1. Joshua Tree National Park, 2. Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, 3. In-N-Out Burger Company Store, 4. Sunnylands, 5. Moorten Botanical Garden, 6. Tahquitz Canyon, 7. Salvation Mountain, 8. Cabazon Dinosaurs, 9. Salton Sea State Recreation Area. Every year in April, the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival takes place in Indio, California over two weekends. The festival features some of today's biggest names in music, and tickets, which range from $400 to several thousand dollars, are notoriously difficult to obtain. But whether you’ve managed to snag a coveted ticket to the event or not, the Coachella Valley is well worth a visit. Desert resort cities like Palm Springs and Palm Desert are packed with mid-century modern design and art, and on the outskirts of the area, you’ll find quirky roadside attractions and scenic desert landscapes. Here are the 9 best pit stops for your Coachella road trip itinerary that you shouldn't miss.
- Joshua Tree National Park
- Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
- In-N-Out Burger Company Store
- Moorten Botanical Garden
- Tahquitz Canyon
- Salvation Mountain
- Cabazon Dinosaurs
- Salton Sea State Recreation Area
Joshua Tree National Park
If you have time, take the scenic route back and visit Joshua Tree National Park. The park, with nearly 800,000 acres of mystical beauty, is without a doubt one of the world’s most incredible natural desert treasures. Sweeping, grand in scale, and populated by granite monoliths and voluptuous rock and boulder formations, the park offers wonder to eco-travelers, outdoor adventurists, and naturalists.
Two large ecosystems merge to form this peaceful land, conducive to meditation and exploration, carved by climate extremes ranging from wind to rain to an ever-present, relentless sun. Many different types of plant life, such as creosote and ocotillo, can be found throughout the park, but none are as distinctive or common as the park’s namesake, the Joshua tree, which stands majestically across the vast topography.
Ways to enjoy Joshua Tree National Park are nearly as vast as the park itself. Arrive for a few hours to hike on countless trails suitable for hikers of all skill levels, or plan an adrenaline-fueled rock climb among rare boulder outcroppings. Multiple campsites provide you with more time in one of nature’s most alluring desert escapes.
Special programs and ranger-led tours educate visitors about the park’s geography, wildlife, and plant life, as well as its colorful history dating back to the early Pinto Man and gold seekers of the 1800s. Joshua Tree, which was recently designated an International Dark Sky Park, always gives night visitors a tour of the dazzling star display above.
- Google Rating: 4.8/5
- Website: https://www.nps.gov/jotr/
- Opening Hours: Daily 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM
- Entrance Fee: Private Vehicle Pass $30; Motorcycle Pass $25; Individual Pass $15
- Address: 6554 Park Blvd. Joshua Tree, CA 92252.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway—the world’s largest rotating tram car—travels over two-and-one-half miles along the cliffs of Chino Canyon, transporting visitors to the pristine wilderness of the Mt. San Jacinto State Park and Wilderness Area. During this ten-minute journey, tram cars rotate slowly, offering spectacular vistas of the valley below.
Upon arrival at Mountain Station, elevated at an astounding 8,516 feet, indulge yourself in the attractions offered. Enjoy the views from a different perspective from the observation decks or embark on one of the 50 miles of hiking trails available.
There are two featured restaurants on the Mountain, Peaks Restaurant and Pines Café. Peaks restaurant is the more upscale, fine dining option overlooking Coachella Valley. Pines cafe is a more relaxed, cafeteria-style restaurant that offers food packages with the rides. In the same location is the Lookout Lounge which is a full cocktail bar to compliment whatever meal you choose.
Later, make sure to head over to the natural history museum or the documentary theaters to catch up on the background of the area. Before the descent back down the scenic valley, make sure to check out the gift shop to pick up any souvenirs that you would like to remember the experience.
- Google Rating: 4.8/5
- Website: https://pstramway.com/
- Opening Hours: Mon – Fri 10:00 AM – 9:00 PM, Sat – Sun 8:00 AM – 9:00 PM
- Entrance Fee: Adults $29.95, Children (ages 3-10) $17.95, Seniors (65+) $27.95
- Address: 1 Tram Way, Palm Springs, CA 92262
In-N-Out Burger Company Store
Before you even leave the San Gabriel Valley, stop off at this company store from the beloved burger chain, with T-shirts and a bizarre array of apparel from bikinis to boots.
