1. GROOVE: Merri-Achi Christmas, Dec. 16
Fifth-generation mariachi José Hernández knew at the age of 9 that he was destined for a life in music. The youngest of eight children, born into a family whose mellifluous roots date back to 1879 in Jalisco, Mexico — the reported patria of tequila and mariachi — Hernández so developed his pitch and his performative presence that he grew to become a veritable ambassador of the traditional Mexican folk genre. His group Mariachi Sol de México, founded in 1981, was the first mariachi ensemble to receive a Grammy nomination, and he and his players have performed for audiences that included Ronald Reagan, both presidents Bush, and Barack Obama and for crowds in Uruguay, Spain, and even North Korea. The virtuoso also established America’s first all-female mariachi group, Reyna de Los Angeles.
Mariachi Sol de México de José Hernández returns to Palm Desert Dec. 16 to headline the festive holiday extravaganza Merri-Achi Christmas at the McCallum Theatre, blending the seasonal songs of Mexico and the United States with a wide array of instruments (customary of the musical style), dance, and, of course, the sort of sharp showmanship that defines a mariachi. “To believe in mariachi,” Hernández writes on his website, “means having a passion for life itself.” Infuse your holiday season with that very passion right here in Greater Palm Springs with a seat at the McCallum.
2. WATCH: Hairspray, Through Dec. 16
3. WATCH: Christmas With the Crawfords, Through Dec. 23
In this production at Desert Rose Playhouse in Rancho Mirage, we fade in on Christmas Eve at Joan Crawford’s Brentwood mansion just as she is about to receive a houseful of unwelcome celebrity guests including Judy Garland, Katharine Hepburn, and Ethel Merman. Festive musical madness ensues.
4. GO: WildLights, Through Dec. 24
Nearly a million twinkling lights deck The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens for WildLights, a holiday season mainstay in the Coachella Valley that began Nov. 23 and runs select nights through Dec. 24. Stroll the string-lit pathways, ride a camel, and check out the G-scale model trains with more than 3,300 feet of specially decorated track.
5. GO: Festival of Lights Parade, Dec. 1
6. GO: Indio Tree Lighting Ceremony, Dec. 1
Gather ’round for children’s caroling, storytime, and visits with Santa outside the Indio Public Library and City Hall as the community lights its giant Christmas tree.
7. LAUGH: Bill Engvall, Dec. 1
Best known as part of the Blue Collar Comedy troupe, this Texan made his name as an observational stand-up, enjoyed a couple stints as a gameshow host, and competed on Dancing With the Stars. His tour stops at Spotlight 29 Casino in Coachella.
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY SPOTLIGHT 29 CASINO
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OUTLANDISH PALM SPRINGS
8. WATCH: Trixie Mattel, Dec. 1
After winning RuPaul’s Drag Race All-Stars earlier this year, Trixie Mattel has taken her signature blend of surrealist comedy and folk music to the road. She’ll perform during the Outlandish performance series at Palm Springs Cultural Center.
9. EAT: Indio International Tamale Festival, Dec. 1–2
Join 100,000 hungry attendees at the world’s largest tamale festival, where makers compete for best in show. Stop by local vendor Qué Mami Organics, whose vegetarian sweet corn tamale with poblano cheese nabbed the Best Overall and No. 1 Commercial Gourmet titles last year.
10. GROOVE: Lyle Lovett and Robert Earl Keen, Dec. 2
11. GROOVE: Old 97’s, Dec. 3
12. GROOVE: Julie Garnyé, Dec. 3–5
Singer, actress, and voiceover artist Julie Garnyé kicks off the Annenberg Theater’s Cabaret 88 performance series.
13. GO: Backstreet Art District Art Walk, Dec. 5
14. GROOVE: Symphonic Springsteen, Dec. 6
15. GO: New Moon Vibrational Chakra Healing, Dec. 6
Ring in the new moon with a healing sound bath at the Ace Hotel & Swim Club in Palm Springs. The day’s tensions will melt away as a quartz-crystal singing bowl emits vibrational frequencies that resonate with energy points on the body. Best of all? The 45-minute session is free.
16. GROOVE: José Feliciano, Dec. 6
Lauded as one of the 20th century’s greatest guitarists, multiple Grammy winner José Feliciano is considered to be Latin music’s first crossover artist. Hear him play at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa in Rancho Mirage.
