ESCAPE Halloween 2023 Review

Spooky adventure-seeking and EDM-loving folks (along with Three 6 Mafia) spent their weekend partying here in SoCal at the NOS center in San Bernadino for Escape Halloween 2023. This being my first time seeing the Insomniac famous Escape festival, I attest that it was an enjoyable time for various reasons. Insomniac produced a well-organized and thematic Halloween festival through live entertainment, interactive areas, and yearly improvements. I will upload a complete map walkthrough on our TikTok for everyone to view so if you didn’t attend, you can get a glimpse of what it was like. I will be sharing perspectives on stages, designs, improvements, and the positive factors of the festival within this review, so let’s begin. 


As I stated in the pre-coverage piece for this event, this year’s stage quantity differs from previous years because of “Wicked Woods,” the newly added fifth stage. These five allowed there to be somewhat evenly disbursed ravers, with help from two mini-stages, “Poison Ivy” and “The Butcher.” These mini-stages (not labeled on the map) were walk-through areas with a DJ booth, dancefloor, and a sitting section where you could buy Escape Halloween skull-shaped plastic cups with drinks. Insomniac used the arena thoroughly by adding something useful for attendees within every aspect of the map, from the immediate entry of the festival into the back left corner by the main stage. The stages were surrounded by amenities of drinks, food, bathrooms, and charging stations, so you didn’t have to go too far away to get your basic needs met. While going from stage to stage, the walkways were labeled to familiarize each person with the map layout quickly by naming two essential walkways, “Haunted Hay Road” and “Witch Way.” One crucial implementation the Insomniac crew handled extremely well was having the main stage, “The Grimm,” in the far back left corner of the map. This was a huge benefit regarding the foot traffic as the festival ended on both nights, allowing ravers at stages outside of Kaskade or Armin Van Buren at “The Grimm” a chance at a more swift exit. Each stage had multiple entry and exit arches on the sides since all of the stages besides “Sewer District” had a cover over the top. The stages had the usual massive entry/exit that we are used to in the back of stages, but by having those arches on the sides of the stages as well, there was a way to get to whatever section of the pit you wanted: back, middle, front left, or front right. I highly applaud the design of the stages and their motivation to make the ravers happy by allowing accessibility to A) keep them warm and B) travel easily through stages. 

Keiki-Lani Knudsen for Insomniac Events

Jake West for Insomniac Events


I also mentioned that Escape is known for its art and designs, which is very accurate. All around, within the stages, each has its different personality/ aesthetic. The actors walking around in areas like “Psycho Circus” and “Crazy Town” looked beautiful and played the part of their character to a t. Many different eras were being portrayed, mainly from the 19th and 20th centuries (the 1920s was a big one). The “Psycho Cirus” had acts that were going on all night and had seats filled just about every hour, with some even having to sit on the ground since it was fully occupied. To name a few acts, a magician splitting their assistant in half, “Super Tall Paul” *a normal-sized man playing child-sized instruments*, a seducing dance by a beautiful woman, and a man juggling swords over his face were the entertainment that filled the circus tents with laughter and cheers. There were plenty of places to take pictures, like the fountain in “Crazy Town,” which had plenty of prop designs for friends and lovers to get their Instagram-worthy pictures themselves or with the help of Insomniac Events photographers who were walking around these areas. The art within the festival held to its theme of spooky yet fun for the crowd of “PLURR” by respecting the wishes of those not wanting to be spooked when they screamed “OH GOD, PLEASE NO” as an actor dressed as a skeleton approached them. There was so much to see and explore throughout the festival. The light-hearted persona of those working for this event made it worth walking around and interacting with those outside of the artists playing. It truly is something you have to explore within the festival season of next fall, 2024. 

Ivan Meneses for Insomniac Events


Like anything, there can always be room for change and/or improvements within ourselves and those around us. From those we interviewed at this festival, here are some things requested for a better time at next year’s Escape. The water accessibility for those holding a GA ticket could only access free water immediately at the front upon entry to the festival grounds. There were 26 tables, each having four to five water spouts. Still, it was evident that those who were spending the majority of their time at the main stage weren’t able to access water easily unless they bought water bottles from nearby tables. Aside from GA, VIP (which I highly recommend if you have the funds) had their water stations, and with plenty of areas around for them to refill, VIP was OK. All in all, for next year’s Escape, there should be one more water station, one on the right side of the map and one on the left. The only other thing that I recommend for Escape would be regarding the signage for stages. Though the walkways of “Witch Way” and “Haunted Hay Road” were clearly labeled for everyone to see (it might have been my radiate beanie that made me look like I knew what I was doing), I had so many people coming up to me asking me where “Voodoo Village,” “Sanitarium” and “Feeding Grounds” was because they didn’t know which stage was which. When I first entered, I had no idea if the stage I was standing at was the Sanitarium until I saw the DJ playing, and it all connected together. Still, it would be nice to have the luxury of stage signs. 

Jamal Eid for Insomniac Events


To finish this review, I had a marvelous time at this year’s Escape. There was so much to interact with at this festival because of the Insomniac team and their planning. There was room to jump and spin at stages because of the interactive spots they developed around the map. There were plenty of bathrooms for GA, GA+, and VIP, and where they decided to put them helped there be hardly ANY congested spots in the festival. The attention to detail of putting Ground Control Oasis next to the sober consciousness, as well as End Overdose, felt so open and accessible to understand what was where when needed. I am so happy to see how Insomniac is consistently improving festival after festival since they are attracting a more extensive crowd, with EDM festival’s popularity spiking within the last year. Suppose you are considering Escape, and you need that extra little reassurance that this is worth the money. If that is the case, it is because this is probably the best Insomniac festival that I have been to since I started raving in November of 2021. I look forward to attending again next year and seeing the personality that this festival brings again to So-Cal, and seeing the connecting love of ravers to the team at Insomniac. Follow our TikTok for an Escape map layout video that is coming soon. Next up for the team in this part of California is Apocalypse Zombieland.