Things To Do

55 Things To Do in January

A blockbuster month is anchored by the Palm Springs International Film Festival and the Desert Classic golf tournament.

Amelia Rodriguez Attractions, Current Guide

Things To Do
Tournament ambassador Phil Mickelson greets fans.

1. GO: Desert Classic, Jan. 16-20

Swinging with equal parts homage and innovation, the PGA Tour descends upon the historic La Quinta Country Club and PGA West with a new name and another exciting lineup of fan festivities. Formerly known as the CareerBuilder Challenge, the Desert Classic nods to the tournament’s roots with its updated moniker —
a reference to the Palm Springs Desert Golf Classic, which debuted in 1960 and was won by Arnold Palmer.

“This is the 60th anniversary of the [inaugural] event, and it also marks the milestone of $60 million raised for charity,” says executive tournament director Jeff Sanders. As player announcements roll in, 2018 champion Jon Rahm is set to return to defend his title, as is tournament ambassador and two-time Desert Classic winner Phil Mickelson.

Management firm Lagardere Sports took the reins last year, bringing its experiential strategy of music and gourmet culinary offerings to the event, and organizers saw a fourfold improvement in attendance. This year’s performers include Bad Company and Sammy Hagar & The Circle. “Getting Sammy Hagar & The Circle and Bad Company with Paul Rodgers to play is a big deal,” Sanders enthuses. “They’re both super popular here in the valley and are a great fit for the desert’s demographic.”

For spectators, the closing holes of the Stadium Course will offer an enhanced viewing experience. Included with general admission is access to the Michelob Ultra Beers Fore Birdies tent on the 16th green and 17th tee, the Casamigos Tequila Club on the 17th green, and the Albertsons Vons Fan Pavilion on the 18th green. “All three venues have great food and drinks and provide the best seats in the house,” Sanders notes. “When you come out to this event as a $30 ticket-buyer, we consider you a major sponsor of this golf tournament; that’s how we want our fans to feel.”

2. SEE: Sam Francis: From Dusk to Dawn, Through April 29

Heather James Fine Art exhibits the work of abstract expressionist Sam Francis, who served in World War II and obtained UC Berkeley degrees in botany, psychology, and medicine before beginning a painting career that would span almost half a century.

3. SEE: Unsettled, Through April 30

Palm Springs Art Museum presents a sweeping exhibition of contemporary art featuring more than 75 artists living or working in the Greater West. Their work looks to the future while honoring the past and all those who influenced cultures and places millennia before the area was declared “unsettled.”



4. SEE: Santiago Garcia’s Converse Shoes: Where We’ve Been, Jan. 1–21

A pair of beat-up sneakers transforms into a metaphor for travel and relationships in the hands of Uruguayan artist Santiago Garcia. Desert Art Collection in Palm Desert presents this series of vivid paintings in the new figuration style.

5. MOVE: Mind Body Fitness Conference, Jan. 2–6

Hosted by YogaFit, this conference welcomes pros and budding yogis to the Riviera Palm Springs for four days of master classes, workshops, and lectures. Notable offerings include Advanced Ayurveda and Yoga for Emotional and Physical Trauma.

6. GO: Kennel Club of Palm Springs Dog Shows, Jan. 3–6

Purebred pooches compete for Best in Show at this annual event, named the largest AKC dog show in the country. Children are welcome, but nonparticipating pets should stay at home. Free general admission at the Empire Polo Club in Indio.

Salma Hayek


7. WATCH: Palm Springs International Film Festival, Jan. 3–14

Founded in 1990 by then-Mayor Sonny Bono, the festival kicks off its 30th year with the Film Awards Gala and will go on to show more than 180 films. Be on the lookout for celebrities at the Jan. 3 gala and post-screening panels at venues in Palm Springs and Cathedral City.

8. GO: Desert Mountains Art Faire, Jan. 5

Visitors can find a piece of the desert to take home at this monthly Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument Visitor Center event, where local artists peddle pieces such as paintings, photographs, ceramics, and jewelry.

9. MOVE: Palm Desert LiveWell Festival, Jan. 5

Get moving with morning yoga or the 1K color run at Palm Desert Civic Center Park, then sample healthy snacks and natural skincare products from local health and wellness retailers. Youngsters can enjoy free crafts and live music in the kids zone.

10. GO: Polo Season Opening Day, Jan. 6

The Eldorado and Empire polo clubs kick off the 2019 season with two Sunday polo matches. Spectators wondering what to wear should follow Empire’s “hats and flats” guideline.

