If you have never unwrapped the corn husk of a tamale to reveal the delicious, steaming masa inside, you're missing out. Head for the Indio International Tamale Festival (IITF), held every December since 1993 in the Coachella Valley town of Indio, 23 miles east of Palm Springs. As the largest festival of its kind in the world, this event attracts nearly 100,000 people every year and provides the perfect opportunity to experience an incredible array of authentic, home-made tamales from all over Central and South America.
Hundreds of vendors sign up to 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. Those looking for a refreshing beverage to pair with their tamale will find a curated lineup of signature cocktails and spicy micheladas throughout the grounds. Five stages showcase live performances by rock, funk, and R&B bands, folk dancers, as well as Latin and mariachi bands. The event's iconic car show featuring roaring hot rods and low riders only adds to the excitement.
Festival goers can even learn how to make tamales and tortillas themselves in the demonstration kitchen. For junior festivalgoers, there are free activities in the Kids Zone, a piñata stage, luchador wrestlers, and more.
Note: admission to the festival is free; parking is available for no charge at the Larson Justice Center. Free shuttles will be provided. Only service dogs are allowed.