BNP Paribas Open BNP_ParibasOpen_HarriotManley_1280x642
Harriot Manley/Sunset Publishing

MARCH

BNP Paribas Open

So close you can see the fuzz fly on the tennis balls, the top-tier competition at this two-week-long event at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden gets you rivetingly close to the world’s best players as they duke it out under the desert sun. Every spring, the world’s best players—Federer, Sharapova, Williams, Nadal, Djokovic—all flock to this spectacular, state-of-the-art facility in the oasis-like town of Indian Wells, just south of Palm Springs. 

With a backdrop of the blush-hued Santa Rosa Mountains to the west, and comfortably warm springtime temperatures all around, this even makes an enticing destination based on the setting alone. But the posh tennis complex, spiffed up over the last few years by owner Larry Ellison of Oracle fame, has become a must-see event for the simple reason that you get so startlingly close to amazing athletes in action. That’s because, in addition to two large, stadium-style courts, there are more than a half-dozen smaller, more intimate courts, plus a fleet of open-to-viewers practice courts, where seats are so close you can spy what color Gatorade your favorite player is chugging, not to mention hear the occasional angry mutterings when a linesman makes a questionable call.

Other niceties at this top-tier facility include a branch of the classy Nobu restaurant chain with window seats on the action in Stadium 2, so you can nosh on classy Asian fusion fare while you watch players battle. During the tennis tournament, special autograph signings and events also let fans—especially kids—connect with the athletes.

If you're inspired to brush up on the sport yourself, check out special tennis clinics offered at area resorts. At La Quinta Resort Tennis Club, that means getting tips from former Davis Cup captain Tom Gorman. At Omni Rancho Las Palmas in Rancho Mirage, sign up for morning clinics and drills, or join the pay-as-you-go adult tennis camp.