johnny depp palm springs

45 Things to Do in May

The desert attracts a cross-section of events from Hollywood Vampires with Johnny Depp to a festival of experimental sound in Wonder Valley.

Amelia Rodriguez Attractions, Current Guide

johnny depp palm springs
Formed in 2015 by Alice Cooper, Johnny Depp, and Joe Perry — aims to honor the music of the legends of the ’70s.
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY FANTASY SPIRNGS RESORT CASINO

1 GO: Joshua Tree Music Festival / May 16–19

“It’s like a big family,” High Desert musician Bryanna Evaro says of the biannual Joshua Tree Music Festival. “It’s really loving and nurturing and feels like a safe space for everyone involved.”

Evaro and her bandmate, Mikey Reyes, of Desert Rhythm Project, have appeared on the lineup four consecutive years. Prior to 2015, they performed as the festival’s unofficial Thursday openers and Sunday night closers.

“It is still very much a grassroots festival,” Reyes explains. Though small, the family-friendly fest is mighty — attendees travel in from all over the world to discover up-and-coming acts. Past lineups act as a word search for now-famous names like Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Elle King, and Chicano Batman.

Artists (including headliners Dynohunter, Vintage Trouble, and Oliver Koletzki) perform on two stages. Food vendors focus on organic, sustainable eats, and a global market sells artisan wares. Plus, the festival features large-scale art installations and offers a robust schedule of yoga sessions, healing workshops, and fun activities designed for kids. Most attendees camp on-site, where hot showers are available.

Evaro and Reyes encourage first-timers to arrive with an open mind. “It gives you an opportunity to fall into your own skin and let loose,” Evaro says.

joshuatreemusicfestival.com


joshua tree music fest

PHOTOGRAPH BY BILL GREEN @MTLB / COURTESY JOSHUA TREE MUSIC FESTIVAL

Positive vibes and global sounds fill the air at Joshua Tree Music Festival.

 

2. WATCH: Good People / May 1–19

See Pulitzer-winning playwright David Lindsay-Abaire’s compelling story about a struggling single mother and her unsympathetic old flame at Coachella Valley Repertory in Cathedral City. cvrep.org

3. GROOVE: Tribal Seeds / May 2

Brothers Steven and Tony-Ray Jacobo front the rock-reggae band Tribal Seeds. Hear them perform jams like “Rude Girl” at the Date Shed in Indio. fb.com/dateshed

4. GROOVE: The Creation Factory and S.O.S. / May 2–3

As a lead-up to the big Moreno Beach–based festival in October, Desert Daze hosts a series of intimate shows at the Ace Hotel & Swim Club in Palm Springs. This free event features psychedelic rockers The Creation Factory alongside S.O.S. and additional DJs in the hotel’s cozy Amigo Room bar. acehotel.com

5. WATCH: The Phantom of the Opera / May 2–5

College of the Desert presents its take on Broadway’s longest running show, the story of a mysterious masked figure and his obsession with beautiful soprano Christine. The chandelier drops at the McCallum Theatre in Palm Desert. mccallumtheatre.com

PepeAguilar

PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY FANTASY SPRINGS RESORT CASINO

6. GROOVE: Pepe Aguilar / May 3

Pepe Aguilar had one heck of a musical debut: At age 3, he joined his father, Antonio Aguilar, onstage at Madison Square Garden. Forty-seven years and four Grammys later, the Mexican singer-songwriter brings his ranchera standards to Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio. fantasysprings.com

7. GO: Train Day / May 4

All aboard for fun at The Living Desert! The zoo’s G-scale model train traverses 3,300 feet of track and is the star of this family event featuring a scavenger hunt, Choo-Choo-Churro treats, and more. livingdesert.org

8. WATCH: Desert’s Got Talent / May 4

Palm Springs–based nonprofit Boo2Bullying sponsors this annual talent competition at Palm Springs Art Museum’s Annenberg Theater. Performers range in age from elementary schoolers to senior citizens, and local personalities act as contest judges. boo2bullying.org