11. EXPLORE: Young Explorers, Jan. 6

Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument Visitor Center offers kids age 8 through 12 the opportunity to improve their map- and compass-reading skills and learn about the 10 essentials to bring when hiking the area’s miles of trails.

12. GO: Mystic Monday With Audrey Alison, Jan. 7

Seeking some clairvoyant counsel? American Federation of Astrologers member Audrey Alison brings her 25 years of tarot experience to the Ace Hotel & Swim Club in Palm Springs. Readings start at $40 for 10 minutes.

13. GROOVE: Keyboard Conversations With Jeffrey Siegel, Jan. 7

Listen and learn at the McCallum Theatre in Palm Desert when Jeffrey Siegel plays Beethoven’s cheeriest compositions and tells the stories behind the songs.

14. GO: FMCA Western Area Rally, Jan. 9–13

The Riverside County Fairgrounds hosts the 31st annual Western Area Rally for the Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA), an international RV travel club. The registration-only event is a fairy-tale-themed extravaganza with camping, entertainment, and games.

15. GROOVE: Jackie Evancho, Jan. 11

By the time classical-crossover vocalist Jackie Evancho was legally allowed to get her driver’s license, she had already placed second on America’s Got Talent and become the youngest platinum-selling solo artist in U.S. history. The singing prodigy, now 18, will take the McCallum stage with songs from her latest album, Two Hearts.

16. WATCH: Brighton Beach Memoirs, Jan. 11–27

Jewish-American playwright Neil Simon penned this 1982 Broadway comedy by drawing from the events of his own life. The play will transport you from the Indio Performing Arts Center to the Brighton Beach neighborhood of Brooklyn as teenage protagonist Eugene Morris Jerome comes of age during the Great Depression.

17. GROOVE: Sinatra, Forever! Jan. 12

Tribute artist Rick Michel pays homage to Palm Springs’ most beloved crooner. Hearing hits like “The Way You Look Tonight” and “Fly Me Over the Moon” sung outdoors on the amphitheater stage at Rancho Mirage Community Park will take you back to the time when the Rat Pack ran our city.

18. WATCH: Lily Tomlin, Jan. 12

It may be a one-woman show, but audience members will experience more than a dozen of Lily Tomlin’s classic characters from her 50-year TV career. See her at the McCallum Theatre in Palm Desert, and consider making a stop in Palm Springs to see Tomlin’s spot on the Walk of Stars.

19. GO: Mojave Flea, Jan. 13

This collective of creators and merchants describes itself as a “nomadic market,” traveling throughout the Southwest to vend handmade, vintage, and artisan wares. Many of the makers are Coachella Valley and High Desert locals; don’t miss the chance to check out their offerings at the Ace Hotel & Swim Club.

20. GROOVE: The Capitol Steps, Jan. 13

Since its foundation in 1981 to perform at a Washington, D.C., Christmas party, this group of satirical songsters has recorded more than 35 albums riffing on recent political headlines. Hear their latest, Make America Grin Again, at the McCallum.

21. LISTEN: America’s Future in Space, Jan. 13

Mars might be closer than we think. The World Affairs Council of the Desert’s speaker series invites six-time NASA space shuttle crew surgeon and former chief of NASA’s medical operations branch Dr. Jonathan Clark to detail the U.S. space expansion efforts.

22. GO: Salton Sea Bird Festival, Jan. 13–14

More than 432 species of birds have been documented in the Salton Sea region. Explore and learn about this unusual habitat through a lineup of guided birding walks and expert-led panels delving into environmental issues, the wildlife, and the land.

23. LISTEN: Cheryl Hines, Jan. 15

Her role as Larrry David' wife on HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm put Cheryl Hines on the map. The actress will open the Rancho Mirage Speaker Series at the Helene Galen Auditorium Annenberg Center for Health Sciences at Eisenhower Health.

Jersey Boys


24. WATCH: Jersey Boys, Jan. 15–20

This “jukebox musical,” which tells the story of 1960s rock and pop band The Four Seasons, nabbed a Tony Award for Best Musical in 2006. With 12 years on Broadway under their belts, the boys bring their goods to the McCallum Theatre in Palm Desert.

25. GO: HITS Coachella Desert Circuit, Jan. 15–March 17

Equestrians and spectators will be on the edge of their seats (and saddles) during eight weeks of hunter and jumper shows at HITS Desert Horse Park in Thermal. Stakes are high, with a purse of almost $3 million.

