Coachella Review + Festival Guide: Everything You Need to Know

You cannot lie that Coachella is a pretty awesome festival, and this Coachella review + festival guide will tell you everything you need to know from my experience attending multiple times. You also cannot lie that this festival has changed quite a lot over the past few years. Coachella used to be a pretty local thing that every Californian and their mother would be at each year. Being from CA myself, I would wanted round the campsites visiting different groups of friends, and run into people all over the place in the venue.

But nowadays, the festival has skyrocketed onto a much more global sale. It’s in much higher demand by people all over the world, and many Californians now have a hard time getting tickets. Many Californians have also kind of been-there and done-that, and are now moving along to different thrills. But this is still a generalization – there are many locals here, but it’s far more global than it used to be. And with a more global festival comes different kinds of people, fashionistas, and vibes.

Anyway, this Coachella Review + Guide runs from my experience of it as nothing but good vibes, sunshine, and happy people walking around in the grass dressed like very trendy hippies. Coachella always boasts a very diverse and impressive lineup with a little bit of something for everyone – if you want to listen to rock all weekend you will have no problem, and the same goes with EDM and alternative. It’s also one of the best camping music festivals in California! With the gorgeous backdrop of the California desert mountains and millions of multi-colored palm trees, its pretty impossible to have a bad time

 

coachella festival guide ferris wheel

Coachella Venue

Coachella is held on the Empire Polo Fields out in Indio, California. In other words, it’s held on huge grassy field areas in the Californian desert near Palm Springs – inland from LA. The camping area borders the actual venue, and is comprised also of big grassy (sometimes dusty) fields for car and tent camping and also some food areas, shopping, and art installation areas.

The actual festival grounds are not too complicated; you will find a few sections of the grounds but it’s basically two big outdoor stages and three tents spread out over an expansive grass area. Apart from that you’ll find another stage, tent, and area up on a tiny platform from everything else. Amazing art installations and beautiful decorations are all over the place and between all the stages, usually with some moving installations traveling around the fields (butterfly, snail, spaceman, etc). There are palm trees surrounding pretty much everything that light up different colors at night, and the desert mountains serve as a beautiful backdrop and make for an amazing sunset every night.

Main Stage – One of the Outdoor stages is the main stage, with all the biggest names playing there. This stage encompasses the most space of the festival and has numbered speakers coming out from it that make for great meeting places! You will see all the headliners here.

Outdoor Stage – Next to the Main Stage is the actual “Outdoor Stage,” which is the only other open-air stage structure. This stage sits in the corner and has the best colorful palm tree backdrop, and usually has some really cool art installations around it as well.

Mohave/Gobi Tents – turn a right angle from the Outdoor and Main stages and you have the first two smaller tents – the Mohave and Gobi. These tents have a variety of electronic, indie, and alternative music in them, each slightly tending toward a different niche of music. Both of these tents are white arched tents with light structures inside – your basic festival tent!

Sahara Tent – Next, we have the Sahara tent, which is well known for playing all the EDM of the festival! Sahara has the coolest and most intricate light and laser setups, and often has light structures hanging from the ceiling that move around. It has the highest ceiling too and makes for the craziest light shows to go along with its stacked EDM lineup. This is my favorite place to be at sunset, as soon as the sun gets low enough to peek inside the tent and light up the crowd. It’s pretty magical. (See photo below this section)

The Do Lab – We then have my favorite stage of the festival where people get the weirdest – The Do Lab. This is a smaller area, and they have their own lineup and cool themed colorful stage design, and artists doing installations and paintings right by the stage. There are always people up on the stage of the Do Lab with mist-guns spraying all the people in the front, and the Do Lab is pretty well known for this.

If you need a cool off or a good boogie, just head over to the Do Lab to bathe in some mist and hear some epic music. If you are lucky, you can even get on stage to spray the mist gun yourself! We always say that, at the Do Lab, the weirder you are dancing, the more normal it is! They have a pretty great lineup as well usually with a great mixture of trippy, deep, and intricate electronic music – think Odesza, TEED, Louis Futon, Lane 8, or Lucient Dossier Experience, and less well-known names playing just as great of music.

 Yuma – The Yuma tent is another stage that is inside a huge closed tent. It is usually not as hot as it is outside, and always dark if you need some time out of the sun. Yuma has all the deeper house artists of the festival – think Dixon, Solomon, Nicolas Jaar, etc. There are disco balls and sweet disco lights, and usually some funny decorations as well. If you want to go one deeper Yuma is definitely the place to go.

