• Stream Queen

EDC vs Ultra vs Tomorrowland

Updated: Sep 4, 2019

You aren't a true festival-goer until you've passionately debated the classic EDC Vegas vs Ultra Miami vs TML and which of these three majors is the best, bonus points if it was done on social media. These are arguably the three most well-known EDM festivals and people just LOVE comparing them and debating which one is really the best. If you follow me on Instagram or have read my other blog posts, it's no secret that Ultra Miami is where my heart is, but I'm going to keep my personal bias aside for the purpose of this post and break down "the holy trinity" from an objective standpoint.


Quick Backstory


For reference, here is a timeline of when I attended these festivals:

2015- EDC

2016- EDC and Ultra

2017- EDC and Ultra

2018- Ultra and Tomorrowland

2019- EDC, Ultra, Tomorrowland


My first introduction to festivals was when I was at a party my freshman year of college in 2012. Someone had put on the Tomorrowland 2012 aftermovie on their TV, and I remember watching it in complete awe, because I had no idea things like that existed in the world. It was so beautiful and looked like so much fun, I remember feeling crushed when I learned it was in Belgium because it seemed like I would never make it to that festival (as an 18 year old college student, a Europe trip is all but an unattainable dream, at least for a few years).


I started going to my local raves in 2014, and immediately fell in love with them. I don't live on the West Coast exactly, but I do live a six hour drive from Vegas, so it kind of figures that my first major festival would be EDC Las Vegas in 2015, since it was so close. I had made a lot of friends since I started raving, that had all either attended EDC in previous years or were going in 2015.


In January of 2016, I had just returned from a vacation to South Korea and Thailand. I went from sipping pina coladas and eating fresh mangoes on a Thai beach, to 20 degree weather, snow, and ice covering everything when I returned home... and I was pretty sad about my vacation being over. I didn't know much about Ultra Miami, I had really only seen pictures of the mainstage (and actually thought that it didn't look anywhere as amazing as the EDC stages), and I knew that it was in March (3 months before EDC in June). Since I knew I couldn't wait nearly six months before having another fun trip, I decided to plan a trip to Ultra Miami, which conveniently landed during the week of my college Spring Break. My first Ultra Miami was definitely the most spontaneous major festival I have attended. I was planning on going to EDC and TML for a year before I actually went, and knew a lot about both festivals. It's kind of dumb luck I decided to attend Ultra at all this year, with the main reason being that I needed a trip to plan and look forward to so I wouldn't be all depressed since returning from a tropical vacation, and that it so happened to be the weekend of Spring Break. I had never even watched an Ultra after movie or the live stream before, but I watched one after movie with my friends after analyzing the lineup and we decided to just go. (BTW- this was one of my best decisions ever).


By the time it was 2018, I had been graduated from school for a year, working in a career, and had a lot more money to spend on a trip/festival than I did while I was in college. I decided it was finally time to experience the first festival I ever learned about- Tomorrowland. After attending EDC and Ultra for the previous three years or so, this was always the festival that I was looking forward to attending since I kind of credit it for introducing me into the world of festivals. I had very high hopes and expectations for Tomorrowland since I had been dreaming about it for six years, long before I even knew what EDC or Ultra were.


 

The Basics


EDC Las Vegas

Location- Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

Dates- May 15-17, 2020 (previously was in late June)

Times- "Dusk Till Dawn", 7:00 pm - 5:30 am

Camping- Camp EDC

Stages- 8 stages, plus Art Cars

Attendance- 400,000 over three days (around 133k per day)

Weather from 2019-

  • High of 81, low of 55

  • Was unusually cold and windy, mainstage shut down one night due to wind

  • Dry, not humid


Ultra Miami

Location- Bayfront Park, Miami, Florida, USA

Dates- March 20-22, 2020

Times- Haven't been officially announced, Miami news articles state 4 pm - 12 am Friday, 12 pm - 12 am Saturday, and 12 pm - 10 pm Sunday

