Rock in Rio: A user's guide for everything you need to know

Rock in Rio: A user's guide for everything you need to know
Touring the festival grounds in a golf cart as construction was underway, Brazilian entrepreneur Roberto Medina describes an event that is part concert, part amusement park and part street party. (AlivePhotograhy!)

Up and down the Las Vegas Strip, it’s impossible to miss the ads for the U.S. arrival of the decades-old Rock in Rio music festival, which will stage two weekends of concerts on 40 acres of land amid numerous hotels and casinos. 

Images of headliners Bruno Mars, Taylor Swift, No Doubt and Metallica are everywhere, but those making the trek to Vegas are already well aware of the bill. What about how to get there? Or who else is playing? Even spending cash doesn’t work on-site the same way as other festivals.

Ahead of Friday’s launch of weekend one – which will skew toward rock acts like No Doubt, Mana, Linkin Park, Foster the People and the Deftones – the Los Angeles Times has put together a guide of everything you need to know outside of when Taylor Swift performs (FYI, she goes on at 11:10 p.m. May 15).

No need to sweat over scheduling.

There’s nothing more stressful than wanting to see two acts on two separate stages at the same time. Not here. Headliners will perform on the festival's two main stages and alternate sets, making it possible to see every major artist on the lineup.

Cash is not king.

Inside the festival, the only currency accepted at bars and merch stands is Rock Cash, which is a cute way of saying the money in your wallet is no good here. What does this mean? Your wristband is your ticket – and your wallet. Guests are required to set up an account and purchase Rock Cash, which will be refunded minus a $3.50 processing fee (so plan accordingly). Confused? Rock in Rio has a better explainer on its site

How to get there.

The festival grounds are in the shadow of Circus Circus for those familiar with the Strip. The SLS Hotel, Stratosphere and Hilton Grand Vacation Suites are the next closest hotels. Parking on-site is nonexistent and the festival is designed for a walkable entry. There is a pre-paid shuttle service running from the MGM Resorts Village and the Downtown Las Vegas Events Center (a two-day shuttle pass is $25), but the better – and cheaper -- bet is the city monorail that has stations convenient to all of the hotels on the Strip (two-day passes are on sale for $17.60 and offer unlimited rides). 

Splurged on VIP? This is what it gets you.

While weekend passes are priced at $298 (single-day GA tickets are $169) VIP passes are $498 per day. An expensive proposition, but the access has its perks. It gets you access to the air-conditioned, 77,500-square-foot, two-story structure that has plush seating, an open bar and a buffet catered by Wolfgang Puck. Some of the bathroom stalls even feature tiny screens that will broadcast performances. For high rollers, organizers teamed up with the upscale Vegas club Hakkasan to offer table service on cabanas that are perched atop platforms close to the main stages and can cost upward of $20,000 depending on size of party. 

Don’t forget the rides.

Aside from six stages of music there is a 600-foot zip line that will send festival-goers flying over the main stage, a Ferris wheel in the shape of a giant roulette wheel and the Mercedes Iron Schoeckl, which simulates a mountain climb in an SUV (the automaker is a major sponsor). Like a theme park, the rides are included with price of admission. “It’s not fair to charge. They already paid for a ticket,” said Luis Justo, Rock in Rio’s CEO.

Rock Streets offer more than food and shopping.

The three themed miniature "rock streets" inspired by U.S., Britain and Brazil will feature shops and restaurants instead of crowded, non-descript food tents or food trucks. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

The three themed miniature "rock streets" inspired by U.S., Britain and Brazil will feature shops and restaurants instead of crowded, non-descript food tents or food trucks. But they also boast music and culture. Rock Street USA will take its inspiration from New Orleans and focus on street dance; Rock Street UK will be influenced by London and Ireland and feature performances from Celtic-rock band Terra Celta and cover band Stone the Beetles; and Rock Street Brazil tapped a number of acts from the festival's home country, including Spok Frevo Orquestra, Bossacucanova, Leo Gandelman, Marcos Valle, Simoninha, Toni Garrido and Pepeu Gomes.

There is plenty of EDM too.

Despite a bill driven by commercial pop and rock offerings, both weekends also feature a curated lineup of electronic acts. The first weekend of electronic acts is focused on EDM, bass and trap music. Gaslamp Killer, Las Vegas duo Caked Up and AN21 are among those performing. Weekend 2 will be split into two themes. Night 1 will showcase female DJs from L.A. (Whitney Fierce, Jeniluv, Valid and Heidi Lawden) with the next night being dedicated to global house music and include acts from the U.S., Brazil, Spain and Portugal.

When to get there.

The festival runs from 3 p.m. to 1:30 a.m., so there's plenty of time to sleep in -- or drive first thing in the morning.

Need a last-minute ticket? 

VIP passes for Saturday and May 16 have already sold out, but general admission tickets -- both weekend passes and single-day tickets -- are still available through Ticketmaster. General admission tickets cost $169 a day, $298 for a weekend -- but two-day passes are going for as low as $163 on StubHub

For updates and news from Rock in Rio follow me on Twitter: @gerrickkennedy