You know it’s festival season in Greater Palm Springs when the usually breezy Interstate 10 chokes up with cars decked out in Carpoolchella paint and RVs destined for the world’s largest country fête. With 100,000 people (give or take, depending on the festival) cruising in, around, and out of the area for those long, mellifluous weekends, the traffic sucks. There’s no way around it. But half the fun of any road trip is in the detours you make along the way. So, plan a pit stop to stretch your legs and discover the desert’s quirkier side.
1. Cabazon Dinosaurs
Near Cabazon’s designer outlet shops, you’ll find SoCal’s favorite dinosaurs. Most will recognize Dinny and Mr. Rex, the steel-and-concrete giants visible from the freeway, but may not realize more than 50 dinos perch on property. Read our profile story HERE.
2. Desert Christ Park
Almost 50 statues depicting biblical scenes were installed on a High Desert hillside in the 1950s. They are now cared for by the Desert Christ Park Foundation. Read our profile HERE.
3. Sky Village Swap Meet and Bob’s Crystal Cave
Every weekend, this family-owned compound (formerly a drive-in theater) comes to life as local artisans sprawl across its 7 acres and vend their wares. You’ll find a variety of assemblage sculptures and kitschy folk art on the property along with Bob’s Crystal Cave, a man-made cavern decked in thousands of hand-placed gems. skyvillageswapmeet.com
4. Salvation Mountain
This 50-foot-high, 150-foot-wide Technicolor hilltop represents the late artist Leonard Knight’s devotion to God. Packed with clay and whimsically imagined with an estimated 100,000 gallons of paint, the landmark contains a wonderland of tunnels and cavelike nooks to explore.
5. Beauty Bubble Salon & Museum
Behind the pink-trimmed doorway of Jeff Hafler’s haircare studio sits his lifelong collection of retro hair-related whatsits and baubles, which has been recognized by the Library of Congress as one of the world’s foremost archives on beauty. Browse the gift shop for a vintage trinket to take home.
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF WINSTON GIESEKE
6. Noah Purifoy Outdoor Desert Art Museum
Alabama-born artist Noah Purifoy crafted his first sculpture with debris from the 1965 Watts rebellion and went on to create more than 100 assemblage works while living on his 10-acre compound in the High Desert. They speak to Purifoy’s impassioned advocacy for social change through evocative art.
7. Skull Rock
Rainfall has eaten away at the granite of this massive boulder in the northeastern section of the national park, resulting in a peculiar, hollowed-out shape that seems to resemble a face.
8. Cholla Cactus Garden
Few teddy-bear cholla grow in the national park outside this anomalous 10-acre cactus field. Don’t let the native species’ cuddly name fool you; the plant is also dubbed “jumping cholla” for its sticky spines said to leap out at those who dare pass by.
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF NOAH PURIFOY FOUNDATION 2018
Noah Purifoy Outdoor Desert Art Museum
9. Giant Rock and Integratron
Aviation engineer George Van Tassel relocated his family in the 1940s to a cave dwelling beneath Giant Rock, a lone seven-story boulder in the Mojave Desert. In 1953, he claimed an alien from Venus visited to provide plans for a time-travel machine. The result: a white dome known as the Integratron (not far from Giant Rock) that now hosts sound baths.
The world’s largest display of objects inspired by a single fruit is housed near the northern shore of the Salton Sea. Locals Fred and Kim Garbutt purchased their collection of 20,000-plus banana curios in 2010 and converted their family pub into a museum, which also has a bar serving plentiful potassium-laded treats.
11. Salton Sea State Recreation Area
Exponential saline concentration and a fish die-off left this area, once touted as a resort paradise and “an investor’s dream,” a wasteland. Fish bones and ruins pepper the beach. Through April 21, the area hosts two Desert X installations: Steve Badgett and Chris Taylor’s Terminal Lake Exploration Platform and Nancy Baker Cahill’s Margin of Error.
12. Sky Art Sculpture Garden
13. World Famous Crochet Museum
This “world famous” museum may be among the planet’s smallest. Tiny crocheted creatures collected by owner Shari Elf take up residence in an upcycled drive-thru photo stand, sited near the Joshua Tree Saloon.
PHOTOGRAPH COURTEST OF ANNA KULA