Danielle’s Camping Adventure – Nocturnal Wonderland 2016

by | Sep 19, 2016 | EVENTS, REVIEWS

More than just the music but what a fun camping experience…!!!


Summer of 2016 has been an amazing musical journey that was topped off with the 21st annual Nocturnal Wonderland, by Insomniac, held at the largest outdoor musical venue in the United State with a 65,000-capacity—San Manuel Amphitheater, surrounded by hills in the Glen Helen Regional Park of San Bernardino, California.

This 3-day event was held over Labor Day weekend with the option of a 4-night campout.  Being that it was my 7th Nocturnal Wonderland, I decided to be adventurous and did the campout for the first time at this event.  On this journey, I was joined by my raving companions which I met camping at Beyond Wonderland—Minnie, Jeremy, Elly and the infamous Ballpark.  We loaded up my car and literally loaded up to the point where we had very little room for movement in the back except for the driver seat and thanks to my rearview camera technology, I had somewhat a visual of things behind my car.

And off to San Bernardino we were…!!!

The first camping night was a day prior to the event on a Thursday.  We arrived at San Manuel Amphitheater around 8:30 pm that evening and unfortunately so did everyone else.  With the strict security searches and long lines, it took us about 2 hours to enter the campground.  During this dreaded 2-hour wait, we made the most of it by throwing the football and Frisbee around, bonded with neighboring cars and danced to music as we anxiously waited.  Nocturnal Wonderland camping experience offered 4 choices—Tent Camping, Car Camping, RV Camping and Premier Camping.  We opted for the Car Camping which provided a 12’X30’ spot enough for one car and one tent..

Once through security, we drove to our assigned space and quickly set up camp at CRATER CREEK campground.  Restless, we did not bother to eat or look for some shut eye; as we eagerly and quickly started to bond and build our campsite community based on PLUR values.  Luck was definitely on our side as we were next to some amazing people and some became our newest members of my rave family, Plurrfect Rave FamilyRob, Jack, Jessie, Madi, Taylor, PLUR Jesus, and including 20 others who are the embodiment of the people you want to be around and camp with.  Within the first hour, Ballpark had everyone mingling, drinking, playing games and we were becoming a family.

On the next day upon the rising sun, we find out the PLUR moms (www.plurways.com) were two tents down cooking breakfast as they always do for the entire camping community.  Our entire camp group was beyond appreciative of having these beautiful people so close and preparing warm meals for us daily. With no wasted time, we took immediately to playing beer pong and making Kandis.  As the heat kicked in, many of us ran to the water park where I was finally able to go down the water slides for the first time.  Even at my age, you are never too old to go down a water slide.  As the day quickly passed many of us (especially the girls) started getting ready for the real reason we were all there…

…Nocturnal Wonderland…!!!

Our group headed out to the event around 4:45PM and was there 5 minutes past the hour.  The walk to the venue allowed you to both take in the beauty of the hills and mountains.  But the view of the festival was breathtaking.  Seeing the colors and stages during the day lead to a mind of imagination, joy and anticipation of spending the next 6-8 hours in pure bliss.  As the sun set behind the San Bernardino mountains, the magic started as the lights, lasers, and electric sky came to life and as the crowd grew, that’s when you realized you are exactly at the place you were meant to be.

This year Nocturnal Wonderland definitely outdid itself with 9 stages where 3 of them were not mentioned on the official timeslot release—Corona, Smirnoff and Jagermeister—sponsored by alcoholic companies. The 6 original stages were WOLVES’ DEN, LABYRINTH, SUNKEN GARDEN, UPSIDE-DOWN HOUSE, TEMPLE NOCTEM and BOOMBOX ART CAR.

During all 3 days, we spent the early part of the day in the lower level area of the venue seeing acts like Leiel, Bonne & Clyde and George Fitzgerald.  But for me, the undeniable focal point was the main stage of the WOLVES’ DEN each night. The production stage was very unique.  It had an extremely large upside down trapezoidal LED screen; including 10 rows of long, narrow and zig-zag rectangular LEDs stacked up in steps on both sides of the main LED screen.  Face front, it looked like the bottom half of a pyramid.  It had everything from insane lighting to pyrotechnics, and there were overwhelmingly so many lasers that at one point I forgot I was outside.

With Laidback Luke and Above & Beyond headlining on Friday and Bassnectar on Sunday, the act that was by far one of the greatest EDM sets I have ever seen in 18 years of raving goes to Odesza on Saturday night.  This was a historic performance as it was the groups first time ever playing an Insomniac event.  Odesza had a full band set up and was worth the 30-min stage set up.  The music, the group was everything I ever wanted from them and then some.  At one point I had to just sit down and take it all in because the feeling was so good.  Words are not adequate in describing this experience and so I leave you with this, if you ever get a chance to see Odesza, just do it.

Nocturnal Wonderland definitely did not disappoint at all…!!!

In all past events and future ones, I don’t judge my level of excitement based on the stage design, venue or the music.  What gets me most excited about an event, especially a massive one, are the people who attend them.  From my own camp mates who were the best roomies a gal can ask for, to my rave family that came in on multiple days, to the random party strangers I met wandering around and trading kandi with, those were the real headliners of Nocturnal Wonderland and absolute best.  Insomniac really went out of their way to provide a jubilant environment with free Kandi stations, body painting and character props which interacted with you.  However, some of my favorite ones weren’t just from Insomniac but rather individuals or groups that came ready with larger than life personalities, such as the Mau5 heads.

Some of personal favorites were Daisy Mau5 (also my best friend Amanda) and Kooki Monster Mau5 (also my dear friend Danielle, who has the best name ever) and last but not least, my favorite I met this year who blessed my rave family flag during Dabin’s set on Sunday was PLUR Jesus.

Leaving Nocturnal Wonderland 2016 and the campground that Monday was very tough. Sleep deprivation, the thought of having to face reality, the daily grinds and having to say goodbye was bittersweet.  None the less, this has me looking forward to the next camping adventure…

…in 2017 at Beyond Wonderland   …Cannot wait…!!!   …See you back there…!!!

-Danielle Sanders

CLICK HERE for more pics of the event courtesy of Nocturnal Wonderland