After two years, the music-festival hiatus is finally over. California’s Coachella music festival kicks off its triumphant return with a star-packed lineup including Billie Eilish (the youngest performer to ever headline), Harry Styles, and Ye (formerly known as Kanye West). 

This year's event will run over two weekends, from April 15 to 17 and 22 to 24, drawing crowds to the Coachella Valley. With nearly 100,000 daily attendees, all-day music, immersive art installations, pop-ups from LA’s top restaurants, and surprise guest appearances, the festival can be overwhelming to say the least. Here’s our guide to doing Coachella right. 

You haven’t done Coachella unless you….  

Dance like nobody’s watching during the sunset act on the main stage. There’s a moment each afternoon of the festival when the energy shifts and golden hour descends on the field. The music gets a little louder, the palm trees light up, the temperature cools off, and the excitement amplifies for the nighttime performances and headliner. It’s an indescribable moment ⁠— until you experience it yourself. 

11 of the best things to do in and around Palm Springs

Where is Coachella held and how do I get there?

The festival is held at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, California in the Coachella Valley. The closest airport is the Palm Springs International Airport (PSP) with Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) a 2 ½ hour drive away.  

What to pack

No matter how high temperatures rise during the day, it always drops at night in the desert. Pack a light sweater or sweatshirt. 

Comfortable closed-toed shoes are your best friend at the festival, especially as you work your way across the field and shimmy to the front of the stage. 

A hands-free bag is also essential. Opt for a fanny pack or small daypack filled with a water bottle, electrolyte tablets, sunscreen, sunglasses, and a spare battery pack. (There’s nothing that kills your buzz more than a phone in low-power mode after one hour of being at the festival).

A woman blow bubbles in a yellow shirt at the Coachella music festival.
Coachella is the incubator of festival fashion © Matt Winkelmeyer / Getty Images for Coachella

What to wear

Coachella was the incubator of mainstream “festival fashion” as we know it today: Fringe and cutoffs, flower crowns, body glitter, and bucket hats. While there are many trends that circulate each year, it truly is anything goes. Have fun, but most of all be comfortable. 

Dos and don’ts

Do drink water like there’s no tomorrow. Dancing in the hot sun and desert heat all day is super dehydrating. Take water breaks between acts. 

Do explore the large-scale art installations. Second to the music, the art at Coachella sets the scene of the weekend and makes the Polo Field come alive. Each year, local and international artists create massive art and design installations, several of which are interactive and take on new forms at night. 

Don’t rely on cell service. Trust us on this one. Send your final texts before entering the festival. 

Don’t underestimate the traffic. It’s wild. Set aside two hours to arrive at the festival, including security checkpoints, parking or shuttle dropoff.  

Do set a meeting point with friends. With over 100,000 festival-goers, you’re bound to lose your friends. Pick a common meeting ground in case you get lost or split up for different acts. 

Do map out your day. Sadly you won’t be able to see every act during the festival. Plan your must-see shows, noting which stages they’re at and the time it takes to walk between the two. 

Don’t expect to be at the front of the stage for every show. Pick one to two of your favorite bands or DJs to merge through the crowd. Otherwise, find a great spot to spread out on the grass and create your own dance floor. 

Do eat. It’s easy to get distracted by the non-stop lineup, but you’ll never make it to day three unless you refuel. Head to the Indio Central Market, a shaded food court with over 15 LA-restaurant pop-ups and vendors, including a sushi speakeasy this year. 

Do be spontaneous. Follow the beat and see a band or DJ you’ve never heard of or seen perform. Some of the best acts are the ones you stumble (or dance) into. 

Don’t stay in one tent. It’s easy to lose track of time in the Sahara tent — the massive arena on the grounds for EDM concerts filled with lasers and light shows — but make sure to check out the other tents and explore the music genre variety.  

Do ride the Ferris wheel. The iconic backdrop on everyone’s Instagram is also the best attraction at the festival. Ride it while an act is performing on the main stage and take in the 360-degree views. 

People dance inside a yellow and blue tent at the Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival.
Escape from the heat in the DoLaB © Rich Fury / Getty Images for Coachella

What should I do if I want to return with a story?

Spend an afternoon cooling off from the heat in the DoLaB, a 60-foot geodesic dome that started as a community art project in 2005 and is now a discovery space for up-and-coming artists and DJs. While Coachella has come a long way from its inaugural indie-music festival in 1999, becoming one of the largest festivals in the world with mega music stars, DoLaB has continued its grassroots environment, welcoming acts coming up the ranks. 

