What to Expect at the RiSE Festival

There is nothing truly like the RiSE Festival.

Is there anything more inspirational than Andra Day’s song, “Rise Up”?

“I’ll rise up, I’ll rise like the day, I’ll rise up, I’ll rise unafraid, I’ll rise up, And I’ll do it a thousand times again.”

You have goosebumps just reading those lyrics, amirite?

Well, what if I told you there’s an entire EVENT all about rising up and rising unafraid and it’s even more emotional than this song?

Enter the RiSE Lantern Festival. If you’ve heard of the Thailand lantern festival, it’s very similar but in the States. You don’t have to travel far to experience this amazing event!

13,000 lanterns fill the sky just 32 miles north of Las Vegas.

Located just north of Las Vegas on the Mowapa Paiute Indian Reservation, the RiSE Festival is all about letting go. For two nights, 13,000 people go into the desert to light lanterns with their personal message. Festival goers release lanterns with their fears, their hopes and dreams for the future, or even for a loved on who has passed. Everyone has their own reason for wanting to let go at the RiSE Festival.

It is a truly emotional night. The beauty of the evening is that 13,000 people are there together for the same spiritual purpose. There were parents who brought their young children for the event. I met a group of three generations of women who were there to release messages for a father/husband and brother/son who had passed. Complete strangers were sharing their stories and crying and hugging each other. It was just as enjoyable watching other people have their experience at the RiSE Festival as it was having your own experience. There was so much love in that desert. There’s nowhere else I would have rather been in that moment than right there at the festival.

The next RiSE Festival is set for October 5 and 6, 2018. And trust me, after reading this post and seeing these photos, you will want to set a reminder to buy your tickets!

So what exactly should you expect at the RiSE Festival? I’m going to take you inside my experience to hopefully answer some of your questions!

What exactly do you DO at the RiSE Festival?

RiSE is all about what you make of it. When my group of three girlfriends and I arrived, we picked up our lanterns from the festival tent and found a torch to sit around. We chatted, had some drinks and watched the sunset over the mountains. During that time we also wrote our messages on our lanterns. We chose to use one lantern to release our happy thoughts, hopes and dreams into the universe and the other to let go of any fears or people we were holding on to. If you plan to do the same, expect lots of tears! I can’t express enough that it’s an emotional night. We then chilled out and listened to the live music until the first official lantern launch at 8:15 p.m. No lanterns are set off before this time. Lanterns are released for roughly 2 hours following the first launch. Scroll to the bottom of this post for a video of the lantern launch.

Everyone at the RiSE Festival has their own reason for wanting to let go.
A man near our torch in the desert writes his message on his lantern.
It is a special moment at the RiSE Festival when festival goers write what they want to let go of on their lanterns.
My friend Caitlin begins writing her message on her lantern.

What comes with my ticket?

A bamboo mat, two paper lanterns, a pack of matches and a pen. Tickets average about $100 (we paid $109 each). Early bird tickets are available in the spring (around May) so keep an eye out for those. You can of course also check last minute on Craigslist for people selling their tickets but with the festival becoming so popular, I wouldn’t bank on this option.

Your ticket to RiSE Festival gets you two paper lanterns that are 100% biodegradable.
Everyone at the RiSE Festival shares their personal message on their lantern.
Two of my girlfriends writing their messages on their lanterns in the area we claimed early in the evening.

What time should I get there?

There are musical acts throughout the day at the festival. We left the Mandalay Bay resort around 4 p.m., four hours before the first launch and arrived around 5 p.m. It is about 32 miles north of Las Vegas so it does take a bit to get up there. The later you leave, the more traffic you will hit. There’s only one highway going to the festival. I recommend getting to the festival early. Enjoy the tranquility of the festival, take photos with the popular RiSE sign, and take in the beautiful mountains surrounding the area. Get there early and take it all in!

Taking a photo with the RiSE sign is a popular activity at the festival. Pro tip! Take a photo on the opposite side of the sign and flip the image on your computer.
Taking a photo with the RiSE sign is a popular activity at the festival. Pro tip! Take a photo on the opposite side of the sign and flip the image on your computer.

The RiSE Festival is located 32 miles north of Las Vegas in the Nevada desert.

Should I drive or take the shuttle to RiSE?

If you’re not from the immediate Vegas area, I recommend getting the roundtrip shuttle bus ticket. Traffic is NUTS going to and from RiSE. Even if you’re from near Vegas and can easily drive to the reservation, I recommend the bus ticket. Our roundtrip ticket cost $39/person (an increase from 2016) and it departed from the Mandalay Bay resort. There were four different hotel options to choose from for your departure.

The reason I recommend the bus is that when exiting the festival, the buses have their own lane and therefore don’t have to sit in traffic with the cars. And with 13,000 people trying to leave the desert at one time, you do NOT want to sit in line with everyone else. I was actually rushing to leave the festival right when we stopped setting off the lanterns in order to catch a 1:15 a.m. flight back to New York. If I hadn’t had the bus ticket, I don’t think I would have made it. Traffic was bumper to bumper and would have been at least an hour or more to just get out of the parking lot.

Also – a packing pass will run you about $25, so pay the extra money and enjoy the convenience of the bus pass!

