It took just 40 minutes for general admission passes to the first weekend of 2019’s Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival to sell out. The annual music festival at the Empire Polo Club in Indio has grown from an independent experiment to the Goliath of festivals, drawing more than 150 musicians, dozens of celebrities, and hundreds of thousands of fans to Greater Palm Springs each spring.
But even without a coveted wristband, you can still partake in the festivities: Head to one of the parties taking over Palm Springs hotels or book tickets to a pre- or post-Coachella concert in Los Angeles or San Francisco. No camping required.
Join the party
When the Coachella crowd wakes up, the party gets started. Some fest-goers skip the smaller acts for daytime fetes in Palm Springs. Though these events aren’t technically on the lineup—and some keep a pretty tight guest list—they’re as much a part of the festival as cut-off shorts and fedoras.
For a ticketed, all-comers-welcome bash, throw on your bathing suit and head to the Hilton Palm Springs for Day Club, a Vegas-style pool party with DJs pulled straight from the Coachella roster. On weekend one, catch Nora En Pure and Rüfüs Du Sol, while the second weekend includes sets from Diplo and Dillon Francis.
At the Ace Hotel, Desert Gold is returning for its 11th year with DJs, pool floats, fresh new murals, and “psychedelic musings,” while the rainbow-colored Saguaro Hotel hosts Saturday bashes both weekends from Ibiza’s Café Mambo (April 13) and Dirtybird artist Ardalan & Friends (April 20).
If celebrity-spotting is your sport of choice, an array of VIP, invite-only bashes presents the best opportunity for you. Inquire about entry to Neon Carnival on April 13, where you’ll ride the Ferris wheel with folks like Odell Beckham Jr. and catch sets from DJ Ruckus and Kayper late into the night, or fill out an application to tell L.A. talent agency Vampped why you belong at their secret house party on April 12. For a one-stop weekend, score a spot at Vestal Village, the four-day glamping retreat April 11–14 that’s like a tiny Coachella for the surf, skate, and fashion crowd.
Finally, don’t despair if you’re rolling without a bunch of exclusive invites. You never know who will have an extra pass or a plus-1, or where you might end up once the weekend kicks off.
Catch a spillover show
With so much musical talent converging on California, you don’t have to beeline it to Indio to reap the benefits. In the days surrounding their Coachella sets, many artists are playing extra shows all over the state.
In San Francisco, catch Dennis Lloyd (April 11), Superorganism (April 16), and Soccer Mommy (April 17) at Great American Music Hall; Charlotte Gainsbourg (April 15), Parcels (April 16), and Gorgon City Live (April 17) at The Regency Ballroom; and FKJ (April 10-11) and Lizzo (April 22 & 24) at The Warfield.
In Los Angeles, Smino plays The Fonda Theatre April 16 followed by Parcels April 18. Jaden Smith is at Shrine Auditorium on April 16, and Pusha T is at The Novo on April 15. At The Roxy Theatre, see Blood Orange (April 11), Iceage + Shame (April 15), Sales (April 16), Hyukoh (April 18), and Superorganism (April 19).
You can even snag a ticket to Coachella headliners Tame Impala April 11 at The Fox Theatre in Pomona, followed by Playboi Carti on April 17 and Khruangbin April 18.
Set a festival strategy
Got your wristband and fest-ready footwear? Before the gates open, check out who’s actually playing beyond the boldface names on the poster’s top lines. Take a listen to genre-specific YouTube playlists, and when the schedule drops, sketch a rough plan for any acts on your must-see list.
Between those sets, wander away. Follow your ears to a new discovery inside the Mojave tent, ride the Ferris wheel, snap a selfie with large-scale art works and sit down for a meal (and some shade) inside the Indio Central Market or one of the pop-up restaurants.
If you’d rather wine and dine, consider booking a seat with Outstanding in the Field. The traveling dinner party is setting up its extra-long dinner table for family-style meals by chefs like Top Chef alums Shirley Chung and Casey Thompson, Cal Mare’s Adam Sobel, and the team behind the new Tartine Manufactory in L.A.
Insider festival tips
Expect traffic. If you’re not camping onsite, catch a shuttle to the Polo Club or, by all means, carpool.
Stay hydrated. The desert is as dry as one might think, so bring an empty water bottle (no glass or metal) in your Coachella kit, and fill it up for free at a hydration station.
Make a plan. With spotty cell service and thousands of attendees, it’s easy to lose your crew. Set a time and place to meet up before you arrive so you can regroup at some point during the day.
Bring a portable cell charger. You’re going to need juice for photos, communication, and recording those surprising concert moments.
Rent a locker. Need somewhere to stash your sweatshirt/hat/extra pair of insoles? Reserve a locker in advance and skip schlepping a full bag around all day.
Consider your outfit. Coachella is a marathon run in the middle of the desert. Make sure your Instagram-ready attire is equally equipped for long hours in 100-degree heat.
The thwack of a golf club, the hum of the wind buffeting towering sand dunes, the splash of a dive into a perfect pool—the desert region is a sensory feast.
Following winter rains, springtime wildflowers paint the desert with colour.
Death Valley National Park holds the record for hottest temperature ever recorded (129°F/54°C in 1913), while the deserts of Joshua Tree National Park have giant boulders and alien-like yucca plants. At Anza-Borrego, California’s largest state park, discover amazing springtime wildflowers. The oasis-like Palm Springs region (2 hours east of L.A. and 3 hours northeast of San Diego) has golf resorts, midcentury modern architecture, and every spring, the epic Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.
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