In the festival world, Coachella is arguably one of the most well-known. Whatever your feelings and experiences might be with the annual desert extravaganza, one can’t deny the magnetic fascination around the Instagrammable spectacle and the culture that’s been built around it. One also can’t deny that, for those who’ve attended, the festival experience can change as you mature, which begs the question: How exactly does one do Coachella in their 30s, 40s, and beyond?
The answer to this is clearly subjective. Some might still genuinely enjoy and look forward to frolicking around the festival venue all day, hopping from tent to tent, taking in every musical act, and filling up on all the various food vendors and cocktail carts. However, like personal style sense, interests can evolve with time and some may find that they simply don’t have the energy to be on festival mode for a full day and into the night. “In your late 20s and 30s, you’re probably more likely to head to the festival a bit later, taking more time to soak up the sun by the pool instead of heading to the festival early in the hot heat,” explains Taylor Loren, co-founder of travel blog Local Wanderer (who also wrote a detailed guide of Palm Springs).
If you're down for an all-day Coachella romp, go for it — more power to you. However, if you fall into the latter category or simply want to explore the iconic city of Palm Springs, you’re in luck. The legendary town is chock-full of activities to supplement your festival schedule. From fine dining to luxurious spa treatments (and even a chic party or two), see what Loren and the Palm Spring Tourism board say are the coolest city experiences to take in Coachella weekend.
While Palm Springs may not, at first glance, seem like the ultimate shopping or fashion destination, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find some sartorial gems in the glamorous desert community. “One of the best things to do in Palm Springs is to shop local — there are a ton of amazing boutiques and well curated shops, like Elizabeth and James, vintage store The Frippery, or home decor shop Thick as Thieves,” explains Loren. “The Shops at Thirteen Forty Five is a very cool ‘shop local’ experience with multiple stores in one setting, including Soukie Modern where you’ll find the most gorgeous Moroccan rugs you can’t find anywhere else. (There’s a Coachella pop-up there on Friday April 12 from called ‘Female First Fest’ featuring women-owned businesses, DJ, cocktails, etc.)”
If exploring non-festival grounds is more up your alley for the weekend, try taking the city of Palm Springs by foot or bicycle. “If you’re looking for fun and free/cheap things to do in Palm Springs, check out South Palm Springs, which is the area around the Ace Hotel,” says Loren. “You can go on a walk or bike ride around to so many gorgeous and historic mid-century modern homes, there’s a lot more colourful doors than just the famous #thatpinkdoor. Nearby is the Moorten Botanical Garden which is a must for any cactus lover, featuring the Insta-loved cactarium.”
For art-lovers, there are definitely some festival events that are right your alley. “Desert X is currently happening throughout the Coachella Valley, featuring one-of-a-kind, temporary art installations, and this year there is an AR component with the famed Palm Springs windmills, too.” says Loren.
If three days of high-priced festival eats and cocktails are losing their novelty, take your hunger to the streets of Palm Springs and indulge in the city’s restaurant scene. Randy Garner, head of public relations for the Palm Springs Bureau of Tourism suggests the following hot spots for the hungry festival-goer:
“Chef Engin Onural brings sushi (nigiri, sashimi, maki rolls) and a selection of internationally-influenced dishes to his Uptown restaurant and whiskey bar. The space, designed by local architect Chris Pardo, brings together Scandinavian and Japanese elements with its concrete walls, natural woods, and groovy fish-scale tiles behind the bar. Impressive whiskey selection.”
“This is an award winning farm-to-table spot. Look for locally-sourced small plates, like a shaved Brussels sprout salad tossed with persimmons and walnuts, as well as heartier offerings like a duck leg confit, house-made sausages, and a wood-fired ribeye for two with bone marrow butter. Grab a drink before or after your meal at adjacent Truss & Twine.”
“Birba is always bustling for a reason—there’s a sleek open-air bar, a great outdoor patio, excellent farm-to-table fare, and great pizza. Keep it traditional with a margherita pie or go for something more adventurous like the one topped with prosciutto, honey, and chili oil. The homemade pastas are worth a try too. The Italian-focused wine list has some solid selections.”
“The Kimpton Rowan Hotel’s glam rooftop restaurant features an energetic bar, a clubby dining room covered in dark woods and leather, and impressive views of the San Jacinto Mountains. The menu is global with dishes like a salad of artichokes, miso, sunchokes, and truffles, and a Baja kampachi that gets a smoky infusion from flaming wild juniper that Wambach forages in Joshua Tree.”
“This is still off most visitors’ radars. Come for a few beers, a bucket of peel-and-eat shrimp, and the valley’s most memorable fish taco. When the bar’s too crowded, grab a table on the outdoor patio where you can catch live music several nights a week. Happy hour deals start at 8 p.m. every night and run all day Sunday.”
“It’s nearly impossible to find a person in Palm Springs who doesn’t love this strip mall gem — just take a look at the nightly crowds lined up for this Vietnamese-American fare. The menu changes often, but signature offerings include a crunchy Jasmine tea leaf salad, pork belly fried rice, and a panko-crusted chicken-stuffed rice ball served atop yellow curry. The bar doles out a handful of cocktails including the vodka-based Mekong mixed with elderflower, basil, lime, and jalapeno. They do not take reservations, so get there early.”
“Located at the newly renovated Villa Royale, Del Rey is a decidedly dark and sexy space with an oak and black marble bar, leather seating, and an indoor fireplace. The dinner menu skews Spanish and Mediterranean. Start with a few shared small plates, like the charred octopus, halloumi and fig jam crostini, or sardine escabeche, and then dig in to larger offerings including Branzino and grilled steak.”
“Find this stylish Jonathan Adler-designed wine bar tucked in the back of the Parker Hotel. There’s a standout selection of wines. To pair with the wines is an impressive selection of small plates. The menu includes foie gras macarons, black pepper beef carpaccio, a tartine with avocado, haloumi, and ham, along with piping hot and addictive baguettes. The place has just 20 seats, all at the bar.”
And if you’re thirsty for a refreshing cocktail, take Loren’s advice: “Visit the rooftop at Azucar at sunset for a blood orange margarita, you won’t regret it.”
If you feel like socializing off festival grounds, try hitting a pool party. “The Saguaro Palm Springs and the Ace Palm Springs both have scheduled pool parties and activities,” says Garner. “These are open to the public and do not require a hotel stay.”
For those needing a little quiet time and self-care, the spa scene in Palm Springs is definitely robust. La Quinta Resort & Spa (a Waldorf Astoria property) has some seasonal offerings designed to pamper from head to toe, including the Springtime Renewal Massage and Mandarin Infusion Manicure & Pedicure. If you’re looking to detoxify, try a famous Mud Bath at Two Bunch Palms, which includes 20 minutes of soaking in clay and peat moss and an Ayurvedic massage in which two therapists work on you simultaneously.
For a unique and truly restorative and healing experience head to the salt caves as Venus de Fido wellness spa. What exactly constitutes a salt cave? According to the spa’s site: “ A dry salt aerosol, made up of salt particles that are microscopic in size, is circulated in the therapy room where you simply sit and relax.” Apparently, the benefits of these treatments run the gamut and include improved lung function, relief from skin conditions such as dermatitis, acne, eczema, and psoriasis, and reduced symptoms of allergies, asthma, and respiratory issues.