17. WATCH: Penn & Teller, Dec. 7
These legendary magicians known for offbeat showmanship with a dash of comedy hold the record as Las Vegas’ longest-running headliners. Witness their wizardry in an off-strip appearance at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa.
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY MCCALLUM THEATRE
18. GROOVE: Tony Bennett, Dec. 7
His music career spans more than six decades and 19 Grammy wins — including a Lifetime Achievement Award — and the 92-year-old powerhouse is still touring. He shares the stage with his daughter Antonia Bennett at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio.
19. WATCH: The Colors of Christmas, Dec. 7
This holiday season mainstay at the McCallum Theatre — featuring dynamic vocalists Peabo Bryson, Taylor Dayne, Jon Secada, and Deniece Williams — delivers a repertoire of festive music backed up by a hot 12-piece band and spectacular choir.
20. GROOVE: Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Dec. 7
Longtime friends and songwriters Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore have been filling canvases with music of the American West for decades, coming from two very different directions. The peculiar pair weave together Alvin’s rowdy roots rock and Gilmore’s lonesome warbles for a show Rolling Stone deemed “freewheeling and joyous.” Catch them at Pappy & Harriet’s.
21. GO: Holiday Kickoff With Santa, Dec. 7–8
Head to The Gardens on El Paseo outdoor shopping center the evening of Dec. 7 for holiday festivities and family fun, including Santa visits, on the central lawn. Mr. Claus sticks around for morning arts and crafts with the kids on Dec. 8.
22. WATCH: The Sound of Music, Dec. 7–23
Desert Theatre works presents a local production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic, featuring favorites like “Sixteen Going on Seventeen,” “Do-Re-Mi,” and “My Favorite Things,” at the Indio Performing Arts Center.
23. GROOVE: Grooves at The Westin, Dec. 8
Now in its eighth season at the four-star Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort & Spa in Rancho Mirage, the Grooves outdoor concert series blends the best of smooth jazz, pop, and rhythm and blues. Sway beneath the stars with a cup of hot cider as Michael Lington, Steve Oliver, and the L.A. Collective delight onstage.
24. WALK: Christmas Walk on El Paseo, Dec. 8
This festive neighborhood celebration brings carolers, food truck tastings, and atmospheric entertainers to the west end of Palm Desert’s ritzy shopping strip. Snap a selfie inside the giant snow globe and look out for tasty treats and pop-up activities at participating stores.
25. GO: Snow Fest, Dec. 8
Santa visits Cathedral City’s Civic Center Plaza for the annual tree lighting celebration, where local choirs will set the mood as you browse the outdoor crafts market, treat yourself to a little hot cocoa, and traipse through this snow-covered winter wonderland in the middle of the desert.
26. GROOVE: Human Nature, Dec. 8
With backup provided by the six-piece Jukebox All-Stars band and a troupe of dancers, Australian pop vocal group Human Nature takes audiences at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa on a journey through decades of music, melding genres and hits by everyone from The Temptations and Justin Timberlake to The Beatles and Bruno Mars.
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY AGUA CALIENTE CASINO RESORT SPA
27. WATCH: Baloney, Dec. 8
28. GROOVE: Postmodern Jukebox, Dec. 8
This musical collective, made famous on YouTube with its reimagined takes on mainstream hits, now comprises nearly 50 artists on rotation who lend their talents to founder Scott Bradlee’s creative shows. See them at the McCallum.
29. GROOVE: Gaby Moreno & The Holynighters, Dec. 8
Since moving to Los Angeles from her native Guatemala, singer-songwriter Gaby Moreno has earned an Emmy nom (she cowrote the title track for NBC’s Parks and Recreation), shared the stage with Bono and Andrea Boccelli, and found herself judging the prestigious John Lennon Songwriter Contest. She performs tracks from her latest album, Ilusión, at Pappy & Harriet’s.
30. GO: Santa Fly-In and Winter Fun Land, Dec. 8–9
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY MCCALLUM THEATRE
Rita Rudner, Dec. 9
Her charming stand-up act exudes an old Hollywood poise you didn’t realize you’ve been missing. See it at the McCallum.
32. GROOVE: Holiday Harmony Concert, Dec. 9, 12, 16
California Desert Chorale sings a selection of festive, toe-tapping tunes at the Indian Wells Theater at California State University, San Bernardino’s Palm Desert Campus. Get ready to feel the chills.
