10 Things To Do in the Coachella Valley During the Wintertime

One of many distorted mountains along the big bad San Andreas Fault.EXPAND
One of many distorted mountains along the big bad San Andreas Fault.
Denise De La Cruz

Mega-music festivals such as Coachella, Stagecoach and Desert Trip have recently brought back the spotlight to the Coachella Valley, a land once most famous for relaxing resorts, golf courses, date shakes and...not much else. But the valley is just as happening of a place the rest of the year, but especially during the winter. I mean where else in California can you have a snowball fight in 40 degree coldness then sunbathe by a pool in perfect 75 degree weather all within the same day? For more desert activities, check out our list of 10 fun things to do during your next visit in these coming months.

Go From Palm Trees to Pines

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway—the world’s largest rotating tram car— ascends to an elevation of 8,516 feet along the cliffs of Chino Canyon, transporting riders to the snowy wilderness of the Mt. San Jacinto State Park. This journey to the top offers picturesque vistas of the Coachella Valley.  Once you reach the Mountain Station —which looks like a majestic log cabin straight out of a postcard— enjoy two restaurants, observation decks, a local natural history museum, two documentary theaters, a gift shop and over 50 miles of stunning hiking trails. Make sure to wear a thick jacket and boots, for the top of Mt. San Jacinto is typically 40 degrees cooler than the base of the aerial tramway and you don't want to be that tonta   that gets stuck wearing their chanclas  on a snowy mountain top like I did—you live and you learn.

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, 1 Tram Way., Palm Springs, (888) 515-8726; www.pstramway.com

Get Yourself A Date!

Dates are a nutritious Coachella Valley staple and the top crop in the valley's agricultural industry. Date shakes, breads, cookies, bbq sauces and even burgers make cameos at various Coachella Valley restaurants but Shields Date Garden is known worldwide for their date shakes. Still, I'd argue that Shields' savory yet sweet date burgers and date cookies (these cookies give gingerbread cookies some serious competition)  are superior than their acclaimed shakes because the Oasis Date Garden in the neighboring agricultural town of Thermal serves up tasty date ice cream and shakes with real date chunks (not date crystals unlike Shields) in their humble roadside cafe—they also offer a cheaper selection of dates that you can hand pick by the pound (my favorite were the khadrawy dates.) Shields Dates, 80225 CA-111., Indio, (760) 347-0996; www.shieldsdategarden.com; Oasis Date Gardens, 59-111 Grapefruit Blvd., Thermal, (800) 827-8017; oasisdate.com

Explore the San Andreas Fault

One of many distorted mountains along the big bad San Andreas Fault.EXPAND
One of many distorted mountains along the big bad San Andreas Fault.
Denise De La Cruz

Known as one of the most tortured landscapes on the planet, the San Andreas Fault is as villainous to Californians as a Trump presidency. This fault largely gets the blame for the reason why Califas is earthquake land as it stretches across roughly 800 miles to form the tectonic boundary between the Pacific Plate and the North American Plate. For those interested in getting to know the most infamous fault in the world, a tour with an expert naturalist guide from Big Wheel Tours will help dispel some of the San Andreas Fault's biggest myths while schooling you on local geology through a four-hour adventure through majestic, distorted and colorful canyons, all while sitting in a cozy yet badass Jeep Wrangler Rubicon. Take advantage of the light to mild hiking opportunities available to ensure you get the best photos of the breathtaking desert landscape around you.  If, after this grand tour you're still up for more adventure, check out the Joshua Tree National Park and Salton Sea excursions also available through Big Wheel Tours. Big Wheel Tours, 74850 42nd Ave., Palm Desert, (760) 779-1837; bwbtours.com

Coachella Valley's Agricultural Towns

While driving to the San Andreas Fault, you'll pass the farming towns of Mecca and Thermal, which play a huge part in Coachella Valley's  $575 million agricultural industry. After personally witnessing the back-breaking labor and complex farming methodology that goes into providing quality and pristine looking fruits and vegetables, let's hope a special appreciation for the food on your plate gets in your mind. Plus, seeing long and perfect rows of colorful crops such as date palms, table grapes, bell peppers, citrus, melons, lettuce, carrots and broccoli is also a beautiful sight to any OC dweller that wasn't around to see the days when Orange County was filled with miles of orange groves.

Treat Yo Self to a Spa Day

2016 has been a rough year why not #TreatYoSelf?EXPAND
2016 has been a rough year why not #TreatYoSelf?
Courtesy of Miramonte Resort & Spa

The Well spa inside the Miramonte Indian Wells Resort offers hands down the best massage I've ever experienced. Most massages either focus on being so soft and relaxing that any muscular issues are left unresolved or the problematic kinks are kneaded out so aggressively that the massage becomes a self-consenting torture session instead of a moment of zen. Not at The Well. Your body will melt as an expert masseuse works away any tension and stress in your body while natural herbal aromas, a heated massage bed, and a tranquil environment that relaxes your mind and soul. After your massage, stick around to chill in a warm jacuzzi with soothing waterfalls while taking in the beautiful views of the majestic desert mountains and palm trees that surround the Miramonte Resort. Revitalize yourself even more as you stretch your freshly massaged body in a steamy and relaxing eucalyptus oil sauna. Sip on a glass of champagne if you're feeling extra luxurious and boss-like or stick to the healthier alternatives offered at The Well such as cucumber water and fresh fruit. Miramonte Indian Wells Resort & Spa, 45000 Indian Wells Ln., Indian Wells, (760) 341-2200; www.miramonteresort.com