Performances in the dome — draped in kaleidoscope-colored banners for shade with giant water misters — are intimate and high energy with past surprise guest appearances including Skrillex, Major Lazer, and Zhu. You never know which rising star you might discover.

What’s a secret Coachella location I need to know?

On the fence about camping because you definitely want to shower? The Safari Campground is the best-kept secret in Coachella lodging. Tucked behind the festival grounds, air-conditioned stylish safari-style tents are fully furnished with plush beds and come with a coveted amenity of private golf-cart transportation to the festival grounds and between stages. Plus free late-night snacks. 

Here's how to get around Palm Springs on four wheels, two wheels or none

What is definitely a bad idea?

Going barefoot. Forgetting sunscreen. 

Fireworks light up above palm trees at the Coachella music festival.
A fireworks display is seen during 2016 Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival © Christopher Polk / Getty Images for Coachella

You can’t miss...

The fireworks at the end of day three. It’s the grand finale to a memorable weekend of dancing in the desert.

What are the current COVID-19 restrictions? 

There will be no vaccination, testing, or masking requirements at Coachella 2022.

Where should I stay? Can I camp? Book an Airbnb? 

It’s a pick-your-own adventure when it comes to lodging. All require advanced planning (up to six months before is recommended), even the roadside motels. Those who want an all-day pool party scene should opt for Ace Hotel & Swim Club in Palm Springs, the hipster hideout with a retro lobby or the Saguaro, a ’60s-inspired hotel painted in rainbow colors with poolside DJ performances. 

10 ways to experience Palm Springs for free

For large groups, Airbnbs and house rentals are the way to go, though it's worth finding one close to a hotel that is on the shuttle route as Uber prices skyrocket. Houses are also typically in quiet residential areas, so be mindful of neighbors and keep the noise down when returning from the festival. 

Camping on-site, either in your car or tent, is also a popular option and books up as soon as tickets are released. It’s ideal for those who want to mingle with other festival-goers, take a nap between the shows, and forget about the hassle of entering and leaving the festival each day.  

Is it ok to bring children?

Yes, children are welcome to the festival scene, just don’t forget earplugs. Campers need to be over 18. 

What are the sustainability efforts? How can I help? 

This year, the festival is swapping all plastic beverages sold inside the venue and campgrounds for aluminum bottles (reducing over 2 million plastic bottles) and requiring all food vendors to use compostable service ware. Trash and recycling bins are easily spotted across the field and brightly painted with intricate designs by more than 50 artists from across the globe. 

Leave your footprint on the field, not the planet by bringing a reusable water bottle to fill up at the several filtered-water stations. Forgot a phone charger? Power up for free at the Energy Playground with Energy SeeSaws that boost your battery while also burning off the late-night pizza slices. 

You can also volunteer to be on the Waste Gang team, patrolling the grounds while trading in bottles and cans for food vouchers and exclusive merch. 

What can I do after? 

If you’re camping, the party continues in the campground with nightly silent discos going into the wee hours of the morning. If you're staying off-site and late-night hunger sets in, make your way to Teddy’s Donuts, the Indio staple open 24-hours. Those heading back to Palm Springs can stop for savory bites at Blackbook bar, whose kitchen stays open until 1 am. 

The top 24 things to do in Los Angeles: experience the best of LA

I missed out on this year ⁠— how do I start planning for next year? 

The lineup is released each year in early January with tickets released shortly after. To secure a ticket, pre-register on the Coachella website to receive a text or email with a personal purchase code the morning of the advance sale. There are two options for passes, general admission and VIP which has two separate lounges with several bars, food stands, and slightly nicer restrooms. 

Pop culture prep work:

Coachella: 20 Years in the Desert

The documentary features two decades of Coachella in the making with behind-the-scenes stories and interviews of how the legendary festival began and never-before-seen footage of iconic performances by Daft Punk, Madonna, Radiohead, Swedish House Mafia and other big names. 

You might also like: 
5 amazing US music festivals in unique locations
10 of Europe's best music festivals in amazing locations
The 16 best California road trips

Explore related stories

dj with hands up editorial only_crop.jpg

Festivals & Events

Festival alternatives if you can't make it to Coachella in 2020

Jan 28, 2020 • 4 min read