My Favourite Places in Palm Springs California, Volume 5 – La Quinta & Indio edition!

On my last visit to Palm Springs, we stayed with friends in a new location; La Quinta!  While it’s definitely a bit of a hike from there to Palm Springs proper, it did give us a chance to explore this town at the far east end of the Coachella Valley. Out here the borders are zig zagged and blurry so dancing from La Quinta to Indio, to Bermuda Dunes and Indian Wells is easy.

la quinta palm springs map

Here’s a few highlights:

Shields Date Gardens: 80-225 U.S. Highway 111, Indio, CA

Dates. Photo From Shields Date Garden

Dates. Photo From Shields Date Garden

Never had a date shake?  In the desert they’re a must try! Dates are a huge crop, and the delicious pitted dried fruits are shipped from here all over the world.   Shields Date Gardens is the grower, packager, and sales hub for these tasty treats.

The shop is tucked beside Highway 111, and features a cafe and milkshake bar where you can get one of the date shakes, or nearly any other type of flavour you want.  The shop also sells packaged dates of all varieties, and (the best part) don’t forget to leave a little time to check out the short film that plays in a small vintage theatre in the back, “Romance and Sex Life of the Date”. It’s cute, charming and surprisingly informative. The film is based on a speech Floyd Shields used to give to touring visitors in the date garden.  Today it loops constantly in the theatre.

Mr Shields showing off his date palms. Photo: Shields Date Garden.

Mr Shields showing off his date palms. Photo: Shields Date Garden.

Old Town La Quinta: Main St, La Quinta

Small but charming, this part of La Quinta’s core is built to look like a tiny Mexican pueblo that’s been baking in the desert heat for much longer than it actually has. Restaurants and shops are abundant, and it’s an easy walk.  Better yet, visit when the Certified Farmers’ Market is on.  The market runs along Main Street Sundays from 8am to 12:30pm (October to May), and features several stands with fresh produce, herbs, honey, nuts, cheese, cut flowers & plants, fresh baked breads, smoothies, live chef demonstrations and live music.  While that sounds like a long list, the market itself is only a block long. You probably don’t need more that 20-45 minutes there, depending how much you like to linger.

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Cardenas, 82266 CA-111, Indio, CA

Easily one of my favourite new finds in all of the Coachella Valley, Cardenas is a Mexican supermarket.  However, this is no ordinary grocery store.

IMG_1234If you love Mexican cuisine, this place will blow your mind with the awe-inspiring variety of Mexican staples, fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as unusual foods.  In the bakery aisle, prepare for a wall of tortillas.  Think there’s just corn and flour?  Wrong; there are endless varieties: hard/soft, colours from white, to yellow, to purple and green, different sizes, and all types of flour.

The endless selection of tortillas at Cardenas.

The endless selection of tortillas at Cardenas.

The seafood counter is a bounty, and the meat case is stocked full of many different cuts we just don’t get back home.  One of my favourite things at Cardenas is the sour cream bar.  Stocked with about 4-5 different types of sour cream (WHO KNEW?!), they let me sample each type to pick out just what we needed for our Mexican meal that night.  From uber-sour to sweet, it was a really neat experience. Not to mention the case full of different types of queso fresco.  (Again, who knew?) We were allowed little nibbles of the cheese to pick out just the right type for our dish.  It reminds me I need to do more research on different kinds of Mexican dairy for cooking.

From several varieties of sour cream, to queso fresco, and many types of seafood and veggies you can't get at home,Cardenas has it all.

From several varieties of sour cream, to queso fresco, and many types of seafood and veggies you can’t get at home,Cardenas has it all.

Don’t forget to wander by the salsa bar.  Cactus salsa? Tomato? Tomatillo? You name it, it’s all here; and all fresh as you’ll ever taste it.

Phil Mickelson wanders by on his way to play a hole at The Humana.

Phil Mickelson wanders by on his way to play a hole at The Humana.

The Humana Challenge, PGA West, La Quinta, CA

A happy coincidence while we were there, The Humana is a large charity golf tournament featuring pros and amateurs, with a history dating back to the brat pack era. In 1962, Bob Hope and golf legend Arnold Palmer won the  pro-am portion of the then-named Palm Springs Desert Classic. Just three years later, the event was re-named the Bob Hope Desert Classic and Hope took on duties as master of ceremonies for what would become a hugely popular annual  golf event.

The tournament takes place on the PGA West course in La Quinta, and it gave us a chance to wander from hole to hole, and get up close to pros like Phil Mickelson, as well as get to take in the back side of some lovely homes. Seeing a professional golf event of this size and scale was interesting for me, an amateur duffer at best.

Tack Room Tavern at Empire Polo Grounds, 81800 Avenue 51, Indio, CA

IMG_1260Another favourite, this small tavern is tucked onto the Empire Polo Grounds property, and is open to the public.  We enjoyed it some much here, we started coming in for a 5 o’clock drink almost daily on our visit to La Quinta;  it probably helped that our condo was a short 5 minute drive away.  Even so, the Tack Room is a low key watering hole with a polo-themed decor, comfy leather stools hugging distressed wooden high-top tables, as well as a row of booths around the outer edge.  The drinks are well made, and there’s plenty of beer to choose from (microbrews to big names) and the food was also outstanding. There are also plenty of TVs to keep an eye on the golf, the polo or whatever other sporting event is on.

A nice aside, just outside of the Tack Room is a gorgeous rose garden, and trees laden with cumquats.  Admittedly I picked a few handfuls of the fresh citrusy fruits to make cocktails with, but I don’t think they minded.  You can also see the vast polo fields just beyond the tavern.  Definitely with a visit, or worth making your regular haunt!

Inside the Tack Room: dark, cozy, and great food.

The Empire Polo Grounds, location of the Tack Room Tavern.

At the Humana, you just never know who might buzz past you on a golf cart! Hello, Bill Clinton!

 

 

Check out more of my top Palm Springs Things to Do here!

Erin L