The Coachella Valley is known for hosting one of the country’s largest music festivals. There’s much more to the area, however, than just music. Indio, which is where the festival is held, is in fact just one small area of the Coachella Valley. The valley is an expansive desert stretch in California that offers a wide variety of things to do with scenic views and close proximity to major cities. There are plenty of museums, outdoor activities, state parks, national parks, a brewery, a distillery, tours, and more.
1.Agua Caliente Cultural Museum
© Agua Caliente Cultural Museum
The Agua Caliente Cultural Museum is a history and culture museum situated in Palm Springs in the Coachella Valley. The focus as the museum is on the area’s Cahuilla people. The new museum is set to open to the public in 2020 in the downtown district of Palm Springs at the corner of South Indian Canyon Drive and East Tahquitz Canyon Way. The museum is designed to be a place to celebrate the modern times, culture, and history of the Agua Caliente Band of the Cahuilla people. The design for the Agua Caliente Cultural Museum was inspired by Agua Caliente traditions.
Palm Springs, CA 92262, Phone: 760-778-1079
2.Living Desert Zoo and Gardens
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The mission of the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens is desert conservation by means of preservation, appreciation, and education. The Living Desert Zoo is home to several desert animals that have adapted to the desert’s harsh conditions. The gardens of the Living Desert highlight the diversity in the forms that plant life has adopted to survive in the harsh desert environment. More than 1,400 different plant species can be found in the several gardens that showcase the plant collection of the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens. The facility aims to preserve, in its natural state, part of the Colorado Desert.
47900 Portola Ave, Palm Desert, CA 92260, Phone: 760-346-5694
3.Cabot’s Pueblo Museum
© Cabot’s Pueblo Museum
Cabot’s Pueblo is a wonder of design and engineering. Built in the year 1941, the home was always meant to be used as a museum, along with being the residence of Cabot and Portia Yerxa. The building is inspired by the Hopi, handmade and constructed from found and reclaimed materials from the local area. The four-story Cabot’s Pueblo Museum, which opened in 1949, is full of Native American artifacts and art, works made by Cabot himself, and souvenirs from Cabot’s world travels. A large portion of the Pueblo is made out of sun-dried and adobe-style bricks made by Cabot.
67616 E Desert View Ave, Desert Hot Springs, CA 92240, Phone: 760-329-7610
4.Children's Discovery Museum of the Desert
© Children's Discovery Museum of the Desert
The Children's Discovery Museum of the Desert features more than eighty different hands-on and interactive exhibits designed to help children of any age learn in interesting and fun ways throughout its three exhibit galleries. In addition to the numerous indoor learning exhibits, the museum also is home to the Discovery Garden. This garden includes an array of different plants, including a garden for butterflies and an edible garden. There is also a tortoise habitat. The Annenberg Gallery is the largest area of exhibits and includes Toddlertown, Brain Buster Road, MakerSpace, and many other interesting exhibits for kids.
71-701 Bob Hope Dr, Rancho Mirage, CA 92270, Phone: 760-321-0602
5.Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival
© Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival
The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival is one of the biggest music festivals in the United States. In addition to the many artists that perform at the festival every year, Coachella also offers world class art exhibits and a variety of delicious food. There is more amazing food than anyone could eat in a weekend, with more than one hundred vendors offering everything from hand-crafted burgers and wood-fried pizzas to freshly made pad thai and authentic street tacos. Several site-specific, large-scale, original art installations are on display by both up-and-coming and established artists at the festival.
Empire Polo Club, Indio, CA
6.Joshua Tree National Park
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Two distinctly different desert ecosystems meet in the Joshua Tree National Park, the Colorado and the Mojave. The park protects almost 800,000 acres of the southern region of California. Visitors can explore an amazing variety of plants and landforms due to the park grounds spanning across two different desert environments. There are four visitors centers throughout the park where visitors can get information, talk to a ranger, view interpretive exhibits, and more. There are many sites to see in the Joshua Tree National Park, including Black Rock Canyon, Cottonwood Spring, Covington Flats, Skull Rock, Keys View, and Indian Cove.
74485 National Park Dr, Twentynine Palms, CA 92277, Phone: 760-367-5500
7.Curves and Zig Zags
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Curves and Zig Zags is located in what seems to be a random spot within the Palm Desert of the Coachella Valley. It is a white wall that boasts a length of almost one hundred feet. When the massive art installation is seen from straight on, it looks as if the black markings on the wall and the wall itself are flat perfectly horizontal. However, just a one step to the side reveals that isn’t the case at all. From any angle other than straight on, the wall show clearly that it bends and curves, and the black stripes are actually zig zags.
