The Ultimate Ultra Music Festival Survival Guide: All You Need to Prepare for Ultra 2015

Ultra Music Festival is in the upper echelon of electronic music festivals. Entering its 17th campaign, Ultra is held at the beautiful Bayfront Park on the shores of the Biscayne Bay in downtown Miami, Florida.

Coinciding with the Winter Music Conference and Miami Music Week, Ultra Music Festival sees over 330,000 EDM enthusiasts come through the gates to witness one of the greatest electronic music productions in existence. The 2014 event features over 120 artists performing across 5 stages in addition to UMF Radio which will broadcast live to listeners around the world.

Ultra Music Festival 2013
Ultra Music Festival 2013. Photo by Rukes

Buying Tickets

When early bird tickets first went on sale way back in May they sold out in a matter of minutes. With the festival just over one month away, VIP and Payment Plan options have also sold out. Luckily there are still General Admission passes available that can be purchased here while avoiding the astronomical markups on Stubhub and the like. You better hurry though. GA passes sold out just a few weeks leading up to UMF 2014.

Ultra Music Festival

Do not buy tickets outside of the venue. If someone is selling a ticket, get in line and walk inside with them. Ask if you can hold on to their ID or cell phone until you get through the gate. If they are unwilling to do this, chances are the tickets they are offering are fake. Every year I see people whose weekend is ruined at the mercy of a scalper. Don’t be that guy.

Where to Stay

Now that you have secured your ticket, the next item on the checklist is probably to figure out where you will be staying. Bayfront Park is located adjacent to the financial district where lodging is already at a premium price. Hotels are well aware of the influx of music lovers during Miami Music Week and substantially mark up their room rates according to the simple law of supply and demand.

The best bet is to look in the Miami Beach and Coral Gables area, although each location is approximately ten miles from Bayfront Park. Depending on your preference on proximity to the ocean, Coral Gables runs a little cheaper but is further from the club scene. It is unlikely that you will be spending substantial time in your hotel outside of getting ready. Remember, you are here to rave, love, and take in the sun. For this reason, I would opt to go on the lower end.

Hotels with rates under $350 per night include:

It is important to remember that the trade-off for what you pay per night at your hotel will most likely be made up for in cab fare.


Cabs are plentiful in the Miami Metropolitan area. Simply call down to your hotels front desk or walk outside to the street and you will be able to flag one down in a matter of minutes. Depending on distance and traffic, expect to pay between 30-60 dollars each way.

Cabbies have no problem sitting in traffic while the meter runs. If you are coming from Sunny Isles/Miami Beach/South Beach it would be beneficial to your wallet to get dropped off once you are inside the NW 1st Ave/NW 10th St. corridor (or close to it). This will avoid the majority of standstill traffic and roadblocks and allow you to warm up on your way to the main gate.

If you are coming from the Coral Gables/Coconut Grove area, I would recommend hopping out once you cross the Miami River and get inside the NW 1st Ave/SE 3rd St. corridor.

Miami Metro Rail Map
Miami Metro Rail Map

The Miami Metrorail also has routes that come from south through the university district, north from Palmetto, and west from the Miami International Airport. Each direction will cost riders $2.25 and drop you off on Biscayne Boulevard right next to the venue. However, a ride from the airport takes about an hour including all the stops along the way.

If you are driving yourself, parking is available all throughout the city. If you want to get right up by the venue it will run you anywhere from 25-50 dollars. I would advise against this as you will have more of a headache trying to get out of downtown after the festival. Parking just 4-5 blocks west along NW 3rd Ave will run you just 10-20 dollars and save you the hassle getting home.

The Essentials

  • Smartphone
  • Fanny pack
  • Camelbak
  • Baby Wipes
  • Gum
  • External Cell Phone Charger
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen

The Ultra Music Festival Mobile App

Be sure to download this app for your Android or iPhone. The Ultra Music Festival 2014 Mobile App allows you to customize your schedule, track start times of every performance, and send group messages to other users.

