4 Wacky, Creepy Coachella Side Trips That Will Blow Your Mind (Bring the Good Camera)

The Southern California desert has an arty — even dark — underbelly.

You may have heard? The Coachella festival is about to take over the Southern California desert city of Indio, with parties stretching all the way to Palm Springs about 30 miles to the east. If you're a festival-goer whose getaway hours aren't already fully booked with catching the music and hitting parties — and of course taking selfies at the must-see Desert X art installation — here are some other places you'll want to hit for an absolutely memorable, arty, off-the-beaten-trail — and totally Instagram friendly — weekend in the desert.

1.  Salton Sea

The Salton Sea, which once had the distinction of being the largest lake in the state and was popular among holiday-makers in the 1950s, is now a bizarre wasteland. As the lake shrank and the water salinity increased, the formerly idyllic resort became a post-apocalyptic scene worthy of adventurers with a bit of a dark side.

2.  Slab City

Slab City, located outside Niland, is a commity of like-minded (may we?) weirdos who choose to live mainly off the grid. The highest point within it is known as Salvation Mountain, a landmark made of straw and adobe, and painted colorfully with verses from the bible.

3.  East Jesus

If Desert X is too polished for your tastes, or it's already gone by the time of your visit, try seeing some art in East Jesus. The art park contains pieces made from found objects like broken TVs and cars. Charlie Stephen Russell founded the place in 2007.

4.  Anza-Borrego Desert

More beautiful than wacky, the Anza-Borrego Desert is currently experiencing an epic wildflower super bloom right now that you absolutely need to see. But if you're into the weird stuff, here you can also hike with a 350-foot-long dragon, herd of elephants, wild horses, and other beasts rendered as art pieces. Over the last 25 years, artist and welder Ricardo Breceda has created more than metal 130 sculptures in the desert, which is just next to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

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