Camping- No

Stages- 8 in 2018, 2020 details have not been announced

Attendance- 55,000 per day

Weather from 2019-

  • High of 83, low of 62 (2019)

  • Usually rains for a bit at some point during the weekend

  • Humid


Tomorrowland

Location- Boom, Belgium

Dates- July 17-19; July 24-26, 2020

Times- 12 pm - 1 am

Camping- DreamVille

Stages- 17

Attendance- 400,000 over both weekends, 200,000 per weekend, around 66k per day

Weather from 2019-

  • W1- High of 80, low of 60

  • W2- High of 105, low of 56

  • Freedom stage collapsed "due to the heat" before W2 and they were forced to close it and set up a makeshift stage outside of the structure

  • Rained almost constantly during W2 which is pretty typical

  • Humid


 

2019 Lineups






I couldn't find an image large enough to show the full TML lineup, so here is the lineup for Mainstage for both weekends

It's hard to pick a 'winner' based on the lineups. For the most part I find that one year, Ultra will have the best lineup, and the next year EDC has the best, the next year, TML... and it alternates (based on my particular favorites). Tomorrowland definitely has the biggest lineup, not only because it has two weekends, but because it has almost double the stages as EDC and Ultra. That being said, the 2019 lineup was split very uneven between the two weekends, which upset a lot of people (including me), since a lot of big artists only played one weekend or the other.


I am a mainstage fan, so I can't really speak with a whole lot of knowledge on the diversity of the three lineups. EDC and TML both have hardstyle, which Ultra lacks. Ultra has the Resistance brand, which is big for techno fans. All three have a dedicated trance stage on at least one of the days. I'll let you pick your winner as far as lineups go, because it is very subjective based on what artists you like, but I would lean to say that EDC brings the most diverse lineup and a lot of big names.


Winner- EDC

 

Stages


EDC (8 plus art cars)




Ultra (8)




Tomorrowland (17)



There is a lot to say when it comes to comparing the stages at these festivals, so I'll break it down by each.


EDC has a lot of decoration stages. The mainstage is always primarily made of inflatable decorations which change color based on the lights that shine on them. For the most part, the mainstage usually lacks large LED screens that allow for those awesome visuals, but it is pretty nonetheless. Other stages are primarily made of LED screens, such as circuit grounds and quantum valley, with others being made of both decorations and LEDs, like cosmic meadow. I've always liked the EDC stages, but I have never felt "mind-blown" by any of them if I'm being honest.


Ultra stages are essentially all LED stages (which I LOVE). You will never find decorations on their mainstage, which is comprised of huge LED panels in geometric designs every year. All of their other stages are similar, the most 'decorative' stage is the UMF radio stage, but even saying that is a bit of a stretch. If you love watching the visuals and lights on a stage at a festival, you will love Ultra's stages. If you prefer admiring pretty decorations, you will be disappointed by them. I personally love the diversity that LED stages provide, the stage looks completely different from one artist to the next based on their visuals, and it is NEVER boring. I found myself being very bored by the EDC mainstage after spending more than a set there because it just didn't change.


Tomorrowland has such a huge variety of stages, it's insane. Like I mentioned above, there are 17 stages, and although I've tried, I still have not seen every stage in person after two years of attending. The mainstage is similar to EDC in that it is largely made of up decorations, but it tends to have large LED screens, unlike EDC. I do prefer TML mainstages to EDC mainstages based on the quality and detail alone. From my knowledge, TML doesn't use inflatables like EDC does, and the details of their mainstages are absolutely amazing when you look up close. They look much more 'high quality' than EDC, and although it still doesn't provide quite as much visual variety as the Ultra mainstage, I never once was bored looking at the TML mainstage because everywhere you look, there is a new detail or decoration that you didn't notice before. I loved all the smaller stages (well, at least the ones I saw), they have a variety of stages that have both LED panels and decorations, and they are all absolutely stunning.