(See the photo above – from left to right goes Main, Outdoor (in the corner), Gobi, Mohave, and Sahara (the big round one on the right) tents!! Since this photo in ’13 they have moved to Do Lab and expanded Yuma)

coachella music festival sahara tent sunset

Coachella Lineup/Music/Artists

Coachella always delivers a great lineup – of all different types of music. Massive names from many genres play at Coachella – rock, hip hop/rap, R&B, alternative, indie, and all types of electronic music as well. Main Stage headliners have seen the likes of Drake, OutKast, Arcade Fire, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Calvin Harris, The XX, Kings of Leon, Kid Cudi, MGMT, Beyonce, and many more.

Other big names in different niches play in the smaller stages as well.  Lorde, Disclosure, Alt-j, Rudimental, Jhenae Aiko, A$AP Ferg, Flume, Classix, Lana Del Rey, etc… just to give an idea of the insane variety at this festival.

Sahara tent headliners have seen people like Alesso, Knife Party, Duck Sauce, Kaskade, Swedish House Mafia (a few years back), Fatboy Slim, Martin Garrix, Glitch Mob, Carnage, Benny Benassi, Eric Prydz, and many, MANY more – just to give an idea of the big names that Coachella can bring!

It is pretty much guaranteed that whatever kind of music you are into, you’ll be able to find it at Coachella. That’s a given.

coachella music festival sahara tent sunset

Crowd at Coachella

The Coachella crowd is good. As I said, it has been getting a lot more international in more recent years as the fest gains popularity on a global stage. It was previously a lot of people from California and surrounding areas, but has lately become very difficult to get tickets even for us ‘locals’ ;). By this point Coachella has attendees from countries all over the world who travel to California for the festival and then to travel around the area.

As with most festivals, however, the crowd at Coachella is very open, kind, and sharing. Everyone gets involved with each other and joins in the fun especially in the camping area, and inside the festival most people will return your happy energy. You will definitely get a few (or a lot of) frat bros who think they are the best thing in the world, girls who think it is a fashion competition, and the occasional flower headband-clad girls who have dressed the part but don’t really know what to do, but these people are usually harmless anyway ???? Making your own fun and spreading good vibes yourself is always what festivals are about.

coachella festival guide

Vibe

Vibes are good here. Everyone is happy and enjoying themselves and quick to share their happy energy with others. Classic festival vibes and good energy are all around, especially in the campgrounds and Do Lab! Most people are happy to meet the people around them and share a dance or a smile. I mean hey, many people will have traveled for miles and/or been looking forward to this all year!

That being said, Coachella does have an unwritten fashion competition going on, and draws a good amount of celebrities going to be noticed. A Coachella review wouldn’t be complete without a mention of celebs! Honestly, there is definitely a ‘scene’ here. Some people go to Coachella just to be cool, wear certain things, and see certain artists they believe to be ‘in.’ But not everyone is like this, of course. Some people take this fashion competition and attention pretty seriously, but most people just pick out cute outfits and then go out to enjoy their day with others, like you should do!

coachella festival guide art installations

Atmosphere/Decorations at Coachella

The atmosphere here is really well coordinated and beautiful. The art and atmosphere designed around Coachella goes really perfectly together with the green grass and the backdrop of palm trees and mountains. Each year there are different staple installations – like the moving astronaut one year, snail one year, and catterpillar-turned-butterfly one year. A lot of beautiful bright colors, silly and trippy creations, and thin streamer-like fabric waving in the wind can be found in Coachella’s grounds, which exactly match the whole artsy and free vibe of the festival. There are lots of slowly-changing colors and intricate designs, and interesting art pieces to climb on and interact with. All the art installations are perfect for photo op’s – see some of the photos below!

You can’t forget Coachella’s classic balloon chains that always compliment any photo at the festival. These are reaaaaally long – a few hundred meters for sure – chains of balloons. They are anchored on the ground and just float right up into the air in a beautifully crafted line that even lights up at night. People can take turns holding some of the chains up too!

Another staple of Coachella is the ferris wheel. You can see panoramic views of the whole festival and camping from up there, and it is pretty cheap as well. It’s definitely something to do at least once in the weekend!

camping at coachella tips tricks and guide coachella review

Camping at Coachella Review + Tips + Guide

At Coachella, camping is definitely the way to go. I say that about every festival, but here at Coachella you really do have the best chance to make your camping experience really epic. They have tent camping, but the best opion is definitely to get car camping. With car camping, you get a pretty well-sized rectangle of space in which to park your car and set up some space for tents and space to hang out behind the cars. Each row has dozens of spaces next to each other and is two spaces wide (back to back).

This means if you get a bunch of people together, you can drive all your cars in together and create one huge epic camping haven of multiple car camping spots. One year we had five cars together, so we got five car camping spots together and created the coolest area in between all the cars. We put all the tents in one place and then made the remainder of the space into a huge amazing chill area. We put all our chairs in a circle by the cooler and table, and made the perfect place to hang out. I definitely recommend doing this – it was amazing! (See above photo – the camping area is behind the line of cars, and is back to back with another line of cars if that makes sense).

