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Located roughly half way between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, the city of Indio transforms into a world-class music destination each April when the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival kicks off the summer concert season. Less boho than Bonnaroo but more secluded (and, let’s face it, better curated) than Lollapalooza, Coachella has a little something for everyone—from Drake to Steely Dan. But if you’re burnt out on buzz bands or just curious about the local scenery, stray beyond the campgrounds and discover everything from breathtaking views to Cali’s oddest roadside attraction.

Plus: Check out LA’s best hotel bars.

1. Joshua Tree
Most people associate it with the breakout U2 album, but Californians know it as a spiritual retreat barely a half hour east of Indio. Joshua Tree National Park is celebrated for its sweepingviews, breathtaking sunrises and rugged terrain—perfect for daytime hikes.


2. Casinos
No need to trek all the way to Vegas when casinos like Spotlight 29, Augustine and Fantasy Springs are a short drive from Indio. Indulge in slots, fine dining and enjoy crowd-pleasers (Earth, Wind & Fire, R. Kelly) that even the music snobs at Coachella could get behind.


3. Indian Canyons

Once home to the Agua Caliente Cahuilla Indians, this tranquil escape in Palm Springs features several scenic trails with varying levels of difficulty. Wind down your trip with the best date shake in the desert at the Windmill Market. For a shorter hike with a spellbinding waterfall view check out nearby Tahquitz Canyon.


4. Living Desert Zoo & Gardens
Panda Bear and Caribou are cool and all, but if you’re in search of actual live animals look no further than the Living Desert, a 1,200 acre wildlife zoo that’s home to dozens of desert creatures. Feed a giraffe, ride a camel and explore a beautiful botanical garden filled with native flora.


5 Cabazon Dinosaurs
Ever wonder where that ginormous T-Rex from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure lives? The answer lies just 40 miles up I-10 from Coachella’s Indio campgrounds at the World’s Biggest Dinosaurs Gift Store, home to two hulking dinos—one of them reportedly the biggest in the world. Pick up oddball memorabilia at the gift shop in the belly of Dinny the Dinosaur, and try your best to ignore all the creationist propaganda.


6. Thrifting
The Coachella Valley is a mecca for vintage enthusiasts—brimming with leftover clothes and other curios from snowbirds who fled the Salton Sea years ago. While Gypsyland gets the highest marks, known for its ace selection of furniture, it’s worth visiting the well-priced Revivals or even the scrappier Oasis Thrift Store. Outdoor shoppers may prefer the College of the Desert Street Fair, a weekend destination with dozens of merchants, a farmer’s market and more.


7. Palm Springs Mid Century Modern Tour
This insider’s tour is a must-see for mid-century architecture buffs or anyone wanting to bone up on desert modernism. See what made this serene locale a home away from home for stars like Sinatra and Elvis. Highlights include Lloyd Wright’s art deco momento Oasis Hotel tower, and Richard Neutra’s landmark Kaufmann Desert House.


8. Salvation Mountain
Built from adobe clay and thousands of gallons of paint, Leonard Knight’s outsider art monument to the supreme creator has a simple message, “God Is Love,” and you can feel that love in Salvation Mountain’s vibrant color scheme. With a couple generators this place would arguably make a better backdrop to Coachella if it didn’t close after dark.


9. Desert Hot Springs
If a little R&R is in order before leaving the desert, decompress at the Spring Resort & Spa or Desert Hot Springs Spa Hotel, where mineral spring pools and spa services offer a restorative, romantic retreat. There’s also a nude resort nearby, if you’re into that.


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Tagged: California

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Areif Sless-Kitain

Areif Sless-Kitain

Areif is a writer, editor and musician living in Chicago. He's toured the world and can tell you where to slurp the best ramen in Tokyo, which boulangerie in Nice serves up prize-winning pan bagnats, or where in São Paulo to get lost in a good Caipirinha.
Areif Sless-Kitain

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