In-N-Out Burger started in the Los Angeles suburb of Baldwin Park, California, in 1948. Harry Snyder developed the idea of a drive-through hamburger restaurant where customers would be able to order their food via a two-way speaker unit. This was a rather novel idea, as most hamburger stands of the post-World War II era employed carhops to serve food to customers seated in their cars. And so Harry Snyder and his wife, Esther, opened what is said to be California’s first drive- restaurant.
The menu was limited to burgers, french fries, soft drinks, and milkshakes. The Snyders’ priorities were simple: serve customers high-quality, fresh food with efficient, friendly service in a clean and tidy environment. This business philosophy and the original menu have remained largely unchanged throughout the years.
- Google Rating: 4.8/5
- Website: https://shop.in-n-out.com/
- Opening Hours: Mon – Sat 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
- Address: 13800 Francisquito Ave, Baldwin Park, CA 91706
Sunnylands, the 200-acre former estate of publishing magnate and UK ambassador Walter Annenberg and his wife Lenore, offers a glimpse into the lives of the ultra-rich and connected. The glass-walled 25,000-square-foot home of the couple is a mid-century modern masterpiece that houses a significant art collection.
Though many of Annenberg’s original works are now on display in museums, excellent replicas give you a sense of how dizzyingly fabulous they are—you’ll find works by Monet, Picasso, Van Gogh, and other masters. Sunnylands’ extensive gardens, too, reflect the artistic style, with many landscaped in sweeping bands of color to evoke Impressionist art. The garden is also home to many local and migratory bird species; knowledgeable birders lead a free bird walk once a week (Fridays at 8:45 a.m., October – May).
While you can stroll through the 1.25 miles of garden paths for no charge, you must sign up well in advance to purchase a ticket for a guided tour of the house. In addition to the artworks, you can peruse the dozens of photographs displayed on the walls—look for familiar faces of presidents, celebrities, and royalty in many of them, a glimpse into the lofty social circles that the Annenbergs inhabited. A museum, a theatre, and an indoor/outdoor cafe with stunning views of the San Jacinto Mountains are also housed in striking glass buildings.
- Google Rating: 4.7/5
- Website: https://sunnylands.org/
- Opening Hours: Wed – Sun 8:30 AM – 4:00 PM
- Entrance Fee: 90-minute Historic House Tour $45 per person
- Address: 37977 Bob Hope Dr, Rancho Mirage, CA 92270
Moorten Botanical Garden
Moorten Botanical Garden in Palm Springs is small but mighty. Though only a few acres in size, this botanical garden is packed with prickly varieties of cacti and other desert plants. The second-generation, family-owned arboretum opened in 1938 and features 3,000 desert plants from all over the world. It also displays a collection of crystals, fossils, and rocks. The garden’s charming footpath guide you through 2-acres of mature habitats, as well as “The World’s First Cactarium” – a cactus terrarium filled with a myriad of unusual species. Also on the property, is a charming 1920s Mediterranean home dubbed the Cactus Castle, an Instagram-worthy petrified wood loveseat, and an outdoor gift shop.
Stroll through the outdoor exhibits and the cactarium greenhouse before ending up at a nursery where you can take home your own cactus. Keep in mind if you are flying into Palm Springs there may be restrictions on taking plants home with you. The garden hosts events, photoshoots, and weddings. A fun idea would be to hire a local photographer to get your photos taken in the garden. The garden has an interesting history, check out its website to read more about it!
- Google Rating: 4.6/5
- Website: http://www.moortenbotanicalgarden.com/
- Opening Hours: Fall, Winter, and Spring 10 AM- 4 PM (closed on Wednesdays). The first day of Summer-First day of Fall 9 AM-1 PM Friday, Saturday and Sunday only
- Entrance Fee: $5 for adults, $2 for Children, and Free under 5
- Address: 1701 S Palm Canyon Drive Palm Springs, California 9226
Tahquitz Canyon is a natural wonder located in Palm Springs, California. This 60-foot waterfall and its surrounding landscape are popular tourist destinations and for good reason. Visitors can enjoy hiking and picnicking in the park, as well as admiring the beauty of the falls. It’s part of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians and is regarded as one of the region’s best-preserved and most beautiful, cultured places. It’s also well-known for its hiking route, which runs through a red rock canyon.
Tahquitz Canyon was named by the Cahuilla Indians of the Agua Caliente Indian Reservation, who considered the Tahquitz Falls and its surroundings to be sacred. The canyon was used as a place of refuge and healing, and the waterfall was believed to have spiritual powers as they were deemed an ancient irrigation system.
