Transport to Coachella festival
April 5, 2012 7:13 AM   Subscribe

Staying in Palm Springs for Coachella next weekend. What's the best way to get to/from the festival?

A few of us are going to Coachella next weekend. Excitingly, this is as a result of my sister winning a radio competition on the other side of the world!

The radio show told us that the prize included shuttle passes to and from the festival each day. This is true, although it turns out the shuttle collection point is nearly 16 miles from the hotel they have booked us at. Can anyone help with the best way to get to and from the festival each day? We're staying at the Quality Inn and are considering:

1) Driving - we have a rental car. This seems easiest. However, only one of us is licenced to drive the car and as it's not me I feel bad nominating that person to be sober driver for the whole weekend. Would she miss out much if she couldn't drink? Do people drink at Coachella? I'm used to English festivals where people certainly get merry, but I know you Americans are more comfortable with sobriety.

2) Suggestion from the radio show: bus to the shuttle point each morning and taxi home in the evening. How much of a hassle is that? Are buses frequent? Are taxis easy to come by? Would taxis be very expensive?

3) A third way. Is there another shuttle service that would collect us from our hotel and drop us back there? That would be ideal.

Bonus question. What does one wear at Coachella? The responses to this question suggest long sleeved tops and trousers to protect from the dust and sun. But is everyone in sensible garb? I'd like to wear fun stuff but I don't want to look like a vain idiot, sunburnt and bemoaning the dusty remains of my favourite dresses.
posted by MrChuckles to Travel & Transportation around Palm Springs, CA (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I went to Coachella in 2004, which I'm now realizing is a disturbingly long time ago. However, we also stayed at that Quality Inn, and I drove to & from the venue both days. I did very little drinking, because you couldn't carry alcohol around the fields, you had to purchase and consume beer in these designated drinking pens, which were jam packed with people who were mostly just drinking their faces off and did not make for great company. I have no idea if they're still doing the alcohol pens, but that really kills the "hang out and get a nice buzz" vibe that I like to pursue at concerts/festivals.
posted by Banky_Edwards at 7:57 AM on April 5, 2012

I've only ever been to UK festivals (Reading, Glastonbury, Truck), and honestly I don't bother drinking much - it's expensive (they have a captive market), it dehydrates even more you when the weather is already hot, and you need to go to the toilet more meaning:
- Festival toilets. Yeah.
- You invariably need to go in the middle of your favourite band's set.
Plus Banky_Edwards's point above.

So my point is, drinking at festivals is overrated - it's worth asking the potential driver how they'd feel about not drinking much/at all weighed up against the benefits of being able to drive there.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 8:09 AM on April 5, 2012

Casual Googling suggests that they are indeed still doing the fenced-in alcohol sections, the majority of the festival site is alcohol-free. So, if even if your potential designated driver wanted to get a good, over-the-limit buzz on, he/she would have to do so in an enclosed area, which means drinking alone or dragging the whole group along.

The serious drinking/partying happens in the campground, or bars/hotel rooms after the show.
posted by Banky_Edwards at 8:25 AM on April 5, 2012

I might suggest looking at craigslist or reddit to try and find a carpool. You could sweeten the deal for them somehow, with offers of food or money.

As for alcohol, last time I went to Coachella it was about 108 degrees Fahrenheit and I didn't want to drink anything besides water.
posted by malhouse at 8:40 AM on April 5, 2012

To answer your bonus question:
Just assume you're going to get sunburnt. You can limit the severity and total area of the burn by covering up. I've lived my entire life in the desert, spent most of every day out in the sun and I still occasionally get a sunburn.

A lot of my family members have been to the festival over the years and they usually dress skimpily. They also get minor sunburns, but these are kids who are nearly always out in the sun and sport pretty deep tans. For someone from a less sunny clime to just suddenly spend an entire day (or more) in the sun would surely result in a very severe and painful burn that would likely result in missing the rest of the festival.

My advice: Get some light colored 100% cotton clothing as that will help with evaporative cooling in the low desert humidity. Personally, I live in an area where the heat can reach over 120 degrees and my typical outfit consists of long khaki pants, a cotton tee shirt and light blue chambray shirt with cotton socks/chukka boots on my feet and a ball cap on my head. I spend 6-8 hours outside per day and have learned that outfit does a good job of keeping me cool and protected from the sun.

Wearing long sleeves and long pants will definitely put you in the minority at Coachella. Even if you go that route, you'll still need to frequently apply sunblock to your face, neck and ears. Be sure to drink a lot more water that you think is necessary.