Winner- Tomorrowland (From an objective standpoint. I personally prefer Ultra Miami's mainstage)


 

Production


For the purpose of this post, I am using this definition of "production"- Anything related to the production of the primary entertainment of a festival – the sound, lighting, staging, video, backline, equipment, power, and all related labor. (Also security, art, pyro, safety, etc.) 


To be honest, I have experienced some pretty major issues with production at all three of these festivals. Which shouldn't come as a surprise, when there are so many different things going on at such a large event, things are bound to go wrong at some point, unfortunately.


EDC


EDC's mainstage shut down at around three am on the second night this year (2019) due to extremely high winds. I believe all of the other stages stayed open, so my friends and I left mainstage and went to explore the other stages. We were lucky though, because the message that came up on the screens said to exit the venue completely, but since we noticed other stages were still going on, we stayed. That wasn't the case for a lot of attendees, and I saw a lot of people complaining on social media the next day saying that they left the venue and had gotten back to the strip/their hotels before EDC announced that attendees didn't have to leave the venue and could go to other stages. I would have been a lot more upset by this incident had I left the venue and missed out on several hours of a festival I paid money for, but at the time, I wasn't too mad about it.


EDC's firework show is absolutely amazing. It's about ten minutes of constant fireworks that are lined up along the length of the speedway every night.


I have always thought the sound at EDC was great, I always use earplugs to protect my hearing but I can't recall ever experiencing the sound cutting out on any of the stages I've been to, and it doesn't sound too distorted when you are at the front.


EDC is probably the most colorful out of the three. Since it starts at sunset and goes all night, pretty much everything around the festival glows, lights up, flashes, or has some other visual aspect with lighting. There's tons of decorations and art pieces all over, and everywhere you look it's like a glowing, flashing rainbow.


Security and waiting in lines have always been a bit of an issue in my experience at EDC. Security has always seemed to go much slower than the other festivals, and my first two years I waited outside in line for up to two hours. One way to combat this issue is doing either VIP for expedited entry, or the premier shuttle pass. I did the premier shuttle this year and basically walked off the shuttle and into the venue this year, which was a drastic improvement from the other years I have gone and parked in the parking lot.


Bathrooms at EDC tend to be absolutely awful. They are all port-a-potties, and the ones at the entrance of the bathroom areas are always the worst within hours. They are completely disgusting. I always take the time to go as far back as I can and those are usually cleaner, but no matter what, they run out of toilet paper by the middle of the night.


EDC has a lot of entertainers and performers in crazy costumes wandering around and dancing on stage, it's a lot of fun to see them and take pictures or videos with them in the crowd or around the festival.


Electric Daisy Carnival is truly a carnival, with tons of rides and an undeniable carnival theme and atmosphere.





Ultra


Ultra made headlines this year with the infamous transportation issue on the first night at their new Virginia Key location, a lot of people were forced by police and security to walk over three miles over the bridge connecting Virginia Key with Miami, including me. It was extremely chaotic that night trying to leave, despite the fact that I left two hours early to try to avoid issues, it was a mess. Security didn't know what was going on, shuttle drivers didn't know what was going on, police didn't know what was going on, and of course, we didn't know what was going on. We tried to board a shuttle for about an hour without success, before starting to walk across the bridge, all while taxis and Ubers were trying to charge upwards of $100 just to drive over the bridge. However, I didn't have issues with leaving on the other two nights, even when I left as the festival ended on the last night. That being said, Ultra has never had transportation issues like this when they were located at Bayfront Park, which is the venue they are returning to next year.