The Tahquitz Canyon Trail is a two-mile loop trail that leads to Tahquitz Falls and back. From the Visitor Center to the falls you will be gaining 350 feet in elevation. The trail is steep and rocky with many rock steps to climb. You must have good balance and be able to climb up and down rock steps that may be as high as 12 – 15 inches. This canyon has very little shade, no restroom facilities, and no water fountains. Hikers must dress appropriately for the weather conditions, protect themselves from the sun, carry water, and wear hiking boots or sneakers. Those with leather sole shoes, high heels, or flip flops may not be allowed on the trail.
- Google Rating: 4.6/5
- Website: http://www.tahquitzcanyon.com/
- Opening Hours: Daily 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM
- Entrance Fee: $15 per person
- Address: 500 W Mesquite Ave, Palm Springs, CA 9226
No trip to this part of the California desert is complete without a detour to Salvation Mountain. Located east of the Salton Sea, about an hour and a half south of Palm Springs, this trippy art installation was created by local eccentric Leonard Knight. Salvation Mountain California is an ever-changing and evolving site. This means the landscape will always look different, no matter when you visit. Each year the murals and the scope of the mountain change, with new items and salvaged goods added almost weekly.
You are free to climb the mountain as long as you stay on the yellow brick road, and even though it does not appear to be very tall, it is over three stories high when you reach the top. The top offers a spectacular view of the surrounding desert and town.
- Google Rating: 4.5/5
- Website: http://www.salvationmountaininc.org/
- Opening Hours: Daily 8:00 AM – 5:30 PM
- Entrance Fee: Free
- Address: Beal Rd, Calipatria, CA 92233
Stop by the Cabazon Dinosaurs, located just off Interstate 10, for a quick photo opportunity with Dinny and Mr. Rex. The Cabazon Dinosaurs, as the name suggests, are two massive replicas that tower above the landscape formerly known as Claude Bell’s Dinosaurs. Steel and concrete were used to construct both dinosaurs. The Brontosaurus replica is affectionately referred to as Dinny, while the towering T-Rex is referred to as Mr. Rex. The two massive dinosaur sculptures are best known for their roles in the 1985 comedy film Pee-Big wee’s Adventure.
Beyond the fun of simply being in proximity to these iconic classics, a stop at the Cabazon Dinosaur Museum offers up a chance to snap some incredible photos as they’re regularly painted in California-inspired apparel! During the summer, visitors will find that right nearby the Cabazon Dinosaurs, they can enjoy time at the Wafflesaurus Truck which serves up dinosaur-themed ice cream and treats on Saturdays and Sundays. When you visit the Cabazon Dinosaurs, you’ll want to be sure to stop into the on-site gift shop and pick up a one-of-a-kind souvenir and take a dinosaur surfing photo too.
- Google Rating: 4.5/5
- Website: https://www.cabazondinosaurs.com/
- Opening Hours: Mon – Fri 9:00 AM – 7:00 PM, Sat – Sun 9:00 AM – 7:30 PM
- Entrance Fee: Adults $15 ( Ages 13-55 ) Children $13 (Ages 3 – 12) Seniors & Military $11
- Address: 50770 Seminole Dr, Cabazon, CA 92230
Salton Sea State Recreation Area
Salton Sea State Recreation Area is a wonderful place with campgrounds, picnic areas, environmental learning, hiking, swimming, boating, geocaching, and beach areas. This recreation area has plenty to keep you and your dog entertained. The Salton Sea State Recreation Area has five campgrounds and day-use areas for activities like boating and hiking. There are 1,600 campsites available at five different campgrounds, and you can reserve your spot online. If you want to stay at a full-service campground, you should book ahead of time because they are in high demand.
The Salton Sea Recreation Area offers a variety of activities during the day. There are over 400 different types of birds to look out for, and up to four million birds are said to fly over the sea during migration season. If you’re more energetic and want to go for a hike, you can check out one of the trails at Salton Sea State Recreation Area. There are 18 miles of hiking trails for you and your dog to explore, and you can get a map or a guide at the visitor center.
When you’re camping, hiking, or simply enjoying the fresh air, keep your dog on a leash no longer than six feet long. Also, keep a plastic poop bag on hand at all times so you can clean up after your dog. If you’re camping overnight, make sure you and your partner observe quiet hours. Your dog should not be aggressive, and it should respond to your commands. Make certain that your dog does not disturb wildlife by digging or chasing any native critters in the area. Never leave your dog alone.
- Google Rating: 4.1/5
- Website: https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=639
- Opening Hours: Daily
- Entrance Fee: $7.00 per car ($5.00 for seniors)
- Address: 100225 State Park Rd, Mecca, CA 92254