Village Fest

Shop for the perfect holiday gifts through a gathering of 150 independent vendors every Thursday at Downtown Palm Spring's Village Fest. Locals and tourists mingle at this weekly event while browsing for art, food, accessories, fashion, and other unique knickknacks.  Live music sets an especially festive tone for strolling through the desert night ambiance and mid-century modern architecture. As with many places in Palm Springs, VillageFest is a dog-friendly event with many adorable puppy petting opportunities. The perimeter of the event consists of Indian Canyon Drive to the east and Belardo Road to the west. After working up an appetite from walking all over Village Fest stop by Kaiser Grille for American modern dining in their outdoor patio with cozy firepit tables that offer a wonderful view of Downtown Palm Springs in all of its desert town glory.

Get Artsy At the Palm Springs Art Museum & Architecture + Design Center

Minimalist and mid-century modern architecture are celebrated to the fullest at the Palm Springs Architecture + Design Center, located in the heart of Downtown Palm Springs. Take a browse through some of the best interior and exterior architecture the sixties had to offer and get yourself some mid-century modern inspired accessories and coffee table books (so meta) at the gift shop, perfect for any mod-style admirer. Palm Springs Art Museum, Architecture and Design Center, 300 South Palm Canyon Drive., Palm Springs, (760) 423-5260; www.psmuseum.org

Brunch It Up Then Hike The Cross Trail

Cahuilla Hills Park in the wee hours of the morning.EXPAND
Cahuilla Hills Park in the wee hours of the morning.
Jill Weinlein

Upcoming Events

The best damn avocado toast you'll ever have is at Miramonte Indian Wells Resort and Spa at The Grove Artisan Kitchen thanks to Chef Paul Hancock's creation of rich wheat toast with fresh guacamole spread, diced sweet potato, savory oven-dried tomatoes, smokey grilled asparagus, fresh spinach, a dash of cheese and a glorious poached egg that oozes down it all. Work off the delicious carbs with an early morning hike on the cross trail at Cahuilla Hills Park (the Cahuilla are the indigenous people of the Coachella Valley) that leads you to a grandiose mountain with spectacular views of the desert cities in the Coachella Valley. This hike oddly feels like you're trekking through a land only possible in a science fiction flick like Star Wars, yet its unique beige landscape is part of hike's grand appeal to visitors of the desert. This extra desolate workout will have you feeling much more disconnected from the world and at one with yourself than most hikes in OC and LA county. Cahuilla Hills Park, 45825 Edgehill Drive., Palm Desert. Miramonte Indian Wells Resort & Spa, 45000 Indian Wells Ln., Indian Wells,(800) 237-2926; www.miramonteresort.com

Robolights

Get ready to enter the strangest yet most endearing home in Coachella Valley, if not the world. Four acres, nine million lights and two hundred-plus robots decked in Christmas spirit mixed with Sci-Fi weirdness makes the private Palm Springs residence of Kenny Irwin Jr. the largest residential light display in the U.S. The Muslim abstract/avant-garde artist has been featured by the New York Times and the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore. At Robolights you'll find a Santa Claus alongside a rabbit riding a rocket, naked mannequins with robotic heads, toilets filled with Christmas lights and flowers, melted microwaved electronics such as Xboxes and iPhones, and even other industrial junk juxtaposed with traditional holiday decorations. Robolights is more than just a really cool holiday attraction, it's a tangible land that brings Irwin's brilliant and unique imagination to life. Robolights is free to visit nightly until January 1st from 4pm-9:30p.m. Donations and toys for Syrian child refugees are gladly accepted.  1077 E. Granvia Valmonte, Palm Springs, (760) 200-4143; kennyirwinartist.com

Eat Amazing Mexican Food

You can never go wrong hitting up any town's local taqueria.EXPAND
You can never go wrong hitting up any town's local taqueria.
Denise De La Cruz

The high population of Mexis in the Coachella Valley (more than 70 percent Latino population) means a lot of great Mexican restaurants (and now Carlos Salgado is coming to the Ace Hotel—HELL YA!!!) If you're feeling fancy, try La Casuelas Quinta in—you guessed it—La Quinta. Enjoy romantic Mexican hacienda ambiance as you savor generous servings of traditional Mexican dishes like enchiladas suizas and chicken with mole poblano along with stiff yet delicious margaritas. Servers wearing guayaberas and off the shoulder trajes  tipicosadd a very traditional vibe to this pre-Mexican revolution-era themed restaurant.

For a quick and delicious taco, head to Tacos Gonzales, an amazing hole in the wall located across the street from Shields Date Garden in La Quinta. While the taqueria is small, the place is always packed with local raza and tourists digging into simple yet amazing tacos with juicy meats, savory yet spicy salsa, and not too greasy corn tortillas. Tacos Gonzales is a must while partying throughout the Coachella Valley during 'Chella season or if you're just in town for a relaxing resort vacay. Las Casuelas Quinta, 78480 Hwy 111., La Quinta, (760) 777-7715; lascasuelasquinta.com Tacos Gonzales, 80120 Hwy 111., Indio, (760) 347-6858; www.yelp.com/biz/tacos-gonzalez-indio

For more information on visiting the Coachella Valley EVERYTHING, go to visitgreaterpalmsprings.com


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