10 Fun and Quirky Things to Do Near Joshua Tree

Last updated May 19, 2021 | Published on Apr 1, 2021

Most visitors to the small town of Joshua Tree are there because it is near Joshua Tree National Park. The city of Joshua Tree is located just minutes from the park’s West Entrance and boasts the park’s busiest visitor center. There are tons of other great things to do near Joshua Tree, however, besides communing with the Mojave desert.

The area is a renowned gathering place for artists and other quirky types. Art installations, unusual buildings and vintage flair abound in Joshua Tree and the nearby cities of Yucca Valley and Twentynine Palms.

After living near Joshua Tree for over two months earlier this year, I got to know the region. My husband Daniel and I enjoyed exploring the area and discovering new and fun random things. This article includes my favorite things to do near Joshua Tree and the surrounding area outside of the National Park.

Planning to visit Joshua Tree National Park? Be sure to check out my Joshua Tree day trip itinerary and my ultimate guide to backpacking in Joshua Tree.

Sky Village Swap Meet

Located in downtown Yucca Valley, the Sky Village Swap Meet (also called the Sky Village Market Place) hosts 7 acres of outdoor vendors, art, recycled treasures and quirky gardens. Since Sky Village is only open until 2:00 pm on the weekends, we almost didn’t discover this gem at all. However, on our last weekend in the area, we finally made our way over to Sky Village to check it out.

As we walked into the swap meet, Daniel and I were amazed at the sheer size of the place. Entrepreneurs hawking every kind of ware filled the outdoor space. Day sellers with suitcases full of treasures set up shop next to vendors in more permanent digs. From vintage records and old Barbie dolls to hand-made leather belts and recycled scarves, you can find all it at the Sky Village Swap Meet.

While a lot of the items on sale looked like junk to me, who am I to judge? One woman’s junk is another woman’s treasure. And there were certainly lots of treasures… it just took a little digging. Since we currently live in a tiny RV with a low weight capacity, I had to restrain myself to buying a new sun hat.

Sky Village Swap Meet Details

  • Address: 7028 Theater Road, Yucca Valley, California 92284
  • Hours of Operation: Saturdays 6:00 am to 2:00 pm | Sundays 7:00 am to 2:00 pm
  • Entrance Fee: free

Random seating area/ art installation at the Sky Village Swap Meet

Permanent vendor stall at Sky Village Swap Meet

This awesome hat is the only thing I bought at the swap meet. Sadly, I lost it a few days later hiking the Kelso Dunes Trail.

Sky Village Swap Meet is located where the Sky Drive-In Theater used to be

World Famous Crochet Museum

And now for something completely different. The World Famous Crochet Museum is a shrine to hand-made treasures featuring crocheted animals in every possible shape, color and size. Operating inside of a decommissioned Fotomat kiosk, the tiny museum is filled to the brim with cuteness. Located just outside of the Art Queen Gallery, the museum is open 24 hours a day and seven days a week.

Created by artist and crochet enthusiast Shari Elf, the Crochet Museum is filled with various creatures that she has collected over the years. Two hand-made figures perched next to the door (Buddy the dog and Bunny the alligator) welcome visitors to the museum and serve as adorable curators.

World Famous Crochet Museum Details

  • Address: 61855 Hwy 62, Joshua Tree, California 92252
  • Hours of Operation: 24/7
  • Entrance Fee: by donation

Welcome to the Crochet Museum!

Buddy the dog and Bunny the alligator – the Crochet Museum’s curators

This tiny museum is located in an old one-hour Fotomat Booth

A cornucopia of handmade treasures inside of the Crochet Museum

Downtown Joshua Tree

With a population of just under 8,000 people, the small town of Joshua Tree has a surprising number of interesting things to see and do. One of my favorite stores is the Coyote Corner gift shop. Located across the street from the National Park’s Visitor Center, Coyote Corner is a fun and quirky place to prepare for a day in the park. If you’re hungry, the Joshua Tree Saloon is right next door and serves a tasty menu in a spacious outdoor patio setting. Both businesses are located in rustic wooden buildings with plenty of personality. Several art galleries are just down the street including Desert Queen, Zannedelions, and La Matadora.

Some of my other favorite haunts in Joshua Tree include Crossroads Cafe (mmmm brunch!), Nomad Ventures (outdoor gear? yes please!), Joshua Tree Coffee Company, and Joshua Tree Health Foods Store.

Downtown Joshua Tree Details

  • Address: Highway 62 and Park Boulevard, California
  • Hours of Operation: 24/7
  • Entrance Fee: free

Welcome to Joshua Tree!

