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Big plans for your next Palm Desert vacation? Don’t miss these small, “secret” events!

Visitors popped into the Palm Desert Visitor Services counter the other day and inquired about all the “fun and funky” events that only a local would know of. Since we’re in the business of sharing information, it’s not in our nature to keep secrets. A multitude of listings can be found on our Event Calendar—big and small—but we were happy to point out a few low-key happenings that they may have otherwise missed.

Now, along with the arrival of a new year, there’s a whole new season of events to look forward to here in Palm Desert. If you, too, are looking for something a bit out of the ordinary, here are a few lesser-known but itinerary-worthy highlights to check out on your next Palm Desert vacation.

First and Foremost

With a variety of festivals and cultural events, Palm Desert First Weekend is a monthly celebration of fun. Held from November through May, each First Weekend packs in activities ranging from art tours to live music, plus a featured event that shouldn’t be missed. Here’s what’s coming up:

LiveWell Festival
Palm Desert Civic Center Park
January 4

Perfectly timed to support those New Year’s resolution, the annual LiveWell Festival is an all-inclusive mind-body-spirit wellness festival that highlights the desert’s top local health and wellness businesses. Stroll the grounds and enjoy fun, educational and interactive demonstrations for the whole family.

Swing ‘N Hops Street Party
El Paseo
February 8

Here’s an event that will let you dance in the street! El Paseo turns into a street party at Swing ‘N Hops featuring live swing music, dance lessons and more. To add to the experience, the event has a beer garden, gourmet street food vendors, vintage cars and interactive art.

Coachella Valley Wildflower Festival
Palm Desert Civic Center Park
March 7

Each spring, after the rains fall and as the desert warms up, wildflowers transform the Coachella Valley into a colorful canvas. The Coachella Valley Wildflower Festival is a great way to celebrate this beautiful spectacle. Learn about wildflowers at interpretative displays and on guided walks. There will be activities for kids, and everyone will enjoy strolling past vendors who will be selling their wares and artwork. Food trucks, a beer and wine garden, and live music add to the fun.

Palm Desert Brew at the Zoo
The Living Desert
April 4

Palm Desert Brew at the Zoo is the wildest beer, wine and food event in the Coachella Valley. Your ticket includes unlimited samples of beer and wine, multiple stages of live entertainment and animal encounters, while food is available to purchase from ten gourmet food trucks. Proceeds benefit The Living Desert’s conservation and education programs.


Musical Notes

Desert Friends of Music
St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church
Select dates through March 15

Each year, Desert Friends of Music produces a series of concerts that never fail to astonish us. This year’s schedule is a real standout. Held at St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church, many of their offerings make use of their remarkable Quimby pipe organ. Monica Czausz, a rising superstar on the organ, and vocal group Chanticleer both have dates at Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles this season, but why make the drive when you can appreciate their performances right here in Palm Desert? Jan Kraybill, performing on February 23, is a 2020 Grammy Award nominee in the Best Classical Instrumental Solo category for her album, “The Orchestral Organ.” Ticket prices range from $20-$35, making these shows amazing values as well.

The Gardens Concert Series
The Gardens on El Paseo
January 25-March 14

Now entering its 22nd year, the Gardens Concert Series doesn’t even begin to fall into the “secret” category, but it’s still an unassuming event that has quietly raised over $1 million for charity over the decades. Fan-favorite tunes played by the Valley’s best musicians set the stage for a relaxed, low cost evening, complete with wine and nibbles.

Pete Carlson Jazz for Jazz Lovers Series
Pete Carlson Golf and Tennis
Saturdays through April

For the last ten years, a corner of a popular golf and tennis retailer has served as an unlikely and yet highly popular stage. Pete and Edna Carlson’s devotion to jazz means they regularly play host to some of the country’s top musicians, so give the venue a try. The intimate setting means you’ll be up close, and with any luck, you’ll be able to have a moment to chat with the artists following the performance. The music ranges from straight-up big band sounds to songs from the American songbook, and ticket prices range from $30-$50 for most shows. Proceeds go to support music education and scholarships for young musicians in the Coachella Valley.

