Every spring, the world’s best players—Federer, Osaka, Sharapova, Nadal, Del Potro—flock to the BNP Paribas Open, the largest international tennis tournament outside of the four Grand Slams. For the throngs of fans that attend, that kind of top-tier talent is the main draw, of course, but the caliber and setting of Indian Wells Tennis Garden, the state-of-the-art facility where the 16-day event is held, elevates the experience even more.
With a backdrop of the blush-hued Santa Rosa Mountains to the west and comfortably warm springtime temperatures all around, this would make for an enticing destination all on its own. But tournaments at the posh tennis complex, located in the oasis-like town of Indian Wells, just south of Palm Springs, have become must-attend events also 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 multitude of open-to-viewers practice courts, where seats are so close you can see the fuzz fly off the tennis balls, not to mention hear the occasional angry mutterings when a linesman makes a questionable call.
Tickets run from a $20 grounds pass to reserved seating for between $45 and $160; series packages and box seats are available as well. During the tournament, special autograph signings and events let fans—especially kids—connect with the athletes. You can also download the BNP Paribas Open app to keep up on all the scores and latest news. And if it all inspires you to brush up on the sport yourself, check out special tennis clinics offered at area resorts such as La Quinta Resort Tennis Club or Omni Rancho Las Palmas in Rancho Mirage, where you can sign up for morning clinics and drills, or join the pay-as-you-go adult tennis camp.