If you have never unwrapped the corn husk of a tamale to reveal the delicious, steaming masa inside—well, you have a good thing coming. Head for the Indio International Tamale Festival, held every December in the Coachella Valley town of Indio, 23 miles east of Palm Springs. The largest festival of its kind in the world, the event provides the perfect opportunity to experience an incredible array of authentic, home-made tamales from all over Central and South America.
More than 300 vendors serve tasty tamales along with other various food and drink options, but tamales are not the only reason hungry attendees show up to this free event every year. The IITF also holds a best-recipe competition, a tamale-eating contest (the competition is fierce: over 300,000 are consumed at the festival every year), a parade, carnival rides, and a farmers market. Five stages feature live performers—rock, funk, and R&B bands, folkloric dancers, Latin and mariachi bands—and a car show featuring roaring hot rods and low riders all add to the excitement (the festival’s website has a map of the festival grounds). Festival goers can even learn how to make tamales and tortillas themselves at the demonstration kitchen. For junior festivalgoers, there are the free activities at the Kids Zone, a piñata stage, and an interactive art area sponsored by S.C.R.A.P. (Student Creative Recycling Art Program).
It is no wonder that this event—which has been around since 1992—has earned a spot on the Food Network’s Top 10 list of American food festivals.
Note: Admission to the festival is free; parking is available for no charge at the Larson Justice Center. Only service dogs are allowed.