Every April more than 200,000 people flood the Coachella Valley, a festival-fueled migration that turns Greater Palm Springs into the capital of the music world for a pair of back-to-back weekends. But with or without a wristband to the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival (April 12–14 and 19–21), Palm Springs is a blast—a Hollywood-playground-turned-midcentury-hot spot-turned-Instagrammer’s delight, where you can party poolside and soak up history in the desert.
Whether you’re filling daytime hours before heading to the Empire Polo Club or assembling an itinerary sans festival ticket, start your planning with these eight ideas, and bookmark our tips on How to Hack Coachella.
1. Stop by the Yves Saint Laurent Beauty Station
Looking your best is central to the Coachella experience and the famed French fashion house Yves Saint Laurent will be in the desert to lend a hand. This "makeup oasis" pop-up shop will be in operation April 12–14 on Route 111 near Cathedral City and will look just like a stylish gas station. Instead up loading up on premium or unleaded fuel, however, you'll be able to consult beauty experts, shop a makeup vending machine, and try on virtual lipstick.
2. Chill at the dayclub at Hilton Palm Springs
This afternoon rager turns the Hilton Palm Springs pool into a Las Vegas-style dayclub during Coachella. Each day features a DJ straight from the festival lineup, along with supporting acts selected by headliners like Rüfüs du Sol, Diplo, Dillon Francis, Nora En Pure and Jauz. Buy a one-day ticket or opt for a full weekend pass.
3. Wander the Moorten Botanical Garden and Cactarium
Created in the 1930s as a private family garden, this 1.5-acre property is now a public oasis, where visitors pay $5 to explore a wonderland of cacti from around the globe. More than 3,000 species are on view at Moorten, where master gardeners lead daily tours, Instagrammers pose among the thorny residents, and shoppers pick up succulents to take home.
4. Sip a fruity cocktail at Bootlegger Tiki
Tucked into the former home of tiki bar Don the Beachcomber—and named for the tiki pioneer’s original career—this petite cocktail bar is a celebration of Polynesian pop. Grab a booth under a blowfish lamp and order powerful drinks made with passion fruit, lemongrass, and lots and lots of rum.
5. Take a tour at Palm Springs Historical Society
Before it was Coachella headquarters, Palm Springs was Hollywood’s favorite playground, a weekend escape just two hours from L.A. Join the Palm Springs Historical Society for a guided stroll among the homes of stars like Elizabeth Taylor, Katherine Hepburn, and Leonardo DiCaprio, or book a tour of the town’s famous Modernist architecture, including the 1947 hotel by star architect William Cody.
6. See free outdoor art installations at Desert X
After a wildly successful first outing in 2017, Desert X has returned to Greater Palm Springs through April 21 with a new series of art installations set in and reflecting on the desert. Nineteen artists have created works for 2019, including Kathleen Ryan’s transparent Ghost Palm, Pia Camil’s rebar rainbow, and Sterling Ruby’s fluorescent void, erected amid the natural landscape like a Photoshop collage brought to life. Download a map online or start at one of Desert X’s hubs in Palm Springs, Palm Desert, and Indio.
7. Shop for a festival outfit at The Frippery
You know the Palm Springs uniform: colorful kaftans, boho designs, mod threads, and accessories. Outfit yourself for a desert weekend at this delightful vintage shop, stocked with racks upon racks of photo-worthy attire.
8. Explore Joshua Tree National Park
Less than an hour from downtown Palm Springs is Joshua Tree National Park, where the Mojave and Colorado Deserts intersect in a landscape of prickly cactus gardens, sculpted boulders, meadows of wildflowers, and, of course, Joshua trees, so named by Mormon settlers who thought the branches resembled Joshua reaching skyward in prayer. Bookmark a day for exploring or stay the night to take in spectacular starlit skies.