Featured, Nevada, North America, United States

Letting Go at RiSE Festival: The Premier Lantern Festival in the U.S.

February 21, 2017

Around the World with Justin
Whenever I’m asked for my top travel recommendations I automatically think of the Yi Peng Lantern Festival in Thailand. This once-in-a-lifetime spiritual journey is without a doubt one of the most beautiful experiences of my life and one I wish everyone could experience. Well, I have some good news — you don’t have to travel all the way to Thailand to experience the magic! If you live in the United States, a more cost and time effective option is the RiSE Festival happening this year on October 6 & 7, 2017.

RiSE Festival Mojave Desert Lantern Festival Las Vegas Nevada Moapa River Reservation atwjustin.comRiSE Festival Mojave Desert Lantern Festival Las Vegas Nevada Moapa River Reservation atwjustin.com

Around the World with Justin
First things first – get your tickets! Pre-Sale Tickets go on sale March 2, 2017 and regular ticket sales begin April 4, 2017.

RiSE Festival takes place on the Moapa River Reservation in the Mojave Desert located about 45 minutes outside of Las Vegas, Nevada. Depending on where you live, I recommend making  Las Vegas your home base for RiSE — McCarran International Airport (LAS) has convenient (and sometimes inexpensive!) air service from most of the country.

RiSE Festival Mojave Desert Lantern Festival Las Vegas Nevada Moapa River Reservation atwjustin.com

Travel Tip – Do yourself a favor, take a shuttle! They’re hassle-free, give you the freedom to drink (and not drive) and are the quickest way of exiting the event. If you drive, expect a massive parking lot traffic jam after the event.

From Las Vegas, on the day of the event you have two options to get to the festival:

  1. Taking a shuttle – RiSE offers shuttle services (for a cost) from several hotels that transport attendees to and from the event.
  2. Driving and parking yourself. Drive north on I-15 about 30 miles and take exit 75 where security will guide you to the parking area.

Once you arrive to the venue, it’s about a 10-15 minute walk to the event grounds.

RiSE Festival Mojave Desert Lantern Festival Las Vegas Nevada Moapa River Reservation atwjustin.com

Around the World with Justin
One of the most important things for me going into RiSE was sharing the journey with people I love. After attending Yi Peng I wished there was a way I could give that experience to my family and friends. RiSE gave me that opportunity with three people I love so much — my Mom, Dad and cousin/best friend, Anna. On the day of the event, the four of us boarded our shuttle around 3:00pm at the Rio Casino Hotel and headed to the venue. Below is the RiSE Festival schedule to give you a look at the day:RiSE Festival Mojave Desert Lantern Festival Las Vegas Nevada Moapa River Reservation atwjustin.com

  • 3:00p – Gates open
  • 4:00p to 8:00pm – Music by local artists, food and drinks.
  • 8:15p – First launch of lanterns in unison.
  • 8:45p – Second launch of lanterns in unison.
  • 8:50p – Fireworks
  • 8:50p t0 10:15p – Continue launching lanterns.

As soon as we arrived on the grounds of the Moapa River Reservation I was transported back to Yi Peng at Mae Jo University in Chiang Mai. Similar to Thailand, I could feel the ecstatic energy of the crowds, see smiles beaming across strangers’ faces and hear the excitement in everyone’s voices.

RiSE Festival Mojave Desert Lantern Festival Las Vegas Nevada Moapa River Reservation atwjustin.comRiSE Festival Mojave Desert Lantern Festival Las Vegas Nevada Moapa River Reservation atwjustin.comRiSE Festival Mojave Desert Lantern Festival Las Vegas Nevada Moapa River Reservation atwjustin.com

At the main event area we picked up our provided lanterns and mats at designated tents and walked around to take in the scene. At the center was a stage where local artists performed. Surrounding the stage in an expansive circle were torches that marked areas for attendees to set up their mats for the eventual lantern release. On the outskirts were food trucks and alcohol tents. Once we scoped out the grounds we settled our mats in the middle of the crowd.

RiSE Festival Mojave Desert Lantern Festival Las Vegas Nevada Moapa River Reservation atwjustin.comRiSE Festival Mojave Desert Lantern Festival Las Vegas Nevada Moapa River Reservation atwjustin.comRiSE Festival Mojave Desert Lantern Festival Las Vegas Nevada Moapa River Reservation atwjustin.com

As the sun began setting the mood of the crowd shifted from high-energy to a quieter, more contemplative and introspective vibe. Fellow attendees began focusing on their intentions for being there and writing personal messages on lanterns – love letters, goals, self declarations, names of loved ones. One of the most special moments of the night (I’m tearing up just thinking about it!) was watching my Dad dedicate his lantern to my Mom, his wife of 44 years and showing her his love note which brought her to tears (I guess I know where I get it from).

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Soon enough it was time for the first release. The emcee of the event got on the mic, directed us to light our lanterns and then let go…

RiSE Festival Mojave Desert Lantern Festival Las Vegas Nevada Moapa River Reservation atwjustin.comRiSE Festival Mojave Desert Lantern Festival Las Vegas Nevada Moapa River Reservation atwjustin.comRiSE Festival Mojave Desert Lantern Festival Las Vegas Nevada Moapa River Reservation atwjustin.comRiSE Festival Mojave Desert Lantern Festival Las Vegas Nevada Moapa River Reservation atwjustin.comRiSE Festival Mojave Desert Lantern Festival Las Vegas Nevada Moapa River Reservation atwjustin.comRiSE Festival Mojave Desert Lantern Festival Las Vegas Nevada Moapa River Reservation atwjustin.comRiSE Festival Mojave Desert Lantern Festival Las Vegas Nevada Moapa River Reservation atwjustin.comRiSE Festival Mojave Desert Lantern Festival Las Vegas Nevada Moapa River Reservation atwjustin.com

Travel Tip – After lighting your lantern, hold it low to the ground letting the hot air rise almost to the point where you can’t hold on anymore. BE PATIENT!