This year at Ultra was also the first year I have been to an Ultra where the mainstage had major sound issues, in the afternoon on day 2, the sound kept cutting out and DJs were getting very frustrated. Ultra has been the loudest festival I have been to, to the point where if you want to communicate with anyone and you are up at the front, you have to type on your phone and show it to them, because it's impossible to yell and hear over the music. This will likely change with next year, since one of the agreements the city and Ultra made when they decided to return to Bayfront was lowering the decibel level. I don't know how noticeable this will be, but it will be several decibel points lower than it has been in the past.


Ultra did not have any confetti at Virginia Key this year, part of their sustainability agreement when they moved to the island. They did at Bayfront Park, so I expect them to use confetti again next year. Ultra pyrotechnics are the absolute best, the blasts of fire that go off on mainstage make it feel like your face is burning, in the best way. Their fireworks are decent, although nothing compared to EDC.


I have never waited too long in line for security at Ultra, at Bayfront it always takes the longest on Friday and is drastically faster on Saturday and Sunday.


This is my preference, but I think the production at the mainstage specifically is better than EDC or TML, because of the LEDs and artists using their own visuals. There are a lot more lasers than EDC or TML mainstages, and like I said above, the stage looks completely different based on who is playing. However, some people prefer the decoration stages, so this is entirely my own opinion based on what I like.


Ultra bathrooms aren't the best, I think they are better than EDC, but they are still port-a-potties that usually run out of toilet paper towards the end of the night.


Ultra does not really do the decoration thing like EDC and TML, walking from stage to stage does not provide much to look at, other than the stunning view of downtown Miami.


They don't have costume-y performers running around, the performers they have on stage are called the Ultra Angels and are a group of more professional dancers with choreography than dressed up people bouncing around.


Ultra also does not have rides like EDC, not even a ferris wheel like TML. When it comes down to it, Ultra is more about the music rather than all the 'frills' like EDC/TML. It is known for artists playing their best sets of the year and debuting all their new songs, since it's the start of festival season. You go to Ultra for the music, not to run around exploring and admiring art or riding rides, which is something you may like or dislike depending on what you like at festivals. I have never ridden a ride at a festival, so to me, this doesn't make a difference.





Tomorrowland


This year was a pretty disappointing year for those that attended TML Weekend 2, like I did. The second most popular stage, Freedom, which is usually in a structure with a roof and amazing visuals, collapsed a few days before W2 started. Apparently they couldn't repair it in time, so the previously stunningly visual stage was forced to be relocated outside of the structure, essentially in the food court area that is outside the structure. The big issue with this was that Eric Prydz, who was debuting his new holosphere visuals, could no longer use his holosphere, since the stage was updated this year specifically for that. I know a lot of people bought tickets to W2 specifically for his set and visuals, since he was listed as a stage host when tickets went on sale. Even though I am not a Prydz fan, I was extremely excited to see the holosphere and several other sets at Freedom, so I was extremely disappointed by this happening. I actually didn't go to Freedom stage at all this year because I knew just seeing the make-shift stage that was thrown together would piss me off. In my five years of attending festivals, I have never experienced something as serious as a stage breaking so dramatically that they were unable to fix it for the festival. Also, because of this issue with Freedom stage, the ferris wheel was closed all weekend (the only ride at TML).


There were also sound issues this year at TML mainstage, with sound cutting out. I would say the sound levels were pretty comparable to EDC, I still needed earplugs, but I was able to have conversations with people next to me at the railing in a slightly louder than a normal talking voice.


Another main issue with the production this year was the fact that security closed off some pretty major walkways and bridges for absolutely no reason, causing people to cluster on smaller paths so that it took triple the amount of time to go anywhere because it was so busy. The venue of TML has a lot of bridges because of ponds, and a lot of them are marked as one way, so this was a bit of a mess when they closed them off for no known reason. My ankle was hurting extremely bad by the end of night 3, so being forced to walk completely around the festival instead of over a bridge to the exit was really annoying.