More Coachella Camping Tips and Tricks

If you bring enough food and the means to cook it, you can actually have everything you will need for the whole weekend in the camping area. You can get ice from the camping store to keep your food cold, and can buy extra food if you need as well. I have seen many people grilling food in the mornings or making drinks at a makeshift camper-bar.

One of my best tent camping tips is this: to keep your tent cool (especially at Coachella where is it very hot) you need another layer of fabric over your tent to soak the sun up. So bring all those extra tarps, sheets, and easy-ups, and rig a nice shady area between cars to ensure your camping space is comfortable.

There are about 6 or 7 lots for car camping – some much closer to the venue than others. You don’t have much choice as to which lot you are put into when you drive up, so there is no point really in describing which ones are best. Don’t fret if you are put a bit farther away, though, because the closer you are to the entrance, the more random people you will have floating around your camp. Always lock valuables in the cars just in case, and make friends with everyone around you to create a big camping family. It’s the best ????

VIP Camping at Coachella

Coachella has a boutique camping option as well, which are the teepee’s of “Lake Eldorado.” There’s a sectioned off area between some of the camp areas with a little lake and a load of huge teepees which serve as little 2 or 4 person houses for campers for the weekend. This is a private and well-positioned area with extra amenities and 24-hour concierge services and security for those who want to splurge a bit on the weekend.

coachella festival guide

Coachella Camping Amenities

Coachella has shops in the camping area that will have most things that you may need. Most of the amenities are located in the same place, which is pretty central between the lots and the venue entrance. They have basic food, some groceries, and other fun things like lilos, bubbles, and fans if it gets too hot. There is a phone charging station, usually a hair  and beauty station, and other well-decorated and arty areas to hang out. There is usually an art tent as well with different activities and workshops scheduled throughout the day, and always yoga in the morning too!

The camping area has plenty of places to buy meals if you need, with a good amount of variety as well. From smoothies to acai bowls to burritos, sandwiches, and burgers, you aren’t really lost for option if you decide you want to buy some food. They are all from great food trucks as well!

Debatably the coolest thing in the camping area is the Silent Disco. This globe-like area that plays music during the day turns into an epic silent disco at night. When the loud music must turn off at 12 (sound laws), they start giving out headphones to everyone and the whole area becomes a massive silent disco, which is a lot of fun until much later in the night.

coachella music festival astronaut

Showers at Coachella 

Showers are very accessible at Coachella. There are showers conveniently close to each of the camping lots, and they’re free. They are usually open until 2am and open very early as well, giving you the option if you want to shower in the morning before you go in or at night after the day.

Lines usually move quickly, but I would definitely recommend to get there early to avoid too much of a wait in the heat. The showers are trucks with individual stalls you can go inside with curtains, and a communal area with mirrors and hooks to get dressed and ready for the day. This is pretty much all you need!

As an extra note, I always prefer to shower when I get up in the morning. Showering at night is good too, but your cleanliness won’t always last. Sometimes it’s hot in the mornings, and you wake up in a bit of a sweat. If you wait until the morning to shower, you can wash of your morning sleep sweat as well as the day before, and start the festival day squeaky clean. Baby wipe baths will always suffice at night time.

Transportation/Hotels/Parking at Coachella

If you choose not to camp at Coachella, there are millions of other options as well! With a Coachella ticket you have the option to buy a ‘Shuttle Pass’ that takes you between a few different hotel/accomodation areas and the festival grounds. The Shuttles are frequent and pretty easy to navigate, but the lines can get long at night from what I have heard! (I haven’t used them personally because I have always camped – saves you the trouble of trying to get home and is way better if you ask me :P)

Hotels at Coachella

There are plenty of local hotels and motels to stay at that are very convenient and close to the venue. There are also and a ton of resorts in Palm Springs and Indio that rent rooms/condos of varying sizes so you can have a haven to rest at the end of each day if you need it.

What a lot of people do, though, is rent a big house somewhere in Palm Springs or Indio – one with a lot of rooms and potentially a nice big pool – and get a big group of 8-15ish people to stay in it for the weekend. If you have a good crew you want to spend the entire weekend with, this is a good option – you’ll always have people to chill with at night and make breakfast with in the morning! This way the cost is split between a lot of people, and you can share taxis to and from the venue as well.

Transportation/Taxis at Coachella

Taxis, again, are pretty easy to get. They are around the venue and easily attainable all day and night. If you need one for the day there are plenty of taxi numbers you can easily call to get a few cars by.

Uber and Lyft are also really useful for Coachella and have drivers all over Indio during the festival weekends. They are really convenient and hassle-free, but potentially more expensive (as are taxis) than using a shuttle pass (or just camping!).

Coachella Parking

There is a day parking lot at the venue that is free to use as well. If you want to drive yourself each day, the day parking lot is slightly far away but definitely useful.