Palm Springs, CA 92262
8.Desert Adventures Red Jeep Tours & Events
© Desert Adventures Red Jeep Tours & Events
Desert Adventures Red Jeep Tours & Events has provided visitors to the Coachella Valley with some of the highest regarded outdoor adventures in the area of Greater Palm Springs. The eco-tour and outdoor adventure company is the largest, original, and one of the most respected in the Southern California desert, offering a wide variety of options for activities and tours. The events, activities, and tours offered by Desert Adventures include something for everyone, whether visitors are seeking amazing scenery, panoramic vistas, amazing desert events, fauna and flora, geology, nature, culture and history, team building, rugged adventure, and more.
74-794 Lennon Pl, Palm Desert, CA 92260, Phone: 760-324-5337
© Desert Distilling
Desert Distilling is the only distillery located within the Coachella Valley and specializes in hand-crafted small batches of spirits. The distillery offers tours and tastings to visitors over twenty-one years of age. Distillery tours last around thirty to forty minutes and take place on Fridays and Saturday on the hour. The boutique distilling company with simple beginnings chose the hummingbird as its symbol because it signifies the lightness of being and embodiment of joy. In the tasting room, Desert Distilling strives to tantalize all five senses of visitors with tastings of the spirits the brand produces.
34300 Gateway Dr, Palm Desert, CA 92211, Phone: 760-770-3135
© Desert X
Desert X is a site-specific art installation that was originally created for a biennial art exhibition in the spring season of 2017. Artists from all over the world were invited to come to the Coachella Valley and create artwork in response to the valley’s unique conditions. The idea was for the desert of Southern California to be a canvas on which contemporary artists, just like many musicians, architects, and writers before them, could project their visions and create experiences and objects from the extraordinary social and natural history around them that’s reflective of the unparalleled surroundings of the barren landscape.
Palm Springs, CA 92262
11.Elvis Honeymoon Hideaway
© Elvis Honeymoon Hideaway
The Elvis Honeymoon Hideaway is the home once used by Elvis Presley and his wife Priscilla. It also served as the inspiration for two “upstairs” suites in the Guest House at Graceland. Elvis and Priscilla lived in the home during 1966 and 1967. Guided tours of the Elvis Honeymoon Hideaway are available at 1:00pm and at 3:30pm on a daily basis, led by expert guides. The house is also used for special events, conferences, films, and weddings. Special events take place every year as a celebration of the couple’s marriage, along with the birthday of Elvis.
1350 Ladera Circle, Palm Springs, CA 92262, Phone: 760-322-1191
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The Indian Canyons in the Coachella Valley are made up of three different canyons: the Palm Canyon, the Andreas Canyon, and the Murray Canyon. Each one has its own unique features that make them worth a visit for outdoor enthusiasts. Palm Canyon is fifteen miles in length and boasts a great deal of natural beauty. Visitors can stop by the Trading Post for refreshments, map, Indian artifacts, and more. The Andreas Canyon is more of a lush oasis that is home to over 150 plant species. The Murray Canyon offers a chance to see Peninsular Big Horn Sheep and other endangered species.
38500 S. Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs, CA 92264, Phone: 760-323-6018
13.Coachella Valley Brewing Company
© Coachella Valley Brewing Company
The Coachella Valley Brewing Company focuses on what makes the desert of Southern California unique, striving to connect both of the ends of the Coachella Valley through expertly crafted beer made from locally grown ingredients. Tours of the brewery are offered on Fridays and Saturdays at 2:00pm, 4:00pm, and 6:00pm. The emphasis at the brewery is on farm-to-table brewing. Coachella Valley Brewing Company supports local flavors and farms, using local spices, honey, herbs, and citrus. Grains left over from the brewing cycle are given to or sold to local agricultural businesses for livestock feed.
30640 Gunther St, Thousand Palms, CA 92276, Phone: 760-343-5973
14.Balloon Above The Desert
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Balloon Above The Desert provides visitors and locals alike in the Coachella Valley with memorable hot air balloon experiences. Balloons Above takes guests to new heights in the desert, giving visitors and locals alike a chance to see the valley’s expansive desert from a different point of view. Guests can choose to take in the sunrise or sunset from the beautiful desert skies for a once-in-a-lifetime experience, as well as breathtaking vistas of the picturesque landscape, including exotic orchards and world famous golf courses. The direction the hot air balloon trip takes is decided by the breeze.