26. GROOVE: Michael Childers Presents Icons and Idols, Jan. 17

This benefit concert, with tributes to Amy Winehouse, David Bowie, Donna Summer, and Tom Jones, supports future icons and idols by funding arts education programs put on by the Palm Springs Unified School District Foundation. Grab your seat at Richards Center for the Arts.

27. GROOVE: The Flesh Eaters and Mudhoney, Jan. 18

The Flesh Eaters, founded by “punk poet” Chris Desjardins, first appeared on the L.A. scene in the late 1970s with their trademark morbid lyrics and rockabilly sound. Mudhoney’s latest record, Digital Garbage, is a high-energy, politically edged selection of rock songs. See both bands live at Pappy & Harriet’s in Pioneertown.

28. GO: Sand Storm Lacrosse Festival, Jan. 18–20

Empire Polo Club welcomes competitive co-ed youth teams from across the country for a weekendlong lacrosse tournament. Teams play Jan. 19 and 20, but young women looking to up their game can arrive a day early for the college-coach-helmed Whirlwind training camp.

29. WATCH: Guys and Dolls, Jan. 18–Feb. 10

Gamblers, missionaries, and nightclub singers take the Palm Canyon Theatre stage in this community production of the Tony Award–winning musical and subsequent film (which starred midcentury hunks Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra).

30. WATCH: Looped, Jan. 18–Feb. 10

Fans of Tallulah Bankhead will be particularly drawn to this play, based on a true story, about the notoriously outlandish actress’ eight-hour, one-line recording session for her final film. The production debuts at The Desert Rose Playhouse in Rancho Mirage.

31. groove:
The Temptations and the Four Tops, Jan. 19

Two groups team up to bring Motown sound to the desert. Hear hits like The Temptations’ “My Girl” and the Tops’ “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)” at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio.

The Four Tops


32. LISTEN: Janet Mock, Jan. 19

The author and activist, who was one of Time’s 2015 “30 Most Influential People on the Internet” and history’s first trans woman of color hired to write on a TV series, partakes in the Palm Springs Speaks series and discusses the issues of the day at the Richards Center for the Arts.

33. GROOVE: Amanda McBroom and Ann Hampton Callaway, Jan. 19

Actress and singer-songwriter Amanda McBroom has penned tunes for everyone from Bette Midler to the cartoon dinosaurs in The Land Before Time. Ann Hampton Callaway’s voice will be familiar to fans of The Nanny (she wrote and recorded the show’s theme song). The divas pair up for a cabaretlike concert at the Annenberg Theater.

34. GROOVE: Brent Barrett, Jan. 21

Kansas-born tenor Brent Barrett brings the singing chops that nabbed him roles in Broadway shows like Chicago, Annie Get Your Gun, and Peter Pan to the Annenberg Theater. Ticketholders over the age of 21 should arrive early for a pre-show cocktail hour.

Exploring Mars


35. watch: Exploring Mars, Jan. 21

Curious about the red planet? National Geographic Live, an immersive talk and photo experience, gives audience members at the McCallum Theatre the chance to hear from NASA engineer Kobie Boykins, who has been helping send rovers to Mars since 1997.

36. GROOVE: Sérgio Mendes, Jan. 23

Sérgio Mendes brings bossa nova, a Brazilian fusion of samba and jazz, to Fitz’s Jazz Café at the McCallum. The performer was an early adopter of the musical style — his career flourished as the lively “new wave” of bossa began to emerge.

37. WATCH: White, Jan. 23–Feb. 17

Coachella Valley Repertory Theatre’s theme for the 2018–2019 season is “a handful of … isms,” and James Ijames’ White explores several. The play centers on a white artist who hires a black actress to pose as the creator of his work in order to land a spot in an exhibition.

38. GROOVE: Bernadette Peters, Jan. 24

Peters’ name will be well-known to Broadway fans — the Sicilian-American actress and singer has starred in shows like Into the Woods and Hello, Dolly! and received seven Tony Award nominations. See her perform at the McCallum.

Bernadette Peters


39. go: Finding Freedom LGBTQ Symposium, Jan. 24–26

This annual conference presented by Michael’s House considers the intersection of sexual identity and mental health. The three-day symposium at the Riviera Palm Springs requires preregistration and payment, but the keynote speech by transgender pastor Dr. Paula Stone Williams is free to the community.

40. GO: Southwest Arts Festival, Jan. 24–27

Travel magazine named this arts festival one of the top 100 events in North America. Browse and purchase works from more than 250 artists and watch them create right before your eyes in the picturesque setting of the sprawling Empire Polo Club grounds.