The Warburton Celebrity Golf Tournament
JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort
March 5-8

Golf Tournament? Musical event? The Warburton ticks off both boxes. Host Patrick Warburton heads the event that has raised over $12 million for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital over nine years, making it the biggest event in the Coachella Valley that you’ve never heard of. Songwriters’ Night allows you to hear tunes straight from their writers, as well as a bit of the story behind the lyrics. The Jam is a four-hour classic rock extravaganza with an eclectic group of superstars pooling their talents for the show and the cause.


Foodie Fun

Perfect Pairings Wine Dinner
The Terrace at Desert Willow Golf Resort

Desert Willow Golf Resort already has a strong tradition of opening up on select evenings for their Music and Dining Under the Stars series. For a deeper exploration of specific wines and regions, the Perfect Pairings Wine Dinner is a great option. It’s a five-course, fine dining and wine tasting experience, and if you like what you taste, wine is available to purchase at wholesale prices.

  • Thursday, January 16: Hartford Court Winery
  • Thursday, February 13: “Passion for Pinots”
  • Thursday, March 5: Cambria Winery, Santa Maria Valley

Winemaker’s Dinner Series
The Living Desert

Not to be outdone, The Living Desert offers a Napa Winemaker’s Dinner Series featuring a wine ambassador guest speaker, food pairings prepared by their onsite catering team, plus an animal encounter and live entertainment.

  • Thursday, January 16: Twomey/Silver Oak Cellars
  • Thursday, February 13: Flora Springs Vineyards
  • Thursday, March 19: Trefethen Vineyards
  • Thursday, April 16: Far Niente Vineyards

Chef’s Table
Palm Desert Community Center

For a culinary excursion of a different kind, check out the Chef’s Table series, sponsored by the Palm Desert Library and the Desert Recreation District. Held most Thursdays at 2pm throughout the season, the events offer a chance to watch and learn as a chef creates a signature dish.


Get out(side)!

Whether lounging poolside or dining alfresco, there’s no doubt that the beauty of our desert is best appreciated outdoors. Here are a couple of ways to really get out of town without driving far at all.

Thursday Morning Hikes
Santa Rosa-San Jacinto Mountains National Monument
Thursdays through March 26

Hiking in the desert is far from a secret, it’s a top attraction! But if you’re looking to get a bit more from your experience, why not try a guided hike with a docent from the Friends of Desert Mountains? Most Thursday mornings at 9 a.m. in season they hit a trail near the Santa Rosa-San Jacinto Mountains National Monument Visitor Center, and point out fun features that you may have trudged by in the past.

Star Parties
Santa Rosa-San Jacinto Mountains National Monument
January 18, February 29, March 28, April 18

Blessed with clear nights and relatively dark skies, it’s easy to understand the appeal of stargazing in the desert. The Astronomical Society of the Desert conducts a monthly “sky tour” of the night sky using telescopes and giant binoculars at the National Monument Visitor Center. They’re free, fun, and family-friendly events.

Wildflower 5K Trail Run
Santa Rosa-San Jacinto Mountains National Monument
February 29

Palm Desert offers lots of opportunities to participate in 5K and longer runs, but this is your only chance to hit a trail to do so. The Coachella Valley Wildflower Festival moved to Palm Desert Civic Center Park in 2019 and will return there on March 7. But one week earlier, on February 29, the Wildflower 5K Trail Run takes place on the Randall Henderson Trail to take in the beauty of the desert in spring. This, too, is a free, family event. For a donation of $30 or more, you can take home a commemorative shirt.


From the obscure to the obvious, Palm Desert has plenty of events to entertain and enlighten in the weeks to come. For a comprehensive list of events or additional information, visit our Event Calendar or call Palm Desert Visitor Services at 800-873-2428.

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Palm Desert Visitor Services
73510 Fred Waring Drive
(Inside the North Wing of Palm Desert City Hall)

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