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60 Things to Do in the Desert in December

Photography team Anthony-Masterson tell stories through portraits, Palm Springs hosts valley's largest Christmas parade, and Acrisure Arena opens its doors.

Amelia Rodriguez Attractions, Current Guide

thomboy properties

Jackie Thomas and Dee Ann McCoy, owners of ThomBoy Properties, pose for the Portrait Project in their backyard in Palm Springs.

Palm Springs Portrait Project
Opening Reception: Dec. 8

When husband-and-wife photography team Owen Masterson and Christine Anthony set out to capture the essence of Palm Springs, they began with their friends.

The couple moved from Atlanta to the Coachella Valley in 2019. With more than two decades of shooting, styling, and filmmaking under their belts, they quickly fell in with a vibrant local crowd of creatives and entrepreneurs.

“We were really taken with their … sense of style, their homes,” Anthony explains. “We thought, ‘We need to document this.’ ”

Anthony-Masterson Photography began crafting environmental portraits of the area’s most colorful characters, shooting them in their homes, dressed for an evening out (“which, in Palm Springs,” Anthony says, “could mean any number of things”).

Photographers Christine Anthony (seated) and Owen Masterson.

After photographing the folks they knew, Anthony-Masterson Photography branched out, chronicling everyone from friends of friends to complete strangers. They had one requirement for inclusion: Be interesting.

“We have very few blank canvases that we shoot,” Anthony emphasizes. “We make sure that the people we choose have things to look at in their home that give clues as to who they are.”

Attend the exhibition’s opening reception of Anthony-Masterson Photography at Melissa Morgan Fine Art in Palm Desert to study each photo’s rich details at a larger scale, meet the artists, and even mingle with some of their subjects.

José Sarria Pop-Up Museum: Through Dec. 14

Palm Springs’ Welwood Murray Memorial Library celebrates the 100th birthday of the late drag queen and activist José Sarria with documentary screenings and an exhibition.

WildLights: Through Dec. 30

The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in Palm Desert twinkles by night with holiday light displays. Grab a hot chocolate and snap a photo with Santa.

Greg Adams & East Bay Soul Holiday Show: Dec. 1

Two-time Grammy-nominated trumpet and flugelhorn player Greg Adams brings his smooth jazz skills to Agua Caliente Casino Palm Springs.

8½ Screening : Dec. 2

Palm Springs Cultural Center screens Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini’s surrealist dramedy 8½ as part of its Fellini Retrospective series.

Celtic Woman: Dec. 2

Head to Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio to hear an array of Christmas classics by the all-female Irish musical ensemble.

Holiday Banner Ceremony: Dec. 2

Students enter sketches in the hope of being featured on banners lining Palm Canyon Drive each December. Fifty winners gather at Main Street Palm Springs for an awards ceremony and Christmas tree lighting.


Manhattan Steamroller

Mannheim Steamroller Christmas: Dec. 2–3

Mannheim Steamroller performs electronic-influenced takes on Christmas classics like “Deck the Halls” at the McCallum Theatre in Palm Desert.

The Price Is 
Right Live: Dec. 3

Fans of the United States’ longest-running game show have the chance to play Plinko, the Big Wheel, and more beloved games for prizes at Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa Rancho Mirage.

Festival of 
Lights Parade: Dec. 3

More than 100,000 revelers gather in downtown Palm Springs for this annual procession of holiday-themed floats, marching bands, and characters including Snoopy and his pals.

Palm Springs Opera Guild Competition: Dec. 3

Opera phenoms belt and battle it out for scholarships and opportunities to perform professionally in this annual contest at the Coachella Valley Repertory in Cathedral City. palmsprings

Desert Mountains 
Art Fair: Dec. 3

Discover photos, paintings, pottery, and more in this monthly gathering at the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument Visitor Center.

Indio International Tamale Festival: Dec. 3–4

Downtown Indio hosts its 30th tamale festival, featuring a roller disco, fair rides, performances by local musicians and dancers, and, of course, all kinds of tasty tamales.

The Brahms 
I Love: Dec. 4

Pianist Jeffrey Siegel plays his way through Johannes Brahms’ waltzes and rhapsodies while dispensing tales from the German composer’s life.

Ironman 70.3 Indian Wells–
La Quinta: Dec. 4

Calling all triple-threat athletes. With the Indian Wells Tennis Garden as home base, this official Ironman race sends competitors swimming, biking, and running across the Coachella Valley — then toasts winners with tasty non-alcoholic beer after the event.

Men of the Desert 
Fashion Show: Dec. 4

Gentlemen sashay down the runway at Palm Springs Air Museum accompanied by sweet adoptable dogs to raise funds for Animal Samaritans.

