Many festivals and widely-known events are held in Indio each year. A glance into what the city has to offer sheds light on why Indio – known as The City of Festivals – is a top draw for these major events.
Indio is a small city of about 91,000 people situated in the Coachella Valley area of Riverside County in Southern California. Its position in the Sonoran Desert means it sees a lot of sun and warm weather and very little rain.
While Indio itself is small, the city and surrounding area have many attractions. Whether it’s cultural events, multicultural dining opportunities, or outdoor adventure, there’s something for everyone in Indio.
Indio is known for its nearby world-class golf courses and proximity to the city of Palm Springs. However, it’s mostly known for the festivals that take place throughout the year. Coachella Music Festival, Riverside County Fair, and the National Date Festival are some of the events that take place.
Below are 15 of the best things to do in and around Indio, California.
1. Visit the Past at the Coachella Valley History Museum
Whether you’re a history buff or just looking for some interesting stories, the best way to learn about the history of Indio and the Coachella Valley is with a visit to a museum. At the Coachella Valley History Museum, many exhibits with fascinating artifacts are on display.
Learn about the original settlers who arrived in the late 1800s, the importance of the Southern Pacific Railroad, and the beginnings of the region’s cities and towns.
Explore exhibits dedicated to Native American history, the region’s agricultural history, and its people and the important contributions they made towards the development of the area.
The outdoor grounds are home to an old schoolhouse, a blacksmith shop, and several gardens, including a Japanese garden, desert garden, and a date garden. The on-site guides are available to answer questions and take visitors on a tour of the museum.
2. Relax and Enjoy a Picnic at Miles Avenue Park
On nice days, having a picnic is a great way to save money and relax in a natural setting; Miles Avenue Park is the perfect place to do this.
This pretty green space is equipped with barbecue areas and picnic tables. There are leisure facilities for all ages, including a playground, a water play area, and basketball courts.
3. Treat Yourself to a Barbecue Meal at Jackalope Ranch
Said to be one of California’s best Southwest-inspired restaurants, Jackalope Ranch is quite the place, and it’s just as much about the atmosphere as it is the food.
The first thing you’ll notice before you even enter the restaurant is how large the stone lodge and surrounding property is.
On-site are a few patios with scenic views, waterfalls, a saloon, and a palapa. Whether you’re there for lunch or dinner and prefer a fine dining atmosphere or a casual one, you’ll find the right ambiance for your meal at Jackalope Ranch.
Available on the menu are three-course steak dinners, family combo meals, signature BBQ dishes, and a selection of traditional California-inspired dishes. A variety of starters, sides, and salads are also available.
Enjoy your meal indoors or outdoors and end it with a refreshing beverage from the extensive drink menu.
4. Tee Off at Shadow Hills Golf Course
Shadow Hills Golf Course in Indio is a beautiful, well-maintained desert golf course suitable for all levels.
The surrounding scenery, consisting of mountains and valleys, combined with the option to play on two vastly different courses, makes Shadow Hills the perfect place to spend a day on the greens.
The North Course is a more challenging par-3 course with water hazards and sand traps. The South Course is a more laid-back, traditional 18-hole course.
Whether you choose one over the other or play both, you’re sure to have a fantastic day. Also available on site are a practice area, private lessons, and a restaurant.
5. Discover the Shields Date Garden
Once a simple date farm, the Shields Date Garden is now a 17-acre farm and garden that you can explore at your leisure.
During a walk-through of the garden, you’ll make your way along a path lined with biblical-themed statues and surrounded by spectacular scenery. As you make your way along, you can listen to an audio description using your smartphone.
Before you leave the farm, make sure to grab a snack or meal at the restaurant, where traditional date shakes and date ice cream are served. A gift shop is also on-site.
6. Admire the Public Murals
It’s hard to miss the beautiful art displayed on various buildings around Indio. The best way to truly appreciate this art is by stopping at each one to admire the detail.
This mural project came to life back in the mid-90s to revitalize the city and draw more people. Since then, the murals have been a hit, and they’ve added a unique charm to the area.
There are ten murals, most of which are in the Old Town area of Indio. Most of this spectacular artwork is done by local artists and depicts scenes of early settlers and various historical events. Visitors can purchase posters of the murals from the city.
