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A Coachella survival guide

Each April, music fans head to the desert for a festival like no other: the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. First founded in 1999, the music, art, and culture festival is held for two weekends every spring, and is a draw for thousands upon thousands of spectators every year (tickets sell out lightning-fast). If you’re planning to discover this beacon of California cool for the very first time, read on: we’ve put together a survival guide to help you look like a Coachella pro.

For first timers, Coachella is not in central Los Angeles but Indio, a desert town about twenty-five miles from Palm Springs. It sounds like a hike, but for those travelling from abroad to the festival, there’s luckily no need to get behind the wheel: Coachella offers shuttles from Los Angeles International Airport to the festival grounds and the most popular hotels in the vicinity, so non-drivers are well looked after.

If cars are more your thing, try Zimride, an economical rideshare site by Enterprise. Festivalgoers list their rides, and all you have to do is grab a seat. With festival attendance north of 100,000 people a day, for sanity and safety Coachella encourages you to carpool. Do so and you may even get some lifetime VIP passes out of it. In 2007, the festival launched CARPOOLCHELLA, which awards a windfall of awesome prizes to those who carpool with four or more people, and write the aforementioned phrase on their car. The program is still going strong – and it’s hard to think of a better reason to take a few friends along for the ride.

So, where to stay after the last band plays? Indio and its surrounding cities offer many options for a place to lay your head after a rocking day in the sun. The most convenient would be the on-site campground. Adjacent to the festival grounds, Coachella-goers can pitch a tent, camp out of their car, or rent a luxurious Safari Tent. Think of the latter as glamping, with amenities like showers, an Internet café, and even a farmers market.

But if you prefer the comfort of a hotel bed, there are plenty of options on offer, from the budget-friendly Westin Desert Willows Villas to the funky Saguaro Palm Springs, both of which are on the festival shuttle path. However, La Quinta Resort & Club is the closest hotel to the festival itself. If none of those options catch your fancy, there’s always Airbnb for a home from home in the desert.

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Now, onto the music. No matter what you’re into, line-up highlights include an array of acts from every music genre imaginable. Expect to see newcomers alongside big names – Jay-Z, Paul McCartney, Radiohead, and Prince have all headlined in the past.

When you want some down time from watching your favourite artists, there are lots of other activities to keep you busy, too. Why not fill up on a four-course meal prepared by top chefs in the beautiful Coachella Rose Garden? Or if you’re a record geek, stock up on some new music at the impressive vinyl emporium, curated by Coachella staff. But most importantly of all: have fun (and download the official Coachella Festival App to keep on top of everything!).


Written by Lauren Garroni

Image credits:

Coachella ferris wheel © iStock: Vasileios Economou

Coachella crowd under blue lights © iStock: Vasileios Economou

Coachella crowd © iStock: Vasileios Economou

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