I didn't hear about this happening during W2, but at W1, there were several tear gas attacks in the crowds at several stages. People actually got tear gas canisters through security, released them in the crowd, and used the panicked crowd situation to pick pocket people. To me, this is a HUGE issue and I was honestly scared for my safety going into W2 after hearing of this happen. I haven't heard of something like that happening at a festival in the US, pick pocketing happens, but not actual planned attacks like that. And it makes sense why this was happening, security at TML is a bit of a joke. They barely checked bags, never patted anyone down, and one day the metal detector went off when I went through and they didn't even care. This was the first festival I was actually concerned for my safety at, unfortunately.


On a happier note, the decorations at TML are absolutely gorgeous. I've said this before, but it really feels like you are in a magical fairytale wonderland, everything is so gorgeous. The decorations they use are different than EDC, they are more 'pretty' than 'cool', if that makes any sense. Tomorrowland has a known reputation for attention to detail, with good reason. Especially if you stay in the camping area, it is crazy what little things they have though of to make the experience extra magical. I have never felt as amazed by a festival's details and all the little things as I do at TML.


TML has better fireworks than Ultra, but again, EDC wins on the firework show. TML doesn't really do the fire pyrotechnics on mainstage, but they do bubbles, which is kind of fun. Like I talked about in the 'Stages' section, the visuals are very different based on what stage you are at. But as far as mainstage goes, I would say TML has better production than EDC, since there is always a lot more going on.


Tomorrowland also has fun characters in costumes walking around as entertainers, much like EDC, but not as 'silly' as some of their entertainers. I always describe Tomorrowland as the 'grown up EDC' to people who ask me to compare the two, because in a lot of ways they are very similar, but Tomorrowland looks and feels more higher quality than EDC overall.


Tomorrowland's bathrooms and food win, hands down. All of their food stands are amazing, and the toilets all flush and always have toilet paper, and are clean. I don't have to worry about going to the furthest toilet I can find at TML because they clean them regularly.





The winner of this one is hard, because it really depends on how important the issues all these festivals had are to you, and what you value in terms of production when it comes to a festival. If I was making this post after my first TML, I would say TML was the winner hands down. But after this year and the major issues they had on my weekend, I honestly can't say their production is better than EDC or Ultra. Not feeling safe at a festival is not a great feeling, not being able to exit quickly due to shut down walkways was dangerous, and having a major reason I got tickets for W2 (to see the holosphere) being cancelled last minute was just straight-up infuriating. While getting off the island at Ultra sucked this year, that won't be an issue next year at Bayfront, and although mainstage at EDC shut down, that was the first time in years that has happened. So I am going to say in terms of my experience this year specifically, Ultra and EDC are tied as far as production goes.


Winner- Ultra and EDC (would be Tomorrowland if I was basing it off last year)


 

Location and Pre-parties


EDC- Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA


The speedway is my least favorite venue of pretty much any festival I have been to, even smaller ones. It's smack dab in the middle of the desert, and let's be honest... it's ugly. There isn't much nature to look at other than red sand and rocks, and the pretty view of the strip is really hard to see from the speedway. The good thing about the speedway specifically is that it is large, so EDC has a lot of space to utilize. It is mainly asphalt, concrete, with a small area of grass and bleachers, but it is definitely not a pretty venue. Luckily, EDC makes up for that in terms of it's own decorations, because they kind of honestly need to, because a racetrack just isn't that nice looking.


I do like that EDC is in Vegas, I don't utilize this fact as much as I did when it was in June, but it's fun to go down a few days before EDC and go out to pool parties and clubs. EDC has a dedicated week of pre parties, called EDC Week, with artists playing at pretty much every pool and club every day of the week. The strip is about a twenty minute drive from the speedway, so if you are staying at a hotel on the strip, it could take anywhere between 20 minutes to two hours to get there and back, depending on traffic.




