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Everything You Need to Know to Rock Panorama’s Inaugural Year

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Joselito Briones/Stocksy

The joy is in the journey, said a wise man who was absolutely wrong. Any trip through NYC is a miserable compromise. The joy is in being at the wonderful concert.

In fact, Panorama was originally planned for Flushing Meadows Park, but its organizers couldn’t score the space and relocated to Randall’s Island, which is gorgeous, so nobody’s complaining... except getting out there is an especially wrought journey. Here’s how to make your travels suck less.


There's no parking, but a cab or friend can drop you off. Just be ready to pay RFK Bridge tolls either way. This is the quickest, least crowded, and most expensive option.

Flying cars

Why don't we have these yet? Aargh.


Ferries start leaving East 35th St. Ferry Landing on the FDR Drive at 11 a.m. and continue until 9 pm. Return trips from the island will continue until everyone's off the island. No fan left behind! Buy ferry & shuttle passes here.


Williamsburgers and other, less mustachioed Brooklyn types can get a shuttle from Union & Meeker avenues at 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. Return trips start at 8.

There are also Sharethebus shuttles from Atlantic Terminal, Hoboken, deep Queens, and three midtown Manhattan hubs. Each location has two departures at 11:30 (except Grand Central, which is 11:55) and 3:30.


The Lexington Avenue Line's, 4, 5, and 6 all stop at 125th (that's “the green line” according to you visitors). From there, you can walk east across the RFK Bridge or take an X80. Beware that X stands for express, so you will need a cash-loaded MetroCard to pay the $6.50 fare. That’s roundtrip though, and includes a transfer from the subway, so it’s even more affordable than it looks. Expect a jampacked bus and to be constantly off-balance even if you nab a handrail.


Cyclists and striders can take the RFK or the much more peaceful 103rd St. Footbridge. Do the latter to put a little zen before your frenzy. This way takes the longest, but if you’re walking with friends to the best event of your year, it’s the most satisfying. Gee, maybe that wise man was right.

You’re there to listen to music, eat some $6 tacos, and fill out your Instagram feed in the hopes that maybe Arcade Fire will finally like one of your posts. Here’s what you should do so all that other stuff, you can do.

Okay, where do I get my tickets?

Entry is by non-transferrable wristband, which will be mailed to you when you pre-order (limit of 6 per order). You can activate beforehand to save some time in line.

If your parents set up a trust fund or you’re a “brand influencer” on Instagram, you are in both cases, the worst. But you won’t care what others think because you can afford VIP tickets with access to private luxury areas.

Once you’ve activated your wristband, strap it on, then leave it alone. If staff thinks you’re honeyfuggling with your pass, they’ll void it. And since it’s the only thing that gets you into the festival, you don’t want a voided band. Hey… ”voided band” is probably the only phrase that wouldn’t be a good band name. Ma, we found the unicorn!

Can I get a single-day pass?

You can and should, if you can satisfy your band bucket list in one or two days. Single-day wristbands are actually (slightly) cheaper per day than a full weekend pass. If you can stand a bye day, you can save up to $119 by skipping the inessential day. Go explore the city instead! It should only take you forty minutes to spend that surplus.

Where am I going to stow my stuff?

You can carry a small backpack or purse if you need stuff handy, but why spend your time in the audience worried about them?. Your best bet is to pocket the essentials (ID, cash, cards, phone) and get a locker.

Repeat that to yourself: Get a locker. Get a locker. GET A LOCKER. They’re $25/day or $60 for the weekend and include a phone charger battery. Reserve one now or wish for one later.

Getting a locker won’t give you a cart blanche on inventory. There’s a long list of what you can’t bring, including spray suntan lotion and kites (Probably smart, but your inner child weeps), so read carefully or watch them get confiscated.

I, like all organisms, require fluids to live. What are my options?

You can bring in one sealed bottle of water, no bigger than 2 liters. You can also wear an empty hydration pack (CamelBak, etc.) you will be allowed to fill up inside. But no, you can’t bring in any other liquid or your bota bag, you no-good hippie.