BUT! If you do plan to drive and are using GPS, enter “Moapa Travel Plaza” as your destination to get you there. And plan to leave before the end of the event (about 9:30p.m.) to fight the crowds.

Who is this event for?

All ages! Anyone can attend the RiSE Festival. We saw kids, teens and grandparents. It is a beautiful experience for anyone! There is truly nothing like 13,000 lanterns filling the sky with people’s hopes, dreams and personal messages.

What should I wear to the RiSE Festival?

I chose to wear a short, comfortable, cotton dress to the festival but I did regret it. First of all, it was hard to sit down comfortably to write on my lanterns. Also, you are in the desert so it’s VERY dusty! I wore sandals and my feet were incredibly dirty at the end so I would steer clear of white sneakers and sandals. Keep in mind it can get chilly once the sun goes down so consider bringing a scarf or wrap.

Get to the RiSE Festival early to enjoy music, food trucks and friends!

Does my section matter?

Honestly…the section you choose when purchasing your ticket really doesn’t matter too much. When we arrived, organizers checked our tickets and directed us to a specific tent to pick up our lanterns. No one was policing which area we sat in after that. As long as you are near a torch to light your lanterns, you’re really good to go!

How do you get a good photo?

OK, I’m not going to lie. I was really stressed out about how to get the perfect shot. After seeing photos online, I knew I had to get an amazing photo that I could share with friends and family to remember forever. Before heading to the festival, I was legit Googling how to take photos at the festival with my DSLR as well as how to best take photos in the dark.

Guys, it’s 13,000 lanterns! It’s NOT dark. It sort of feels like you’re in a GIANT candlelit room. I was able to take photos with my iPhone 7 Plus, no problem. Of course the photos would have been 100 times better had I taken them with my Canon but for someone who just wanted a photo for a keepsake, my iPhone was more than enough.

Everyone at RiSE Festival has their own personal reason for being there. Everyone is releasing something into the universe whether it be hopes, dreams or fears.
Everyone at RiSE has their own personal reason for being there. Everyone is releasing something into the universe whether it be hopes, dreams or fears.
Every year, 13,000 people attend RiSE to release their lanterns into the universe.
Every year, 13,000 people attend RiSE to release their lanterns into the universe.

Another tip! The festival is 2 hours long and with each person having 2 lanterns, the sky is lit for about 2 hours. Lanterns fill the sky sporadically from 8:15pm to about 10pm. We were able to take a bunch of photos in the beginning and then sit back and enjoy the experience. Trust me, once you’re there, you won’t be concerned about photos! I knew I had to get some good shots for this blog post, but even I thought, “These will have to do! I don’t want to miss this life changing experience.” So in short, trust your iPhone camera! It’s more than enough for the average festival goer.

Also note that you can NOT step off the festival grounds. We tried to walk into the desert away from the festival a little to take photos of the sunset and mountains but were told by security we would be arrested for trespassing on reservation land. So just stay within the boundaries and don’t get greedy wanting to capture everything!

What about the environment?

RiSE’s motto is “Leave it better than you found it.” Each lantern is 100% biodegradable and the festival staff collects 100% of the lanterns from the surrounding desert as well as any litter in the area.

You will be in absolute shock at the beauty that is the RiSE Festival. I couldn't contain my awe!
You will be in absolute shock at the beauty that is the RiSE Festival. I couldn’t contain my awe!

What’s security like? 

I attended the RiSE Festival less than one week after the Las Vegas shooting and I was a bit shaken and worried about security. But the festival planners amped up security, bringing in metal detectors and bag checkers. You can bring small bags or backpacks to the event but you are not allowed to bring coolers, outside food, chairs, drones, or any other large objects.

Speaking of food, what’s the snacks and beer situation like?

There are tons of food trucks and a couple beverage tents at RiSE but be ready for LONG lines. I recommend eating early if you plan to grab food. When I headed for the food trucks around 7:15pm, lines were about 45 minutes long for each one. So if you plan to eat at the festival, eat early!

Can the RiSE Festival be done in a weekend?

For sure! You know I love my quick, easy trips. You can get tickets for either Friday or Saturday night. If you don’t want to skip work, you could fly in Saturday morning, attend the festival, and fly back out Sunday. Although Las Vegas isn’t always the easiest city to fly in or out of. I was able to get a non-stop flight from New York to Vegas but in order to get back in time for a Sunday evening wedding, I had to leave at 1:15 a.m. and fly through Houston. But it can be done in a weekend, people! You can also of course turn it into a fun girls getaway and spend an extra night in Vegas. Dinner and dancing anyone?

I hope that I have inspired you all to attend RiSE! It may seem like a hassle to get out to the Nevada desert but I promise you it is 1000% worth it. It’s hard to describe the emotions you will feel at the RiSE Festival. We laughed, we cried, we smiled, we hugged. Not only among our group of close girlfriends but also with strangers. There were strangers around us who read what we wrote on our lanterns and came to give us hugs. Everyone helps each other light their lanterns and take photos of each other’s experience. Even for me who isn’t a spiritual person, I felt the spirit come alive that night in the desert!

Have you attended RiSE? What was your experience like?

The RiSE Festival makes a great girls trip! Call everyone you love, book your tickets and enjoy the moment together.
The RiSE Festival makes a great girls trip! Call everyone you love, book your tickets and enjoy the moment together.