When I first heard about Gentse Feesten, it was described to me as a mega-festival with partying and drinking alcohol until the early morning hours, every night, for 10 days. While it sounded fun for the (much younger than me) Gentenaar who was describing it, I found it hard to imagine going to any of the festival activities as a family, with my young son.
However, I have learned since then, that the late night, “giant party” experience of Gentse Feesten is only one of many ways to take part in the festival activities. There are also many activities during the daytime that are designed just for children and families to enjoy.
In fact, Gentse Feesten makes it very clear that there is something for everyone during the 10-day festivities, including children. Take it from Leonie in this video!
Gentse Feesten, one of many summer events in Gent, is said to be the largest, open-air, cultural festival in Europe. Over the course of 10 days in July, our city is alive with music, theater, dance, and other cultural performances, as well as indoor activities, in more than 14 different festival squares and other locations. While all of this is coordinated by Stad Gent, there are actually multiple festivals, organizations, and individuals that organize the program.
It can be daunting to know all the events happening at any given time, let alone find those that interest you. Here are some tips to make that process a little easier. Further below are some of 2017’s Gentse Feesten program highlights for children and families.
View the Gentse Feesten Program
There are two ways to view the Gentse Feesten Program: online or by purchasing the printed Gentse Feestenmagazine.
The Gentse Feesten website can be viewed in English, Dutch, or French, although I occasionally experience glitches with the English translations. The site briefly describes their children’s programming here. On the site, you can browse the entire program (one day at a time) and can narrow your search by location or category.
You can use the category search to filter for events for children. (Go to the “Program” section of the website; next to “sort by”, select “category”; look for “KINDER EN JEUGDPROGRAMMA’S”). Be aware, however, that this only gives you results by one day at a time, so you also have to select which day you are searching for.
The Gentse Feestenmagazine, a full program printed in Dutch, can be purchased for € 2 at these locations throughout Gent. A selection of the magazine can be viewed at this link. The magazine, like the website, lists the Gentse Feesten program sorted by day and also by theme. It also has a festival guide for children (Feestengids voor Pierkes en Pubers).
You can use either of these resources to search the program for festival activities that are suitable for you and your children. Below are a few highlights.
Fair at Vrijdagmarkt
There will be fairground attractions at Vrijdagmarkt every day of the festival. These begin July 14 at 19:00 and every other day of the festival at 14:00.
Gentopia Children’s Village at Zuidpark
During Gentse Feesten, Zuidpark becomes Gentopia, a festival spot specifically for children. This children’s village has activities, games, bouncy castles, shows, and other entertainment. It can be enjoyed July 15-23, every day from 13:00 to 19:00.
Gentopia kicks off on July 15 with a parade leaving from Bij Sint Jacobs at 14:00, arriving at Zuidpark at 15:00. The parade will be led by the children’s mayor of Gentopia, along with the mayor of the Gentse Feesten. Elections for next year’s children’s mayor of Gentopia will be held on July 22 at 17:00. Interested children can learn more here.
The Gentopia website maintains a list of daily stage shows and story times. These include magic shows, science shows, and circus acts. The website lists other activities (animaties) separately. These include interactive dance demonstrations, interactive musical workshops, story times, inflatables (separate bounce areas for different age groups), Quidditch, a music area, a coloring area, sand construction, a “truck street”, a toddler play area, a baby area which includes a place to change diapers and warm bottles, and a terrace for parents to relax.
The Disney Junior Play Truck will visit Gentopia on July 21. The Flemish Pebble TV bus will visit Gentopia on July 23 and 24. For other dates and times of demonstrations, workshops, and performances, use the two links above and follow Gentopia’s Facebook page.
Miramiro at Coyendanspark
The Miramiro festival promotes the development and recognition of circus, theater, dance, and other artistic performances in public spaces. With a theme of “miracles matter”, Miramiro aims to produce quality performances with surprise and whimsy.
Miramiro’s home during Gentse Feesten is Coyendanspark, though some of their events and performances are at different locations in Gent. Miramiro runs from July 15 to 18. On each of those days, from 14:00 to 18:00, Miramiro hosts Familienamiddagen (family afternoons) in Coyendanspark.
During Familienamiddagen, among other things, kids can play and create with a sand drawing machine, make their own screen-printed festival souvenir (bring a light-colored t-shirt or purchase a bag on site), or take a breakdancing workshop (every 20 minutes from 15:00 to 17:30).
Onder de Draak at Sint-Baafsplein
The Gentse Feesten events at Sint-Baafsplein are organized by Onder de Draak. Onder de Draak means “below the dragon”, as the events in Sint-Baafsplein occur in the shadow of the Belfort’s dragon. Onder de Draak presents programs for kids including an interactive kid’s disco, a dance school, rope skipping demonstrations, musical performances, clowns, and other circus-like performances.