Coyote Corner Gift Shop

Art installation at the Desert Queen gallery

Noah Purifoy Outdoor Desert Museum

Covering over 10 acres in the Mojave Desert, the Noah Purifoy Outdoor Desert Museum is filled with impressive large-scale sculptures and art installations. The brainchild of artist Noah Purifoy, the sculptures vary in size and are constructed entirely from junked materials. Purifoy drew critical acclaim in the 1960s for his exhibition 66 Signs of Neon, which was created out of debris from the 1965 Watts rebellion. He later moved to Joshua Tree and worked on the Outdoor Desert Museum until his death in 2004.

Since Purifoy’s death, the museum is now managed by the Noah Purifoy Foundation and continues to draw quite a crowd. While some of the pieces are beginning to show signs of age, the museum holds an impressive collection of unique artwork and is definitely worth a visit.

Noah Purifoy Outdoor Desert Museum Details

  • Location: 62975 Blair Lane, Joshua Tree, California 92252
  • Hours of Operation: sunup to sundown, every day
  • Entrance Fee: by donation

Welcome to the Noah Purifoy Outdoor Desert Museum!

No Contest (Bicycles), 1991

Carousel, 1996

San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge, 1990

Integratron

This one-of-a kind wooden dome is unusual even by Joshua Tree standards. The Integratron was constructed in the 1950s by George Van Tassel who claimed to have received instructions by visitors from the planet Venus. Located on a confluence of geomagnetic forces, the building supposedly concentrates and amplifies the earth’s geomagnetic field. Van Tassel believed the Integratron rejuvenated human cells and could even enable time travel. Unfortunately, he died under mysterious circumstances a few weeks before the Integratron’s official opening in 1978.

These days, the Integratron is used to conduct sound baths. In each session, a sequence of quartz singing crystal bowls are played to enable deep relaxation, rejuvenation, and introspection. Daniel and I would’ve loved to attend a sound bath, but only private sessions are currently available due to the pandemic. The private sessions are pricey and sell out months in advance. The Integratron is also offering virtual sound baths over Zoom and outdoor sound baths for those who cannot attend a private session.

Integratron Details

  • Address: 2477 Belfield Blvd, Landers, California 92285
  • Hours of Operation: Thursday through Sunday by reservation only
  • Entrance Fee: varies

The Integratron in Landers, California

Desert Christ Park

Perched on a hillside above the Living Hope Church in Yucca Valley, Desert Christ Park is home to over 40 steel-reinforced concrete statues. Created by artist Antone Martin, the statues depict a variety of events from the bible including the Sermon on the Mount, the Garden of Gethsamane, the Last Supper and Christ’s ascension into heaven.

The statues are placed along a path in a peaceful garden setting and make for an interesting place to visit.

Desert Christ Park Details

  • Address: 56200 Sunnyslope Drive, Yucca Valley, California 92284
  • Hours of Operation: sunup to sundown, every day
  • Entrance Fee: by donation

Welcome to Desert Christ Park!

Biblical statues along the path in Desert Christ Park

Statues depicting Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane

Pioneertown

Pioneertown is an old west-themed community that was initially constructed as a 1940’s movie set. Hundreds of westerns and television shows were filmed along its historic Mane Street over the years. The town’s wooden storefronts and western-themed businesses draw thousands of visitors each year. For those interested in the town’s colorful history, a film museum on Mane Street provides a glimpse into the past.

Most visitors to Pioneertown, however, come for Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace. Located in what used to be the Pioneertown’s cantina, Pappy & Harriet’s is a lively restaurant, dive bar and music venue all rolled into one. A variety of famous musicians have played at the venue over the years, from Paul McCartney and Lorde to Lucinda Williams. It’s a very popular place, however, so visitors should be prepared to wait in line (or make a reservation). Daniel and I showed up on a weekend without a reservation and the lines were so long that we decided to spend our time wandering Pioneertown instead.

Pioneertown Details

  • Address: 53626 Mane Street, Pioneertown, California 92268
  • Hours of Operation: 24/7
  • Entrance Fee: free

Pioneertown General Mercantile

Pioneertown Bath House

Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace

Welcome to Pioneertown!

Joshua Tree Farmers Market

Small but mighty, the Joshua Tree Farmers Market boasts an impressive selection of fresh fruits and vegetables from local farmers as well as handicrafts and handmade goods. Exploring the market is a great way to support area farmers and get to know the Joshua Tree community at the same time. The market is open on Saturday mornings in downtown Joshua Tree near the turtle statue (known as “Turtle Island”).