Palm Springs Vintage Market: Dec. 4

From worn-in band tees to mid-mod TV stands, retro finds are yours to discover at this monthly market at Palm Springs Cultural Center. palmspringsvintage

Nature Walk at Blixseth Park: Dec. 7 & 21

This half-mile, docent-led stroll welcomes walkers (and their pups) to learn about the native flora and fauna of the desert at Blixseth Park in Rancho Mirage.

Paul McDonald Li’l Big Band: Dec. 8

Vocalists Jay Jackson and Hope Diamond join Paul McDonald’s 10-piece band at Agua Caliente Casino Palm Springs for soulful songs with holiday spirit.

Thunder From Down Under: Dec. 9

Say g’day to Australia’s hottest hunks. This male revue’s chiseled charmers delight audience members at Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa Rancho Mirage with interactive dance routines.

The Storm Large Holiday Ordeal: Dec. 9

Pink Martini vocalist Storm Large nearly quit music in 2002, but she picked up the mic again at the urging of friends in Portland. See the feisty cabaret artist at the McCallum.

Young Einstein: Dec. 9

This all-vinyl DJ set at the Ace Hotel & Swim Club in Palm Springs finds influence in Young Einstein’s love of funk, hip hop, and soul.

CluedUpp: Alice in Wonderland: Dec. 10

Chase curious clues across a topsy-turvy version of Indio in this virtual game inspired by Alice in Wonderland. Grab a few of your favorite people to play, navigating the city with a smart phone app.

Cheap Trick: Dec. 10

The fervor that rock band Cheap Trick caused in Japan in 1978 has been compared 
to Beatlemania. The 
“I Want You to Want Me” singers perform at Fantasy Springs in Indio.

Light Up for Love Community Candlelight Vigil: Dec. 10

Local nonprofit Ronnie’s House for Hope stands by its mission to provide free grief support for community members with this evening of remembrance at Palm Desert Civic Center Park.

Margaritaville Run: Dec. 10

Sprint or stroll toward the finish line in this charity 5K at Margaritaville Resort Palm Springs, where you’ll find Jimmy Buffet–themed swag and a post-run concert.

Yoga With 
a Ranger: Dec. 10 & 17

A Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument ranger leads a beginner-friendly flow filled with tree- and animal-inspired poses at the visitor center.

Alton Brown Live: Dec. 12

TV’s Alton Brown transforms the McCallum Theatre in Palm Desert into a new kind of Cutthroat Kitchen with his live show featuring comedy, cooking demos, and wacky experiments with audience participation.


Dave Chappelle (above) and Chris Rock open up Acrisure Arena on Dec. 14.

Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle: Dec. 14

The pair of comedy legends performs in the round at the brand-new Acrisure Arena in Thousand Palms. With the stage at the center, there won’t be a bad seat in the house.

Delia Ephron: Dec. 14

Delia Ephron (who co-wrote You’ve Got Mail with her sister Nora) stops by the Rancho Mirage Library to share tales from Left on Tenth: A Second Chance at Life, her moving memoir about battling cancer in the midst of new love.

The Doobie Brothers: Dec. 15

On the heels of their 50th anniversary tour, the four-time Grammy winners (who just reunited after 25 years) tear up the stage at Acrisure Arena in Thousand Palms.

Joie de Vivre Cabaret: Dec. 15

This lively cabaret show at Agua Caliente Casino Palm Springs features more than music — burlesque beauty Miss Magnolia and tap dancer Christopher A. Scott join Chloé Perrier and other marvelous jazz players onstage.

Balearic Beat: Dec. 16

Chicago record label Numero Group aims to uncover underappreciated albums and musical ephemera. They share groovy tunes from Spain’s Balearic Islands at the Ace Hotel & Swim Club in Palm Springs.

Bruce in the USA: Dec. 17

This McCallum Theatre concert honors The Boss and his iconic E Street Band with note-for-note renditions of the Jersey-born artist’s greatest hits, including oft-misunderstood political powerhouse “Born in the U.S.A.”

Gladys Knight: Dec. 17

The “Midnight Train to Georgia” singer, who first performed on TV at age 8 and went on to garner fame as the frontwoman of The Pips, brings her signature Empress of Soul sound to Yuletide favorites at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio.

Star Party at 
the Monument: Dec. 17

The International Space Station may not be accepting tourists just yet, but you can explore the skies Earthside thanks to the binoculars and telescopes of the Astronomical Society of the Desert. Count constellations at the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument Visitor Center.

Coachella Valley Firebirds 
Home Opener: Dec. 18

After playing four games in the Seattle area and 16 on the road, the Firebirds hockey team makes its debut on home ice at Acrisure Arena in Thousand Palms.


Merri-achi Christimas performs Dec. 18 at McCallum Theatre.

Merri-achi Christmas: Dec. 18

Mariachi Sol de Mexico, led by fifth-generation mariachi musician José Hernàndez, appears at the McCallum Theatre in Palm Desert for an evening of holiday tunes and traditional dances.

