of Festivals You Might Not Think About

The potential hazards of substance use at festivals aren’t just hypothetical; they’re real and serious.

The dangers are numerous, from dehydration and heat stroke to more grave risks like overdosing or lousy drug interactions.

And it’s not just about individual health.

The presence of substances can also create an atmosphere where poor judgment and risky behaviors are normalized, affecting the overall safety and experience for everyone present.

You might think, “Well, I can handle myself,” but remember, it’s not always about you.

The actions of one can impact the many, and when substances are involved, the risks multiply.


The Rise of Sober Spaces

As much as festivals are hubs of unbridled joy and artistic freedom, a counter-movement is growing within these spaces.

We’re talking about sober spaces, an innovation as groundbreaking as the headline acts themselves.

These areas have popped up in response to an apparent demand for more inclusive and substance-free festival experiences.

So, if you’ve felt a bit sidelined by the booze and drug culture often prevalent at these events, know that the tides are turning in your favor.


Inclusivity, Health, and Stigma-Busting

Okay, let’s break it down.

What exactly do these sober spaces bring to the festival table?

For starters, they’re the ideal of inclusivity.

We all know that festivals are a communal experience, celebrating diversity in music, art, and people.

Sober spaces ensure that this diversity extends to lifestyle choices and health needs.

Besides, these spaces aren’t just about avoiding substances and promoting overall well-being.

Think relaxation zones, water stations, and mental health support.

And let’s not forget the stigma often associated with choosing not to partake in alcohol or drugs.

These spaces challenge the status quo, stating that sobriety and fun are not mutually exclusive.


Where Theory Meets Practice: Sober Spaces in Action

The concept of sober spaces is more than talk; it’s thriving in real-world scenarios.

Take the example set by festivals like “Afropunk” or “Electric Forest,” which have embraced sober spaces as an integral part of their experience.

These are not obscure corners but lively, engaging environments often featuring their unique activities and meet-ups.

And if you need further evidence that this isn’t a fleeting trend, look no further than this Today Article discussing the wellness tent for sober attendees at Stagecoach.

It’s not just a place to escape the noise; it’s a space that provides tools and resources for maintaining sobriety, like 12-step meetings and peer support, all while letting you soak in the festival’s atmosphere.

So here’s the deal: the next time you plan your festival itinerary, watch for events that offer sober spaces.

Whether you’re in recovery, choosing sobriety, or simply curious, these spaces offer a festival experience that’s rich, fulfilling, and inclusive.

And who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?


Design and Features of Sober Spaces


Sober Tent Examples

When you hear “sober spaces,” what comes to mind?

If you envision some sterile, tucked-away corner with little more than a few chairs, let’s clear that up right now.

Today’s sober spaces are designed with as much thought and flair as any other part of the festival.

After all, the idea isn’t just to offer a substance-free zone but to create an inviting, enjoyable space you’d want to visit, whether you’re sober or not.


Outside Lands Festival 2023 “Sober Lands”



@sfstandard “Sober Lands” helps those committed to sobriety while attending festivals – while reminding visitors that sometimes just the music is enough to have a good time. #osl #osl2022 #outsidelands #sftok #sftiktok #sobertiktok #sober #festivals #music #sanfrancisco #sfnews ♬ Sober – Rerewrpd


Not Just a Seat, but a Seat with a View: The Amenities that Elevate

What makes these places genuinely magnetic?

Comfort is vital, and you’ll often find an array of seating options—from cozy bean bags to hammocks—that invite you to rest your festival-weary feet.

But it’s not just about taking a load off.

These spaces often feature a variety of engaging activities, such as board games, live acoustic performances, or even workshops on mindfulness and mental well-being.

Imagine a place where you can chill out, make a friendship bracelet, and maybe even partake in a group meditation session without leaving the festival grounds.

And for those moments when you need a breather from the non-stop festival stimuli, many sober spaces offer dedicated relaxation zones.

Picture this: ambient lighting, soothing music, maybe even some aroma therapy.

It’s like a mini wellness retreat amidst the festival chaos.


The Eye-Catching Appeal: Visually Alluring and Oh-So-Welcoming

Don’t underestimate the power of aesthetics.

These spaces aren’t simply functional; they’re visually appealing.

Every design element, from the color schemes to the layout, is carefully chosen to create a welcoming atmosphere.

