Well, it’s official. Surviving Coachella (and having a good time doing it) is in fact possible. I was hesitant, as you may have read, prior to attending the blessed event but alas – we came, we saw, we fuckin’ conquered. The weekend’s success came with a bit of trial and tribulation, but going in to Coachella with a manageable and flexible game plan and a calm carefree mindset really aided in the whole matter. We almost owe it to ourselves as Americans, Californians, and Angelenos in particular to make the pilgrimage to music festival mecca at least once in our lifetime. And if you’re gonna make the effort to do it you might as well do it right, right? Right. Through first and second hand experience, allow me to help guide you through some tips and tricks on mastering the most wonderfully stressful vacation you’ll ever take in your life: Coachella.
// PLANNING + ACCOMMODATIONS //
I know this seems obvious, but get the buying of the tickets/accommodations out of the way ASAP because as I’m sure you’re aware, everything sells out eventually. Decide whether you want to camp, RV, stay in a hotel, Airbnb, etc., so you then know what to budget for. (The Coachella website actually proves to be quite helpful for options outside of hotels.) I planned my stay a whole week before the festival, true story, but I got lucky. My girlfriend found a hotel online that had only opened 3 weeks prior and thus had rooms and, more importantly, rooms with decent rates. (V Palm Springs is awesome FYI, it’s a bit far from Coachella but a nice place to spend mornings by the pool nonetheless!)
// 1ST WEEKEND VS 2ND WEEKEND //
The great debate over which weekend is better still continues, the one thing I will say though is that they most definitely have their similarities and differences. The Coachella experts break it down as such:
Weekend 1: the “party” vibe. Everyone is excited, there are parties going on every where, celebs come out in droves, special guests take the stages, Neon Carnival takes place, and the energy is at an all time high.
Weekend 2: the slightly more “chill” vibe. This is the weekend for “the adults” as they put it, people who come out for weekend two are more interested in the music and what the festival has to offer rather than the “show”. By the second weekend everyone (but security) is slightly more relaxed and the festival feels less cramped and crowded.
The choice is yours to make!
// VIP TICKETS VS GA TICKETS //
I cannot tell you how to spend your money. Even saying you should spend $400 for a GA ticket to go to a festival seems insane to me, but with that being said I will remind you that you really do only live once. Before I get into thoughts on the VIP situation (which was amazing) I would like to put the disclaimer out there that I did not purchase my VIP ticket. I was invited to attend the festival as a media guest, but still nonetheless, were I to purchase tickets VIP would still the option I’d go for. You can’t put a price on nice(r) bathrooms with lights and running water, or access to the most delicious foods and cocktails imaginable, or just a place to sit down on something soft in the shade. I realize the ticket is a solid $500 more, but if you, like me, aren’t sure when you’ll be coming back and really want to make the most out of the one time experience… go VIP.
[Here’s a list of ticket types to get you prepared for next year!]
// GETTING TO + FROM COACHELLA //
If you’re not staying directly on the grounds and you plan on putting your party pants on, there’s an Uber station for pick-ups and drop-offs! From there heading in to the festival, take it from me, hop on one of those bicycle-carriages: the “drivers” survive off of tips and you can tip what you’d like. If you don’t hitch a ride, please enjoy your 1-2 mile hot n’ dusty walk to the entrance. There’s also a number of shuttle options to and from the festival, but judging from friends horror stories, I’d say skip that whole idea. If you plan on driving yourself, the VIP parking would be totally worth the $150 price tag – they’re sold separately so even GA-ers can park there! It’s smaller, closer, and so much easier to get out of. There is nothing worse than not being able to find your car at the end of the night or having to wait 2 hours just to exit out of the damn lot. Trust me, the last time I was at Coachella I did both, and that would be why it took me 8 years to come back. You never forget a stress like that.
// GENERAL PLAN OF ATTACK //
You think you can see all the bands/artists you’ve got on your list… but you can’t. It’s physically and emotionally impossible. My plan of attack was to pick a band or two that were of the utmost importance to see, ones that I wanted to stay the whole set for (don’t forget thats 45 – 120 minutes!) and I would center everything else around that. If I caught a song or two here and there from the other bands, great, but if I didn’t I didn’t beat myself up because I prioritized. Planning with less expectations means you won’t run in to wearing yourself out so quickly; you’ve still got time to relax, eat something, have a drink, and actually take the time to enjoy each moment! Coachella has become an experience with so many wonderful facets, music will always be at the core of the festival but these days there’s so much more to see and do – and so you should.
// WHAT TO WEAR //
We’ve only just recently reviewed the “fashion” aspect to Coachella and how to properly dress without over-doing it, appropriating any cultures, or being uncomfortable. But two things I’d like to add in to the mix now that I’ve attended: bring a scarf/bandana incase the wind kicks up, and be sure wear comfortable closed toed shoes. Neither are necessarily mandatory, but dust and sand are real sons-a-bitches. Hats are tricky, if it’s too windy like it was this past weekend I’d suggest passing because it will likely blow away, but if the weather isn’t too bad bring one! My favorite fashionable yet practical Coachella purchase was a cute backpack from Zara that I could fit a water bottle and a jacket in to – it really cools off at night and believe you me, you will be glad you brought something warm to throw over your shoulders!
// EATING + DRINKING AT THE POP-UPS //
The good news is that no matter where you are, GA or VIP, there is good food everywhere. In the GA areas we had access to favorites like McConnell’s Ice Cream, Blue Bottle Coffee, Pinches Tacos, Free Range, Spicy Pie, etc. The Beer Barn had goodies from Beer Belly, Starry Kitchen, and more, but the food and beverage highlights were of course located within the VIP areas. Friendly familiar faces like KazuNori, Superba Food + Bread, Cassell’s, Frizi Dog, Sweetfin Poké, Hanjip, Badmaash, Sotto, Backyard Bowls, and The Church Key had pop-ups this year and I’m pleased to say that out of the several items I tasted, not one was disappointing. The VIP areas not only had the best food, but they also had the best cocktail/beer/wine situation with pop-ups by DTLA favs like Caña Rum Bar, Las Perlas, Golden Gopher, Seven Grand, and other pop-ups with tons of craft beer and wine options.
For the record: Spicy Pie is everywhere at Coachella, and every night I mandatorily ordered myself a slice. It was the most heavenly and satisfying $7 pieces(s) of pizza I’ve ever had, I wish there was a Spicy Pie in my living room.
// OUTSTANDING IN THE FIELD //
Besides the music, the friendship, and all around fun, the highlight of my Coachella experience had to be the Outstanding In the Field dinner. This is a relatively new component to Coachella, but it’s one I’m so glad I got to take part in. The event(s) consist of one 4 course meal prepared by a pair of celebrated Chefs in the beautiful Coachella Rose Garden. A welcoming cocktail, beer & wine are included and you can choose from 1 of 2 dinner seating times on one festival night. VIP access to the Rose Garden for entire day of your dinner is included; so if you’ve got a GA pass you could basically reap the VIP benefits for at least one whole day if you attend! The dinner ain’t cheap, it’s $225 per person, but honest to god this was one of the coolest most memorable dinners I’ve ever had the pleasure of attending, I’m sticking with this whole “you only live once” thing! If you’re gonna do it, do it right people, memories are priceless.