What do you get when you mix 70,000 country music fans who meet for three days in the Palm Desert, two main stages, $11 beer and a venue already trampled by two weeks of Coachella into a bone-dry dust bowl? California’s premier music festival, Stagecoach!
This year I made the trek to check out Stagecoach 2019 with four cousins who love live music, have a taste for adventure and a high tolerance for withering heat. I learned with enough hydration the human body can withstand most anything, country music always sounds better live when you can dance with a large crowd and once the sun sets and the wind picks up, Palm Desert feels and looks like one of the most beautiful places on earth.
I began my trip a couple days early before the festival so I could check out Palm Springs with my cousin who recently moved there. We hiked each morning starting as early as we could to avoid the sun’s strongest rays. The week I was there, temperatures were already topping out in the low 100s and super dry, so it took my amphibious body awhile to acclimate.
Our first hike was through the Living Desert Zoo Gardensand hiking trails. This was great as the beginning of the hike we traveled the rough the zoo so we could check out all the animals. There is no shade, so carrying water is absolutely crucial at all times. Supposedly this hiking location is a favorite of Palm Springs local Goldie Hawn as well, she hikes it every morning, so if you make a visit look out for her. We had the trail to ourselves all morning and saw a lot of nature busily getting everything done so they could hide in the shade for the afternoon.
Day two we hiked some elevation on the 12.2 mile Art Smith trailwhich overlooks the Big Horn Golf Club, a gorgeous development at the foothills of the mountains. This hike was beautiful with big boulders to climb, wildflowers, cacti and great nature watching. The trail is rated as difficult so you really get a good leg workout in while you enjoy the beautiful scenery and views.
We then took a self-guided Modern Homes tourof Palm Springs visiting famous structures built there in the heyday of the movement between 1940 and 1960.
The Elvis Honeymoon Hideaway is the house where Elvis and Priscilla Presley lived starting 1966. The house was built in 1960 by architect Robert Alexander. It was designed exclusively for Priscilla and features amazing views of the Coachella Valley and Santa Rosa Mountains.
Frank Sinatra’s home, the first residential commission for architect E. Stewart Williams, is a sprawling desert oasis with rambling pool and famous for being the crash pad for some of Hollywood’s most notorious. A famous tidbit is a bathroom sink that still has a crack in it from a champagne bottle Frank threw at his wife at the time, Ava Gardner. The house is now an event space available for rent. There are so many more buildings to visit, the list is endless and learning about them is definitely worth the trip.
Palm Springs also has a flair for the fun and funky and we visited the Robolights housejust a stone’s throw from Frank Sinatra’s place. The artist Kenny Irwin has transformed the one- acre property in one of Palm Spring’s most exclusive neighborhoods where he grew up and still lives, into an art installation featuring mixed-media sculptures, installations, murals and sculptural reliefs made to resemble fantastic beasts, robot-animal hybrids, post-apocalyptic semi-humans and fanciful structures. At Christmas, Irwin strings lights and turns the whole display into an open-for-the-public event that attracts thousands.
Afternoons in the Palm Desert are only for the strong of heart and body. Shopping is best on Palm Canyon drive but walking to and from the stores is mostly outside so be warned, by April, summer is already threatening. It is best to skip afternoons altogether and use that time to check out some of famous Palm Springs spas like the Well Spa at Miramonte Resort at Indian Wells, Spa La Quintaat the gorgeous and historic Spanish-mission style La Quinta resort and just a short a 20-minute drive from downtown Palm Springs in the town of Desert Hot Springs is the local favorite, Two Bunch Palms Resort and Spa. Two Bunch attracts fans thanks to the natural hot- and cold-water aquifers that run underneath the city surface. Dozens of spas tap directly into these aquifers to fill their pools and hot tubs with rich mineral water, and the spa uses these mineral-rich waters in all their treatments.
Make sure to take some time to check out the Palm SpringsAerial Tramway. Ascend two and half miles to the pristine wilderness and cool temperatures aboard the world’s largest rotating tramcar. Hiking trails abound and you don’t have to worry about getting heatstroke because at 8,500 feet, the temperature is about 50 degrees cooler than the valley below.
After all that pampering and exercise it’s important to refuel and get ready for the city’s second awakening after 6:00pm. We ate at Shermann’s Delicatessen, a local favorite covered with the headshots of all the famous people who frequent it for the authentic New York deli-style fare and infamously decadent bakery.
Palm Springs evening hotspots include live music nightly and gorgeous sunset watching atLa Quintaresort,Sandfish Sushi & Whiskeywhere Chef-owner Engin Onural blends traditional Japanese technique with modern global touches, resulting in one of Palm Springs’ hottest—and most genre-bending—dining spots with Mexican-inspired twists on Japanese cuisine featuring local ingredients.
For traditional fare check out one of the best steakhouses in the city, Mr. Lyons. This is a swanky, retro-style classic steakhouse of yester year. Drink enough and you may think you’ve spotted Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and Dean Martin holding court at the bar.
Nightlife in Palm Springs does not disappoint. Seymour’sis just a velvet curtain away from steakhouse Mr. Lyons. This sleek backroom bar is dotted with vintage pieces, clubby seating, and a gorgeous tile-covered bar the stools are hard to give up. Super knowledgeable bartenders mix nuanced drinks including a terrific Old Fashioned and the signature Little Owl made with Rye, walnut liqueur, and IPA Syrup.
Toucan Tiki Bar: This fabled tiki-themed gay bar boasts a never-ending weekly lineup of DJs, dance parties, and some of Palm Springs’ best drag shows. None, however, are as popular as the Sunday revue, that often include two shows by Tommi Rose and the Playgirls. Seats require reservations, but standing room is open to the public.
For some fun retro dance music and live music from the 1970s to today- check out The Nest.
After our tour of Palm Springs we geared up to hit Stagecoach Music Festival for three days. Read our next installment about California’s premier music festival here.