I, like many humans, require beer to talk to attractive people. What are my options?

Beer and liquor may be bought inside, but not brought inside, you smuggler. In fact, you can’t even bring in juice or soda, just plain old H 2 the izz-O.

Where can I recharge my phone?

Good news! You can bring in chargers. Panorama doesn’t say where outlets will be, but expect to pay somebody a weighty fee for the juice. But you did the smart thing and rented a locker with its included charger, right?

Where can I recharge myself?

Shade tents are abundant, and you are wise to take them in, aye, e’en as ye curse the solar disc above thy head.

The cool thing is Panorama lets you create your own show schedule by connecting to Facebook. You already know you should take in the headlining acts or fan-favorites like Run the Jewels and Sufjan Stevens. The big names are big for a reason, of course -- what fool would skip a Kendrick Lamar performance? -- but do yourself the exploratory favor of soaking in the sounds of newer names:


If you miss Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats you have only yourself to blame. Rateliff's voice is a booming wail through a coffee can that answers the question of O, Brother, Where Art Thou? He's here, and you need to hear him live. Don't make the worst mistake of your life by being anywhere else but front row center.


Lindsey Stirling isn’t exactly a newfound act; the America’s Got Talent violinist has roughly the same number of YouTube subscribers as the population of New York City. But if her fan base played tug-of-war with the city, the latter would have the advantage of her music to motivate them. Stirling shreds the strings on her violin, Cleopatra, like nobody else: not so much faster, but to a truly fresh effect.


If The Dead Milkmen were Yellowcard, that’d be The Front Bottoms. For the indie rocker who still fondly remembers her emo high school years, the act to take in is this quartet from New Jersey. Their songs benefit greatly from the versatility of keyboardist/trumpeter/guitarist Ciaran O'Donnell, which distinguishes the band’s sound within their work as well as without. Confessional lyrics and frustrated vocals rope it all together even as it changes song by song.


If you’re into electronica that doesn’t sound like a pile of silicon chips in a blender, consider AlunaGeorge. The collaboration of Britons Aluna Francis on vocals & George Reid on the hardware have been waiting in the wings for their moment for a few years now, and that time may have come thanks to the belated success of “You Know You Like It,” a DJ Snake remix of their song that came out in 2013 but only exploded last year. Ardent about being more than a one-hit wonder, the duo is now staged to prove it.


Need a break from all the super-amped stage performance? Broken Social Scene is music to sway by. With its yearning sound, this ceaselessly permutating collection of Torontonian troubadours is the respite you’re looking for. Step out of the crowd, lie back on the lawn, and let their tones wash over you.

Or go bare bones with SZA, whose vocals (perfectly described by her label as “airy coos”) waft over music so chill it’s only a heartbeat above ambient... and who yet sometimes pairs with rappers for a study in contrasts.

If you favor your ethereal euphonia with more haunted tones, try Daughter, the London-based breathy band perfect for reflective montage about the one who got away. *sigh* Yeah, man… Yeah.


Fun fact: if you type "What does DJ" into Google, the first suggestion is "What does DJ Khaled do?" The answer, of course, is the world's weirdest spoof of Diddy with the fulsome ego of Donald Trump. But how is that going to translate into a stage show? Is he going to drag six musicians with actual talent onstage? Is he just going to hype the crowd for forty minutes? Is he going to tell us we smart, we loyal, we geniuses?  Is he actually going to jockey some discs? The answer must be seen to be believed, but never understood.

There are music festivals, and then there are cultural events, and Panorama aims to be the latter with its hands-on multimedia exhibit The Lab. Planned out by the folks behind Coachella’s mix of art and sculpture, Panorama kicks those aesthetics into the next dimension with an interactive cavern of light, sound, and hands-on texture where play is the name of the game.

What makes Panorama unique is The Lab, a 70-foot-high dome where Willy Wonka meets Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Therein you’ll find attractions including but nope, not limited to: 360-degree virtual reality, an interactive musical/light show starring cocoons, a cotton candy theremin (!), a bouncy house exclusively for adults to reclaim their childhood, the art of pinball, a giant-sized tablet you control with your entire body, and presumably a vanishing cheshire cat.

