EDM.com Spotlight

EDM.com Spotlight

The Insiders' Guide to Ultra: How To Plan + What It's Really Like

It's A Small World

You may be traveling to Ultra with a group of your best friends and thinking you’re going to escape into a world where no one else will know who you are.  Well, if that was your thought, you might be wrong.  The world seems to get smaller every day, especially in the EDM scene.  Chances are that you will run into someone you met at another show or festival, or maybe even a friend from your hometown.  Also, if you talk to 10 random people, you’ll probably find at least one mutual friend.

Forget Everything Your Mother Told You About Strangers

Speaking of talking to random people, DO IT!  Making friends who share the same love for electronic music is one of the best parts about Ultra.  You already have something huge in common - your fellow festival-goers are people who have traveled from all over the world for the same reason you did.  When you’re filling your water, or hanging out in the shade, look to the person next to you and ask them about themselves. “Where are you from?” has started many a fascinating conversation, and even friendships. Everyone at the festival is in such high spirits, you’d be surprised by how open and friendly everyone is.

Another fun way to make new friends is by trading kandi. Kandi is the name for colorful, beaded bracelets, which usually carry a special message. Ravers personally make them before events so that they can trade them with one another. This is a way to express themselves, connect with others, and spread PLUR (Peace, Love, Unity, and Respect), the raver’s mantra.

If you don’t have any kandi, don’t be afraid. Most veteran ravers absolutely love meeting newbies. If you see someone with kandi up their arms, and you’re polite and smile, they will likely be more than happy to give you a bracelet, and while you’re at it, they’ll probably teach you a thing or two about the rave scene. This is a really great way to meet new friends and start your collection of kandi to bring to future events. Pretty soon you'll be spreading the love yourself!

Clothing (or lack thereof)

The clothing at Ultra is diverse.  You’ll see your standard festival attire, as well as some strange outfits that make the experience all the better! The best rule of thumb is to wear what makes you feel comfortable. If that’s a tank top and shorts with running shoes, go for it. Don’t feel any pressure to be something you’re not. But if you want to be a light-up, rainbow unicorn - do you! This is the last place that anyone will judge you. Some even choose to work on elaborate costumes for months in advance. Here’s what we saw in previous years:

  • For our lovely ladies: Glow in the dark tank tops, rave bras, and bathing suit bottoms and tops were the go-to last year. Visit Electric Laundry’s Facebook page for custom bras, and LED wear accessories. Also, don’t be afraid to visit any crafting store and create your own bedazzled outfit of choice!
  • Dudes: Tanks, basketball shorts, bathing suits, graphic T’s, and neon stunnas were a common sight at last year’s Ultra.  All of these are safe options, but feel free to get creative!
  • For everyone: Flags! Flags from all over the world were seen waving high in the Ultra crowd. Last year we witnessed people proudly repping a colorful and diverse palette of nations such as Brazil, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Cyprus, Switzerland, Lebanon, and of course, the ever-present Colombia (do you guys get free passes?!). Rock one this year and coordinate your clothes to match - repping your country's colors makes for some truly special photo ops.

Clothing Tips!

  • This year, try to go for something other than the neon, “Rage,” or “Party With Sluts” shirt/hat. Ultra is a beautiful festival and time for self-expression, so let’s get creative - and leave that junk in 2013.
  • We can't stress this enough - make comfortable attire your number one priority. Shoes, make-up, hats, shirts, and socks should ALL balance comfort with style. Blisters on your feet can bring down even the most resilient raver.
  • Less is always the way to go in the Miami heat. However, if you’re planning on raving well after the sun goes down and the festival gates close, try to plan accordingly and avoid having to go back to the hotel for a full make-over.
  • Sunglasses are a necessity for the daytime - invest in some croakies or a similar product so you never have to worry about losing your shades.
  • Avoid overpacking. Walking around with a bag full of three sunscreens, extra clothes, and all your other necessities can get to be a little overwhelming. You don't want to feel weighed down as you jump and dance.
Party with EDM.com!

With Ultra right around the corner, our staff has already begun planning for this year's festivities! We'll be hitting a diverse range of stages this year, so follow our Twitter account for live updates on where we'll be - we'd love nothing more than to meet up with our fellow music lovers! The more the merrier.

