Where to stay, what to do, where to party
It’s my favorite time of year again — the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival! I’m not the only one with a metaphorical hard-on for this superfestival in Indio, California, either: it’s become so popular in recent years that the concert promoter Goldenvoice have added an extra weekend with the exact same lineup. While it remains to be seen whether or not this extra weekend will be lame or not, I have high hopes. There’s music, there’s fun parties, there are boys wearing Ray Bans and cut-off shorts. It’s bliss! So what are you waiting for? Get prepared…and read on for your comprehensive guide to making the most of your time at Coachella, ‘ella, ‘ella….
WHERE TO STAY
Though the festival is in Indio, if you plan on staying at a hotel your best bet is to pick a place in the neighboring town of Palm Springs.
The Ace Hotel is the hottest spot to stay if you like to be where the action is. In addition to having a great, celebrity-friendly pool area, the hip Ace also hosts a slew of Coachella-related events.
701 East Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs (760.325.9900)
Try out the newly renovated Saguaro for a candy-coated hotel experience. It’s certainly pleasing to look at, close to the festival and there’s even a tequila bar on premises. What more can you ask for?
1800 East Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs (760.822.1075)
If you want to embrace the Coachella spirit, you’ll get a massive group of friends together and rent a house. This might be a more economical option depending on how many people you have in your party since you’re not going to be sleeping much anyway!
If you’re a fan of the great outdoors, you might even want to consider camping. For an additional fee, the festival sells camping passes so you can set up camp right on the grounds of the Empire Polo Club. Granted, if you’re a celebrity and feel like paying $5,000+, you can get your own luxury tent set up on the grounds, and a personal driver to cart you from stage to stage. But if you’re not, a plain old camping pass should suffice.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU NEED A BREAK FROM THE FESTIVAL
- Pick a party. Though the die-hard music lovers among you wouldn’t dream of leaving the festival, there are a slew of events to keep those looking for a little diversity occupied. The best event of all is Armani Exchange and T-Mobile’s neon carnival, a bacchanalia of music, games, carnival rides, neon lights and, of course, celebrities. Past attendees have included Rihanna, Usher, Gossip Girl’s Penn Badgley and Glee star Mark Salling.
- Soak up the sun. Take a hike, ride a bike or lounge poolside. Both Palm Springs and Indio have 350 days of sunshine a year, and, though it can be hot, the warm weather is a thing of beauty.
- Get adventurous. For the thrill-seekers among you, Skydive Perris is just an hour away. You’ll return to the festival more amped than ever… and you’ll have a great survival story to share.
SHOULD YOU GO VIP?
At more than double the cost of general admission for a three day pass ($665 vs. $285), VIP access doesn’t get you a heck of a lot. True, you’ll get a respite from the somewhat oppressive heat, access to better bars and less-crowded restrooms, but for the hefty sticker price you’re better off buying a general pass.
HELPFUL COACHELLA TIPS
- Pick one wingman. It’s notoriously difficult to keep big groups together, and you’ll feel completely lost if you don’t at least have one friend who refuses to leave your side.
- Time stamp your text messages. Because there are so many people gathered in one area, you may not get your texts for hours. It’s a good idea to include the time if you’ve asked a group of friends to meet you somewhere so they’re not sitting in one spot waiting for your arrival.
- Plan your itinerary. Though artist set times are staggered, there’s a lot of overlap with two stages and three tents. Inevitably, you’re going to wind up missing someone you really want to see if you don’t plan accordingly.
- Bring a change of clothing. If you have to hop straight from the festival to a late-night gathering without a shower, you’re going to want to feel – and look – as fresh as possible.
WHAT TO BRING
- Sunscreen. With the blistering temperatures and the lack of shade (unless you’re VIP, that is), you don’t want to turn into a rock lobster on your first day of the festival. Be smart and use a high SPF. You’ll still get tan – trust me.
- A hat. In addition to looking cool, you’ll avoid frying the top of your head, or ruining your highlights.
- Cash. There are things to buy, drinks to be had and expensive food to be consumed. Credit cards aren’t always an option, and if you happen to lose your sole piece of plastic, you’ll be in a world of trouble.
- A water bottle. Though the festival folks may not let you in with your own, you can buy a Nalgene bottle on premises that you can refill all weekend. Your wallet will thank you.
- Your ID. If you plan on drinking, this is the last thing you want to forget.
WHAT TO WEAR
In recent years, Coachella has turned into a stomping ground of celebrity style. That said, you want to make sure that your ensembles are functional as well as fashionable, given that you’ll be outside for at least ten hours a day.
- A bikini. Yes, you probably will be taking off your top at some point, and the more fashionable you look doing so, the more A-list attention you’ll attract. Try a bohemian fringed suit from L*Space swimwear.
- Boots. Fact: your feet will get dirty – and trod upon – should you wear sandals. If you’re a woman, sneakers just aren’t fashionable. Opt for a pair of cool ankle boots to avoid grimy feet and still maintain a semblance of chic.
- A big, kitchen-sink style handbag. In lieu of a backpack, grab a big bag to hold everything you’ll need for the day – including a change of clothing.
- Sunglasses. Avoid wrinkles/squinting with a pair of square Wayfarer-style sunnies from the likes of Gucci or Ray-Ban.
- Flair. Whether you’re wearing a gypsy scarf, a statement necklace or a cool cuff (like an evil eye design from Alef Bet) you want to make sure you stand out.
- Cut-off shorts. Coachella is definitely one place you can bust your old Daisy Dukes out of hiding without shame.
- A cool dress. Any style goes, but the cutout dress is the hottest commodity for 2012. Rachel Pally makes wonderful maxi dresses that are revealing in all the right places.