There are myriad reasons to experience the popular Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival—The Weeknd, Beyoncé, and Eminem being the top three. But as the classic Ralph Waldo Emerson adage goes, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” Make the road trip part of the adventure, too, by stopping for Instagram photo ops, the best food, and scenic places to stretch your legs. Leave early to beat the traffic and give yourself ample time at these ideal stops—and don’t forget to queue up the ultimate Coachella-worthy soundtrack to get you there.
Capture the perfect Instagram shot.
The first leg of this road trip is the longest uninterrupted stretch (180 miles if you’re coming from San Francisco), so kick back and enjoy the ride. Once you’re deep in I-5’s agrarian scenery, pull off for a quick Instagram shoot—the first of many for this photogenic weekend. New Idria, a former mercury mining community that’s now a ghost town, features endless moody backdrops for photos. The road in can be a bumpy, dusty ride, but it’s worth it.
More than 100 now abandoned and graffitied structures were built from 1854 to 1972 when the mining company closed and residents left town. Rare minerals, rocks, and evidence of tectonic activity also set the stage for unique shots—no filter needed!
Dig in to a hearty meal.
In vegetable-centric California, there are few places that take barbecue as seriously as Willow Ranch in Buttonwillow. That’s what makes it worth waiting for as you pass all those In-N-Outs. Every bite of Wet-Nap-ready barbecue is slow-cooked in a smoker full of oak, almond, and mesquite wood, then slathered with a house-made sauce. Locals swear by the signature Plow Boy sandwich: Angus Beef brisket with pastrami, bacon, pepper Jack, onion rings, and jalapeños on a French roll. Not quite that hungry? Barbecue purists can opt for simply smoked meats (beef, pork, chicken) with Willow Ranch barbecue sauce or salsa.