Are you ready for a dazzling desert extravaganza that dramatically offers something a little different? The Joshua Tree Music Festival might be just the ticket. This boutique festival takes place twice a year; it’s held in May and October in the town of Joshua Tree (not to be mistaken for the U2 album of the same name) in the Mojave desert.
Joshua Tree takes pride in showcasing the freshest faces in music and visual art. You might not see the biggest names, but if there’s one thing this eclectic event offers, it’s variety. Expect the best of newcomers and long-time heroes in everything from bluegrass to soul to rock to techno and some extremely experimental jazz fusion. The vibe is friendly, relaxed, and positive, and Joshua Tree is definitely a festival of free expression; have fun deciding whose wild festival costume is the most interesting. The event runs for four days across three stages, and you won’t want to miss a minute, so load up your RV and prepare to camp on site or nearby.
The festival fun continues at the campground, which has a real neighborly, intimate atmosphere. Not only that, but the whole area is gorgeous. Expect desert rock formations and a serene lake that’s lit up by floodlights at night.
Music isn’t even close to being all that’s on offer at Joshua Tree. The whole festival is basically a found object art installation, with stages made out of old trailers and delightfully psychedelic stage visuals, with actual work by local independent artists dotted around the grounds. The festival is very welcoming towards the kidfolk. You’ll find plenty of activities at the festival’s dedicated Kidsville area to keep smaller family members entertained. You can take hula hooping classes, practice yoga, watch live art events or see the stars at the astronomy theater. Add Joshua Tree to your annual festival list; you won’t regret it!
Fall tickets for Joshua Tree go on sale just after the spring festival and vice-versa. Given that the festival is aimed at promoting emerging artists, it’s pretty reasonably priced, but as with most festivals, the earlier you book, the better. You can expect to dole out around $150 for an early bird four-day ticket, as opposed $170 for one closer to the event time. Kid’s tickets are usually about $90, and under tens go free. You can also get tickets at the gate if you’re lucky, but they’ll set you back a little extra, around $200. One day tickets are also available from $50 to 90 depending on the day you pick.
Communal camping is included, but if you want to camp with your RV, you may spend around $120 for an RV pass. You can expect to pay $75 for the privilege of parking a car at your campsite. If you’d like a little luxury, you can reserve a site with water and power hookups for about $350. Check the Joshua Tree Music Festival website for details.
Joshua Tree Music Festival takes place in the Joshua Tree Lake and RV Park, located around one hour from Palm Springs, two hours from San Bernardino and two and a half hours from LA. The area is well served by the Interstate, but as always in Southern California, traffic congestion can be a problem, so be sure to leave early to allow time for delays. If you’re coming from LA, you also have the option of taking the scenic route through Angeles National Forest.
If you don’t purchase a car camping pass, you can get day parking for a fee of around $20. Carpool with three or more people and you can park for free for the day. The parking lot is right next to the gate, but you can’t leave your car overnight. There are plenty of private parking lots open in the town of Joshua Tree.
Travelers may not find any public transportation to the festival site itself. The nearest you’ll get is a bus from LA with a connection in Palm Springs to the bus station in downtown Joshua Tree, which may not be within walking distance to the festival site (around nine miles). The whole journey will take a little over six and a half hours from LA. Festival-goers occasionally charter private buses from LA.
The campground at Joshua Tree can be generously described as ‘cozy,’ so be prepared to get to know your neighbors. It’s also first-come, first-served, and there aren’t a lot of rules regarding the size of sites, so even if you’ve reserved an RV site, it’s best to get there early to make sure you and your fellow festival goers have room to move. Hot showers are free, and there’s a cool-down shower in case you get too hot (it is the desert, after all). There are generally a few vault toilets on site, so lines don’t get too long. While the concert bowl at Joshua Tree is well shaded, not all of the campground is, so you may want to bring some sort of shade structure with you.
The area around Joshua Tree is one of the hottest spots for camping in Southern California, so you should have no trouble finding an alternative staying spot. There are several RV parks with full hookups right in town. If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, you can get some peace and quiet and stay under the stars in a national park or wilderness area.
Though Joshua Tree doesn’t have any official policies on bikes or golf carts, most people get around the festival grounds on foot. The area is pretty compact, and both the parking lot and campground are right next to the action. In terms of accessibility, there are several ADA-accessible parking spots available; it’s best to get in contact beforehand to make sure you get your spot. The grounds are relatively flat, and it should not be difficult to maneuver a wheelchair or mobility scooter in most areas.
Spring and fall bring the most clement weather to this part of California, but you’re still in a desert; dress for the heat, and bring something to wrap up warm in once the sun goes down. The concert bowl is mercifully shaded, but you’ll want a broad-brimmed hat and some sunglasses for the walk to and from the campground. Bring sturdy, comfortable shoes and moisture-wicking socks, and remember that inventive festival fashion is a huge part of the Joshua Tree festival experience, so get creative!
It’s hard to overstate the importance of having a shade structure for the campground if you’re hanging out during the day. That desert sun can burn. You can bring chairs and blankets to concerts, but the festival is very particular about having a clear space in front of the stage so people can dance.
Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen! Apply it liberally and often. There are free water stations dotted around the festival grounds, so bring a refillable bottle. Although there is a first aid tent, it never hurts to have your own kit. Joshua Tree is one of the most kid-friendly festivals out there, but it still gets pretty loud, so bring ear protection for smaller children.
You’re free to cook at the campsite, as long as any fires stay within the designated rings or you’re using a camp stove. You can also bring outside food and drink into the festival. The small general store at the campground stocks some food along with various camping essentials, but it’s a limited, expensive selection. You’ll find a decent selection of grocery stores in Joshua Tree.
A four-day wristband allows festival-goers to come and go as they please, so you can check out some of the restaurants in Joshua Tree at any time. The town is home to a delightful array of family-owned eateries, with cuisine ranging from woodfired pizza to authentic Mexican and quick Thai bites. You won’t find it difficult to get your hands on something gluten-free or vegan.
The food vendors in the gorgeous World Market area may be few in number, but they’re generally rich in quality, and there’s usually a decent variety of grub on offer. You can expect plenty of healthy options made with fresh fruit and vegetables, but you’ll also find some pretty good burgers and pizza. Most vendors at Joshua Tree take both card and cash, and there’s also an ATM on site. Outside of the food, the crafts on offer at the market are well worth a look.
Joshua Tree’s private security staff members are alert, approachable, and helpful. Anyone experiencing any sort of trouble is encouraged to report to the Ranger Station at the campground. Security is pretty laid-back when it comes to what you can and can’t bring in, but glass containers are a big no-no.
While rain and flash floods are certainly possible in the Mojave Desert in both spring and fall, they’re certainly not likely. Your main concern is going to be the sun and the heat. Joshua Tree’s shaded concert bowl is one of its main selling points, but it’s very easy to get overheated, particularly if you’re dancing all day. Drink plenty of water, and use one of the cool-down showers if needed or desired.
Joshua Tree is kind of unique in that there’s a Healing Oasis at the festival grounds, with acupuncture, massage, and Reiki all available (this can also double as a quiet space for those with sensory issues, or who just want to get away a little bit). However, these things may be of little comfort in an emergency, so there’s also a first-aid tent staffed by EMTs.You’ll find a general practitioner, an emergency department, and a pharmacy in Joshua Tree.