33. SEE: Depicting the Figure, Dec. 9–Feb. 24
This exhibition at Palm Springs Art Museum in Palm Desert explores how artists have represented the body across time, cultural contexts, and artistic movements. Admission to the museum’s Palm Desert location is always free.
34. GROOVE: Scott Wilkie’s Joy, Dec. 11
Best-selling contemporary jazz pianist Scott Wilkie gathered his favorite musicians to create the live-in-studio album Joy, featuring creative arrangements of holiday classics. He brings his Christmas show to Coachella Valley Repertory Theatre in Rancho Mirage.
35. GROOVE: Sounds of the Season Concert, Dec. 12
36. GROOVE: Canadian Brass: Christmas Time Is Here, Dec. 12
The globe-trotting “kings of brass” fête the feel-good season at McCallum Theatre.
37. GROOVE: Solstice Holiday Caroling, Dec. 12
The swanky Vicky’s of Santa Fe restaurant and lounge in Indian Wells presents a throwback supper-club series each year, November through March, in which Broadway-credited performers put on a fabulous show while you dine. Revel in a medley of classic carols.
38. GROOVE: The Soft Moon and Hide, Dec. 13
Oakland-based Luis Vasquez, aka The Soft Moon, crafts haunting, post-wave industrial tracks, while Chicago-born Hide melds electronics, samples, and dark vocals for a sound that is richly post-industrial. Both appear in a standing-room-only inside show at Pappy & Harriet’s.
39. LAUGH: Trevor Noah, Dec. 14
The Daily Show host Trevor Noah takes his stand-up tour to Pechanga Resort & Casino in Temecula, an hour and 45 minutes outside Palm Springs. Make a day of it and go wine tasting at area vineyards before hitting the casino for his show.
40. GROOVE: Celtic Woman— The Best of Christmas Tour, Dec. 14
The celestial voices of multiplatinum Irish group Celtic Woman, an all-female ensemble, enchant at the McCallum with songs from their sophomore holiday album, including “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” and “Silent Night.”
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY JILL FRITZO PUBLIC RELATIONS
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY AGUA CALIENTE CASINO RESORT SPA
41. WATCH: The Price Is Right Live, Dec. 14
“Come on down!” to Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa for your chance to participate in activities made famous on television’s longest-running game show in its live spinoff, with guest host Jerry Springer. To be eligible for audience selection, ticketholders must sign up at the contestant registration area near the venue box office three hours prior to showtime.
42. LAUGH: Gabriel Iglesias, Dec. 14
The self-deprecating funnyman is marking his 20th year in stand-up with a world tour and a Netflix deal contracting him for three projects — Mr. Iglesias, a multicam half-hour comedy series, and two stand-up specials. The first special is being taped during his current One Show Fits All world tour, which makes a stop at Morongo Casino Resort & Spa in Cabazon.
43. GROOVE: Men in Tights— A Holiday Spectacular, Dec. 14
Palm Springs Gay Men’s Chorus launches its 20th season with a fun performance at the Annenberg Theater that begins with music reminiscent of the Renaissance and culminates with twists on the traditional carols of present day.
44. LISTEN: The Marines’ Lost Squadron, Dec. 15
In this hourlong lecture at Palm Springs Air Museum, author Mark Carlson shares the story of Marine Fighter Squadron 422 (aka the Flying Buccaneers), a group of 24 young Americans who tragically experienced the worst accident in naval aviation history when a typhoon downed 22 of their 23 aircraft. To produce his 2017 book, The Marines’ Lost Squadron – The Odyssey of VMF-422, Carlson spent four years interviewing survivors of the squadron and studying Navy documents related to the event.
45. GROOVE: LeAnn Rimes, Dec. 15
On the heels of her Hallmark Channel debut in the recently released TV movie It’s Christmas, Eve, LeAnn Rimes heads to the McCallum for an evening of yuletide bravado onstage with Major League Baseball pitcher turned Americana songwriter Barry Zito.
46. GROOVE: Sara Petite Band and the Shadow Mountain Band, Dec. 15
San Diego–based singer Sara Petite’s robust blend of rock and bluegrass hints at her rural roots, growing up in a tulip-farming town in Washington — it’s a sound that has garnered comparisons to greats like Tammy Wynette and Tom Petty. The Shadow Mountain Band opens. At Pappy & Harriet’s.