Almost every day of Gentse Feesten (with the exception of three) from 14:00 to 16:30, eduCentrum joins Onder de Draak to host a Mobile KidsLab in the Lange Kruisstraat 6H (Sint-Baafsplein). In this lab, participants will use iPads, program robots, print in 3D, engineer with Legos, and more. Registration is required and is available here. Participation costs € 15 and is capped each day for a maximum of two groups (1st to 3rd grade and 4th to 6th grade) of fifteen children each.
The International Puppetbuskersfestival includes performances from over 15 different groups. The performance groups come from multiple countries (Greece, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, and France), so while the performances are probably not in English, some may not be in Dutch either, and may be in your native language!
These puppetry performances will be held throughout the entire festival at 8 different locations around Gent. The Puppetbuskersfestival website provides a complete list of performances by location. The website also offers descriptions of all the performances groups, some of which include videos, so you can preview their work and get an idea of what to expect. Follow the International Puppetbuskersfestival Facebook page for future updates.
Klein Festijn, is a children’s theater festival that produces performances during Herfstvakantie, Krokusvakantie, and Gentse Feesten. From July 15-23, they have over 20 theater productions for children at the Lakenmetershuis (Vrijdagmarkt 24-25).
In general, the Klein Festijn is for children two-years-old and up, though each performance has its own age recommendation. Details about each performance can be found on their Facebook event page. Registration and ticket purchases are required and can be done though the Uitbureau Gent site. More information on the performances is available there as well.
Other Children’s Theater and Concerts
Uitbureau Gent has organized two children’s concerts on Francois Laurentplein/Luisterplein on Saturday July 15 at 11:00 and 14:30.
TalGent Competition at Korenmarkt
Is your child a rising star? Do they love to perform and have a talent they’d like to share with an audience? If so, they may be interested in TalGent, a talent competition for children during the Gentse Feesten. If not, maybe they’ll just want to watch other children perform!
Performances are held from 14:00 to 16:00 on July 17, 19, 21, and 23. Participation in TalGent is open to children from 6 to 13 years of age. Registration is required and children and their performances must meet certain restrictions.
KAA Gent Presentation
An event at Sint-Baafsplein that may interest football-loving families is the presentation of the KAA Gent team for season 2017-2018. This will occur on July 17 from 18:00 to 19:30. I hear this one gets crowded!
Farm Fun at Schoolhoeve De Campagne
Schoolhoeve De Campagne, Gent’s school/learning farm for children, will have Open Days during Gentse Feesten, on July 16 through 19, from 13:30 to 18:00 each day. Activities include petting and feeding the animals, carriage rides, viewing animal care, baking bread, face painting, and much more. Registration is not required, but tickets (bonnetjes) will be sold on site for activities, food, and beverages. You can learn more on their Facebook event page.
Unique Walking, Cycling, and Boat Tours
There are tons of walking, cycling, and boat tours offered during Gentse Feesten. Some of these, of course, may be more or less appropriate for you and your children depending on their age and the distance they can comfortably walk or cycle (or you can comfortably carry, push, or pull them in strollers or on bikes). Here are a few that might be fun for kids.
For early-rising children who love trucks, on July 20, you can take a morning walk from 06:45 to 8:00 with IVAGO guides and a variety of their trucks. The walk starts at the Stadhuis and ends with a breakfast at the MIAT. Kids can enjoy seeing how IVAGO trucks help keep our city clean and trash-free. The walk costs € 8 and registration is required.
For children who like ships, boats, and cranes, on July 18 or 21, from 14:00 to 17:00 each day, you can take a 25km cycling tour of the Port of Gent, led by the Gentse Gidsen (Gent Guides Association). This tour costs € 10 and requires registration.
For children who would rather be on the boat, boat tour companies are offering special tours for children and families during Gentse Feesten. Boat in Gent’s special tours have different themes (Pirates or Vikings, for example) and tour routes, and often include free ice cream. Gent Watertoerist’s feature interactive musical performances by Alina Pralina.
Museum Visits, Activities, and Workshops
Most Gent museums offer free admission to Gent residents during Gentse Feesten. You just need to show your ID to prove your residency. Many are also offering events and activities for children during Gentse Feesten.
MIAT will have museum games for children, medieval breakfasts, family tours, and family workshops on different printing techniques utilizing their printing presses. The World of Kina: The Garden (De wereld van Kina: de Tuin) will host art workshops and walks for children about trees and plants. The Museum Dr. Guislain will also hold art workshops for children.
The Huis van Alijn offers children’s activities in the museum, as well as puppet performances featuring the popular Pierke Alijn. SMAK has a discovery booklet for kids to use during their visit. Design Museum Gent also has a game for children to explore the museum. Belfort Gent will host a coloring contest for children.
Some of these activities require registration and ticket payments, so it is best to visit the museum websites or the Gentse Feesten program for detailed information.
Create Your Own Agenda
There are even more activities for children and families during Gentse Feesten beyond what I have mentioned. I hope these tips help you and your family create your own perfect agenda for a wonderful Gentse Feesten 2017 experience. We’d love to hear in the comments below if I missed anything, and how you enjoy Gentse Feesten!