Burning Man may be the poster child for crazy festivals in which attendees march into the desert for days on end to suspend disbelief and indulge in an alternate reality, but in fact there’s another even wilder — and significantly more ominous — annual event that takes place in a very similar manner. Meet Wasteland Weekend, an insane post-apocalypse-themed desert festival that you might easily mistake for one long deleted Mad Max scene.
Held every fall in California’s Mojave Desert, Wasteland Weekend is a five-day post-apocalyptic celebration that attracts over a thousand people. Attendees escape their day-to-day lives to gather and camp on a compound decked out in a full-on “dieselpunk” aesthetic. People whiz around in cars that would’ve fit right in on the set of Fury Road, the landscape is dotted with haphazard sheet metal structures, and there’s even a giant half-dome cage for would-be death matches (more on that in a minute).
Cosplay plays a big role in everything, too. In fact, crazy costumes aren’t just encouraged, they’re required. Many Wastelanders organize themselves into “tribes” by coordinating outfits, sharing a group identity, and maintaining a themed encampment.
Besides just living their post-apocalyptic truth, attendees participate in a slate of on-theme activities. There are parades of decked-out vehicles, sideshows and circus acts, and stunt performers who engage in insane hand-to-hand combat inside the aforementioned Thunder Dome steel cage. Jugger, a bloodsport in which players compete for possession of a special dog skull, is also popular. After dark, bands and DJs take the stage for a raucous night of music, interspersed with special fire dancing and burlesque shows. And don’t worry, this post-apocalyptic oasis is flowing with booze served via several on-site vendors.
This year’s Wasteland Weekend starts September 27 and runs through October 1, and there are still a handful of remaining tickets available at $185 a pop (there are extra fees for camping and parking), but if you want in you better act fast because organizers expect to sell out before everything kicks off next week.