The Street Fair at College of the Desert takes place on Saturdays and Sundays.
PHOTOGRAPH BY CHRISTINA FRARY

Fresh air and mountain surrounds transform what can be a dreaded task into an enriching experience. What better way to shop than to enjoy the casual cheer found at the open-air markets that dot the Coachella Valley? With so many alfresco gatherings to choose from, here’s a sampling of the area’s best outdoor shopping opportunities that run the gamut from taking care of your weekly fresh produce needs to more ambitious treasure hunting.

Palm Springs Vintage Market

The Palm Springs Vintage Market infuses a special energy into the city’s offerings on the first Sunday of the month, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., October through May. In February, an extra date coincides with Modernism Week. “We get a lot of great dealers that come from as far as Las Vegas, Arizona, and from all over the West Coast,” promoter Mindy King says of the midcentury-modern-focused marketplace. King curates a well-rounded mix so that no one particular category dominates among the approximately 150 vendors. “The market is manageable enough that people can circle and sus out what they want to buy,” King notes, “and hopefully, when they go back, it’s not sold.”

Palm Springs vintage market

Retro baubles at the Palm Springs Vintage Market.
PHOTOGRAPH BY ANNA KULA

The Street Fair at College of the Desert

You’ll probably find every item on your shopping list and then some at The Street Fair at College of the Desert, now celebrating its 39th season. The Palm Desert event takes place Saturdays and Sundays, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., October through May. (Hours are reduced in June and September, and the street fair goes on break in July and August.) A shuttle service provides transport from campus parking lots. A portion of proceeds from booth rentals supports College of the Desert students, with over $14 million having been raised by the Alumni Association over the decades. It always feels good to shop for a cause.

Desert Mountains Art Faire

Get a window into the world of local artists and makers when they showcase their wares at the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument Visitor Center during the Desert Mountains Air Faire on the first Saturday of the month, November through April, from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. While strolling among this creative crowd and browsing fine ceramics, photography, paintings, and other objets d’art, you’ll also discover information about the Friends of the Desert Mountains’ conservation, education, outreach, and advocacy efforts. The nonprofit cares for the national monument, which sprawls across 60,000 acres of hiking trails, wildlands, and fragile ecological zones.

Coachella Valley Certified Farmers Markets

Fresh eggs and asparagus from the Palm Desert Certified Farmers Market.
PHOTOGRAPH BY CHRISTINA FRARY

Certified Farmers Markets

If chefs from local favorites such as Workshop Kitchen + Bar and F10 Creative are shopping at the Certified Farmers Markets in Palm Springs and Palm Desert, you know you’re in the right place for the best organically and sustainably grown produce. Since Palm Springs launched in 2008, followed by Palm Desert in 2009, “we have a lot more vendors than ever before,” says program director Lauren Wolfer of the participating family-operated farms that come from within an approximately 100-mile radius. You’ll find non-food items like small-batch natural skincare and candles, too. The markets take place in Palm Springs on Saturdays (October through May) and in Palm Desert on Sundays (October through April), both from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Operated separately from the markets in Palm Springs and Palm Desert, there are additional Certified Farmers Markets in Indian Wells (Thursdays, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.); Rancho Mirage (Fridays, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.); Old Town La Quinta (Sundays, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.); and Indio (Sundays, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.) that from October through May serve fresh produce, farm-raised meats, line-caught seafood, gourmet treats, and artisan wares.

VillageFest

Downtown Palm Springs is the place to be on Thursday nights, when the strip becomes a pedestrian-only zone dedicated to shopping, dining, and socializing. “VillageFest is one of the longest running weekly street festivals in Southern California,” says city special events manager Jasmine Waits, of the gathering that’s been active for more than three decades. The event happens year-round, with reduced hours during the summer months. A dynamic assortment of everything from handmade greeting cards to jewelry couples with local food vendors and live music for a delicious and always vibrant evening.