This past weekend, September 14-15, 2019, Insomniac hosted the annual event Nocturnal Wonderland. Located at the Glen Helen Regional Park in San Bernardino, California, thousands gathered beneath the full moon for the twenty-fourth year in a row to dance their nights away. This year was special, as we all said our thank you and goodbyes to this spectacular venue that Nocturnal has called home for so long. Read on to see a personal review of Nocturnal Wonderland 2019 and how to prepare for next year!
About Nocturnal Wonderland
Deeply rooted in early dance music culture, Nocturnal Wonderland has become a staple in many music festival lover’s yearly calendars. With elaborate stage productions, epic art installations, whimsical performers, and unforgettable sets, it is no wonder the event is commonly sold out. With three brand-new stage designs, two silent discos, and a camping pre-party, this particular year offered new and exciting adventures for both first-timers and returning attendees.
Glen Helen Regional Park, which also has started hosting Hard Summer in August, provides an absolutely breathtaking backdrop to any event. Rolling, lush hills surround natural lakes to create an aura of seclusion. Had you not driven through the city to get there, it would be incredibly difficult to guess that Glen Helen is right outside of L.A.
One of the most special features of Nocturnal Wonderland is the opportunity to sleep beneath the stars surrounded by all your best friends. Avoiding the terrible entrance traffic and expensive Uber rides, camping gives you the freedom to roam as you like and retire at your own pace. Not only does nature become your home for two days, but you get to engage in the never-ending activities and entertainment provided for only the campers. With silent discos, a camping pre-party, morning yoga sessions, and even a water park, it is a no brainer that many choose to camp.
This year’s event boasted three new stage set ups and the West Coast debut of the Parliament Art Car. Well known for hosting amazing side sets by huge names artists, the Parliament Art Car is a sight to be seen. A massive owl perches atop the sailboat-shaped stage, flapping its wings and rotating its head. Dancers jump up besides the DJs to perform hilarious characters and to improvise to whatever songs are thrown their way. But better than any entertainment available is the atmosphere this small stage generates. The DJs engage with the audience as if they were at a backyard party, letting loose and just having fun.
Stationed at the middle most part of the festival, the Wolves’ Den was definitely the center of attention. With huge artists like Jauz, Dr. Fresch, and JOYRYDE, you could easily find the vast majority of attendees either taking in the beauty or dancing their butts off on the grassy field. As I’ve come to expected of Insomniac, the sound quality and visual projections were breathtaking.
Once you traversed the steep hill that divided the festival, the Labyrinth came into view. With intense bass and lights that lit up the night sky, the stage was an overload to all my senses. With names like G Jones and Bleep Bloop, this stage became a sacred space for all bass-heads alike.
Finally comes the Sunken Garden. Set between the Labyrinth and the Wolves’ Den at the base of the steep hill, this stage became a haven of house music. Designed to resemble a lighthouse, what lacked due to the absence of projections was more than made up by the lights. Lasers pierced through the crowd changing formation every four counts. The DJ’s glowed through backlights. The light atop the lighthouse circled calling all wandering lost souls to come find a home at the Sunken Garden.
Time and time again Insomniac manages curates an atmosphere of peculiarity and adventure in their festivals. Sprinkled throughout the festival are performers in fun outfits and crazy makeup, on stilts, or flying large puppets. They dance their way through crowds and often on stages. They pose for pictures and talk to you in their characters. On top of amazing performers, you can always expect beautiful interactive art instillations to add to that atmosphere.
Tips and Tricks
As fun as attending a music festival can be, there are bound to be a few hiccups in your experience. But fear not because I am going to share some important Nocturnal Wonderland specific tips for you! If you’re interested in general festival camping tips check out FestPop’s Camping Festival Essentials!
- COME EARLY!!!! If you want to see an artist at 5pm and are coming from a hotel, leave at 1. If you are camping, come at least 4 hours before the gates close. The traffic is horrible and organizing thousands of people at one time leads to pretty terrible wait times.
- Pace yourself. It is hot in L.A. in August so don’t expect to dance your hardest in the first set you see and be just as energized by the last.
- Fill up your water as soon as you can and keep track of when it is running low. As the night goes on the water lines become insane. You don’t want to be waiting in line for 30 minutes during a set you were stoked to see!
- Keep track of your friends. Encourage them to pace themselves, to stay hydrated, and to stick with each other. There is absolutely no cell service so don’t expect to find each other once something happens.
- Go explore! There are so many fun performers and instillations there is plenty of fun to be had outside of the stages.
- Be kind and respectful to strangers. The more love you put out there the more love you’ll receive and the better time you will have.
Artists to Explore
The best part of attending music festivals, in my opinion, is seeing incredibly memorable sets by artists that you may have only been slightly (or not at all) familiar with. The highlight artists to my Nocturnal Wonderland 2019 experience that I suggest checking out are Golden Features and Taiki Nulight. Let me know your thoughts on them and your favorites from Nocturnal in the comment section!!
The Future for Insomniac Events
If you are feeling sad you missed Nocturnal Wonderland this past weekend or even if you went but are in the post-festival slump, fear not for it will be back in 2020 with an exciting new venue. In the mean time, don’t miss out on Insomniac’s next event, Psycho Circus this Halloween. It will be the best Halloween experience yet! Need help getting there? Festpop can save you money on your travel needs to help you get to the festival of your dreams. Visit our site for discountson rental cars, flights, and hotels! And don’t forget to use #PoweredByFestpop on your photos for a chance to be featured and win some awesome prizes.
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FestPop Staff Writer, Julia Osteen