Heading to Governors Ball for the first time? Before you begin this article, I suggest you read our Governors Ball 101 Page, which covers general festival information and frequently asked questions. This article goes beyond the general Gov Ball information, including insider tips and the things I wish I had known before going to Gov Ball for the first time.
Your best bet for getting a good view of the main stage is by going to the left of the center divider walkway that leads up to the speaker and technician area. The right side of the divider always fills up faster than the left, so if it looks like there’s nothing up close when you approach the stage, walk over to the left before settling to the back of the crowd.
The Citi Deck is cleared out at the end of each set, so even if there is only 15 minutes left of the current set when you get in, you’ll be asked to leave with everyone else at the end. If you got into the line hoping to see the current performer, walk right in and enjoy the time left. However, if you’re primarily interested in seeing the next artist, work your way up to the front of the line and stay there until after the current act ends, letting those behind you pass you to go in. Once the set ends, the viewing deck will be cleared out and you will be at the front of the group allowed in for the next set. The viewing deck is closed for approximately 30 minutes and re-opens for the new group 15 minutes prior to the next set.
If the headliner appeals to the younger crowd, be prepared to be surrounded by young, drunk kids. The first day of Gov Ball 2017, Chance the Rapper was headlining, with Lorde taking the main stage just before him. Not surprisingly the GA single day crowd was primarily 18-24 year olds, many of which seemed to have had one too many drinks earlier in the day. The younger, drunker groups will disrupt the shows you want to see by constantly bumping into you as they dance/fall over, vomit in public places (I’m not kidding, it was disgusting) and leave trash everywhere. If you’re younger than 24, have fun, join in on the party! If you’re like us and you’re not, you may find yourself staring longingly at the calm, clean, vomit free VIP area. Our crowd experience did get better as the weekend continued, especially on Sunday when Tool headlined, attracting an older crowd, but for our next trip to Gov Ball, we’re going to err on the side of caution and buy VIP tickets. For more information, read our Gov Ball VIP Ticket Article.
Even if you're not interested in any of the early performances, you should still check out Governors Ball before it gets crowded at least once. Being at Gov Ball early is the perfect opportunity to get a picture of the Gov Ball Sign without a bunch of strangers, stock up on the free giveaways, play a game of mini-golf, try the food vendor that always has a long line or simply get acquainted with the festival grounds.
It's clear that Governors Ball puts a lot of planning into creating a festival experience that goes beyond the music. This includes free snacks, drinks, mini golf and even having your hair braided! If you get to Gov Ball early enough in the afternoon, you can walk right up to each vendor and quickly grab their giveaway without a wait. It took us less than five minutes to grab everything pictured above and we still had time to grab a picture of us with the Gov Ball Sign and make it to the Honda Stage before the first act of the day started. However, that all changes in the afternoon when the festival grounds start to fill up and the lines start to get long. In the afternoon, expect long lines at the food and drink vendors and if you want your hair braided know that you could be waiting hours! I put my name on the list for got2b's sponsored hair braiding early on the second day of Gov Ball and was able to walk around and enjoy the festival before returning for my appointment three hours later. By the time I returned, the wait list was full and some girls were waiting 2+ hours in the standby line! For a list of last years Gov Ball sponsors and giveaways, see our Free Food and Activities at Governors Ball 2017 page.
My fiancé and I took a redeye out from San Diego the night before the festival. At that time, the weather showed it would be cloudy all three days of the festival, with rain two of the days. We packed warm clothes according to the weather. I tried to plan for changes with layered tank tops, sweaters and jackets in case it got warm in the afternoons, but only brought jeans as it seemed like it would be far too cold for shorts or dresses. Unfortunately, the clothes I packed ended up being too warm for two of the three days. I ended up having to do a summer dress run the second day of the festival after being way too hot in jeans the day before. I didn’t end up needing the warm clothes I packed until the final day of Gov Ball when another shift in the weather brought colder temperatures and rain. People from New York may not find any of this surprising, but being born and raised in California, I was caught off guard by the East Coast’s constantly changing weather patterns. Avoid the last-minute clothing run and pack for all types of weather, because the forecast for tomorrow may say rain, but it could end up being a sunny, hot day.
We stayed with a friend in Astoria during Gov Ball so we were lucky to be in walking distance, with a quick (but doesn’t feel so quick, during) walk over RFK Bridge to Randall’s Island. One night we were especially tired and thought we might take an Uber/Lyft back to Astoria, but were surprised to find they are not allowed on Randall’s Island at night during Gov Ball! There are people outside of the festival shouting that they are offering rides back to the city, but keep in mind you’ll be at their discretion for rates/price and you could end up paying significantly more than the normal rate. If you can walk, it’s obviously the cheapest option, but if your accommodations are too far, use our Transportation Guide to plan how you’re getting to and from Randall’s Island in advance.
My fiancé really wanted to get a vinyl signed by Car Seat Headrest, but there was an artist he really wanted to see perform whose set didn’t end until right before the signing period opened. We knew there would be a long line, but we couldn’t get there early without skipping one of our must-see bands. Luckily, he found a recommendation on Reddit that indicated he could skip the line by purchasing a vinyl or cd with the specific request of having it signed. He tried it and it worked! If it’s an artist you really love, budget the $10-$50 cost of the cd and vinyl and make sure you get to meet the artist and get your merchandise signed.
Gov Ball has some seriously delicious food options. Plan ahead using our Gov Ball Food Quest Guide to make sure you don’t miss any delicious eats! We knew exactly what we’d be eating before we went and while everything couldn’t be our favorite, I must say we had some of the best food we’ve ever had at a festival! Read our Gov Ball 2017 Food Review.
Earlier in the day you may notice the grounds are dirty and covered in trash, food and potentially even vomit, which unfortunately doesn’t go away just because you don’t see it at night. You’ll feel a lot more comfortable sitting on the grass during the day and especially at night if you’re sitting on a clean blanket that can be washed after Gov Ball weekend.
With music to listen to, travel arrangements to book and outfits to plan, it’s easy to overlook buying or packing some things you’ll need for Governors Ball. Use our Gov Ball Essentials Guide to make sure you have everything you need.
If you can, you should definitely expand your trip beyond the festival. I always recommend planning your Gov Ball Trip for Thursday to Monday, which gives you a day before the festival to get settled and a day after to recuperate and travel home. Beyond traveling and resting, if you can afford to stay in New York for several extra days to sight see and explore the city, you really should. New York City is amazing, there are so many things to see and do that you'll have no problem filling any extra time that you have.
New York City has great public transportation so regardless of where you stay, you'll have access to Randall’s Island for Governors Ball Weekend. That said, with the right hotel and some planning, you could save yourself a significant amount of time getting to and from the festival. For maximum time savings, I recommend booking a hotel in Queens or on the Upper East Side, preferably one with a subway station nearby. This will position you closer to Randall’s Island, which means less hassle and travel time and more time at Gov Ball.
Bring a refillable container and take advantage of the free water refill stations. Not only will this save you money while keeping you hydrated, but it's better for the environment.