When to Arrive

Gates were scheduled to open at 4 PM on Friday of Ultra Music Festival 2014 but the lines were forming well in advance. Eager ravers wrapped around the block and tensions grew high on the first Friday as they pushed the open back nearly a half hour for undisclosed reasons. I was fortunate enough to get down there around noon, squeeze in line with some friends, and sneak right in at 4:30 but I was in the minority. Those at the front told me they had been waiting upwards of 5 hours. Gates are scheduled to open at 12 PM on Saturday and Sunday.

Ultra Music Festival Main Gate
Ultra Music Festival Main Gate

Once the gates opened and people got moving the flow was pretty consistent. It all depends on the artists you are most excited to see. I recommend getting there as early as possible. This allows you to scope out the venue, establish meeting spots, catch some sick up-and-coming producers, and get a feel for the grounds. After all, that is what the festival experience is all about – soaking it all in.

Not to mention the undiscovered talent that plays during the day. People seem to have the common perception that just because you are playing earlier in the day means you are sub-par. Remember fellow fest heads, this is Ultra Music Festival. Every producer that takes the stage is oozing talent and mad skills.

I left Ultra Music Festival 2014 with so much newly discovered talent and tracks that it took me months to bring my iPod up to speed. Regardless of when you decide to arrive, be sure to pace yourselves. This is a sprint, not a marathon.

Planning Your Schedule

Perhaps the most important tip I have for you is to come in with an open mind. The best sets that I witness in 2013 were from artists I had never even heard of before or acts that I initially did not plan on seeing. Granted, there are those can’t miss sets that definitely deserve your attention. Decide on those select main sets and then just go with the flow. If you try to map out your entire day and stick to it chances are you will be frustrated and disappointed.

Ultra Music Festival 2013
Ultra Music Festival 2013 Main Stage

Establish a Meeting Spot

Chances are you are going with a group of friends and I will tell you now, the larger the group the harder it is to stick together. If you are counting on cell phone service and reliability I can tell you right now to table that strategy. Be sure to have a pre-agreed upon place where you guys can all meet up.

Half your group trying to see Adventure Club while the other half checks out Eric Prydz before reconvening to catch Tiesto? My go-to spot was the merchandise tent. This is a perfectly central location and easy to spot.

Ultra Music Festival
Ultra Music Festival

This will not always work though. Many people get lost in the moment or sucked in to different sets. Do not get flustered or down on yourself if you cannot find each other. And definitely do not waste hours investing energy in looking for one person when the pinnacle of electronic dance music is at your fingertips.  If you get separated from your friends remember that there are bountiful new experiences and a limitless amount of people to meet and share the beauty that is Ultra Music Festival. You are surrounded by good vibes. Strike up a conversation. Chances are the average stranger could become your new best friend.

Remember, we are all friend. Some of us just haven’t met yet.

At the Festival

Opt for cash. Ultra also offers some pretty sick, exclusive apparel. Between the cab rides, merchandise, food and beverage, and who knows what else, it will be in your benefit to have cash. Ultra also prohibits attendees from bringing in their own food or water. Lines can be daunting at times and when you are in a hurry, the last thing you will want to do is pull out the plastic and wait to sign your slip. No one else wants to wait for you either. Be considerate, save time, and get on your way. There is much to be explored.

Ultra Music Festival 2013
Ultra Music Festival 2013. Photo by Rukes

Embrace the unknown and don’t take anything personally. With over 60,000 in attendance each day, I guarantee you will get bumped in to, pushed, shoved, and knocked around. 99.9% of people mean absolutely nothing by it and are just in a hurry to get to where they need to go. Embrace the atmosphere, keep your head up, soak it in, and offer a smile. “My bad, bro” is the third most common phrase of the weekend behind “This song is SICK” and “YESSSSSSSSSSSS.”

In 2013 I personally met people from over 20 countries and saw flags representing at least 50 others. I have never experienced or been part of a crowd close to the congregation that occurs at Ultra Music Festival. You will be immersed among thousands of people at any given time. High fives, fist bumps, and hugs are strongly encouraged.