During our visit to the Farmers Market, Daniel and I found an enormous blue-green emu egg at a farm stand. So, of course we had to buy it and try it out. We’ve never tried to cook an emu egg before and it was quite an adventure.

Joshua Tree Farmers Market Details

  • Address: downtown Joshua Tree at Turtle Island
  • Hours of Operation: Saturdays from 8:00 am to 1:00 pm
  • Entrance Fee: free

Welcome to Joshua Tree Farmers Market!

The Joshua Tree Farmers Market

An emu egg and chicken egg that we bought at the Joshua Tree Farmers Market

Salvation Mountain

Located a 2-hour drive from the town of Joshua Tree, Salvation Mountain is worth the drive if you have the time. A monument to god in the middle of the desert, Salvation Mountain is a literal man-made mountain covered in brightly colored paint and bible verses. Constructed by Leonard Knight in 1984, the mound is made of adobe bricks and discarded automobile parts that are covered with thousands of gallons of paint. The mountain was named a Congressional National-Art Treasure in 2002.

Salvation Mountain is positioned near the entrance to Slab City, an off-the-grid squatter community popular with snowbirds and transients. Also called The Slabs, the neighborhood is located on the remains of a World War II training camp.

Salvation Mountain Details

  • Address: 603 Beal Road, Niland, California 92257
  • Hours of Operation: sunup to sundown, every day
  • Entrance Fee: by donation

Salvation Mountain

Detail of the station wagon at Salvation Mountain

Mailbox to God at Salvation Mountain

A mobile home constructed on an old truck bed

Salton Sea State Recreation Area

One of the nation’s largest inland seas, the Salton Sea is also one of the most toxic. Runoff from nearby farms has filled the Salton Sea with a cocktail of noxious chemicals and raised the lake’s salinity to higher than that of the Pacific Ocean. There are no water sources feeding the lake so the toxicity (and smell) is getting worse as the lake shrinks.

Despite its faults (or perhaps because of them), the Salton Sea is still an interesting place to visit. At 225 feet below sea level, the Salton Sea sits at one of the lowest spots on the planet in the Salton Trough. This basin has filled with water and emptied again countless times over the millennia. These days, the Salton Sea State Recreation Area covers 14 miles of the northeastern shore and is a popular site for campers, boaters and anglers.

Salton Sea State Recreation Area Details

  • Address: 100-225 State Park Road, Mecca, California 92254
  • Hours of Operation: 24/7
  • Entrance Fee: day use fee is $7

The shoreline along the Salton Sea

Now that’s a lake I *really* don’t want to go swimming in…

Welcome to Salton Sea State Recreation Area!

Other Things to Do Near Joshua Tree

While this hits the highlights of things to do near Joshua Tree, it is by no means a comprehensive list. There are more interesting and fun things to see in the area if you have the time. Here are just a few:

Joshua Tree National Park Resources

If you enjoyed this article, be sure to check out my other posts about Joshua Tree National Park!


Have you visited any of these quirky places near Joshua Tree?  I’d love to hear from you! Share your experience in the comments below.

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Hi, I'm Unicorn!

I am an avid hiker, traveler, and adventurer who is on the mission to explore hiking trails around the world.  I’m also obsessed with National Parks, long-distance trails and other outdoorsy things.

I hope to share this knowledge with you and inspire you to explore new hiking trails too!

8 Comments

  1. Taylor

    This is such a great guide! I am definitely looking to visit Joshua Tree this year and I didn’t realize there was so much to do surrounding the park! You have me so excited! 🙂

    Reply
    • Unicorn

      Yay! I’m glad to hear it. There’s lots to see in the area if you know where to look.

      Reply
  2. Natalie

    Ooh I love these! I was thinking about visiting Joshua Tree this year and it looks like there’s tons to do in the area!

    Reply
    • Unicorn

      Joshua Tree is a super fun place to visit, both inside and outside the park 🙂

      Reply
  3. madhuonthego

    Wow those are really interesting activities .I loved the crochet toys😊 wish to visit someday

    Reply
    • Unicorn

      The Crochet Museum is *pretty* awesome ☺️

      Reply
  4. elenaf18

    This is a great list! I really love Desert Christ Park. Definitely saving this for future inspiration 🙂

    Reply
  5. Kelly

    I love Joshua Tree, but haven’t done most of these things! These will be fun to stop by next time!

    Reply

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