Tuesday, April 26, 2016

My First Music Festival in the US

By Mengying Bi
Student Ambassador, University of Pennsylvania

It has been two weeks since I got back from Miami. I still think about it- I miss the palm trees, sunny beaches, the sand in my shoes, even the sunburn on my back, but what I miss the most is Ultra. It was the first music festival I have attended in the US.

Ultra Music Festival is an annual outdoor electronic music festival that takes place in March each year and attracts the biggest names in electronic dance music (EDM) to Miami, as well as EDM fans from all over the world.
Going to Ultra has been the dream for me since I was a teenager living on the other side of the Pacific Ocean, and studying in the US brought me closer to realizing that dream. I planned my trip for over a year and I would love to share some pointers with you on how to prepare for similar events that excite you.

Get tickets as early as possible.

Whether you’re interested in Ultra, Coachella held in California, Made in America in Philadelphia, Electric Daisy Carnival in NYC and Vegas, South by Southwest in Austin, or any other major festival, you can save some money with early bird tickets. You do not want to wait; ticket prices go up as the date approaches, and popular events can sell out quickly. You can subscribe to their mailing list and get notified when they release the early bird tickets, instead of checking on their websites for updates.

Don’t be afraid of going solo.

I was intimidated by the idea of traveling to a different city alone and going to Ultra all by myself, so I joined an “Ultra Solo Group” on Facebook, where I could find people to share the expense of a hotel or form a crew for the festival. That was how I met Oscar, who came to Ultra alone from Norway. Oscar and I both stayed in hostels, which can be a perfect alternative for accommodations, given the reasonable price. Additionally, you can make new friends at hostels, because many solo travelers or backpackers from different countries stay there. Wilson from Canada, Darren from Australia, Tommy and Jeff from Germany… Listening to their stories, I felt like that I had experienced a different life from mine.

Be Prepared

Usually identification is required for entry into festivals. You may want to obtain a photo ID (e.g. State ID, Driver License) beforehand. At these extremely crowded festivals, you can get carried away while jumping and dancing to the beat and it can be easy to drop or lose something. You don’t want that to be your passport!

Staying hydrated is also crucial to enjoying a party that may last from noon till midnight. A hydration pack can come to your rescue in this situation and save you from the trouble of fighting your way through the crowd frequently for water.

Learn the Culture

Last but not least, learn a little about the culture of the music and the festival you are attending. At EDM festivals like Ultra, it’s all about PLUR (Peace, Love, Unity, Respect). The music brings people from all over the world together, yet all they all share the same belief and exchange kandi, the bracelets made of beads of many colors, as a friendly gesture.

Don’t be afraid to travel alone. Whatever you love in your life, don’t hesitate, go for it already! Chances are your good company will show up along your journey one way or another.

What festivals would you like to travel to experience?

Mengying Bi will earn a Master of Science in education from the University of Pennsylvania in May 2016. She focuses specifically on education, culture and society. Mengying is from China. 


  1. Good to know about your First Music Festival in US. Thanks a lot for the details. I hope you had a great experience. My friend attended a similar Music Festival at an event space NYC previous month and had an excellent experience.


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