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What is Coachella?

Coachella is an iconic music and arts festival that embodies the spirit of cultural fusion, set against the picturesque backdrop of California's desert. It's a vibrant celebration where music legends and rising stars perform, art installations inspire, and festival-goers from around the globe gather. Curious about the Coachella experience? Dive deeper to discover the sounds, sights, and sensations that define this unforgettable event.
Devon Pryor
Devon Pryor

The name Coachella, although it is also the name of a city in Riverside County, California, usually refers to the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. The Coachella festival is held once a year in the city of Indio, also in Riverside County. Coachella is held during the last weekend of April. Since the first official Coachella festival in 1999, the event has grown in popularity to the point that the original two days designated for the festival have been extended to three days.

The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival is held on the lawn of the Empire Polo Fields in Indio. At this location on 5 November 1993, the alternative rock bands Tool and Pearl Jam had performed for nearly 25,000 fans. The Empire Polo Fields proved to be an appropriate location for a large-scale concert, despite Indio’s harsh desert heat and distance from major cities in California, Arizona and Nevada. Finally, on 9 and 10 October 1999, the first official Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival was held. The line-up included artists such as Beck, The Chemical Brothers, Tool, Morrissey, Rage Against the Machine, Jurassic 5 and DJ Shadow.

The annual Coachella is held in Indio, in Riverside County, California.
The annual Coachella is held in Indio, in Riverside County, California.

In the year 2000, Coachella was not held, supposedly due to lack of funding. However, in 2001 the festival was reorganized. This time, organizers decided to hold Coachella in April, avoiding the height of the California desert summer, and the recently reunited band Jane’s Addiction headlined the festival. In the years that followed, the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival continued to gain popularity and interest worldwide.

Coachella fans often have to brave extreme heat.
Coachella fans often have to brave extreme heat.

In addition to live music, Coachella also features a strong artistic presence. Sculpture and installation art are a part of each year’s festivities. Many of the art installations are interactive, and are strategically placed around the lawns of the Empire Polo Fields in places where festival attendees are likely to walk among them. Visual artists that show at Coachella often show for more than one year, whereas to date, only a handful of musical artists have performed at Coachella more than once.

Coachella guests may trade 10 empty plastic water bottles for a fresh water bottle.
Coachella guests may trade 10 empty plastic water bottles for a fresh water bottle.

Camping is also common at Coachella, and began at the 2002 festival. Guests who decide to camp stay at a nearby polo field, next to the lawn used for the festival grounds. Camping at Coachella is confined to tents, and there are a number of rules in place to prevent damage and pollution of the grounds. For example, glass, alcohol, open fires, and cooking devices are not allowed on the campgrounds. Also, on the lawn where the music and art takes place, guests are prohibited from bringing blankets, chairs, outside food and beverage, audio recording equipment, professional cameras, and of course drugs and alcohol. Organizers at Coachella have also set up a recycling system for water bottles. Guests who bring 10 empty plastic water bottles to be recycled receive a fresh bottle of water for free.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Coachella and why is it so popular?

Coachella, officially known as the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, is an annual music festival held in Indio, California. It's renowned for its diverse lineup of artists, encompassing various music genres such as rock, pop, indie, hip hop, and electronic dance music. Coachella has gained immense popularity due to its large-scale art installations, celebrity sightings, and trendsetting attendees. It's not just a music festival; it's a cultural phenomenon that draws over 250,000 attendees across two weekends.

When does Coachella typically take place?

Coachella traditionally takes place over two consecutive weekends in April. The festival is scheduled to ensure attendees can experience the same lineup and attractions each weekend, providing flexibility and the opportunity for more fans to participate. The specific dates can vary slightly each year, but it generally falls in the middle of April, capitalizing on the pleasant spring weather of the California desert.

How can I purchase tickets for Coachella?

Tickets for Coachella can be purchased through the official Coachella website. It's advisable to register for an account in advance, as tickets often sell out quickly due to high demand. There are different types of passes available, including General Admission, VIP, and various camping options. Keep an eye on the official Coachella social media channels and website for announcements regarding ticket sale dates and pricing.

What should I expect in terms of the Coachella experience?

At Coachella, expect a vibrant atmosphere filled with music, art, and fashion. You'll experience performances from top-tier artists and emerging talents across multiple stages. Art installations and interactive exhibits add to the immersive experience. Attendees should also be prepared for the desert climate, with hot days and cooler nights, and plan accordingly with appropriate clothing, hydration, and sun protection. Foodies will enjoy a wide array of culinary offerings, from gourmet to street food.

Can I attend Coachella if I'm under 18?

Yes, Coachella does not have an age restriction, and attendees of all ages are welcome. However, those under 18 are advised to be accompanied by an adult. The festival environment is adult-oriented, with some areas, such as the beer gardens, restricted to those 21 and over. It's important for underage attendees and their guardians to plan for a safe and enjoyable experience, considering the festival's scale and the desert conditions.

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Discussion Comments


@lapsed – I agree. It’s not exactly Woodstock but it’s a great festival to hear alternative artists and camp out for a few days for a lot of fun and festivity. There’s even a Coachella wiki online that provides event dates, resources and background history about the event.


The lineup of Coachella has become a veritable "who's who" of music. Recommendations for the lucky people attending Coachella 2011 in April: Warpaint, The Arcade Fire, Foals, The Radio Dept., Two Door Cinema Club, The National, Menomena... so many great acts. The Chemical Brothers are back as well after playing the very first ever Coachella in 1999.

Camping is fun and after three days you're bound to leave with some good memories, but it can also be exhausting. The recycling system for water bottles is a great idea, you really need to stay hydrated to last the full three days if you plan on camping.

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    • The annual Coachella is held in Indio, in Riverside County, California.
      By: qingwa
      The annual Coachella is held in Indio, in Riverside County, California.
    • Coachella fans often have to brave extreme heat.
      By: vladischern
      Coachella fans often have to brave extreme heat.
    • Coachella guests may trade 10 empty plastic water bottles for a fresh water bottle.
      By: vgstudio
      Coachella guests may trade 10 empty plastic water bottles for a fresh water bottle.