You’re not just walking into a ‘space’; you’re stepping into an experience that beckons you to explore, interact, and stay awhile.

Whether it’s the vibrant artwork on the walls or the carefully positioned greenery, the visual appeal serves a purpose: to make you feel at home while offering a new lens through which to experience the festival.

So, the next time you spot a sober space at a festival, don’t just pass it by.

Step in and explore.

Who knows?

It might just become your new favorite festival destination.


Safety First, But Not Just Safety: The Festivals’ Ethos in Action

If you’re a festival organizer, incorporating a sober space isn’t just a nice-to-have; it’s a direct extension of your commitment to attendee safety and well-being.

Sure, there’s a legal and ethical obligation to minimize risk, but sober spaces promote an inclusive environment where every attendee can find their groove.

Offering these spaces speaks volumes about a festival’s values, showing a dedication to the music, art, and diverse community that makes festivals unique.


Building a Better Brand: The Long-Game Benefits for Festivals

And let’s not forget the business angle.

Offering a sober space can have real, tangible benefits for a festival’s bottom line.

First off, it’s a fantastic PR move.

As more and more people seek inclusive and responsible entertainment options, having a sober space can set a festival apart from the crowd.

This can translate into higher attendance rates, not just from those who will use the sober space but also from attendees who appreciate the option, even if they don’t use it themselves.

Over time, this contributes to the festival’s long-term sustainability.

After all, a festival that takes care of its community is a festival that builds a loyal following year after year.

So whether you’re an attendee looking for a different festival experience or an organizer aiming to create a more inclusive event, sober spaces offer benefits that are hard to ignore.

Give it a try, and you might find that it enriches the festival experience unexpectedly.


The Challenges and Vision for Sober Festival Culture


Financial and Logistical Hurdles

Creating sober spaces at festivals comes with a set of financial challenges. The staffing, amenities, and potential specialized services like counseling aren’t free. While some festivals can afford these costs, others can’t, making sponsorships and public funding essential. Moreover, keeping these spaces engaging requires meticulous planning and upkeep to avoid becoming an unattractive afterthought.

A Game-Changing Vision

The ultimate aim is to have vibrant, well-designed, sober spaces at every festival, regardless of their size or genre. Realizing this vision might involve strategic partnerships with wellness brands or tech companies. These collaborations could bring innovative features like virtual reality or mindfulness apps, elevating the sober festival experience.

Cultural Impacts

But it’s not just about the spaces; it’s about changing the culture. When sober spaces become standard, it reshapes societal attitudes, making it clear that enjoyment doesn’t have to involve substances. The goal is a generation of festival-goers for whom substance-free fun is not just possible but expected.


Recovery is Going Main Stream

The Promise for Attendees and Organizers

Sober spaces aren’t a fleeting trend; they signify a meaningful shift toward a more inclusive and health-conscious festival scene. They provide attendees with a haven from substance-related pressures, while for organizers, they represent a commitment to community well-being, enhancing the festival’s reputation and longevity.

The Future is Now

Looking ahead, the vision is for sober spaces to be as common as food trucks and merchandise stands. The ideal is a festival experience where choosing sobriety doesn’t mean compromising on the joy of live music and social interaction.

Need Help? Reach Out!

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction or mental health challenges, specialized help is available. Organizations like Cornerstone Healing Center offer evidence-based treatment for long-term recovery.

By addressing these challenges and embracing the potential, sober spaces can play a transformative role in how we experience festivals—today and in the future.

[1]New initiative partners with music festivals to create designated sober spaces for attendees
[2] 1 Million Strong
Published: 11/7/2023
Contributor: Susana Spiegel
Co-Contributor: Bliss Lavelle

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Author & Reviewers

susana spiegel recovery writer and SEO expert

Susana is a recovery writer and advocate with over 8 years in addiction recovery. She is passionate about sharing accurate and helpful information about mental health, addiction, and recovery. She holds a Bachelor’s in Christian Studies from Grand Canyon University and has over 7 years of working in the addiction field. 

lionel estrada lisac clinical director

Lionel is the Clinical Director of Cornerstone’s Scottsdale treatment facilities. He has had over 4 years at Cornerstone. He is personally in recovery and passionate about helping others overcome substance abuse and mental health challenges; he is trained as an EMDR, adopting a trauma-informed approach to treat the underlying issues.

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