9. GROOVE: Los Huracanes del Norte and Banda Machos / May 4

Los Huracanes del Norte have ruled the Norteño scene since 1973. Banda Machos are known for their unique mix of banda and cumbia. The bands pair up for a night of “Gran Baile” at Spotlight 29 Casino in Coachella. spotlight29.com

10. LAUGH: Gabriel Iglesias / May 4

Gabriel “Fluffy” Iglesias has been slinging jokes about Mexican-American culture, race relations, and the “levels of fatness” (the fourth of six is “fluffy”) for more than two decades. See him live at Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa Rancho Mirage. hotwatercasino.com

11. GO: Evening Under the Stars / May 4

Calling all Mamma Mia! fans: This year’s iteration of AAP – Food Samaritans’ gala features the ABBA tribute band Arrival From Sweden. Sip a cocktail, grab a gourmet bite, and channel your inner “Dancing Queen” at O’Donnell Golf Club in Palm Springs. Proceeds support nutritional programming for people living with HIV/AIDS. aidsassistance.org

AAPFoodSamaritans

PHOTOGRAPH BY LORETTA VLACH

12. GO: Cinco de Mayo Fiesta / May 5

Enjoy Mexican food, margaritas, and appearances by talented local students at Old Town Artisan Studios in La Quinta. Proceeds benefit Tools for Tomorrow, a Palm Desert–based nonprofit that provides free after-school arts programs for kids. toolsfortomorrow.org

13. GO: Jacqueline Cochran Air Show / May 5

The Jacqueline Cochran Regional Airport in Thermal, named for the record-breaking 20th-century aviatrix, honors Jacqueline Cochran’s memory with a thrilling “aerobatics” demonstration, plus food trucks and vendor booths. Admission and parking are free. jcairshow.com

14. GO: Palm Springs Photo Festival / May 5–10

Professional and serious amateur photographers gather together for key networking opportunities, seminars, shows, and expert-led workshops. palmspringsphotofestival.com

15. TASTE: Seis de Mayo / May 6

Babe’s Bar-B-Que & Brewery launches its new Latin-fusion menu with a food-focused fiesta. Options include goat cheese tamales, pork belly tacos, and homemade churros; they’ll also debut a new Mexican lager (brewed on-site) to wash it all down. babesbbqbrewery.com

16. WATCH: Shen Yun / May 9–11

The Chinese dance and music company’s cultural-celebration world tour makes a stop at the McCallum Theatre. mccallumtheatre.com

17. GO: Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival / May 9–12

Filmmakers of the 1940s and ’50s had a thing for pairing cynical investigators with not-so-virtuous women in crime-focused melodramas. Get your fill as Palm Springs Cultural Center hosts four days of screenings. arthurlyonsfilmnoir.ning.com

shakti Fest

PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY SHAKTI FEST

18. GROOVE: Shakti Fest / May 9–13

Joshua Tree provides a naturally beautiful backdrop for this yoga and sacred music festival, which brings together kirtan (chanting) artists, yoga teachers, and expert workshop leaders for a weekend of growth, connection, and wellness. bhaktifest.com

19. WATCH: Circovia / May 10–11

Founded by a former Cirque de Soleil member, this show coming to Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa in Rancho Mirage features dancers, acrobats, and stuntmen — including a strongman allegedly descended from Genghis Khan. hotwatercasino.com

20. GO: High Desert Soundings / May 10–11

This Wonder Valley festival at The Palms, the remote area’s only restaurant, fêtes experimental sound and includes headliners Wolf Eyes and Sarah Hennies. On-site camping is available for free. highdesertsoundings.us

21. WATCH: Real Women Have Curves / May 10–19

This 1990 play, based on author Josefina López’s own experiences working at a Los Angeles garment factory, focuses on gender politics and immigrant experiences — and still feels incredibly timely today. See it at the Indio Performing Arts Center. indioperformingartscenter.org