36901 Cook St, Palm Desert, CA 92211, Phone: 760-347-0410
15.Mount San Jacinto State Park
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The Mount San Jacinto summit stands at a height of 10,834 feet is Southern California’s second tallest mountain range. The Mount San Jacinto State Park is about two hours at the most from San Diego and Los Angeles. The park offers a chance to enjoy and explore a high-country, scenic wilderness area with its granite peaks, fern-bordered meadows, and subalpine forests. Two campgrounds are situated near Idyllwild, while the majority of the state park is designed to be a wilderness area for backpackers and hikers. The park includes the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway and the Pacific Crest Trail.
25905 CA-243, Idyllwild, CA 92549, Phone: 951-659-2607
16.Palm Springs Air Museum
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There is plenty for visitors to see at the Palm Springs Air Museum and there always seems to be something new where aviation history comes to life. The museum provides guests with an opportunity to get close to several different vintage aircraft from the Vietnam, Korea, and World War II eras. The Palm Springs Air Museum has been named by CNN Travel as one of the world’s top fourteen aviation museums, and features over fifty static and flyable planes on display within four hangars and the tarmac. Each hangar has a theme and includes related exhibits along the walls.
745 North Gene Autry Trail, Palm Springs, California 92262, Phone: 760-778-6262
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17.Palm Springs Art Museum
© Palm Springs Art Museum
The Palm Springs Art Museum, located within the heart of the downtown area of Palm Springs, strives to create transformative experiences that aim to expand visitors’ understanding of themselves and the world. The programs, exhibits, and collections of the art museum connect the public with the culture and art of the time and the community. The museum inspires and fosters renewal and reflection for local to worldwide audiences. The Palm Springs Art Museum features a collection of art on par with that or metropolitan museums, including works by Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, Andy Warhol, Ansel Adams, and Henry Moore.
101 Museum Dr, Palm Springs, CA 92262, Phone: 760-322-4800
18.Palm Springs Scavenger Hunt
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The Palm Springs Scavenger Hunt is a two-hour epic adventure through the heart of Palm Springs. The hunt includes at least twenty challenges, requiring participants to explore historic landmarks, complete challenges, and solve puzzles. The scavenger hunt through the town pays tribute some of the most famous faces of America while also exploring modern art along the streets. Groups compete in the scavenger hunt for their city’s top spot and can start the hunt through the desert oasis whenever they like. The two-hour Palm Springs Scavenger Hunt includes a number of locations, including the Palm Springs Art Museum.
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Pioneertown is a town of the Old West constructed to be used as a movie set in the 1940’s. The set was established in 1946 by a handful of Hollywood investors, which included actors Gene Autry and Roy Rogers. The group dreamed of making an Old West movie set that was in fact a town in itself worth visiting, complete with false-front, 1880’s-style facades with interiors that offered things to do and see for visitors. From the outside, buildings in Pioneertown looked like jails, saloons, and frontier stables, however, they actually housed motels, bowling alley, ice cream parlors on the inside.
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20.San Andreas Fault
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Visiting the San Andreas Fault is rather easy for visitors. All that’s really needed is a good car that doesn’t even need to have 4-wheel drive, with the exception of a few spots. A short hike can also lead to those areas. Several sections of the San Andreas Fault are located on BLM land, in national forests, and in national parks. Along the fault, visitors can travel down miles of scenic, mostly quiet roads and see loads of flowers and wildlife, twisted rock, and dramatic landforms. A number of nature centers and parks offer trips to the fault on a yearly basis.
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21.The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
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The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway serves as a major gateway to southern California’s Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument, which spans across the southern side of the Coachella Valley. This area is officially recognized as a cultural and natural resource. Many of the hiking trails in the Mount San Jacinto State Park begin at the top of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway and extend across the San Jacinto Mountains out to the outskirts of the town of Idyllwild. The National Monuments encompasses around 272,000 acres, established to preserve the geological, recreational, cultural, scientific, and biological values of national significance.
