The wackiest sights to see in the desert

The Palm Springs area is known for lots of things: amazing architecture, stunning scenery, hot hotels, and super-luxe spas, for starters. But when it comes to tacky, wacky, and wild stuff, well, we’ve got that too.

After you’ve had your fill of cool at Two Bunch Palms, check out these off-the-beaten-path sights in and around the Coachella Valley that you’ll be Instagramming for days. 

The Romance and Sex Life of the Date

Yes, the name is tongue-in-cheek, but the 15-minute very-retro film – played on a loop just off the retail shop that’s part of Shields Date Gardens – is actually surprisingly fascinating. It also proves just how painstakingly difficult it is to cultivate dates – a process that involves hand-pollenating flowers from female plants with pollen from male plants (thus the whole sex life part) – and explains how the area became an unlikely producer of the fruit that’s native to the Middle East. While you’re there, pick up a box of one of the farm’s many date varietals (the plump Mejdool is probably the most popular) or indulge in the Coachella Valley’s signature snack: the almighty date shake.

80-225 Highway 111, Indio


Integratron Dome
+ Photo: Carl Rice

The aviation engineer who built this giant dome 20 miles north of Joshua Tree back in the 1950s claimed extraterrestrials told him to do it. One of its many uses was supposed to be time travel, and while there’s no word on whether anyone’s actually used it to toggle through the centuries, today it’s open to the public to provide something called a sound bath. During the hour-long session, you’ll lie down in a sound chamber while a sequence of quartz crystal “singing” bowls are played live for 25 minutes (each one is supposed to connect to a different chakra in your body). The rest of the hour involves just chilling out while music plays. You’ll need to book ahead to reserve a spot in a group session or splurge on a private sound bath, but, either way, the folks behind Integratron claim that you’ll end up with waves of peace, heightened awareness, and a relaxed body and mind. At least until you head back to work on Monday …

2477 Belfield Blvd, Landers

Cabazon Dinosaurs

Cabazon Dinosaurs in Cabazon, California

Though Cabazon is mere miles from your desert destination, it’s worth a pit stop here first to peek at these towering pre-historic replicas. The roadside attraction touts 50 “lifelike” dinosaurs (since we’ve never seen a real dinosaur, there’s no way to know for sure) with goofy names like Large Marge and Mr. Rex, a 50-footer who is gracious enough to let you step inside and climb all the way up to his mouth. There’s also a gift shop, dinosaur museum, and kids’ activities like fossil panning and a dinosaur dig. Oh, and if any of the dinos look familiar, it might be because the place was featured in Pee-wee’s Big Adventure and National Lampoon’s Vacation. Hey, if it’s good enough for Clark Griswold …

50770 Seminole Drive, Cabazon

Elvis Honeymoon Hideaway

You get the best of both worlds at this famous mid-century modern house in the posh Palm Springs neighborhood of Las Palmas. Architecture buffs will be wowed by the 5,000-square-foot estate built in 1960 by Robert Alexander, of the renowned Alexander Construction Company, who had it designed to combine four perfect circles spanning three levels. And Elvis fans won’t believe they’re setting foot inside the place where the King once lived and later honeymooned with new wife Priscilla in May of 1967. (Incidentally, their daughter, Lisa Marie, was born exactly nine months later.) Elvis paraphernalia and super groovy furniture abound here and the tour guides share plenty of fun facts about the King’s stay.

1350 Ladera Circle, Palm Springs

Mane Street Stampede Wild West Show

Mane Street Stampede Wild West Show
+ Photo: Mane Street Stampede Wild West Show

These days the High Desert enclave of Pioneertown is best known for its BBQ-and-live-music Mecca, Pappy & Harriet’s (especially after Paul McCartney wowed with an impromptu show last fall), but the western-themed little town puts on shows of a different kind twice a month. That’s when a group of actors don Old West costumes and set up in front of Pioneertown’s “Mane Street” lined with storefronts (that have served as the backdrop for plenty of films and TV shows, including The Cisco Kid over the years) and reenact some good-old gun fighting between cowboys complete with real horses, a sing-along, and a decent dose of comedy sprinkled in.

Downtown Pioneertown
Shows take place from April to October on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month.

  • Story by Lizbeth Scordo

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