22. WATCH: Big River / May 10–19

Palm Springs’ Palm Canyon Theatre puts on this bluesy musical adaptation of Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, in which a plucky young boy escaping abuse pairs up with a runaway slave for a ride down the Mississippi River in search of freedom. palmcanyontheatre.org

23. GROOVE: America / May 11

Contrary to their patriotic moniker, folk-rock band America was actually formed in London, England, in 1970. Founding members Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell offer audiences at Fantasy Springs the opportunity to experience “A Horse With No Name” and other timeless hits live. fantasyspringsresort.com

24. GO: Star Party / May 11

While commercial spaceflights aren’t available just yet, families can still enjoy a “sky tour” courtesy of telescopes and giant binoculars at the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument. desertmountains.org

25. GROOVE: The Creepy Creeps / May 11

The Loons and The Schizophonics take the Pappy & Harriet’s stage ahead of The Creepy Creeps, whose blend of punk, garage rock, surf sounds, and outlandish aesthetics (think mariachi costumes with masked faces) have attracted fans since 2006. pappyandharriets.com

26. GO: Mumm’s Day Brunch / May 12

Treat your mom to music and mimosas at Morongo Casino, Resort & Spa in Cabazon. Nick Costa & The George Shelby Orchestra provide the soundtrack to a leisurely brunch in the casino’s grand ballroom. morongocasinoresort.com

27. WATCH: Falling / May 17–26

Encore Theatre District presents the story of a young, severely autistic man and his family as they deal with the question, “How can you love someone who is hard to love?” Catch the production at Palm Springs High School’s intimate Black Box Theatre. A portion of the ticket proceeds benefits the Coachella Valley Autism Society. fb.com/encoretheatredistrict

28. GROOVE: Willie Nelson / May 18

Long before his nine Grammy Award wins, Willie Nelson worked as a bible salesman. The singer-songwriter showcases his unique brand of outlaw country — popularized by albums like Shotgun Willie, Red-Headed Stranger, and Stardust — at Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa Rancho Mirage. hotwatercasino.com

Willie Nelson

PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY AGUA CALIENTE CASINOS – RANCHO MIRAGE

29. MOVE: Run of the Desert Charities / May 18

Strap on your running shoes and choose from one of 30 local charities to support in this 5K for a cause at the Palm Desert Civic Center. Strollers and dogs are welcome, and post-5K festivities include live music, games, pet adoptions, and food and blood drives. livewellfestival.org

30. TASTE: Morongo Taco Festival / May 18

A $10 ticket gets you access to a festival of $2 tacos, live music, lucha libre wrestling, and a paws-itively adorable Chihuahua beauty pageant at Morongo Casino. Bold souls can participate in a pepper-eating contest; if you prefer tequila to Tabasco, the margarita station might be more your speed. morongocasinoresort.com

31. GROOVE: Lucius / May 18

Vice’s music channel, Noisey, described Lucius’ sound as “Fleetwood Mac meets early Heart”; Pitchfork drew aesthetic comparisons to David Bowie. The pop quintet headlines a concert at Pappy & Harriet’s in Pioneertown also featuring Portland-based indie-pop duo Pure Bathing Culture, whose fifth album, Night Pass, dropped last month. pappyandharriets.com

johnny depp palm springs

PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY FANTASY SPRINGS RESORT CASINO

32. GROOVE: Hollywood Vampires / May 18

Named after Alice Cooper’s 1970s “celebrity drinking club” (whose members included a Who, a Monkee, and two Beatles), this band — formed in 2015 by Cooper, Johnny Depp, and Joe Perry — aims to honor the music of the legends of the ’70s. Stay up late with the Vampires at Fantasy Springs. fantasyspringsresort.com

