The Ultimate Guide To A Weekend In Joshua Tree

Photo: Courtesy of Brad Landsill.
For years, people have escaped to the desert to relax, rejuvenate, and recalibrate. There’s something about the barren, otherworldly landscape that brings a sense of peace and solitude and, at the same time, provides endless opportunities for action and adventure.

No wonder Joshua Tree, a 140-mile drive east of Los Angeles, has attracted so many travelers lately. The area is full of awe-inspiring geological wonders but also offers art, shopping, and good food. If you’re looking for a “scene,” however, there is none — simply a community that’s refreshingly modest about its charms.

Ready to get out of town for the weekend? We’ve rounded up 10 must-sees to check off your list. Whether you want to explore Joshua Tree’s famous natural sights or simply disconnect from the hustle and bustle of the city, you’ll find something to do here. Expect sound baths, star-gazing sessions, and the kind of stillness unique to the high desert — it's enough to recharge you until your next visit.

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Photo: Courtesy of Natalie Sojka.
Where To Stay: Mojave Sands
Whether you seek convenience (this motel is mere miles from the Joshua Tree National Park entrance) or quirky comfort (each room comes with a private patio, an outdoor shower, and a vinyl-record player), Mojave Sands is the perfect low-key refuge away from the city. A communal courtyard and eating area invites guests to mingle, but the five-room property is small enough to feel incredibly private, too.

Mojave Sands, 62121 Twentynine Palms Highway (near Sunburst Street); 760-550-8063.
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Photo: Courtesy of Sara Tan.
Where To Stay: Hicksville Trailer Palace
This kitschy desert gem offers 11 themed trailers to stay in — such as Sweet, an homage to the swinging '70s, and the swankier Fifi. When you want to venture outside your trailer, the place has plenty of shared amenities, too, like a solar-heated saltwater pool (open for part of the year) and a rooftop hot tub, as well as fun activities like table tennis, an archery and BB-gun range, and mini golf.

Hicksville Trailer Palace; inquire for address.

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Photo: Courtesy of Brad Landsill.
Where To Stay: Acido Dorado
Robert Stone’s architectural experiment in Joshua Tree — a gilded structure with sliding doors, mirrored surfaces, and plenty of optical illusions — is a destination in and of itself. This minimalistic, glittering house in the desert, much of which can be opened entirely to the outdoors, is meant to challenge how you think about architecture, art, and style and allow you to truly reflect upon your surroundings. Availability is limited, but if you manage to book a stay, take the time to appreciate the place — it’s intended as an open gesture to a select few who truly value design.

Acido Dorado; inquire for directions.
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Photo: Courtesy of Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace.
Where To Eat: Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace
This saloon-nightclub-restaurant hybrid is a Joshua Tree institution, known both as a must-try barbecue spot (everything is cooked to order on an outdoor mesquite grill) and as an intimate concert venue, attracting bands and performers from all over the world.

Pappy & Harriet's Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road (near Curtis Road); 760-365-5956.
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Photo: Courtesy of 29 Palms Inn.
Where To Eat: The Restaurant at 29 Palms Inn
This restaurant, located inside 29 Palms Inn, features poolside dining and live music seven nights a week. You’ll enjoy deliciously fresh and simple fare — seafood, steaks, pastas, and salads — incorporating ingredients harvested from the on-site organic garden whenever possible. If you’re planning a hike the next day, place an order for the packed picnic lunch, which they’ll prepare for pickup as early as 7:15 a.m.

The Restaurant at 29 Palms Inn, 73950 Inn Avenue (near Cottonwood Drive); 760-367-3505.
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Photo: Courtesy of Tommy McAdams.
Where To Shop: Hoof & The Horn
Even if you did hightail it to Joshua Tree for a break from city life, you can’t say no to a little shopping, especially at this charming Yucca Valley boutique. Hoof & The Horn sells a mix of new and vintage clothing with a bohemian/Western-inspired/rock-'n'-roll slant. Sift through the eclectic collection of fringed bags, cowboy boots and moccasins, and stylish printed tunics — all perfectly suited for a dusty desert vacation.

Hoof & The Horn, 55840 Twentynine Palms Highway (near Deer Trail); 760-365-6100.
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Photo: Courtesy of Bkb Ceramics.
Where To Shop: Bkb Ceramics
This place, helmed by potter Brian Bosworth, sells beautifully hand-crafted and functional ceramics. The delicate planters, dishware, and other pieces sold in his shop give off a rustic yet modern vibe that’s very, well, Joshua Tree. Pick up a few for yourself, or gift them to a friend.

Bkb Ceramics, 61705 CA-62 (at Sunset Road); 760-821-3765.
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Photo: Courtesy of Steve Caron.
What To Do: Sky’s the Limit Observatory & Nature Center
If you want to enjoy the desert’s best perks, like fresh air and crystal-clear skies, try a star-gazing session at this nonprofit observatory. Hosted by knowledgeable volunteers, the free nighttime events give you the opportunity to view the breathtaking evening sky (there are several telescopes, but feel free to bring your own binoculars) and learn how to spot constellations, nebulas, and other celestial wonders. Just be sure to check the schedule ahead of time.

Sky’s the Limit Observatory & Nature Center, 9697 Utah Trail (near Hill View Road); 760-367-7222.

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Photo: Courtesy of Sara Everett/Desert Institute at Joshua Tree National Park.
What To Do: Joshua Tree National Park
Chances are you’re already planning on a hike in Joshua Tree National Park. One-up your itinerary with custom programs offered by the Desert Institute, including a how-to-survive-in-the-desert crash course, a day in the park with a naturalist, or a photography workshop, where a professional teaches you how to best capture the stunning landscape. Hey, you do it for the 'gram, right?

Joshua Tree National Park; click here for directions.
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Photo: Courtesy of Susan Haller/Noah Purifoy Foundation.
What To Do: Noah Purifoy’s Outdoor Desert Art Museum
This 10-acre outdoor space boasts artist Noah Purifoy’s assemblage sculptures, all created on-site over the course of many years. The gritty, dirt-road drive to access the museum is well worth it. Once you arrive, explore the area and view Purifoy’s various large-scale artworks and installations — crafted from metal, wood, even old bowling balls and tires — that are by turns political, whimsical, and surreal.

Noah Purifoy’s Outdoor Desert Art Museum, Blair Lane (near Center Avenue); 213-382-7516.
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Photo: Chris Pizzello/AP Photo.
What To Do: Integratron
This wooden dome in the desert is the brainchild of aeronautical engineer and ufologist George Van Tassel, who claimed the structure would be capable of time travel. Today, the place is open to the public and is better known for its sound baths — sonic healing sessions that tap into your body’s energy centers. You may scoff at the New Age-y concept, but trust us: The experience is unforgettable, giving you an hour of deep introspection and relaxation unlike anything you’ve felt before.

Integratron, 2477 Belfield Boulevard (near Linn Road); 760-364-3126.
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