First Time Coachella Visitor Tips
Updated: Aug 29
It all started with my frustration with locals not being able to see the artwork that graces the grounds of Coachella at the Indio Polo Field. Since I am a travel writer and pride myself in discovering "the little things" people want to know about, I set out to see how I could rectify this omission.
Looking through the Coachella website, I discovered the area for media requests. I secured a pass to go to Coachella by sending a carefully thought-out query. The understanding was that I would write about the art and share it on social media.
There will be some articles from different vantage points about the art, but for now, I wanted to get down to writing my thoughts as first-time Coachella visitor tips.
I will preface this article by saying the goal: To cover the art in the daylight and after dark.
The Adventure to Coachella Begins
Many friends thought it amusing that I was going off to Coachella, equated with young people. Yet, for those who know me, the fact I was a mature woman setting off on this kind of adventure was not surprising.
With no pop culture clothing in my wardrobe, I decided comfort and protection from the intense sun was the strategy for my exploring outfit. Yellow knee-high shorts and white linen long-sleeve blouse adorned with brown beads would do. Armed with lots of suntan lotion and a white hat, I was ready.
I joined up with a friend, and we set out to the parking lot at around 3:00 p.m. No problem finding parking in the free Coachella lot. However, great care was taken to ensure we knew where we parked the car in this massive area.
Then we were off. First, we walked past the camping area where creativity was on display. Campers knew what they needed for their comfort for this three-day event. Think how your campsite might look in a secluded forest but with privacy walls decorated with everything you could conjure up in your mind—no nice green patches of grass to enjoy. You were literally 12 inches at the most from your neighbor.
No water bottles were in our hands because no food, water, or unauthorized camera could be brought into the event. The warning to wear extremely comfortable walking shoes proved to be an excellent tip for walking to the grounds was not for the faint of heart.
Going through Security at Coachella
Backpacks were checked, and our wristbands lit green when we were authorized to continue the journey to the grounds, which we could see in the distance marked by the gigantic Ferris wheel. Yes, the path stretched out before us, and we continued our way to the entrance to the actual site.
Again, our wristbands lit up, and we walked through the gate to begin our explorations. The first thing on the agenda is to get a bottle of water. With that accomplished and a few swigs of water, we were off.
The Exploring Begins at the Coachella Grounds
The enormity of this festival became apparent. We walked in with a gigantic stage to our right, and in the far distance, we could see additional stages. We couldn't even see the art we now know is on the perimeter of the far side.
Lounging on their blankets were attendees who found shade in the fences' shadows or the stages. While the music played in the distance, it lulled one to sleep. It was nap time, so one would be alert for the headliners that played later in the evening.
Time for a Bite
With the hunger bug starting to rise, we marveled at the vast number of choices for grabbing a bite to eat. Even more impressive, there were no name-brand vendors. One can only assume Golden Voice, the presenter of the extravaganza, understood well the importance of supporting the local community.
Even though the sun seemed intense in this open field late in the day with no trees. The Lemonade Stands scattered throughout the grounds had long lines. One can only assume they have come up with the right formula to make a thirst-quenching drink.
With nachos in hand, we wandered toward the art installations. Looming high above us were six separate structures that immediately drew us in. There were nooks to sit for photo opportunities, silhouettes of dogs decked out with living fauna, and multi-dimension art created that made you want to stand there and keep watching the kaleidoscope of designs and colors changing its look constantly.
Night Fall Changes the Look and Atmosphere
As planned, we watched the sunset behind our glorious mountains, and the lights intermittently came out on the art structures. Again, stay tuned for the reveal, or check out my Instagram listed above.
We did notice the crowds had grown substantially, and people with blankets on the ground were few and far between. Naps had been taken, and people were moving to their spots to settle in to see their favorite bands.
Another observation is that even though marijuana is prohibited from being brought in and used, its scent was prolific through the air. We saw no evidence of any enforcement. However, we marveled that during our 6.5 hours on the grounds, we saw no one the slightest bit upset over anything. People were there to enjoy the music, the art, and our beautiful Coachella Valley climate.
First Time Coachella Visitor Tips for Leaving the Grounds
After 6.5 hours of walking and touring the grounds, it was time to leave. My mission had been accomplished. While I would have loved to hear the headliner, Billie Ellish, her stage time of 11:45 seemed a long time off.
When you walk out the gate of the grounds, bike rickshaws will take you, for a small amount, back to the shuttles or parking lot. If you don't want to drive, shuttles are available from all parts of the Coachella Valley. Especially if you're going to stay to the end, I highly recommend purchasing the shuttle pass and letting the driver maneuver through the exiting traffic.
When we arrived, we were told to take notice of the color path and gate we came in so we would be positioned to find the right parking lot to get back to our car. Okay, I will admit, we got a bit off track even remembering the path and number, but all was well.
We easily drove out of the parking lot and noted the sign that said this lot was now full at 10:00 p.m., leaving us wondering where new arrivals would be parking.
My Final Thoughts about Coachella
I felt a little overloaded as I walked back to the car. Everywhere you go on the grounds, your senses are picking something up. However, I am more than appreciative to have been given the opportunity to learn, see, and share this International Event with you, the reader.
With Coachella 2022 now on the books, I cannot help but congratulate the Golden Voice organization on bringing this genuinely world-class event to Indio. Keep tuned for in-depth coverage of the art that it rightly deserves.
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Kathy Condon is a freelance journalist and travel writer. She is the Founder of the Palm Springs Insider Guide. Her book It Doesn't Hurt to Ask: It's All About Communication was named Best Book Finalist By USA Book News Kathy@kathycondon.net