33. GO: U.S. Open Professional Figure Skating Championships / May 21

If Kristi Yamaguchi is your all-time favorite Olympian and you have strong opinions about I, Tonya, this competition at Desert Ice Castle in Cathedral City might make you triple-axel for joy. Hosted by the Professional Skaters Foundation, the event is open to all pro ice athletes and is free for attendees. skatepsa.com

34. LAUGH: The Comedy Madness Show With Mike Quu / May 23–24

Order a delicious dinner at The Club at Palm Springs’ Hotel Zoso and settle in for a side-splitting comedy extravaganza with stand-up stars from Netflix, America’s Got Talent, Comedy Central, and Showtime. hotelzosopalmsprings.com

35. GO: Lavender Festival / May 23–June 30

123 Farm in Cherry Valley (a scenic 40 minute drive from Palm Springs) transforms its lavender harvest into essential oils, honey, lemonade, scented stuffed animals, and more at this fragrant festival. Purchase organic goods, enjoy live music and farm-to-table foods, participate in a workshop, and take the perfect purple-hued Insta shot in the fields. hsresort.com

36. GROOVE: Matisyahu / May 24

Known for his improvisational skill, Matisyahu and his band blend roots reggae with beatboxing, rock, and on-the-spot impromptu lyrical and musical rearrangements to deliver performances that transcend the expected. Experience his unique artistic prowess at Pappy & Harriet’s. pappyandharriets.com

37. GROOVE: Neil Sedaka / May 24

Neil Sedaka has sold millions of records since launching his career in 1957. Equally impressive: The singer and composer boasts writing credits on more than 500 songs, including “Stupid Cupid,” sung by Connie Francis, and “All the Words in the World,” sung by Jimmy Clanton. Hear a handful of them live at Morongo Casino, Resort & Spa in Cabazon. morongocasinoresort.com

38. GROOVE: Stoned and Dusted / May 25

California Desert Wizards Association hosts the rock show to end all others at Pappy & Harriet’s in Pioneertown. The outdoor concert features Melvins, Fu Manchu, Brant Bjork, REZN, (Big) Pig, and desert darling Jesika Von Rabbit. Mad Alchemy, a San Francisco–based liquid light show company, will orchestrate a backdrop of trippy visual projections to complement the sound. pappyandharriets.com

39. GO: Memorial Day Flower Drop & Air Fair / May 27

Pay respects to fallen soldiers at Palm Springs Air Museum, where a B-25 Mitchell Bomber will drop 3,000 red and white carnations from the sky at its annual Memorial Day celebration. Enjoy kids’ activities and food vendors (including California standby In-N-Out Burger), and get the adrenaline pumping with a ride in a real warplane. psam.org

40. WATCH: Meteor Shower / May 30–June 2

Palm Canyon Theatre takes on Steve Martin’s tale of marital madness. In its original run on Broadway, Meteor Shower featured Amy Schumer as buttoned-up California housewife Corky — a role that nabbed her a Tony nom. palmcanyontheatre.org

41. LAUGH: George Lopez / May 31

George Lopez’s eponymous ABC sitcom aired for six seasons and made him the fourth Latino to star in a television comedy series. The funnyman performs at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio. fantasyspringsresort.com

42. LAUGH: Rodney Carrington / May 31

The king of country comedy, known for combining stand-up with original songs, brings his stage show to Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa Rancho Mirage. hotwatercasino.com

43. WATCH: Queen of the Desert / May 31

Experience the local version of RuPaul’s Drag Race as desert drag stars vie for the top spot in bathing suit, evening gown, and performance categories; audience votes determine who gets the crown. desertaidsproject.org

44. GO: Contact in the Desert / May 31–June 3

The planet’s largest UFO conference returns to Renaissance Indian Wells Resort & Spa for four days of lectures, workshops, and panels on all things extraterrestrial. contactinthedesert.com

45. TASTE: Greater Palm Springs Restaurant Week / May 31–June 9

Desert foodies look forward to Restaurant Week all year long — for good reason. More than 100 area restaurants participate, offering special values for lunch and dinner. visitgreaterpalmsprings.com