Have lots of fun and welcome to the desert.
posted by buggzzee23 at 9:14 AM on April 5, 2012

Almost everyone wears shorts and the younger people tend to wear even less. Every time I've been only my east coast friends wear long pants and it is a source of amusement to us.

Second the sunscreen advice and also a hat. Stay hydrated if you are going to be out there from the afternoon.

I would suggest driving over to the shuttle stops in Palm Springs and park in the streets nearby. As the others have mentioned, drinking is allowed only inside the pens. They had filling stations for water last year so it would be useful to take your own bottles rather than buy bottled water there.

Have fun and be safe.
posted by viramamunivar at 10:25 AM on April 5, 2012

A taxi for 16 miles would be rather expensive and they may not be easy to find; if you do choose that route have a couple phone numbers for local cab companies that you can call to arrange a pick-up.

If it were me I would probably drive rather than take a taxi/shuttle combo, especially since the shuttles have cut down on the traffic some.

You may be able to get more useful shuttle pass. The Palm Springs line picks up at Desert Fashion Plaza which is a little over two miles from your hotel. That shuttle line is sold out though they are bought and sold as people change plans (and because some people are stuck buying shuttle passes they don't need.)

The Coachella Message Board has a Passes sub-forum where you will find people offering to buy or sell shuttle passes (along with other festival passes.)

I agree with the suggestions of light, breathable clothing. I tend to wear shorts and sports jerseys, spend as much of the early afternoon hours in the shade and use a lot of sunblock.

The festival grounds are almost entirely grass so there is generally little dust... though it is still such that I feel better after rinsing my sinuses out with a neti pot at the end of the night.
posted by mountmccabe at 10:32 AM on April 5, 2012

This year they are only letting cars within a mile of the place if everyone in the car has a wristband. That plus the shuttles should make driving in more reasonable than it was a couple years ago.

Also to note on drinking --- it's a (well, 3) long day(s). As long as you're not getting hammered, you could get a nice buzz on for a while and still leave yourself a couple hours to sober up.

Sunscreen is probably more important than clothing, although it looks like this year it will be considerably cooler than some previous years (I've been there when it was 110+ F), so it'll be a little easier to cover up. Remember that it is the desert so it can get cold at night, and the show goes until (at least) midnight each night.

I will be wearing jeans and a T-shirt and bringing a light jacket for the evening, for example.
posted by wildcrdj at 11:28 AM on April 5, 2012

I stayed at the Quality Inn in Palm Springs last year and drove to Coachella. I've never taken the shuttle, so I have no point of comparison. Driving to and from is very straightforward. The process is just slow. It takes about 20 minutes to get to the parking lots from the Inn; 20-30 minutes to park; 15-20 minutes to walk to the festival ground. If you stay for the headliner, you could be stuck in the lot for an hour or more when you try to leave. Also, it can be more than a little confusing finding your car in the dark, so make sure you remember where it is.

As for what to wear--I wore sunglasses, sundresses, sandals, a hat, and a lot of sunscreen. If you're prone to sunburn, maybe bring a light scarf for your shoulders. Bring an empty water bottle to fill up, and a shawl or sweater to put on when it starts to get chilly at night. Your dresses will get dusty and sticky, so don't wear your best. Bring the ones that are comfortable and easy to wash. There are pockets of shade to rest in, and some air-conditioned tents in case you get too hot. You may want to drink beer but I found I didn't really need or want it; the happy festival vibe + intense warmth was plenty.

A note about coordinating with others: the numbers at Coachella can overwhelm the cell towers in the area. I had a half hour delay on some of my text messages and difficulty making calls. If you choose to split up, make sure you have a designated meet up spot.

Have fun! I didn't manage to get a ticket this year and I am SO disappointed.
posted by rhythm and booze at 11:35 AM on April 5, 2012

Oh yes, +100 on a meeting up spot. The grounds are large, there will be 75,000 people there, and cell service is not 100% reliable (it's a normally pretty unpopulated area, they do stuff to try and get everything covered well but it's definitely not perfect).

I'd allocate 1-1.5 hours for getting from Palm Springs to the actual show (including driving, parking, sitting in lines in your car, etc) depending on when you go, and similar to returning.

(Also, I tend not to go until late afternoon --- misses the early bands which could be awesome, but I almost never know them and this way I still have energy for the headliners. 6-8 hours a day is enough for me!)
posted by wildcrdj at 11:39 AM on April 5, 2012

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