Oh, and there’s an ultra-HD video projected over the entire exterior of the lab. Painting with light and shadow will also be available for you creative types.

Can I tailgate?

No! You can't even park a car on Randall's Island. Your best bet is a taxi, unless you are staying with that rare New Yorker who has room for you on their couch and a car and free time to drop you off and pick you up. That person is a unicorn! Treasure them always and never make them cross.

How about a grill?

Barbecue areas in Randall’s Island are few and far between but a few spots do exist in normal conditions. Don’t expect them to be accessible during the concert. Anyway, you don’t want to be that guy. Enjoy the show and let others worry about cooking food. You know who tailgates? Football fans who couldn’t get tickets. If you’re going to go all the way there, be there.

Okay, what are my food options?

Panorama's got you covered from almost any cuisine you could dare to think of. Unless you eat elephant, in which case, you're a horrible person. But for the non-elephantine eaters among us, check it out:

While festival staples like burgers abound (Hi, Landhaus, you look so good!), get excited for Arancini Bros. To call them "balls of deep-fried rice" would be to reduce them to naught. NYC hasn't seen such diversity in a single-item dish since the opening of Empanada Mama. Grab these golfball-sized bites of beauty. 

Speaking of staples, why not spin your hot dog into more exciting territory than ketchup and mustard with Asia Dog. No sane human can resist "mango relish." 

On the other hand, a great many humans can resist eating bugs, but those who dare say they're delicious. Find out for yourself at The Black Ant, which does plenty of whole muscle fare as well, but yes, will serve you our many-legged friends…or even stuff that never had legs to begin with. 

If you're on a budget, get the most bang for your buck with Dough: a single doughnut will keep you feeling full most of the day and turn into pure energy for the most justifiable sugar rush of the summer. 

For a higher-end nosh, check out the Contra + Wildair booth, both the product of International Culinary Center's Fabian Von Hauske and Jeremiah Stone.  Chef Soulayphet Schwader's gourmet Laotian(-inspired) menu ought to be an interesting addition to the cart mart as well. And finally, get that burger at American Cut. Just because it's a massive festival doesn't mean you can't treat yo self. 

Don't worry, dietary needs types. Gluten free and vegan options are plentiful. For the best bet, hit up Jalapa Jar. Nobody should ever be denied tacos, let alone Austin-style breakfast ones. You can even get vegan food at Monk's Meats, whose name belies their veganism. BBQ seitan, anyone? Heck, you can even get yourself a Michelin-starred meal from Chef Jon Fraser, whose resplendent menu rejoices in, rather than compromises for, the veg experience.

Is the sandwich nature's most perfect food? If it is, it's at Bunk. Except it's a three-way tie between that, tacos, and bao…the latter two of which are ALMOST sandwiches. Don't choose! Get both at The Bao Shoppe, who proudly proclaim themselves "succulent food!" and "awesome foodporn." It's like they already know you. 

You can also continue your research at Tica's Tacos, an all-touring taqueria that should have this festival experience in hand, since it's in their element. Tacos in honor of a deceased laborador retriever? You owe it to all that's good in the world to try for yourself. 

It's summer, you're dancing, you know you're getting ice cream. Beloved Ice & Vice will grab everyone's attention and is worth the wait, but Eggloo is the option for the rocker looking to try something different; they'll make you a waffle and then serve your ice cream in it. Don't feel you have to choose, either. It's fricking hot this weekend. Check in with La Newyorkina to see what flavors of popsicle they're serving. The James Beard finalists make paletas so gee-gosh gorgeous it's almost a crime to eat them…but you must, to save them from melting!


I’m not subject to The Man’s picks! I want my own NYC tasting menu!

Good! Harlem is an incredible place to eat. You absolutely have to spend Sunday afternoon at Vendy Plaza before diving into the not-far, final fray at Panorama.