That's all for Part One of The Insiders' Guide to Ultra! Stay tuned for Part Two, where we'll give you the lowdown on the city of Miami, how to get into the afterparties, what neighborhoods to explore, fun things to check out during the day, and more in-depth tips on how to stretch your budget as far as it can go! Join us as we continue to count down the days to 2014's Ultra Music Festival

Cover Image: RUDGR ]


Part One: The Experience

So you’ve decided you’re going to Ultra Music Festival 2014. You’re peering expectantly into your mailbox every day, waiting for the mystical holographic ticket of your dreams to arrive. You’ve hit the gym a little harder than usual (which means, you’ve started to go). You’re following Ultra’s Twitter and Facebook accounts for every possible update on this year’s lineup and special surprises. So far, so good - you’re doing great! However, in order to get the most out of your investment in UMF, let’s take it a step further and clue you in to some insider tips from the Ultra veterans at EDM.com!

Before we dive in, let's set the mood by checking out the recap movie from last year's epic festival. Light some candles if you want.

Planning Your Journey


If you haven’t booked your hotel, flight, or bought your ticket yet, you’ll want to do that as soon as possible.  Flights are already beginning to get more expensive and hotels are beginning to sell out.  Also, with the impending release of the second phase of Ultra’s lineup, the remaining tickets won’t last long. Last year, tickets lasted a little longer than usual due to the fact that the festival lasted two weekends. Half of those tickets won’t be around this year. Scalping tickets once you land in Miami might seem like a daring and ingenious move, but the proliferation of fake tickets in recent years makes that plan of attack unfeasible. Nothing ruins a festival experience like being turned away at the gates - we’ve seen it happen. Check out some of our tips below, and stay tuned for our next edition of The Insiders' Guide for a deeper look at the beautiful playground we call Miami.

  • Pro-Tip: It’s common practice for airline websites to log the the flights you are looking at and how many times you’ve looked - and then increase the prices. This is legal and happens across the board, so circumvent the system by clearing your browser’s cookies regularly while scrounging for deals.

  • Pro-Tip: Flying into Ft. Lauderdale may seem appealing once you check out the fares, but keep in mind that the cab will run you about $70 each way. Balance that against the flight fare savings - and keep in mind that Miami International employs flat rate taxi fees, making the trip to Downtown only about $25. If you’re looking to really stretch a budget, fly into Miami International and hop on the newly constructed Metrorail Orange Line. If you travelled light and have an hour to burn, you can save $20 over taking the cab. $20 you can put towards those glow-gloves you always wanted. Or, you know, food.
  • Pro-Tip: If you are deciding between an expensive hotel close to the venue or a cheaper one that’s further away, remember that all of the hotels in close proximity to Bayfront Park are very aware of Ultra and have jacked up the prices.  You’re mostly paying for convenience, not for a nicer place to stay. And if you’re considering hitting after-parties, the majority will be taking place in South Beach, not Downtown. But for some, the luxury of walking a couple blocks to your bed is worth it - decide what your group’s post-Ultra priorities are before you book.

  • Pro-Tip: Check out hotels that are further south of downtown Miami, but within walking distance of the Metrorail. The Metrorail will run you only $2 each way and once you’re on, you’ll be joining a trainful of Ultra fans headed to the festival. The ride only takes a few minutes and will drop you off at the downtown “Government Center” stop. From there, join the crowd and walk a few blocks or take the free Metromover monorail straight to Bayfront Park. You might be surprised by how much you save by sacrificing a few extra minutes and staying near the Dadeland, South Miami, University, or Coconut Grove stations.

At The Festival

Make sure to arrive early to avoid long lines entering the festival. If this is your first time going, you’ll definitely want to get inside to explore the lush festival grounds and get yourself oriented.

  • Pro-Tip: If UMF sticks to last year’s format, the gates will open in the mid-afternoon on Day 1, and then at noontime the next two days. If you want a chill experience of walking the festival grounds and getting right up to the stages without many people around, show up for the gate opening on Saturday and Sunday. The first day will be fairly full from the beginning, but you’d be surprised by how many people sleep in and trickle in later in the afternoon on Days 2 and 3.

In the event that someone gets lost from your group, make sure you have a designated meeting spot. You won’t be able to rely on cell phone service when you’re surrounded by thousands of people. There are plenty of good places such as specific food tents, the non-profit booths overlooking the Live Stage, the Red Bull booth, or the gift shop.