47. GO: Star Party, Dec. 15
Observe the inky sky through telescopes with the Astronomical Society of the Desert at the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument Visitors Center in Palm Desert.
48. GROOVE: Paulina Rubio, Dec. 15
Few stars of the Latin pop world have reached a level of global success equivalent to the “Madonna Latina,” Paulina Rubio. Touring to promote her recently released 11th studio album, Deseo, she drops her dance-pop in the desert at Fantasy Springs in Indio.
49. GROOVE: A Very Barry Christmas! Dec. 15–16
50. LEARN: Electrolyte Etching, Dec. 15–16
Discover the modernized process of nontoxic etching, in which electric currents cause a chemical reaction resulting in unique works of art, with master printmaker Bernard Hoyes in this two-day ticketed workshop at the Palm Springs Art Museum.
Great Russian Nutcracker, Dec. 17
Moscow Ballet’s larger-than-life production of The Nutcracker fuses grand costumery with extravagant sets for a theatrical treat Broadway World called “breathtakingly inspiring.” See the spectacle at the McCallum.
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY MCCALLUM THEATRE
52. GROOVE: Dave Koz Christmas Tour, Dec. 18
53. WATCH: Rancho Mirage Writers Festival Film Club, Dec. 20
This free series held the third Thursday of every month, September through June, highlights films centering around D-Day as selected by Rancho Mirage Writers Festival founder Jamie Kabler and Peter Bart. On the docket this month: The Dirty Dozen, a 1967 film starring Lee Marvin.
54. GO: Full Moon Hike, Dec. 21
Hikers will meet up at the La Quinta Cove parking lot to traverse the trails by moonlight with Friends of the Desert Mountains. Reservations are required and dogs are not permitted on the trail.
55. GROOVE: The Brian Setzer Orchestra, Dec. 21
SiriusXM presents three-time Grammy Award winner Brian Setzer and his 19-piece orchestra at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino with a set list featuring music off their latest Christmas album, Rockin’ Rudolph.
56. WALK: Santa Paws 5K, Dec. 22
Meet at American Legion Palm Springs to participate in a festive 5K run and walk for pets and their parents benefiting local nonprofit Guide Dogs of the Desert.
57. GO: Full Moon Party, Dec. 22
58. GROOVE: The Solid Ray Woods Raw Soul Review, Dec. 26
Solid Ray Woods defies performative expectations as a singer-songwriter who sits behind the drum kit rather than a guitar. His rhythmic interpretations of gospel and soul music are no doubt influenced by his native Joshua Tree surroundings. Hear him at Pappy & Harriet’s.
59. GROOVE: Big Sandy and his Fly-Rite Boys, Dec. 27
Blending honky-tonk with doo-wop and rhythm and blues for three decades, Big Sandy and his Fly-Rite Boys have developed a unique brand of American music that has earned them induction into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. They play a set at Pappy & Harriet’s.
60. GROOVE: Grateful Shred, Dec. 28
L.A.’s premier Grateful Dead tribute band is back by popular demand at Pappy & Harriet’s; Mapache, a young cosmic Americana duo from Glendale, opens.
61. LISTEN: For Love of Life & Country, Dec. 29
Accidentally sent to Korea as a Marine Private without any combat training, Lt. Col. Dean Hunter went on to become one of the highest decorated officers for heroism in the U.S. Air Force. He shares his story in an afternoon lecture with flight exhibition at Palm Springs Air Museum.
62. GO: Mildly Wild New Year’s Eve Party, Dec. 31
Don your best 1950s sock-hop ensemble and ring in the New Year with a gourmet dinner and champagne toast amid the mildly wild grounds of Palm Desert’s sprawling Living Desert Zoo and Gardens.
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY JEROEN DEWALL/BCWK
63: GROOVE: Black Crystal Wolf Kids, Dec. 31
This indie-rock tribute band covers music by everyone from Hozier to the Black Keys to the Pixies. Expect an energetic, over-the-top, costumed performance and plan to sing along. It’s all happening at Pappy & Harriet’s in Pioneertown.
64. GO: Rockin’ ’80s New Year’s Eve Party, Dec. 31
Spa Resort Casino throws one of the biggest New Year’s bashes in the desert, beneath the stars in downtown Palm Springs. This year’s festivities include a concert of glam-metal covers by the original cast of Broadway’s musical Rock of Ages and pyrotechnics at midnight.