1 Tram Way, Palm Springs, CA 92262, Phone: 888-515-8726
22.The Salton Sea
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The Salton Sea in North Shore, California is a saline inland lake within the Sonoran Desert of the Coachella Valley. It is located in the Salton Basin, which is a remnant of the ancient Lake Cahuilla. Visitors can find several outdoor recreational activities to enjoy in the Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge and the Salton Sea State Recreation Area along the shores of the Salton Sea. The recreation area includes 1,400 campsites, hiking trails, hundreds of picnic sites, a playground, visitor center, and boat ramp. Activities include hiking, fishing, boating, sailboarding, water-skiing, birdwatching, and more.
100-225 State Park Road, North Shore, CA 92254, Phone: 760-393-3059
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23.The Architecture and Design Center
© The Architecture + Design Center
The Architecture and Design Center is situated in the downtown district of Palm Springs, California and is the Palm Spring Art Museum’s hub for the exploration of design and architecture. The center offers community and education programs in addition to housing several related exhibitions. The main level of the Architecture and Design Center feature its exhibition galleries, as well as a store. The lower level is home to a research center that includes collection spaces and archives, a library, and meeting space. The steel and glass building measures 13,000 square feet and has been elevated above the street level.
300 S Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs, CA 92262, Phone: 760-423-5260
24.Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve
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The Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve is a delightful oasis in the desert of the Coachella Valley. There are no fees to explore the preserve, however, donations are appreciated. The preserve can be found in the northern area of the valley, situated in within the Indio Hills. It is a real oasis located in the shadows of the country’s Old West. The preserve is just minutes away from Palm Springs, Indio, Indian Wells, and other cities in the desert. Visitors can walk along a trail network that encompases thiry miles, view wildlife, have a picnic, or spend some time in the rustic visitor center.
29200 Thousand Palms Canyon Rd, Thousand Palms, CA 92276, Phone: 760-343-1234
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Villagefest is a community events that takes place in the downtown area of Palm Springs on Thursday nights on Palm Canyon Drive. The road is closed to traffic during the event, transforming from a busy street of cars to a festive street fair filled with pedestrians. Vendors set up their booths on both sides of around three blocks of the town. The Villagefest of Palm Springs features a wide variety of items for sale, an array of food, and entertainment. Several stores also remain open late on Thursdays during the event, offering even more shopping opportunities for festival goers.
264 N. Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs, CA 92262, Phone: 760-320-3781
25 Best Things to Do in Coachella Valley
- Agua Caliente Cultural Museum, Photo: Agua Caliente Cultural Museum
- Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, Photo: Courtesy of Zack Frank - Fotolia.com
- Cabot’s Pueblo Museum, Photo: Cabot’s Pueblo Museum
- Children's Discovery Museum of the Desert, Photo: Children's Discovery Museum of the Desert
- Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, Photo: Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival
- Joshua Tree National Park, Photo: Courtesy of raimund14 - Fotolia.com
- Curves and Zig Zags, Photo: Courtesy of Ron Dale - Fotolia.com
- Desert Adventures Red Jeep Tours & Events, Photo: Desert Adventures Red Jeep Tours & Events
- Desert Distilling, Photo: Desert Distilling
- Desert X, Photo: Desert X
- Elvis Honeymoon Hideaway, Photo: Elvis Honeymoon Hideaway
- Indian Canyons, Photo: Courtesy of veeterzy - Fotolia.com
- Coachella Valley Brewing Company, Photo: Coachella Valley Brewing Company
- Balloon Above The Desert, Photo: Courtesy of Brigido - Fotolia.com
- Mount San Jacinto State Park, Photo: Courtesy of Gentian Polovina - Fotolia.com
- Palm Springs Air Museum, Photo: Courtesy of Lee - Fotolia.com
- Palm Springs Art Museum, Photo: Palm Springs Art Museum
- Palm Springs Scavenger Hunt, Photo: Courtesy of Igor - Fotolia.com
- Pioneertown, Photo: Courtesy of timyply - Fotolia.com
- San Andreas Fault, Photo: Courtesy of Euqirneto - Fotolia.com
- The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, Photo: Courtesy of DIIMSA.com - Fotolia.com
- The Salton Sea, Photo: Courtesy of MixMotive - Fotolia.com
- The Architecture and Design Center, Photo: The Architecture + Design Center
- Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve, Photo: Courtesy of Purplexsu - Fotolia.com
- Villagefest, Photo: Courtesy of gpointstudio - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of allard1 - Fotolia.com