When visiting Joshua Tree National Park, it can be easy to feel as though that is all the place has to offer. It is out in the middle of nowhere, after all. Nestled between Palm Springs and the back road to Las Vegas, the small desert space is packed with weird entertainment. Here are just a few things you can do all year long.
Get a soundbath – As weird as it sounds, it’s definitely something everyone should experience when visiting. A few miles from Joshua Tree lies Landers, a town that is really just a bunch of houses spaced out and a few stores and a pizza place in case they needed just a few things that didn’t warrant a drive out to Yucca Valley. Also in Landers is the Integretron. With an incredibly interesting history, the building is pretty and the water is supposedly healing thanks to the magnetic field under the area. It’s worth the drive to see the place and its history and you might even be surprised at how good you feel after leaving.
Eat at the Inn – Generally regarded as the best food in the area by the locals, the 29 Palms Inn is on the way to the park at the entrance in 29 Palms. Built on the Oasis of Mara, the Inn features beautiful bungalows available for rent, a fabulous Faultline garden full of food they use in the restaurant, and they have locals playing music every weekend and local art adorning the walls. Though the space is small, there is extra seating outside by the pool. The salad dressings at the restaurant are homemade. Much of the food is grown on-site and they take pride in not only their ingredients, but the presentation as well. Their specialty drinks are delicious and filled with fruit and liquor. The seasonal menu will assure you experience the best the desert has to offer.
See a show at Pappy and Harriet’s – Recently voted as one of the best concert venues in the L.A. area by L.A. Weekly, Pappy and Harriet’s is a gem. It began as a soundstage for old Hollywood westerns, many starring John Wayne. It’s now a honky tonk restaurant with an adjoining hotel. They have gotten big name indie bands and acts in past couple of years and keep upping their game. Dave Catching of The Eagles of Death Metal has a stake in the local recording studio you may have heard of, Rancho De La Luna, and he frequents the open mic night at Pappy’s. They’ve had Modest Mouse, The Pistol Annies, Jenny Lewis, Neutral Milk Hotel, and The Melvins just to name a few. Try to coordinate your trip to coincide with a concert and enjoy the intimacy of the venue.
Visit old town Yucca Valley – Yucca Valley is the adjacent town to the west of Joshua Tree. This is where all the corporations are; the Wal-Mart, the grocery stores, the chain clothing stores. There’s also old town, which houses the weird, locally owned shops. There’s a comic book store, hipster clothing stores, an antique shop which was spotlighted by Martha Stewart, and gloriously kitschy art and interior decor stores. There’s even an organic coffee shop and cafe if you get hungry while shopping.
Take a drive to Giant Rock – Another place in the desert with an incredibly rich history, Giant Rock is a great place to explore. It began as a house for a Nazi spy (I’m not kidding) who lived off of rainwater he collected thanks to a canal he found in the rock and eventually evolved into a meeting spot for huge UFO conventions. It’s located just a bit further than the Integretron and is next to an old airstrip that was used during WWII. The rock is spray painted now, thanks to local teens who make it out there to off road and party. It is a contrast of history and present day, color and desert beige.
There are endless adventures to experience in the desert. These are really only a few to check off the list, as told from a local who began as a visitor. The pioneering history is rich and even in the national park, you will find treasures and historical areas that will even interest the most bored of children.