Grab a true NYC pizza slice at nearby beloved Patsy’s.
Get yourself to Amy Ruth’s for their world-famous chicken & waffles.
Taking the 103rd St. footpath? Stop by Saiguette for a banh mi, then stroll through Central Park to your destination.
Feeling fancy? Skip Red Rooster; you’re not getting in there. Instead, put on your Sunday best and take a crosstown bus to The Cecil, where chef JJ Johnson puts so much love into his wildly innovative menu, especially the kickass piri piri.

Or go exploring beyond the neighborhood while you wait for your shuttle:


It got its name by when people staying the hell away from Times Square discovered it contains the city’s tastiest kitchens. No wonder Daredevil and his super senses live here, where Mexican and Thai joints dominate a wonderland of Irish bars and there is no such thing as a bad burger.

Vynl -- If you’re not invested by the end of the phrase “kung pao shrimp tacos” nobody can help you.
Ponche Taqueria -- The fish tacos are unreal here. Skip the guac so you can stuff your gob with the many juicy kinds of pork available.
Pam Real Thai -- Astonishingly, you sometimes need non-taco food. Its 9th Ave counterparts may be hipper, but this is the delish spot.
Ariana Afghan Kebab House -- Who knew yogurt and meat could make such beautiful mouth-music together?


You’re probably not dressed for something fancy; a walk east or south will find you a number of great restaurants serving the weekday lunch crowd now basically abandoned till Monday morning. As with your western shuttle brethren, what you want is to get away from the train crowd.

BonChon Chicken -- Crispy yet chewy yet tender yet--aargh, why are you still reading? Go get some of this sweet and savory fried wonder.
Uncle Sam’s Burgers -- It may be a chain in China, but this is the only stateside outpost, and you shouldn’t resist burger-Chinese fusion.
The Pullman Kitchen -- Those sandwiches. Those sandwiches! Also, chicken and waffles. But those sandwiches!


The whole globe is here, and the eats range from cheap to moderate with just a few pricey places: all of them delicious, and all of them worth it.

Kopitiam -- Blue sticky rice! Kaya toast! Thousand layer butter cake! Koay chap! And coffee made less acidic with the power of butter! Or olive oil if that’s your thing.
Jeepney -- Unorthodox (but delicious!) burgers mixed with classic Filipino fare.
Cheeky Sandwiches -- One of the city’s rare poboy stops (and even rarer: an authentic one), but don’t miss the chicken on a biscuit for your own sake.
Baohaus -- The vibe is almost a little too cool for school but oh man, every single flavor of these tiny bun sandwiches is worth the high buck-per-bite price tag. Definitely get the Chairman Bao.


Queens Comfort -- Incredibly innovative (yet sumptuous) cuisine makes a visit here is non-negotiable. Nothing else like it exists.
Rose & Joe’s Italian Bakery -- Fuel up fast with these delectable goods (and a nice slice!)
The Strand Smokehouse -- If you’re not from a BBQ state, this will put you in a BBQ state.
Djerdan -- Bosnian homecooking. Get the meat burek. You’re welcome.


Trying to recommend three or four must-try places in Brooklyn is like trying to take just a couple sips of Pliny the Elder. All the same, here’s a scattershot of picks:

Bagel Store -- Famous for their rainbow bagels, they’ve been a local favorite a lot longer for the amazing quality of their more familiarly flavored  bread-rings. Start your day right with a scallion schmear.
Mile End -- All good things must come to an end, and this must be where they do, because at Mile End, you’ll find nothing but good things in the form of kosher deli sandwiches and cuts. That’s lunch!
Pok Pok -- Sup on northern Thai cuisine on the Brooklyn waterfront. If that isn’t heaven, check your pulse.   
If you have a skip day, hang out at Brooklyn Brewery -- try flavors that probably aren’t distributed in your hometown, order from the aforementioned great restaurants, and maybe meet someone cute. Revel in your tourism and reserve a spot on the short walk around the brewery proper. There’s no better way to spend a summer afternoon.
Brendan McGinley isn’t cool enough to party with you guys. Send him live updates of the fun @BrendanMcGinley.