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After waiting in a seemingly endless line of cars on the edge of Black Rock Desert in northern Nevada, members of the Burning Man team standing in the rapidly fading light have one thing to say to you: “Welcome home.” First-timers are asked to exit the vehicle and make sand angels before ringing a bell that will usher them in to a yearly ritual that manages to challenge, confound and eventually exceed all expectations about the experience of Burning Man.

Started in 1986 as a bonfire among friends, Burning Man swelled to over 50,000 people in 2011, has its own non-profit (Burningman Project) and police force (the Black Rock Rangers). Burning Man tickets grant you access to literally thousands of activities to choose from every single day of the week-long event from yoga to wine tasting to topless see-saw and everything in between.

Burning Man days are filled with strolls across the playa, interacting with art, dodging mutant vehicles, navigating through sandstorms and making friends while nights are jam packed with raves, chill sessions and some of the most intense people-watching this side of Carnaval. There is no money in Black Rock and you’re as likely to get a hot dog, a coconut or a slushie as a martini for free in the gift economy of this neon wonderland. On the final days of the event the effigy of the Burning Man is set aflame and the temple and all its offerings are burned to the ground. The tribes that had gathered collect their various MOOP (“Matter-Out-Of-Place”), practicing the event’s “Leave No Trace” mantra, clearing the desert until next time. Check back for 2017 Burning Man tickets if you’re ready for a radical new experience or if you’re just returning home.

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