  • Pro-Tip: When the festival ends, you may be tempted to rush for the gate. So will everyone else. Find a unique spot far from the gate to meet up, hang out for a couple minutes, and then take a leisurely stroll through the beautiful grounds on your way out. Soak it in.
  • Pro-Tip: The non-profit vendors overlooking the Live Stage will be sticking around to pack up at the end of each night, and might just have some leftover goodies to give away, especially on Sunday night. Make a pitstop on your way out.

Eating a full meal before the festival is always a great plan of attack. The Bayside Marketplace is less than five minutes walking distance from Ultra Music Festival and has a food court along with a variety of different restaurants. A few stand out spots are Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., Hard Rock Café, and Latin American Café. Fill up and get your energy for the long day ahead. Don’t be shy about eating a hearty breakfast, then devouring a small sandwich as you wait in line to get inside.

  • Pro-Tip: If you have room in your luggage and don’t want to do the restaurant thing all weekend, toss some cereal and snacks into your suitcase before you leave home. You won’t want to spend any precious time in Miami hunting for groceries. Nothing’s better after a long night of partying than waking up to food only a few steps away.

If you have a smartphone, make sure you download the official Ultra Music Festival 2014 app. The app will help you get all the latest information with push notifications before and after the show. You’ll have access to the lineup, the map, points of interest, and more. Other features include Facebook and Twitter integration as well as a fan wall to communicate with other fans across the globe. We’re excited to see how Ultra utilizes the “Camera” and “GroupMe” features.

  • Pro-Tip: The official app’s lineup planning feature is surprisingly effective. To ensure you never get burned by lack of internet access or long load times, construct your dream lineup in the app - then screenshot it. Even set it as your background each day. Tattoo it on your body. Whatever works.

"It's a marathon, not a sprint."

Three days of dancing can really put a toll on your body, and believe us, you don’t want to be exhausted during your last day at Ultra.  We know it’s tempting to go all out and party hard on your first day or two because, “Why not? It’s Ultra!”  However, we promise you that your experience will be much more memorable if you remember to pace yourself.  Why would you want to spend your hard-earned money on something if you’re not going to be able to enjoy the entire experience?  Take it slow and take it all in - you’ll want to remember this!

  • Pro-Tip: This one is underrated but essential - it is very easy to fall into the trap of being so busy that you forget to eat here and there. You’re burning a lot of calories each day, likely more than usual. Even if you aren’t feeling hungry, jam some food down every morning and afternoon, and chug a couple waters while you’re at it. Your body will thank you later, when you're at full strength for Sunday's closing set.


Things To Do & Things To Avoid

Do It!

  1. If you’re searching for shade from the hot Miami sun, the trees to the left of the Main Stage offer a great hangout spot.
  2. Want to really chill? Nothing beats laying on the grass at the Live Stage. You’ll be on a slightly sloped hill overlooking the stage, so even while you lounge around you aren’t missing out!
  3. If you’re looking for free water, there's a row of water fountains and indoor bathrooms down the stairs behind the Live Stage.
  4. Bring your adventurous spirit! Sticking to the mainstage will produce a very one-dimensional experience. If you’ve always been itching to see what techno is all about, or deep house, or moombahton, there’s no better time than Ultra! Some of our most magical experiences have come by spontaneously wandering to a random stage. Follow your ears!
  5. If you’re looking for a nice view, walk all the way around the Live Stage path, past the UMF Radio stage, and look out onto the turquoise waters of Biscayne Bay.

Avoid It!

  1. Avoid wasting time waiting at the food and drink stands near the larger stages. There are plenty of options spread throughout the festival grounds - keep your eyes peeled.
  2. Avoid impatience and pushy behavior like the plague. If you want to move up in a crowd, the time-honored technique is as follows: when the person in front of you leaves, or moves, take a couple steps forward. Repeat. Over the course of 15 - 30 minutes, if you follow this strategy, you'll be right in the thick of things without being inconsiderate to those around you. Win-win!
  3. Plan wisely to avoid the ramp between the Megastructure and the Ultra Worldwide stage when the really big names are playing the Megastructure. The crowd to watch the performance could back up onto the ramp, making passage nearly impossible. Surprisingly, the vast open area behind the Mainstage crowd is often your best bet for cross-festival navigation during the day.
  4. That being said, try to avoid walking through the Mainstage area towards the end of the night. If you're planning on seeing the final couple sets of the night there, get there early!
The People Of Ultra