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Visit a revitalized Old West town built as a 1940’s movie set

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In 1946, Pioneertown was founded by a group of Hollywood investors, including actors Roy Rogers and Gene Autry. They dreamed of creating an Old West set 125 miles east of Los Angeles that was actually a town worth visiting, with 1880s-style false-front facades but interiors that had stuff for visitors to see and do too. Up went (from the outside) frontier stables, saloons, and jails; inside, they housed ice cream parlors, bowling alleys, and motels. It wasn’t a place just for tourists to enjoy though; more than 50 films and television shows were filmed here in the 1940s and ‘50s.

While location shoots here have dwindled in the years since, you can still see mock gunfights on Mane Street. But the most happening place by far is Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, which hosts surprisingly big-name live acts—Robert Plant and Leon Russell have played here, and more contemporary bands like Iron & Wine and CHVRCHES pass through as well. This must-see desert find also serves up awesome ribs, plus classic Santa Maria barbecue, burgers, sandwiches, and salads. Check out their calendar of upcoming events.

Though it’s always been a destination for those in the know, in recent years the town has been experiencing something of a renaissance—artists, entrepreneurs, and just regular folks looking to escape city stress are finding their way here. Longtime standby the Pioneertown Motel, a rustic, single-story 20-room inn, has been updated with fire pits, an outdoor bar, and hammocks; it and La Copine, an upscale eatery in nearby Flamingo Heights are contributing to the area’s newfound reputation as a hip getaway.

Stroll along Mane Street and you’ll find MazAmar Art Pottery gallery and shop, and the vintage-vibed Pioneer Bowl. Other popular restaurants nearby include Giant Rock Meeting Room & Coffee House, near the aforementioned La Copine in Flamingo Heights, and Frontier Café, four miles down the road in Yucca Valley.

Insider tip: Be sure to book at stay at the Pioneertown Motel far in advance, especially if your visit coincides with area events such as Coachella, Stagecoach Festival, or the Desert Stars Festival.

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