7. Indulge in a Delicious Meal at Mario’s Italian Cafe
For several decades, Mario’s Italian Cafe in Indio has offered residents and visitors a relaxing, friendly place to enjoy delicious Italian cuisine.
This family-run restaurant offers a wide variety of meal options suitable for all ages and tastes. Calzones, subs, soups, salads, chicken, seafood, and various appetizers and desserts are just some items on the menu. The most sought-after items are the fresh pasta dishes available with your choice of sauce and toppings.
A wide variety of pizzas are also served. If you choose to eat inside the restaurant, you’ll enjoy a cozy atmosphere surrounded by traditional Italian decor.
8. Try Your Luck at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino
For an evening of fun and excitement, head to Fantasy Springs Resort Casino to try your luck at winning some cash or prizes. With 40 table games and more than 2,000 popular slots and video lottery machines, you’re bound to leave with at least a little more than you came with.
This elegant, world-class entertainment venue features desert-inspired decor. It’s also home to several restaurants and a bar, and many concerts and events take place throughout the year.
9. Spend a Day in Nature at the Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve
There are many natural areas around Indio that highlight the prominent desert landscape. Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve in the Indio Hills is the perfect place to explore and get a taste of this unique terrain.
Some of the most notable features of this preserve include the San Andreas Fault, McCallum Pond, and the tall, ancient palm trees growing all over the area.
There are more than 25 miles of hiking trails in the preserve. As you make your way along the trails, you’ll see canyons, dunes, and other features that make up this unique desert ecosystem.
10. Soar Over Indio with Air California Adventure
Air California Adventure is an adventure company offering tandem paragliding and hang gliding adventures to seasoned and novice adventurers. Imagine soaring high in the sky over Indio and seeing nearby attractions, including the San Bernardino Mountains, Joshua Tree National Park, and the Salton Sea.
Experience all this with a worry-free experience that includes professional instruction from experienced instructors.
11. Take in a Live Show at the Indio Performing Arts Center
Situated in the center of downtown Indio, the Indio Performing Arts Center is a hub for arts and culture.
This large venue features a main hall and three theater. Many events are held throughout the year, including concerts, live theater productions, dinner theaters, craft fairs, and movie nights.
12. Party it up at Big Rock Pub
If checking out the local music scene is a thing you enjoy doing when traveling in a new place, the best place to do that in Indio is at Big Rock Pub. This is where music lovers and popular local music acts come together under one roof to enjoy live rock and cold beer.
The chic decor features rock memorabilia, and the pub kitchen serves a variety of meals and snacks, including burgers, fries, pizza, and nachos. A variety of cocktails are also available from the drink menu.
13. Shop ‘til you Drop at The Gardens on El Paseo
If shopping for luxury goods is on your list of things to do, head to the nearby town of Palm Desert and find everything you are looking for at The Gardens on El Paseo.
Browse through designer retailers – including Anthropologie and Kate Spade – while enjoying an open-air shopping experience with stunning views.
When you’ve had enough shopping for the day, grab a bite to eat at one of the two steakhouses.
14. Learn About Desert Animals and Plants at The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens
The desert areas around the world are home to a variety of unique animal and plant species. The best place to get up close with the living desert is at The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in Palm Springs.
This 1,000-acre compound provides visitors with an array of interactive experiences. You can explore it on your own or with a private tour that includes a glimpse behind the scenes.
As you make your way around, you’ll have opportunities to feed a giraffe, ride a carousel, hike the nature trails, explore museum exhibits, and see a variety of desert plants and animals, including jaguars and snakes.
You’ll also be able to pet some of the domestic animals, including donkeys and goats.
15. Take a Journey on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
As the World’s Largest Rotating Tramcar, the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway will provide you with a journey of a lifetime. Climb 6,000 feet from the Coachella Valley and up the Chino Canyon to reach the top of San Jacinto Peak.
This ten-minute ride will take you across two and a half miles of beautiful landscape featuring steep cliffs and unspoiled wilderness areas.
At the top, you can stay a while and enjoy access to two eateries, several observation decks, more than 50 miles of nature trails, a museum, and a gift shop.