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Indio is known as the Land of Festivals, and for good reason. This desert outpost sandwiched between glamorous Palm Springs and far-out Joshua Tree is home to the Coachella Valley Arts and Music Festival — a who’s-who showcase of musicians and bands that was attended by roughly 750,000 people in 2019. Invigorated by the runaway success of Coachella, Indio is also home to the Stagecoach country music festival, and numerous other events celebrating Native American pow-wow to food and sports.
Outside of festivals, Indio offers plenty of permanent allures. There are 15 golf courses here, including the only course in the region that lights up at night, allowing golfers to take advantage of cooler temperatures during blistering summers. The city is also proud of its agricultural roots, particularly its robust date production. The Coachella Valley History Museum boasts a permanent date exhibit, and sweet date shakes are served throughout the Coachella Valley. And, of course, there’s an annual date festival.
Fly into Palm Springs International Airport (PSP), which is about a half-hour commute from Indio. Once on the ground, you can choose from taxis, rideshares, public buses, or a rental car to get you to Indio. Indio is served by SunLine buses that connect to surrounding cities. Taxis and rideshares are also easy to find in town. If you plan to explore nearby attractions such as Joshua Tree, a rental car will afford you the most flexibility and convenience.
Indio’s many festivals and sporting events tend to be clustered around the spring and winter months, when the temperatures are warm but not scorching, and it’s nice to be outdoors. Fall and summer can be very, very hot. This is the land of air conditioning, so if your goal is to shop, dine, and lounge indoors, these seasons are ideal for that. Expect crowds in April for Coachella and Stagecoach. You’ll have your pick of events in this town, but December’s International Tamale Festival is especially tempting. The annual event boasts a tamale-eating competition and scored a Guinness World Record for the world’s largest tamale in 2000.
A massive knight points the way to this paean to all things date, and things get more curious from there. Located on a 17-acre date grove and botanical garden, the visitor’s center features a cafe that serves omelets made with dates and a small theater showing a circa-1951 film referencing the sex life of a date. Its gardens are filled with regal date palms, and also 23 statues depicting the life of Christ.
This small museum preserves the history of the Coachella Valley and features several historical structures, including a 1926 adobe home, a 1909 schoolhouse, and a 1921 desert submarine — a kind of underground sleeping room once popular as a refuge during hot summer months. There’s also a display on date cultivation that includes ornate dresses worn by past queens of the annual date festival.
Billed as the world’s largest rotating tram car, the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway spirits visitors 8,516 feet into the Mount San Jacinto State Park along a 2.5-mile cable system. As promised, the cars rotate slowly to afford a panoramic view of the surrounding wilderness. Once you alight, you can go for a hike or just grab a bite with a view at a mountaintop eatery.