41. GROOVE : Kenny G, Jan. 25

The Grammy winner has sold more than 75 million records, collaborated with artists from Frank Sinatra to Katy Perry, and been parodied on Spongebob Squarepants (the smooth-jazz stylings of “Kelpy G” make a regular appearance in the show). The real Kenny G brings his soprano sax to Fantasy Springs.

42. GO: Infinite Possibilities, Jan. 25–27

He’s appeared everywhere from the TEDx stage to the Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon — and he’s coming to the desert. Deepak Chopra leads a retreat at the Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort & Spa in Rancho Mirage, where attendees will participate in yoga and mindfulness activities and learn how to “define [their] life’s intent.”

Wizard of Oz


43. watch: The Wizard of Oz,
Jan. 25–27

If you’ve always dreamed of going “Over the Rainbow,” look no further than this spectacular live stage production of the 1939 classic. Your whole family can “Follow the Yellow Brick Road” to the McCallum for the show — and if the kids ask where you’re headed, just say, “We’re Off to See the Wizard.”

44. move: Palm Springs Health Run & Fitness Expo, Jan. 26

With 10K, 5K, and 1K “fun runs,” athletes at any level can participate in this wellness-focused event. Runner registration fees range from $30 to $45, with proceeds benefiting local charities. The expo, which features more than 100 booths along with giveaways, is free.

45. WATCH: LunaFest Palm Springs, Jan. 26

The local branch of the women’s service organization Soroptimist International brings this women-centric short film festival to the Richards Center for the Arts. All nine films on the lineup were created by female filmmakers and feature women protagonists.

46. WATCH: Theresa Caputo, Jan. 26

Fans of TLC’s Long Island Medium can witness the medium herself working her magic right here in the Coachella Valley at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa.

47. GO: Meeting of Mentors: T-34 Fly In, Jan. 26–27

A group of T-34 Mentor planes descends upon the Palm Springs Air Museum for a weekend of exhibitions, contests, and flight demos.

48. GROOVE: The Golden Age of Hollywood, Jan. 27

Local nonprofit Tools for Tomorrow, which bolsters after-school arts literacy programs, recognizes Lucie Arnaz, the daughter of I Love Lucy stars Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, with this old Hollywood extravaganza at the Helene Galen Auditorium. Lucie, herself a talented actress, starred alongside Neil Diamond and Laurence Olivier in the 1980 film The Jazz Singer.

Lucie Arnaz


49. WATCH: Golden Dragon Acrobats, Jan. 28

See the award-winning acrobatics, traditional dance, and spell-bindingly bright costumes of Golden Dragon Acrobats at the McCallum Theatre.

50. MAKE: Reflecting Upon Other Artists’ Works, Jan. 28–31

Participants in this four-day course at the Palm Springs Art Museum will have the opportunity to learn from artist and painting-restorer Mark Leonard, who has worked at such lauded artistic institutions as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the J. Paul Getty Museum.

51. LISTEN: Drag Queen Story Hour, Jan. 29

Local diva Bella da Ball helms storytime at the Palm Springs Library for Drag Queen Story Hour, a nationwide program intended to give kids “glamorous, positive, and unabashedly queer role models.”

52. WATCH: Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, Jan. 29

This is Swan Lake like you’ve never seen it before. An all-male drag ballet troupe pirouettes and jetés across the McCallum stage in a satirical take on classical ballet that will leave audience members laughing — and gasping in awe when a tutu-clad “trock” pulls off a particularly tricky move en pointe.

53. GO: Rancho Mirage Writer’s Festival, Jan. 30–Feb. 1

Writers and readers gather together at the Rancho Mirage Library and Observatory for the fifth year of this festival, which will feature Oscar winner Tom Hanks as a speaker. The seasoned actor (and writing-world newcomer) discusses his debut short story collection, Uncommon Type, with Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Maureen Dowd.

54. LISTEN: Campfire Stories With Desert Oracle’s Ken Layne, Jan. 31

Grab a seat close to the campfire — you’ll appreciate the warmth once Ken Layne starts in on his chill-inducing stories of desert lore. (Many of the bizzaro tales are documented in the pages of his Joshua Tree–based publication, Desert Oracle, and on his radio show of the same name.) The free event takes place at the Ace Hotel & Swim Club in Palm Springs.

55. GROOVE: Paul Anka, Jan. 31–Feb. 1

The Canadian musician began his career as a teen idol in the late 1950s and went on to release hits like 1974’s “(You’re) Having My Baby” and pen chart-toppers for Tom Jones, Frank Sinatra, and Michael Jackson. He honors Sinatra with his latest tour, which includes two shows at the McCallum.