Staying Hydrated

Ultra Music Festival
Fan Hydrates and Ultra Music Festival

Be sure to drink enough water. Water runs $5 a bottle but is well worth it, and necessary. In addition to purchasing bottles, water dispensers are available throughout the festival grounds. If it comes down to it, you can even approach the first-aid tent and politely ask for a bottle of water. As long as you are decent about it, chances are the medics will provide you with one. Worst case scenario, if you are feeling dehydrated mention it to the staff and they will not turn you away. I strongly recommend investing in a Camelbak, especially if you plan on being in the middle of the madness.

Leaving the Festival

After the music stops there is a mass migration toward the gates on the west side of the park. Hopefully you chose to park a few blocks away. I parked on the corner of W. Flagler St. and NW 2nd Ave. (6 blocks west) each day and was able to leisurely stroll to my car, change in to flip flops, and quickly hop on to the highway.

If you are looking for a cab, you will be lucky to catch one directly outside of the venue. Taxis will be lined up to the north by American Airlines Arena and to the west of Biscayne Boulevard. I would recommend sitting down to grab some food and experience authentic Miami cuisine while letting the congestion die down.

Where to Eat

After Parties

Story Nightclub
Story Nightclub – Miami, Florida

Ultra Music Festival is jam-packed with all of the talent and excitement you will need in a day. I recommend getting a good night of sleep in preparation of the following day.

However, the performances following Ultra in the Miami club scene offer the chance to see some of your favorite artists in a more intimate setting. Tickets are not too outrageously priced and can be purchased well in advance. For a complete listing of performances check out The Winter Music Conference and Miami Music Week.

Do’s and Don’ts

DO – Charge your cell phone. You will want to take numerous pictures and videos to capture the experience. 12 hours will take a toll on your battery.

DON’T – Spend the entire festival with your phone out. Yeah, the videos and pictures will be awesome. But re-live the experience through your memories. Don’t be gazing the video through your cell phone screen during an entire set. This is also inconsiderate to everyone behind you.

DOShare your experiences with others. Write about them, blog about them, tweet them, shout them from the rooftops. Your friends and loved ones will be ecstatic to hear about them.

DON’T – Spend the entire festival tweeting, Instagramming, and Facebooking. Not only will this kill your battery but it takes away from the experience. There is plenty of time to put all your stuff out on social media on the trip home.

DO – Eat and hydrate before coming to the festival. I cannot stress enough that it is a long day and food inside, though necessary, is expensive. Minimize the cost by arriving with a full belly.

DON’T – Overeat/Drink too much beforehand. Opt for nutritious snacks such as salads and fruits as opposed to fatty foods, sugars, soda, and alcohol.  Again, marathon not a sprint.

DO – Come with an open mind. This is the electronic music mecca. There are few better places in the world when it comes to EDM. You are a part of it. Be grateful.

DON’T – Buy drugs from strangers at the festival. thatDROP does not condone any use of illegal, illicit substances but understands that you might choose this option. You never know what you are getting and what the side effects could be. Bottom line – the risk is not worth it. Be mindful of what you put in your body. The music is the only drug you need.

DO – Dress comfortably. Chances are it is going to be hot. I made the mistake of wearing uncomfortable shoes on the first day last year and it affected me the entire weekend. Dress light. My preference is athletic shorts (no pockets), bro-tank, athletic shoes and fanny pack.

DON’T – Pay attention to festival fashion trends. You will be out in the South Florida sun dancing, running around, and sweating all day. It is not a fashion contest. It is possible to dress minimally and still look good. Opt for comfort.

Still debating? Check out our unofficial Ultra Music Festival 2014 after movie below.

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Photo via Rukes
Photo via Elite Daily
Photo via City of Miami
Photo via Robert Giordano
Photo via Rsvlts
Photo via Rukes
Photo via Rukes
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