Experiencing the joy and amazement of the lantern release with my loved ones, through their first-time eyes, is a moment I will cherish. RiSE evoked the same magic I felt in Thailand and gave us a shared memory that we will all hold on to forever. After the first release, we continued lighting lanterns and letting go.

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Around the World with Justin
If you’re staying in Las Vegas, you have endless lodging options! We stayed at the Rio Casino Hotel. It was one of the hotels the RiSE Festival partnered up with for rates and shuttles. I definitely recommend seeing which hotels RiSE partners with for this year. Event dates 10/6/17 & 10/7/17.


RiSE Festival Mojave Desert Lantern Festival Las Vegas Nevada Moapa River Reservation Rio Casino Hotel atwjustin.comRiSE Festival Mojave Desert Lantern Festival Las Vegas Nevada Moapa River Reservation Rio Casino Hotel atwjustin.comRiSE Festival Mojave Desert Lantern Festival Las Vegas Nevada Moapa River Reservation Rio Casino Hotel atwjustin.com

Around the World with Justin
So how does the RiSE Festival stack up against Yi Peng? Having attended both festivals, I can honestly recommend RiSE, especially for someone who lives in the U.S. and cannot make it to Thailand. Although RiSE was smaller in scale compared to Yi Peng in terms of number of participants and lanterns, it still delivers the magic. RiSE Festival uses Yi Peng as inspiration, but doesn’t feel like a cheesy knockoff. RiSE is authentic, stunning and majestic in its own unique way.

RiSE Festival Mojave Desert Lantern Festival Las Vegas Nevada Moapa River Reservation atwjustin.comRiSE Festival Mojave Desert Lantern Festival Las Vegas Nevada Moapa River Reservation atwjustin.comRiSE Festival Mojave Desert Lantern Festival Las Vegas Nevada Moapa River Reservation atwjustin.comRiSE Festival Mojave Desert Lantern Festival Las Vegas Nevada Moapa River Reservation atwjustin.com

RiSE also takes on a personal meaning for every individual. For me, RiSE came at one of the most difficult times in my life. The event gave me an opportunity to step back from my reality and to take a deeper look at the different forms of love in my life. On October 6th, one day before attending RiSE, I received an email from a site called Waking Up With Ryan that couldn’t have been more timely and meaningful. During a time when I was heartbroken, this message came into my life:

There’s so much love in this world. 7.5 billion people filled with love to give and ready to receive.
Everywhere we go is an opportunity for us to connect and support each other – even with a simple smile.
It’s only the mind that attaches us to scenarios that tell us love is lacking. We have a break up or a fight with a friend and our mind dives into a world of thought that thinks, “love is being taken from me.”
Love can never be taken away. It’s self generated and comes from a never ending source.
Our job is to open ourselves to let that love move through.
Today, no matter what tempts us to shut off, we can reopen – take a breath – see all the love there is.
It’s a tough challenge sometimes, yet we will see the benefits of our willingness if we put in the work.
Love Big. Shine Bright. Find Freedom.

This is what the RiSE Festival was about for me – love. And taking the steps to “Rise to Love.”

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Traveling to RiSE? Here’s some gear essentials:

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6 Comments

  • Reply Kristin L. February 22, 2017 at 6:29 am

    My friend Tiffany from Nashville went to RiSE a couple years ago, and I’ve been wanting to go ever since! Especially since it’s in the Mojave, a place very dear to my husband’s heart (he grew up dirt-bike riding there!).

    • Reply Justin Walter February 22, 2017 at 8:04 pm

      Kristin, that’s awesome your friend went! I hope my article and video inspired you to want to go even more. I’ve followed trips that you and your husband go on… the both of you would LOVE this!

  • Reply Tommy February 22, 2017 at 5:52 pm

    Sounds like an amazing time! I haven’t seen smiles like that on my parents, twin brother and cousins face in a long time so it must have been a blast!

    • Reply Justin Walter February 22, 2017 at 8:02 pm

      Hey bro! Too bad you weren’t able to join. You go to Las Vegas ALL THE TIME so should definitely add this to your “to do list” for a future trip. I think you’d love it.

  • Reply Justin May 2, 2017 at 3:36 pm

    I’m doing research and found your page. I purchased tickets from THE LIGHTS FEST. It’s been a bit of a nightmare. are they legit?

    • Reply Justin Walter May 3, 2017 at 10:30 am

      Hey, I’m glad you found my post and reached out to you. “The Lights Fest” is a total scam and I am so sorry about it. No joke, they actually were using my photos from Thailand as if it was from their festival. A few weeks ago I also read an article that in the OC they canceled the events and people who bought tickets weren’t getting refunds. I would report them to the better business bureau and see what other people did. The good news – RiSE is 100% legit! And I recommend it. Let me know if you have any questions about it. Again, sorry and happy to help if I can.

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