Beyond the Music Scene in Coachella Valley at Palm Desert
PHOTO: Coachella palm tree date farm. (photo courtesy of Thinkstock)
Palm Desert, a city about 14 miles east of Palm Springs in Coachella Valley, is a dry but breathtakingly beautiful place framed by the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto mountains that rise abruptly from the ground.
The Valley may be known for its pulsing rhythms mostly during the time of the festival that occurs this weekend, but it is also where the largest number of deliciously sweet medjool dates are harvested and exported in the U.S. There is so much going on here than meets the eye.
When I visited the destination a few months ago, I braced myself for the dry heat, and came armed with my trusted hand cream from Crabtree and Evelyn. I needed it in spades, but I also had a change of perspective when I saw how much more there was to the place apart from the music scene.
READ MORE: 5 Reasons to Visit Palm Springs
And yes, the music scene is worth noting. McCallum Theater, which opened in 1988, is a three-level desert-style building that features several notable performers. There one evening, I was fortunate enough to watch the late Frank Sinatra Jr. perform and pay a loving musical tribute to his father.
Palm Desert is home to a world-class arts scene, one that is on par with the cities of St. Petersburg, Florida and Santa Fe, New Mexico. The Palm Springs Art Museum, which was founded just before World War II in 1938, has an impressive collection of Native American and Western Art including work by Marc Chagall and Dale Chihuly. Its current exhibition, “Contemporary Glass,” which runs through July, has installations by Chihuly and London resident Michael Petry, including a luminous work called “Golden Rain” by the latter which features dozens of blown glass tear drops suspended by silvered metal wire.
If you’re an architect buff, marvel at the mid-century building, a good example of Desert Modernism with its 13,000 square foot glass and steel shell.
Another gem worth seeing is the Palm Springs Art Museum at Palm Desert (affiliated with the one mentioned above). Called the Galen, it is a LEED-certified building that contains multimedia work, with several rotating exhibits. The most refreshing aspect of this museum is the four-acre Faye Sarkowsky sculpture garden, bursting with native plants, winding paths and natural rock benches. You’ll brush shoulders with more than 10 masterful works by Donald Judd, Betty Gold and others: a leisurely stroll here is sure to release your inner Zen.
There is also a way to take free yoga sessions at this marvelous garden.
Over the several years of travel, I have by default become a naturalist, marveling at the local flora and fauna. Seeing Aspen trees in their natural habitat (e.g. the mountains of Vail and Aspen) is more thrilling to me than seeing a rose garden in Weehawken, New Jersey, because it is an authentic setting.
My most favorite aspect of the Coachella Valley was seeing (and straddling) the San Andreas Fault zone. There’s a neat way to do this, with Desert Adventures’ “Red Jeep” San Andreas Fault eco-tour, with the legendary Morgan Levine — who knows every rock, plant and water source here. It is money well spent (TripAdvisor, just so you know, rates it the best activity in the Californian desert).
READ MORE: Experience Frank Sinatra’s Palm Springs
Add to all of this a mix of fine dining options, including restaurants like Bernard Dervieux’s Cuistot which has a notable wine list categorized by grape varietal from Chardonnay to Zinfandel and all the nuances in-between, and you have yourself a truly fine weekend snow-bird worthy getaway.
If you stay, consider the JW Marriott Desert Springs, which has five pools, several golf courses and championship tennis lawns, not to mention a world-class spa. And don’t forget to buy dates for the entire family…
More by Charu Suri
Get Travel Deals and Travel News
Recent Travel Opinions
Airlines & Airports
Cruise Line & Cruise Ship