Dave Koz & Friends: Dec. 19

Dave Koz began as a rock saxophonist before sliding into the smooth jazz world in 1989. He takes to the McCallum stage alongside special guest musicians Rick Braun, Peter White, Keiko Matsui, and Rebecca Jade for his 25th anniversary Christmas tour.

Phat Cat Swinger: Dec. 22

If you keep up with Christina Aguilera or the Jonas Brothers, you might recognize Los Angeles’ Phat Cat Swinger from their music videos. The suited, retro-style jazz band plays a holiday show at Agua Caliente Casino Palm Springs.

Brian Swartz: Dec. 29

Trumpeter and composer Brian Swartz brings his jazz quartet and their fresh takes on standards by Louis Armstrong, Chet Baker, and other legends to Agua Caliente Casino Palm Springs.

Stronghold Reggae: Dec. 30

Coachella Valley–based DJ Journee cut his teeth in San Francisco’s Y2K underground music scene. Joined by DJ Tone, Dash Eye, and other guests, he spins roots, reggae, and Afrobeats at the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs.

Maroon 5: Dec. 31

Show off your own “Moves Like Jagger” at Acrisure Arena in Thousand Palms with rockers Maroon 5, led by frontman Adam Levine.

Do Not 
Remove Label: Dec. 2–4, 9–11

Desert Ensemble Theatre in Palm Springs presents the world premiere of Jerome Elliot Moskowitz’s holiday play, which centers around mother and son Tammy and Tommy as they face an ill-timed visit from the FBI during Hanukkah. desertensemble

Palm Springs Getaway: Dec. 2–18

It’s always sunny in Palm Springs! Local actors portray beloved icons and celebrities from the city’s history in this high-energy musical at Palm Canyon Theatre in Palm Springs.

All Is Calm: The Christmas 
Truce of 1914: Dec. 6

This musical at the McCallum Theatre in Palm Desert draws on snippets of real-life diary entries, documents, and letters to capture the World War I Christmas when Allied and German forces put fighting on hold to celebrate together.

Fun Home: Dec. 6–18

Coachella Valley Repertory puts on Lisa Kron’s theatrical adaptation of an autobiographical graphic novel by 
Alison Bechdel. The Tony winner is the first Broadway musical with a lesbian protagonist.

White Christmas: Dec. 9–23

A song-and-dance duo follow a pair of singing sisters to snowy Vermont in this romantic musical version of the 1954 classic film. Hum along at Desert TheatreWorks in Indio.

art exhibitions
Ben Steele: Through Dec. 9

Everyday objects meld with the fantastical worlds of films like The Wizard of Oz in Ben Steele’s exhibition at Coda Gallery in Palm Desert.

Gonzo Mundane: Through Dec. 18

Check out Matt Wesson’s 
knack for capturing the strangeness and charm of life in photos at 
Compound Yucca Valley.

Beyond Van Gogh: Through Dec. 27

Step inside 300 famous Van Gogh artworks at this immersive exhibition in Indio that projects the artist’s paintings on the walls and floor.

Boxo10x10: Through Dec. 31

High Desert arts initiative BoxoPROJECTS celebrates its residency program’s 10th year with an exhibition of 10 artists’ work.

Outburst Projects: Through Jan. 29

Five artists draw upon their cultural histories to create evocative pieces, from woven artwork to cyborg-like sculpted monsters, as part of this residency program at Palm Springs Art Museum.

Light + Change: Through May 21

Palm Desert resident Phillip K. Smith III fills four galleries at Palm Springs Art Museum with installations inspired by the desert’s unique quality of light.

A Place at the Table: Through June 4

View the formal table settings that the Annenbergs set out to entertain presidents and royals at Sunnylands Center & Gardens.

American Framing: Through July 2

The Architecture and Design Center in Palm Springs brings attention to the subtle architectural genius of wood framing through models, photos, furniture, and a full-scale structure.

Holiday Squares 
Pop-Up Store: Dec. 1–23

Shop for every art lover on your list at the Artists Center at The Galen in Palm Desert, where the Artists Council vends 8-inch canvases, ceramics, and other gifts.

Mandy Main & 
Karin Harris: Dec. 2–4

Landscape painter Mandy Main and Karin Harris, whose paintings zoom in on delicate flora, exhibit their work at Desert Art Center in Palm Springs.

David Dornan: Dec. 2–16

Stop by Coda Gallery in Palm Desert to browse David Dornan’s photorealistic paintings of flowers, oilcans, and other subjects, which take on new depth under his observant eye.

Petra Cortright: Through March 26

The Santa Barbara–born artist known for self-portrait videos composes “paintings” with internet imagery in this exhibition at Palm Springs Art Museum.

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