When I first heard about Joshua Tree, I threw mad shade. I am not proud.
“It is just a place where people go to take Instagram selfies,” I said to a friend. “It will be so overcrowded and overpriced, and for what? To see everyone snap their Instagram photos?”
I get it. Joshua Tree is a magical, too beautiful for words, breathtaking place. I decided to erase any assumptions and expectations I had about Joshua Tree from my brain. While there is some truth to what I said, I am so glad I went and was proven wrong. I spent the night in an airstream and I wish I stayed longer. I could easily spend a week in Joshua Tree stargazing, bouldering, reading a book by the fire, or doing literally nothing. It is a place to rewind, reset, and find clarity. (And to meet some really awesome people. Travelers and locals alike!)
So what gives? Here are five reasons Joshua Tree is more than an instagram photo:
It is possible to do on a budget
You can find Airbnb’s for $500+ a night (yikes), campgrounds for $30-$50 a night, and air streams/RVs for as little as $80 a night. It all depends on what season you go. I went in March and split an Airbnb with a friend. We decided to stay in an airstream called The Land Yacht which is perfectly located nearby the park’s north entrance and far enough away from the main road to feel truly immersed in the desert. For one night it was $185 with cleaning and service fees, a bit pricey but it was worth it. Sasha, our host, really put so much love into this airstream. He had loads of books to get lost in, a cute lil fireplace, and plenty of cooking supplies to whip up a home-cooked meal. The photos don not do this property justice.
Here are a few additional places I would love to check out one day:
Live your wild west dreams and explore Pioneertown
You know all those Old Western films you watched growing up as a kid? They were filmed in Pioneertown! A group of Hollywood folks lead by actor Roy Rogers, aka “The King of Cowboys,” founded this Old West movie set in 1946 and decided to make it much more than that. Visitors can enjoy a dramatized gunfight, hike through the beautiful canyon trails, and enjoy a bite plus catch some live local music at Pappy & Harriet’s! Robert Plant and Paul McCartney have previously made guest appearances, and I have to say the local musicians I had the pleasure of hearing were a-fucking-mazing.
Gabriella Evaro completely stole the show with her new music and the bands that followed melted my soul. My friend and I jokingly said their music put us under a spell and we had no choice other than to join their coven in Joshua Tree forever. This is the show we went to. If you can catch Gabriella in town, I highly recommend going to see her. She is a straight up rockstar.
Those stars though…
Can I *actually* verbally paint the picture? Probably not. I come from a place where light pollution THRIVES (hi, NYC I am talking about you). I do not see stars. I do not even know when it is night time depending on where I am! NO JOKE. But here, in Joshua Tree, the stars are so strikingly beautiful, lighting up the sky and will most def bring tears to your eyes. I love closing my eyes for one minute, so when I open them and look up at the stars they are even brighter. You will feel so connected to the universe, seeing all the beauty there is that mother nature has gifted us. The desert animals also come out at night. I was woken up by a mama coyote howling with her cute little coyote pups. So surreal for a city dweller like me.
Antique and thrift your heart out
A friend and I walked by a place that had trailer shops and outdoor antique garden. Unfortunately, it was raining, so we decided if we had enough time the next day we would stop by. After all, we did not go to Joshua Tree for shopping. Pfffft. Sadly the Beauty Bubble Salon and Museum we wanted to check out the next day was closed, so we decided to pop into the vintage store next door which is serendipitously attached to the outdoor trailer shops!
Even though neither of us bought anything, antiquing is quite literally treasure hunting. We found Elvis posters, vintage typewriters, trendy cowboy boots, and beautiful 70s floral dresses. The shop is called Ricochet Vintage Wears and I shared such a lovely moment with the coolest, weirdest woman working the register. She complimented my jacket I bought from San Sebastian last summer, which opened up a conversation about art, raising kids, and surrendering to the creative guide within you. Which leads me to…
Find the creative within you
Joshua Tree is the place for this if you let it be. Put your phone away, unplug any distractions, and give yourself even just 30 minutes of quiet time. Whether it is taking a walk, sitting by the fire and writing three pages of gibberish (this is what I did), or reading a book. Once I got my creative side flowing I wrote so many little poems. I have not written poetry in AGES. I told this to the woman at Ricochet Vintage Wears. She said:
“There comes a point in the creative process where it is not you creating any more. Something within you takes over. Like a higher power. Once I take a step back and look at what I created, it feels so surreal- I created this? But how? You do not even realize what you are creating in the process because you have finally surrendered.”
She reminded me how important it is to take time for yourself to create. Not just when you go on vacation in Joshua Tree, but daily.
Immerse yourself in the community
Joshua Tree is a weird, funky place filled with colorful people that LOVE their town and what it has to offer. Invest in the locals. It is what keeps Joshua Tree thriving and jiving. Here are some options:
There are so many local artists, which you can see here. My new favorite museum is the Noah Purifoy Outdoor Desert Art Museum which is totally free (but donate what you can in their donation bin!). I got to meet a local who runs the museum on her own since Noah Purifoy’s death in 2004. She was watering plants around the art with her dog and told me how much she adores Noah’s art work, and that she has been working with him for 22 years. I have to say, I fell in love with his art work that day, too. His story reflects so much in his artwork.
Another museum I did not have the chance to check out is Bob’s Crystal Cave, which looks like a world of its own. Apparently it is close to impossible to find and experience but it makes for a adventurous journey. If you are lucky, you can meditate in the cave surrounded by a colorful array of crystals.
I’m vegetarian, and surprisingly Joshua Tree had plenty of options for me! I ate at Crossroads Cafe, which had the best vegan tacos of life. Another spot I wanted to check out is Natural Sister’s Cafe, which also has some great veg options.
Lastly, go to Joshua Tree National Park (it’s open 24/7!) and make sure you read up on safety tips and rules. Keep the wildlife WILD, pick up any trash (yes, even if it is not yours), and stay hydrated. My favorite part? No cell service 😉
So, I get it. Instagram away! But, do take time to unplug, admire Joshua Tree in all its’ beauty, and support local businesses. See what happens when you put your phone down. You will get more out of it than a bunch of likes on Instagram. TRUST.