Joshua Tree, California

One of my long-time bucket list items has been to see Joshua Tree Park. My motto lately has been to just do the things you’ve always wanted to do because no one is going to invite you to fulfill your dreams.

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I was out in Santa Monica for work and decided to extend my stay for the weekend with my friend Michelle who is just as much as a travel bug as I am. Match made in heaven!

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She generously agreed to a road trip from LA to Joshua Tree and helped with a huge part of the planning. Every single thing we did together was memorable and it truly was the perfect two day getaway in the desert. So, if you’re in need of a detox or break, this trip is for you!

Transportation

You’ll most definitely want to rent a car because it’s the best way to have the most amount of freedom and see everything you’ll want to at your own pace. Joshua Tree is a little over 2 hours from Los Angeles depending on the time of day you leave. I am a big fan of using Turo and have twice during LA stays.

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Things to Do

  • Crochet Museum: This is a super unique art installation in the back side of stores on the main strip of town. It’s a tiny little room filled with crocheted pieces. You have to see it with your own eyes to get it.

  • Noah Purifoy Outdoor Desert Art Museum: This is an outdoor art installation in the middle of the desert that’s roughly 20 minutes from main street. Joshua Tree town has tons of art installations and if they taught me one thing, it’s that the local artists can take anything and make it cool. I got to see my first wild jack rabbit speeding through the museum too!

  • Sky Village Outdoor Marketplace: If you enjoy vintage and thrifting, this is something you don’t want to miss! Coming from New York where vintage shopping can be more expensive than shopping at regular stores, I was excited to be in a place where I could get cool pieces for an affordable price. This Marketplace is a big plot of land that has dozens of vendors on Saturday & Sunday who have cool pieces they’ve thrifted during the week. You can find the classic VCR tapes you watched as a kid, tea sets, vinyl tapes bigger pieces of furniture, clothing, houseware, books, and so much more.

  • Vintage Stores: There’s a ton of vintage and thrift stores on the main strip in Joshua Tree. Some are more expensive than others, but you’ll be able to find some really cool Western pieces. A few places we stopped at were The End, Ricochet Vintage Store, Moss & Ginger, Totally Blown, and Hoof & The Horn.

Joshua Tree Park

It costs $30 to drive through the park during normal business hours. It’s nice to donate and contribute to the National Parks because there are rangers that work to keep the area clean and safe. Coming from over-crowded New York, driving through the open park was a reminder at how much space there is and how important it is to protect these sacred places.

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Be sure to stop by the Visitor’s Center to get a map and a ranger will help draw out the course you should drive depending on what you want to see. There’s no cell phone service so you’ll want to map out the directions before heading in.

Everything was stunningly beautiful and every curve and bend Michelle and I were oo’ing and aah’ing. Be sure to take your time driving through. It’s a time to actually slow down and take in the sights.

One of our favorite spots in the park was the Cholla Cactus Garden. It’s a super unique part of the park where the trees look fluffy. It’s a little out of the way on the normal drive, but well worth the time!

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Accommodations

There are so many cool and unique AirBnBs in this part of California, whether you want to stay in a vintage looking Airstream, glamp, or an all-glass house. If you’re up for a different kind of accommodation, browse AirBnB. Use this link and save on your first AirBnB booking.

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Michelle found one of the coolest places I’ve ever stayed in during her research and it’s called Pioneertown Motel. It’s the site where many old Western movies were filmed. The staff has taken such incredible care of the grounds and completely renovated the rooms. While it’s a motel, it’s not your typical Motel 6. It’s decked out in wooden details, cowhide rugs, Southwest style blankets, and I can’t forget the beautifully designed bathroom. The air conditioning worked super well and the shower was hot. We loved laying in the hammocks at night and watching the stars. It was magical how bright the stars were because of the lack of light pollution. The whole experience is truly magical.

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PLUS…you must stay here at least one night during your time in Joshua Tree Park because it’s directly behind the famous restaurant and live music venue called Pappy & Harriet’s.

Food

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  • Pappy & Harriet’s: One of the most famous restaurant and live music venues in Joshua Tree Park. Famous musicians have graced the stage (even Paul McCartney!). We totally lucked out that we were staying at Pioneertown Motel our one and only night because we could walk to the restaurant, enjoy a few drinks, eat a delicious dinner, and listen to live music. On certain nights P&H has concerts which you must buy a ticket to, but if you’d rather just enjoy dinner and the free band, you can also do that. Be sure to either make a reservation or get to the restaurant well before you get hungry and put your name in because it took us about 1.5 hours before we sat down. The food was delicious & it’s well worth the experience for at least one night.

  • Frontier Cafe: This was “our spot” during the trip. We ate here twice in just two days. They have great sandwiches, salads and coffee. It’s right on main street and across the street from a few vintage stores, so have some lunch and then wander through the stores.

  • Crossroads Cafe: This was a cute breakfast spot with so many options (even for those who need gluten free & vegetarian options!)

  • Joshua Tree Coffee Company: This is a great place to stop and get organic coffee made with mountain water (apparently very uncommon to find this). The smell of the quaint shop was delicious. Take home a bag or two. Supporting these small businesses goes a really long way.

This trip was truly good for the soul and I can’t thank my travel sister Michelle enough for hosting me in LA, driving us around, and being a source of inspiration. I had the best time talking with you for three days straight and singing along to Dolly Parton through Joshua Tree Park. We’ll be back for sure!

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Questions?
Reach out at sosydneyny@gmail.com or DM me on Instagram.