If you follow us on Instagram you’ll know that we pretty much make an annual pilgrimage to the Tamworth Country Music Festival.
We always take our kids, and although not every venue is child-friendly, enough of them are to make it a great experience for the whole family. It’s an incredible way to introduce your kids to country music, music festivals and live gigs!
The festival is held each January and really is the most awesome celebration of Australian Country Music - and the largest music festival in Australia!
It's been going for 50 years now, starting back in 1973 when the 2TM radio station held the first Australasian Country Music Awards (with Joy McKean winning the first Golden Guitar). The Golden Guitar Awards are still held as part of the festival every year but there is so much more to the festival these days than just the awards ceremony.
Toyota Park Stage
Each year the Toyota Park Stage is set up in Bicentennial Park and there are free concerts in the evening on each night of the festival.
Every night has a particular theme, such as the Star Maker Grand Final, Back to the Bush Spectacular and Best of the Buskers.
As the festival is held in mid-summer, it can be very hot during the day. But once the sun starts going down, it starts to cool down and it’s the perfect temperature for a picnic in the park!
Bring a picnic rug, and either food from home or you can buy dinner from the food trucks in the area, and settle in for a great, free, very family-friendly night of entertainment.
The Family Zone
Just outside Bicentennial Park on Kable Ave is the Family Zone, which is like a fairground, full of rides, games and lots of food trucks!
There is usually a ferris wheel, dodgem cars, and all sorts of other fun things to do for all age groups, and some years they’ve had a happy hour, where ride tickets are cheaper.
The Golden Gig stage is right by the Family Zone, and you can watch young country music stars in a talent quest for musicians aged 17 years and younger. It’s a great opportunity for your kids to watch these young people perform, and who knows, maybe it will encourage them to give it a go next year!
Each year the Country Music Busking Championship brings hundreds of buskers to Peel Street in the centre of Tamworth.
A big section of the street is blocked off, making it a very family-friendly place to wander and check out the amazingly talented buskers. Although some places can be pretty hectic, the buskers are spread out so that you can always find somewhere away from the hustle and bustle.
In the past, country music superstars such as Kasey Chambers, Keith Urban, Troy Cassar-Daley have busked here, so who knows which future star you will see!
There are also food stalls and markets set up along the street, with the Fanzone stage right in the middle, so there is always plenty to see and do!
The Fanzone stage, on the corner of Peel and Fitzroy Streets, has free shows every day (starting from 9am!) and it is a great, family friendly spot to enjoy some of the incredible talent of the festival - both emerging stars and the big names.
There are usually chairs and tables set up, so you can sit back, relax and enjoy the shows, although getting up and dancing is always encouraged - especially for the kids who love to boogie right at the front!
The Longyard is probably the most famous pub in Tamworth, located right next to the Big Golden Guitar.
During the festival they have several areas set up for live music. Some you’ll need tickets for but most of them are free.
Although some of the night-time paid gigs are for over 18s only, the daytime shows are great for kids and we always spend a couple of days here enjoying the music, dancing, food and drinks!
The front bar is turned into “The Deck” stage, with a huge truck parked out the front and a stage set up on the back of it. It’s outside, but under cover so you are protected from the sun and the crowd is fun and friendly.
We like to get here early in the day when it is quieter so that we can grab a table and chairs with a good view of the stage. There are usually gigs starting at either 10am or 12pm, but it does get busy! The area in front of the stage becomes a dance floor and we have seen some incredible line dancing here, but mostly people of all ages are just bopping along to the great music.
The area at the back of the pub is called the “Goonoo Goonoo Room”, and this is where the paid gigs are, but they do also do have free music there, especially during the day.
There is an outdoor area with big tables and lots of space, and it’s a great place to grab a bite to eat - they have a kids’ menu and good pub food.
The Big Golden Guitar
While you’re at the Longyard, make sure you check out the Big Golden Guitar (you can’t miss it - it’s 12 metres tall!) and the visitor information centre next door.
The visitor’s centre includes a souvenir shop, the National Guitar Museum, the Country Music Wax Museum and a café, and it is pretty much compulsory to take a selfie with the Golden Guitar when you visit Tamworth!
The Welder’s Dog
Our other favourite pub to watch gigs during the festival is the Welder’s Dog on Dowe St.
It is a craft brewery (their beer is excellent!) and they generally have two stages set up - the “Doghouse” inside the pub and the “Backyard Stage” set up in the garden out the back.
Like every venue in town this week it gets busy, so we like to get there early and get a table where we can chill out. Although it can become crowded, it’s always been a friendly crowd who have been very welcoming of kids.
The Backyard is set up with tables and chairs, and in the past there have been games like giant Connect 4 and those water misters to keep you cool.
Some of the gigs are ticketed, but most aren’t and although they don’t serve food, there is usually a food truck parked directly out the front to ease your hunger.
Tamworth Regional Playground
While technically not part of the festival, you can't bring your kids to Tamworth and not take them to the amazing Tamworth Regional Playground on Kable Ave!
Whatever age your kids are, they will love this place - there is a huge towering skywalk structure with nets to climb and massive silver slides, there’s an area for littler kids, a sandpit, flying foxes, a bike track and a water-play area!
There is also a cafe that does excellent coffee and is one of the only places we found to be open on the morning of the Australia Day public holiday.
The park has toilets, BBQ and shaded picnic areas and it’s an easy walk into the action of the festival, so it’s a perfect spot to take some time out and relax while the kids run amok!
The Tamworth Country Music Festival really is an Aussie experience not to be missed, and having been to many music festivals in my time, it’s one I love and will keep coming back to!
As I mentioned at the start, not every venue in town is kid-friendly, but you can feel the vibe as soon as you walk into a place. Some spots are full of people who are just up for getting messy, but the majority of venues and patrons welcome families with open arms, and the festival stages are all great places to take your kids.
Tamworth itself is a lovely place and definitely worth a visit, and if you can time it with the Country Music Festival, then strap on your cowboy boots and be ready for one of the most fun parties of the year! Yeehaa!