Ultra- Bayfront Park, Miami, Florida, USA


Bayfront Park is my favorite venue of any festival I have gone to, although it is the smallest of these three festivals. It is a park situated in downtown Miami, with the city skyline on one side of it and the ocean on the other side. It is a picture perfect area complete with lots of gorgeous palm trees, tropical plants, and grass. There is a built in amphitheater used for the live stage. You can smell the ocean from behind the mainstage and at some areas, see and hear the water. The festival is set up along a major street in downtown, so just outside of the Ultra boundaries are skyscrapers, high rise apartments, and just a breathtaking downtown skyline and view. It's especially amazing at night, when all the lights on the buildings turn on. It's truly a unique and special venue, which is why it is so exciting that Ultra is returning next year, after having been kicked out of that venue this year.


Miami Music Week is similar to EDC Week, endless club/pool/beach parties during the week of Ultra. The nice thing about Ultra being at Bayfront park is the ease of transportation. Miami has a great metro rail line, and you can stay pretty much anywhere within an hour of Ultra and be able to take the train right to the park, instead of having to drive, Uber, or shuttle like EDC. If you get lucky, you can book a hotel or airbnb right in downtown and be walking distance from the festival. Either way, Bayfront park is the best venue in terms of making transportation easy.





Tomorrowland- Provinciaal Recreatiedomein De Schorre, Boom, Belgium, Europe


The large park that serves as the venue of Tomorrowland is really pretty. Like I mentioned earlier, there are a lot of ponds situated throughout the venue, with a lot of green plants, grass, and hills. TML's venue is a close second to Ultra's for me, and although it is slightly larger than the speedway, it has less usable space due to the ponds and necessary bridges and pathways. That being said, Tomorrowland's venue has always felt nearly double the size as the speedway because it isn't a simple oval like EDC, stages are situated very differently throughout the park, and the layout can be quite confusing.


Tomorrowland is the only one of these festivals that doesn't have a dedicated week-long pre party. It's in a very small town called Boom, which is near Brussels, and it just doesn't have the night life and pool parties that Miami and Vegas do. They do have a pre-party called The Gathering, which is an event for those that are camping on Thursday night in DreamVille. You won't really want to go to Boom days before the festival to party like you would with Ultra and EDC, simply because there wouldn't be much, if anything, to do. The benefit of this is that you can easily make a Europe trip out of your Tomorrowland trip, which is what I've done both years. So, instead of the 'party week' vibes with the others, you get more of a travel experience if you plan it into your TML trip.



Venue Winner- Ultra (TML being a close second)

Pre-parties Winner- EDC

(I prefer the beach parties during MMW to the pool parties at EDC Week, but EDC Week tends to have a better lineup than I see with MMW, although the MMW events usually have multiple artists playing compared to the one headliner that plays at each show in Vegas)


 

So, there ya have it. Pretty much all the main things people judge a festival based off of, broken down and compared based on my experience attending EDC, Ultra, and Tomorrowland. Keep in mind that no two people like a festival for the exact same reasons, everyone places a different value on every aspect of their experience attending events, so just because I love the Ultra mainstage doesn't mean someone else feels the same, and so on. It's no secret that Ultra Miami will forever be my favorite, but I tried to stay as objective as possible when breaking down these festivals, even though you may disagree with some of my 'winners' in the categories. There are a lot of other factors that go into whether or not someone likes a festival that I don't mention here, such as weather, the friends you go with or make when you're there, the specific sets that artists play, the distance it takes to travel to it, whether you camp or do a hotel, how far your hotel is, and etc, etc, etc.


When it really comes down to it, the biggest similarity that EDC, Ultra, and Tomorrowland have is the fact that they are EDM music festivals. Other than that one thing in common, they are all extremely different festivals and each offers things that the others do not, and although I thought of everything I could, it really is impossible to fully compare these festivals due to them all being so different. It's also impossible for anyone to say which is THE BEST, since that is such a subjective opinion that not everyone will necessarily agree with. I have loved attending all three of these festivals and I truly think everyone would have an amazing time attending any of them.