Myth number one. You have to have time to travel.
Myth number two: You have to have a good sum of money.
Three, for charm’s sake. You have to go far to have a good time.
Our favorite Southern California escape is one shared by many others, Joshua Tree. This small quirky desert town is filled with a special kind of people and is a runaway hub for the creative, the climbers and the outside campers. Being high season + a holiday weekend, finding a place to stargaze was near impossible so we played it safe and found a spot to lay our heads just a rock’s skip north of JTree in Twenty Nine Palms. The other desert cities (says the sign directing you toward your desert bliss) are all in close proximity making exploring an easy navigation up and down the Twentynine Palms Highway.
We’re kicking off this Twenty-Four Hours To Travel•Log series with a Low Key Guide to Joshua Tree to get you outside the grind and help you explore more. So you’ve heard of this magical place called Joshua Tree but you still have never been. You only have one day to escape and a few bucks to spare? No stress. We’ve got you.
This low key guide is designed to help you explore with limited time while spending minimal bucks. Here’s our tips on where to eat, stay, play and get outside that will let you return to the daily with a little desert magic to spark your next adventure.
EAT + DRINK
This is a local’s favorite + a traveler’s dream come true. It has everything you’d want from a low key getaway. Amazing bites, live music and a semi-no fuss setup. Homely feels are not to be mistaken with low-quality anything. Everything here is legit. The house band is fire. Anything you put in your mouth is bound to satisfy.
Carnivores // The burger was given a thumbs up + the Ribs are for sharing and a local’s recommendation
Vegetarians // The Veggie burger was top 3 in my lifetime
Everyone // Margaritas (note the “s” = multiple rounds) + the mac and cheese for the table
Casual Motel feel without the grim, 9 Palms Inn is a place to stay when you want quick access to Joshua Tree National Park but you’re in the mood to have a hideaway to retreat to at the end of the day. Our room came out to $63 + some change and was equipped with 3 full-size beds, a hot, and glorious full pressure shower and a mini kitchen. I booked through Expedia and when I arrived was greeted with a smile, a receipt and a key to the room.
We rolled into town with one thing on the mind, art. I’ve been to Joshua Tree multiple times and had yet to explore much of the local art. Of all the Joshua Tree residents I’d met previously, a good majority of them were artists in some form or another. We popped into Joshua Tree Art Gallery, scoped out the exhibits by Barbara’s: Drucker and Spiller and got a tipoff from the gallerist at JTAG that a must see is Noah Purifoy off Blair Lane. Before we headed down the road to see the outdoor museum, we strolled around the corner to check out Gallery 62 and met my homie, Roland. This goth art conversationalist told us all about the ins and outs of what goth art is and why Joshua Tree 2nd Saturdays Downtown is the place to be for the full effect.
We waved bye to my new friend and headed off in search of the Noah Purifoy outdoor exhibit. This outdoor museum was created by Alabama native, LA/Joshua Tree transplant, Noah Purifoy. Preceding his death in 2004, he dedicated his time to the found object to use art as a tool for social change and initiated programs such as Artists in Social Institutions to bring art into the state prison system. In the late 1980s, Purifoy moved his practice out to the Mojave desert and lived the last 15 years of his life creating ten acres full of large-scale sculpture constructed entirely from junked materials.
This place was some kind of magic that you’ll have to go see with your own eyes as we respect the arts + the artist’s requests and left the picture taking for creating our own art within the space. If you only see one Joshua Tree art exhibit, let it be this one + drop a few bucks in the donation box to keep art alive.
Cholla Gardens: Important notice: SEE THIS AT SUNSET. SEE THIS AT SUNSET. SEE THIS AT SUNSET. Seriously, though. Plan your day so that you can be mingling with the Cholla’s as the sun drops low behind the mountaintops. It’s a whole field of these chubby falsely fuzzy plants that glow from the sun’s kisses. As we took a tally of what the favorites were of everyone from the trip, the time we spent in Joshua Tree National Park was top of the list.
Barker’s Dam was one of the most epic things I’ve ever seen. Not in the way people say “eeeepiccc” when they hear a really dope band. In the way that you feel when you realize that you’re literally in the middle of the desert and there’s an entire oasis that is in fact not a mirage. Due to all the rain we’ve been getting over the last weeks, this baby was full and beautiful and the perfect way to end our one-day desert getaway. The trek down the trail wasn’t much of a hike but definitely worth a morning stroll.
Pro tip from the locals: It’s already been said, but Pappy + Harriet’s is a non-negotiable must do. Kitchen’s cookin from 11am – 9:30pm. There’s live music every night, the doors are open and the place gets packed, especially when there’s a popular band playing, so making a reservation is key. The sign at the door speaks nothing but truths. Make sure to plan ahead, put your name down and grab a ‘rita while you wait. If you’re impromptu + feeling lucky as we were, make friends with a nice guy 10 names ahead of you who just so happens to snag a spot at the bar. Fist bumps to our momentary amigo. Thanks for letting us snag your stage side table + stuff our faces under the alias, Rucker. Next time you’re in San Diego, beers are on us.