Shields Date Garden has been on my radar for sometime, but there was always something else I wanted to do in and around Palm Springs more every time I was there! But this time I was hellbent on going and getting my hands on a famous date shake!
Okay, so first, what is Shields Date Garden? It’s part store, offering up a wide selection of date products, ice cream shop (including date ice cream and shakes), restaurant, and park. It basically has all of the bells and whistles you want in a roadside attraction. Oh, and it has a little theatre too! But more on that in a bit.
Shields Date Garden was founded by husband and wife team Floyd and Bess Shields in 1924. They were pioneers in the field of date farming in the Coachella Valley, goes as far as to create their own varieties, known as the “Blonde” and “Brunette” dates. Shield truly believed in date farming and gave presentations on the process, later creating a slide show to aid in the understanding of date farming. In the coming decades the Coachella Valley was filled up with date farms, and the Shields were in need of a new lure, especially with all of the fresh traffic of people traveling to the new resort hot spot, the Salton Sea. So he created a documentary, The Romance and Sex Life of the Date. The word “sex” was pretty taboo to have in large letters across a billboard or building in the 1950s. But it certainly made people curious and Shields thrived. Today, the documentary (albeit a slightly modified version) still continues to play on a loop for visitors in a small theatre, and people are encouraged to walk the garden and indulge in a variety of date goodies!
In 1953, in beautiful classic roadside tradition, Shields added their now iconic large knight to beckon visitors.
One of the things the Shields developed was the the date crystal, which went into their very own date shake and date ice cream. All of which are still available at Shields today.
Today, Shields Date Garden even has its very own cafe, serving up breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We arrived early for breakfast, where Patrick had the date pancakes, before we stepped out to tour the actual grounds. I had initially expected to just roam around the beautiful date palms and take some pictures, but what I wasn’t prepared for were the over 20 relatively life size statues documenting the life of Jesus. Yes, Jesus. Like, from the Bible. Apparently in 2011 William and Lillian Vanderzalm of Vancouver, Canada, had recently closed their Biblical garden, and were looking for a new home for their statues in the Palm Springs area. They called Shields, who accepted them, and the statues were installed in 2013. The presence of the story of Jesus isn’t as random as you would initially think, as dates originated in the middle east, becoming a dietary staple for those living in the area, especially in Egypt and Israel, and palm trees are mentioned multiple times in the Bible. As fitting as it is, I will admit I would have loved to have walked the grounds prior to this change.
I honestly cannot recommend Shields Date Gardens enough! It is a must if you are in the Palm Springs or Indio area. It’s only about a half hour drive from the heart of Palm Springs. It also makes for a perfect stop if you’re on your way to another religions folk art oddity, Salvation Mountain! You can check our our visit from a couple years ago here.
Shields Date Garden is located at80225 CA-111 in Indio. Please visit their website for details on hours.
That wraps up my Palm Springs post this spring. Unlike previous visits, we didn’t stay at a nifty old hotel (which I usually do a post about), instead opting to stay where Patrick’s company put him up at, which is free! And seeing as we are still making improvements on the house, we kind of need to save where we can!
Dress: Portland Antique Expo, Portland, Oregon
Copper Belt & Tooled Leather Purse: ???
Copper Jewelry: Here and there…the ring with wee little turquoise stones came from my dad
Shoes: Olvera Street.