One of the most commonly asked questions for any music festival, including Arroyo Seco Weekend, is if the VIP Pass is worth the extra cost. Having experienced the VIP area for Arroyo Seco Weekend during its first year, we'll review what you can expect to get with an upgraded pass and if we think the Arroyo Seco Weekend VIP Passes are worth it.
Above you can see the costs of Arroyo Seco Weekend tickets for 2017. General Admission Passes were $225, ($251 after fees) and VIP were almost double the price at $399 ($430 after fees). Including fees, the VIP Pass is $179 more than the GA pass, not a big difference in dollar amount, but if you do the math you're paying 170% more for Arroyo Seco weekend VIP than you would be for GA. However, because of the relatively small price difference and the fact that the lineup targeted an older, more mature crowd, the VIP passes for Arroyo Seco Weekend sold out before the GA passes in 2017. Arroyo Seco Weekend also sold single day GA and VIP Passes, which were $125 and $225 before fees.
Now that you know how much upgrading to VIP is going to cost you, let's review benefits, so we can determine if the extra $179 is worth it.
On the official website, Arroyo Seco Weekend lists the VIP benefits as everything you get with GA, plus:
In addition to the above, we observed one other perk that they surprisingly don't list on their website, separate VIP lines for expedited festival entrance.
When making a decision about Arroyo Seco Weekend VIP, it's important to be aware that you're paying for access to a more restricted area with less people and potentially shorter lines, not for a better stage view. As you see in the map above, the VIP viewing area for both The Oaks (main stage) and Sycamore are close to the stage, but are set off to the side. When facing the stages, The Oaks VIP area is located to the left of the stage and the Sycamore VIP area is to its right. The VIP area for The Oaks is noticeably larger, so that it can accommodate the crowds during the headliner's set as they close out each night. There is no VIP area for the Willow Stage, a small tented area with open seating. Both areas have the same perks: shade, charging stations, extra bathrooms, etc.
Above is a picture I took from the VIP area of The Oaks Stage during Dawes' set on day one of Arroyo Seco Weekend. When taking this picture I was standing next to the VIP fence that separates the area from GA. As you can see, I wasn't front and center, but it’s still a solid, unobstructed view of the stage and well within range to hear everything. There are spots closer to the stage with better views, but you'll have to get there early and plan to camp out for the day.
I don't really understand the appeal of having special food vendors to be honest. Don’t get me wrong, some of the exclusive vendors in the VIP area, like Beer Belly, are delicious, but that can also be said for nearly every food vendor at Arroyo Seco Weekend. In fact, Arroyo Seco Weekend had the best food of any festival I've been to. Even if you especially love a VIP vendor, there is no guarantee they will be an exclusive VIP option the year that you attend.
There was a charging station in each VIP area and every time I saw one, there were plenty of charging ports available (see above). If your phone tends to die before the day is through and you have yet to make the $40 plunge for a portable charger, then this is a nice perk as long as you don't mind standing around and waiting for your phone to power up.
It's nice to be able to sit and listen to music or eat, but just like the GA area there's rarely a seat open.
The festival is in late June, a month when it's not uncommon for the temperature to be in the upper 80's / low 90's. If that's the case the year you attend, you'll be beyond grateful when you escape the brutal sun under the shade of one of the large trees in the VIP area. However, just like the VIP seating, it is pretty hard to find an open spot.
There is nothing special about the VIP bathrooms, it is just an additional section of porta potties. I never had to wait in a line in the GA area and both GA and VIP had equally clean porta potties (meaning they were usable), so I didn't see much benefit from the VIP bathroom area.
Now that I have gone through all of the VIP benefits, let’s get to the one negative I found. It's a big one and goes against what you would probably expect, there's too many people in too small of a space.
Arroyo Seco Weekend allowed attendees to bring in chairs and blankets and in 2017, it looked like everyone in the VIP section took advantage of this. Literally the entire VIP area was packed like sardines with oversized blankets and chairs everywhere, mostly by people who got to the festival early in the day and camped out. This means no one in the Arroyo Seco Weekend VIP section moves between sets or leaves their area, leaving little to no room for late arrivals. This was also a problem in the GA area, but due to the confined space, the VIP area felt more cramped than GA.
To put this into perspective, the shot above was taken at 6:00 PM, the same time as the picture of the stage under The View Section of this article. As you can see, by this time The Oaks VIP area was packed. Walking to get to the spot where I took these pictures was equivalent to navigating a maze, only you have to watch for personal belongings and hands as you go. As you can tell from the picture facing the stage, it was still possible to find a decent spot to stand or sit, but working your way away from the stage to the vendors or the bathroom was a pain due to what we jokingly called chairpocalypse. You get some perks with the Arroyo Seco Weekend VIP Passes, but space is not one of them.
At only $179 more than GA, I wanted to like the VIP Passes, I really did, especially since I’m used to festivals like Coachella ($1,000 for VIP vs. $429) and Austin City Limits ($1,100 for VIP vs. $250) where the price difference between the passes is much larger. That said, I don't think there is enough value added from the VIP perks to justify the additional cost. After our experience in the VIP area on Saturday, we chose to skip it and spend our day in GA on Sunday where we could stake out a spot right in front of the stage. For us, as long as Arroyo Seco Weekend allows chairs and large blankets, the VIP area will be too crowded to enjoy it. Don’t get me wrong, the GA is crowded and plagued by the same chair/blanket issues, but at least you can get a spot right by the stage if you go early. Plus, if you're going to deal with the crowds either way, you might as well save yourself some money.
Our Verdict: Buy GA Passes (Unless they fix chairpocalypse)