April 26, 2017

Little Kids, Big Wheels: A Parent's Guide to Twilight

Kiddie Dope

Photo Credit: Joshua L. Jones

As much as I love AthFest for all its musically sweaty glory, Twilight is a great way to test the festival waters with your kids. If you’re new to Athens, new to parenting or simply new to hauling your kids downtown to an event, the annual all-things-bike fest is a great way to break the ice.

It’s taken me a few years—and lots of mistakes—to get to where I finally know how to navigate Twilight with kids. And now you, dear reader, can reap the rewards. Behold, my top five tips for taking your kids to Twilight:

Ride Your Bikes

This one should be a no-brainer, although I know it’s more difficult if you don’t live in a neighborhood that borders downtown. But you know what? You can always drive in and park somewhere along the Greenway—say, in Dudley Park or along Willow Street—or even in a nearby neighborhood and ride your bike from there. It’s a great experience for the kids, and it makes them feel special when they watch all the cool cyclists and know they’re riding their bike, too. Plus, for as hostile as Athens’ roads can be to cyclists, this is the one time of the year when drivers realize they need to share the road. We should capitalize on that.

Pack Food and Drinks

I made the mistake one year of only packing one water bottle and some sunscreen. I thought I was well prepared, but within 30 minutes of arriving, my daughter was complaining of hunger. Thus, we began an hour-long trek to find someplace—anyplace—that had a kid-friendly food item and a wait less than an hour. Didn’t happen. Don’t be me and end up on the roof of the Georgia Theatre with a crying, hangry child—pack an assortment of granola bars, fruit, chips, beef jerky—anything!

Pick Your Spot

As the day goes on, the crowds will thicken. Keep this in mind as you settle into a spot to watch the races. Look for a place where you can see the action but also give the kids a place to run around and blow off steam. For example, if you select a spot along the course fence, consider the areas behind you for possible play spots. City Hall and the courthouse, for example, are great family-friendly places to set up camp. Oh, and while you’re packing your food staples, you might also want to pack a blanket and some folding chairs—they will all come in handy throughout the day.

Avoid the Hay Bales

Yes, there is an attraction to watching the race from the sharp corners on the west side of the course. But unless you’re watching with your adult friends, avoid this spot with the kids. The crowd is too thick here to get a good view of the race anyway. (And, if you’re like me, you end up being distracted by the hordes who simply MUST cross the street as soon as the racers pass… Where are you going? Now?)

Be a VIP

Whether or not “beer tents” are kid-friendly is your own call, but I’ve always found that so many families and kids attend Twilight that no matter where you go, most places become kid-friendly by default. Last year I paid a ridiculously small amount for entry into the BikeAthens VIP area, and it was worth every dime. I had a proper chair (bonus since I was pregnant), access to food and drinks (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic), and it was adjacent to a wide-open area in front of some buildings where a gaggle of kids entertained themselves. If you’re not a fan of packing chairs, blankets and other items to set up your own camp, paying for entry to a special area is a good way to go.

Enjoy the races!