Known affectionately as the “City of Festivals,” Indio is lesser known than other SoCal destinations, but still a really interesting place to spend an afternoon (or a few days). Home of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival as well as the Stagecoach Country Music Festival, we would advise you check the festival schedule before planning a trip. However, even if big festivals aren’t your thing or perhaps your time in the region doesn’t correspond to any big headliners Indio still has lots to offer!

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Hiking

While the area is technically is in Thousand Palms and not Indio, the Coachella Valley Preserve is about halfway in between the two cities and only about a 7 mile drive from the center of Indio’s downtown, so yup, we grouped them together! Situated directly over the famous San Andreas Fault, the water that seeps up from the ground at this location provides life to a very unique ecosystem and thousands of the biggest, most impressive palm trees we have ever seen.

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In addition to touring The Thousand Palm Oasis, there are 30 plus miles of hiking trails located in the preserve many of which take you through the oasis out into the surrounding desert to a few of the other areas where the fault provides water. Even on our short mid-day hike there was an abundance of wildlife that we wouldn’t normally expect to see in the desert. Of note, two of the oasis areas, MaCallum Grove and Simone Pond, will be closed until Oct 2020 for restoration. If you are planning on hiking, come Wednesday through Sunday as for some reason they do not allow hikers on Monday or Tuesday (go figure).

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We decided to tackle the “Moon Country Trail,” a 4 mile loop which we would rate as fairly easy. You’ll begin by hiking through the palm grove and then out into the desert for the view of the oasis (photo above). Overall, it’s a nice hike, but if short on time the real star of the show is strolling through the palm oasis – particularly while the pond areas are under rennovation!

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There is a large parking area at the entrance (free!) although it isn’t well suited for RV or large vehicles with trailers. There is no entrance fee to the preserve either, although donations are definitely welcome.

Coachella Valley Nature Preserve:

  • Hours: Wednesday – Sunday 0800 – 1600
    • Visitor Center: Daily from October 2 – April 30, 0800 – 1600
  • Admission: Free
  • Parking: Free

Eats (and drinks?)

Okay, okay, I know what you’re thinking…”a brewery under where to eat?! puhlease.” Perhaps not five star Michelin level cuisine can be found, but there is usually a food truck at this establishment which means you can feed those hangry littles of yours! We grabbed a delicious burger and fries for the kids to enjoy while we kicked back and enjoyed a beer (or two) post-hiking in the preserve (see above).

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Things we loved: 1. For such a small brewery, we were pleasantly surprised by the number and quality of beers they had on tap. There were several sours and barrel aged beers as well as the usual fare. In all honesty, we would be shocked if you and your fellow craft brew loving companions couldn’t find something you really enjoyed here! 2. One of the biggest barriers for many parents when scoping out wineries and breweries is gauging whether or not kiddos are welcome, ya know? When places are kid-friendly the beer just tastes that much better in our book because everyone is having a grand time! Coachella Valley Brewery most certainly falls into the family friendly category with a whole section dedicated to games and even a little arcade to boot. As a side note, if your kids don’t dig board games and such we will be posting soon about the types of activities we usually bring with us when we’re out and about to keep our littles entertained and away from the screen! 

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Coachella Valley Brewery:

  • Hours: Monday – Thursday: 1400 – 2000, Friday – Saturday: 1200 – 2200, and Sunday: 1200 – 1800
  • Admission: Free
  • Parking: Free

Activities

If you’re traveling down to the Greater Palm Springs area you may just want to swing by and say hello to the Shield’s Knight who is situated just off U.S. Highway 111. Trust us, ya can’t miss him! Rewinding back to 1924, the Shields’ opened their date garden in order to compete in the country’s date industry (95% of dates in the United States come from the Coachella Valley – WOW!!).

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In order to separate themselves a smidge, the Shields opened their date garden and offered lectures regarding the life of a date. Overtime, this evolved into first a slide show then a riveting 15-minute continuously running documentary apley named “The Romance and Sex Life of the Date. Nowadays it’s not nearly as controversial of a name as it once was in the 1950s, but the show still does a great job of teaching you just how much work goes into date production and goodness, it’s a lot more than you would think!

Post-movie, we recommend grabbing an absolutely delicious date shake which has a product developed by the Shields themselves mixed in – their patented date crystals. Warning: the serving is big and only comes in one size so be prepared to indulge (or to split)! We are not ashamed to say we each put one away while the kids dug into some date flavored ice cream. No regrets!

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Then pick up some dates to take home for a healthy snack later in the day. Perhaps try the blonde dates? Honestly they’re my fav, but they’re also one of only two hybrid varieties that are only grown at Shields making them certainly unique. It’s important to note that if you purchase $25 worth of items in the gift shop, you’ll snag free admission into the date garden, too. Additionally you can also get free admission to the date garden if you eat at the outdoor restaurant on property – just show your receipt at the entrance of the garden.

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Once in the garden, you can stroll the 17-acres of peaceful date groves. As you wander, you’ll note date palms and religious statues that tell the story of Christ from birth to resurrection. Make sure to look up, too! See all the ladders mounted on the trees, they keep them permanently attached to make date care and harvesting easier.

Wait, that’s not a date! Can’t get anything by you, can we? In addition to growing and selling dates, Shields also produces a variety of citrus fruits on the property, including lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruits, and several different hybrid fruits. While most of them were not on sale when we visited, they were selling boxes of grapefruits that smelled wonderful.

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Shields Date Garden:

  • Hours:
    • Garden: Daily, 0800 – 1600
    • Cafe: Daily, 0800 – 1400
  • Admission: Free, $5/person to tour the gardens
  • Parking: Free

Whether or not Indio has been on your radar in the past, if you live in (or are passing through) the Coachella Valley it is certainly worth a look. We actually took the long way home through Joshua Tree National Park (MUCH more to come on that), and it made for a fantastic way to spend the day.

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