Coachella Food/Drink Options

Food and drink are pretty good inside the venue. They are slightly pricey, but not more than what you would expect at any other festival.

Food is concentrated more in certain areas of the festival away from the big stages, and usually there are some food options inside the beer gardens as well. Sandwiches, Noodles, Thai food, Kebabs/Gyros, different kinds of wraps, and more burgers are some typical good food you will find at Coachella.. But, if you are getting food at Coachella, make sure you get one of the huge watermelon slices that are debatably one of the most photographed items at the festival!

Alcohol is to be consumed only inside the beer gardens, but usually they have pretty good locations where you can see and hear any stage that you would like. They have plenty of nice craft beers and cocktails, and usually a Heineken or some other spirit-sponsored tent where you can get a wristband and go in to get specialty drinks. Many people like to drink at the campgrounds before they go in, as not to spend forever in the beer garden during the day. This is definitely a difference between American and European festivals!

There are plenty of water refilling stations where you can refill bottles that you already have. They sometimes get long lines but are always worth it to stay hydrated in the heat.

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Coachella Ticket Price

Base price for Coachella is around $375 for the whole weekend – $435 with a shuttle pass. From there, you can add on shuttle passes, parking passes, and different kinds of camping as well. VIP is $899 and includes two special VIP areas to go in by the main stage and Sahara tent- all with extra amenities, food, restrooms, and bars.

From there add the costs of any accommodation (if you don’t camp) and any food, clothing, or drinks/alcohol you’ll need or buy during the weekend. You can do Coachella lavishly or frugally – it is all up to you!

coachella festival sahara tent Coachella Review + Festival Guide: Everything You Need to Know

Coachella Security

Security is pretty loose driving into the campground for car camping. It is pretty hard for them to check your whole car, although they sometimes try to. It is forbidden to bring glass bottles of alcohol inside so make sure to decant/hide them before you come in! When you go through they do a small check of your car and scan the camping pass and everyone’s wristbands.

Security walking into the campgrounds is a bit more tight. They will look through all your bags and make sure you have no glass or weapons.

Lastly, security into the venue is very tight. We tried one week to bring in a DSLR to get some nice photos inside, which is forbidden. We even detached the lens and body and put them in two different people’s bags, but they found both and sent them back! Expect a good pat-down and bag search on the way in – I have seen people sneak drinks in before though!

Coachella Weather

The California desert in April is very hot. Expect high temperatures and make sure to bring a lot of water, sunscreen, and shade if you can. It is usually not too swelteringly hot in April (maybe 80-90 degrees F) but it definitely has the potential to reach higher than that.

The Californian desert also is notorious for another thing – dust. Dust and wind. The potential for a dust storm is pretty high as well. To prepare for this, bring a bandana or something to cover your nose and mouth as not to breathe in gallons of dust. Sunglasses are a good idea also if a storm hits during the day. I have seen overturned easy-up’s, ripped flags, and lots of overturned items after a dust storm. If you hear rumors of a dust storm coming, make sure to put anything loose in your campground away – easy-ups, tarps, anything that can catch the wind, and any food, drinks, or clothes that you don’t want covered in dust. And for goodness sake, zip up your tent!!

Coachella Review + Festival Guide: Everything You Need to Know

Coachella Time

‘Chella runs from 12pm-1am, and until midnight on the last day. This leaves plenty of time to explore “day-chella” during the day – see all the art installations and explore the venue – and see all the headliners at night. Afterwards, link up with others in the campsite and find different groups to hang and party with. Or, if you’re super VIP, find an exclusive after-party going on in the city. Lots of big names and brands have exclusive partied during Coachella.

Coachella Fashion

Coachella Fashion is quite specific. It is a lot of fun to get ‘into’ if you are a girl – and still fun if you are a boy, but possibly a little more difficult. Coachella is all about the boho/flower child/trendy hippie style, with plenty of flower crowns, fringes, floppy hats, body paint, ripped jean, and crop tops. Some people get really into fashion here, and some could care less and come for the music. I think it’s fun to do a bit of both!

coachella festival guide

Money at Coachella

Money at the festival is not handled in any different or special way. If you want something, pay cash or credit card. That’s about it!

Top Coachella Tips

I have really said everything I need to say in this super-extensive Coachella Review + Guide, but here ar a few extra points:

  1. Camp!
  2.  Potentially make a schedule of what artists you would like to see and where, because sometimes there are a lot of good well-known artists in a short time. Making a schedule is a nice way to stay organized and make sure you see everyone you came to see.
  3. Check out their merchandise, there are some cool Coachella branded clothing to grab at the merchandise tent inside the entrance!
  4. As always, check out each stage and all parts of the festival. There is a lot to explore ????
  5. Pin the image below to your Pinterest boards to save this post for later and/or spread the knowledge!

Author: Anna Johnson

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