This is the guide you need to help you navigate the fun BNP Indian Wells tennis tournament. I’ll share my strategy what to pack, what to wear, the best places to stay, and what tickets you need.
This tournament has grown hugely in the past few years and is now called the ‘fifth slam’ by many. Indian Wells has the second largest tennis stadium in the world, plus another stadium that holds 8,000 and 29 other courts thanks to the patronage of Oracle and Larry Ellison.
It’s a magnificent spot comprising 88 acres of gardens, food spots and champagne bars as well as and swanky restaurants and pop-up tennis shops. It’s sort of a Disneyland for the tennis lover and it’s hard to leave once you get there.
They have created places to have a fun day and evening out- restaurants and bars like Nobu and others, to take in the desert sunset, and enjoy live music in the evenings. We enjoyed the excellent Bryan Brother’s band while dining alfresco at one of the restaurants and there was John McEnroe’s band too.
Years ago I looked all over the internet for ideas on what to wear, pack and to expect, but found very little. I thought I’d write a small guide for those who are heading there and what I learned that was helpful to me and hopefully anyone else who has never been..
Day passes ( $40-$50), are a great thing to do and you get to wander the grounds and especially in the first week, catch so many of the top players practicing and many terrific doubles and singles matches. That can be a lot of fun and you can take breaks to eat in the gardens, sip champagne, or shop at some of the shops filled with everything you can want tennis related.
I recommend getting a day pass and then seeing which highlight matches you could get tickets for in the evening. Usually the matches in Court 1 are all the top players. However, if you stick around you can grab seats in Court 2, with your day pass, which is sometimes as good or better.
Getting There and Where to Stay
We flew into Palm Spring airport from San Jose on Southwest which was a great experience. The flight is slightly over and hour and we Ubered.
We ended up staying at a hotel that was walking distance to the tennis gardens. You need to book very far in advance!
Our hotel had a free expanded breakfast every morning They print out the order of play each morning and have the tennis going on a big tv in the main space while you have breakfast, and chat with other tennis fanatics.
Another year we flew from San Jose to Ontario and drove to Palm Springs. ( An hour plus drive.) We stopped at the Cabazon Outlets on the way back to Ontario. That alone could be a whole day as it’s huge and probably the best outlets from designer goods in the United States. We bought things from Burberry there. and Tory Burch. There is also a fantastic Gucci and Prada if that is your thing worth a stop.
UPDATE: Note parking is now free at the venue, but plan accordingly… People said it was a nightmare and one woman told me it took her two hours from parking to get to the stadium.. Get dropped off maybe or walk if you are able, or get there early.
Entering Tennis Paradise with Cindy and Elaine which was a pretty good description.
A hotel that is particularly close and beautiful is the historic La Quinta, (above) where many of the players stay and practice. They also have a terrific spa which I highly recommend.
One fun thing is you get to meet a lot of fellow tennis fans like this sweet group of women also at our hotel from Houston who have been playing tennis and traveling the world together to see tournaments for over 40 years! Some of the ladies are in their 70s and 80s, but they look amazing and were so friendly.
Some people plan a year or more in advance and always book a particular condo or Airbnb for the whole tournament. We did this in 2020, and sadly did not get to go as the tournament was cancelled due to the pandemic. Getting our money back was not easy and took a year for what was a partial refund.
What to Pack and Wear
As I mentioned before, the days run long there is so much to do and see. I recommend wearing comfortable shoes and bring layers that can take you from very warm days – close to 100 sometimes, to chilly evenings when the desert sun goes down. Crushable puffer jackets are a smart option if you plan to stay through the night sessions and easy to carry.
I wore a dress the first day and so did one of my friends, and while we were cool enough, you get sweaty legs sitting in the stadiums. If you plan a day of sitting the best choice may be longer shorts or short light pants.
The longer shorts look stylish, but more importantly your legs don’t sweat and chafe in the heat. Comfortable shoes are a must because there is a LOT of distance from where you enter the park and between each venue. Sneakers worked for many, but if it’s near 90, like we had, you may be cooler in a comfortable sandal or a sneaker with mesh or ventilation.
Some other items that are musts:
- A hat of some sort. Find something comfortable that you can wear all day and in most courts you WILL be in the direct sun. The clothing shop sells some nice choices if you forget. I still wear my hat from the Montecristi Panama hat shop in Yountville. Similar one here at J. Crew and also this , and more options here.
- A lightweight scarf to drape over your shoulders, legs, etc when you are in the direct sun. So many women had these and what a great way to keep more sun off of you. I bought a SPF 50 large wrap/scarf at the clothing shop made by BloqUV used it during the day on my shoulders and at night for warmth with my jacket. It’s easy to throw a scarf in your bag and you will be so glad you have it. It feels cooling in the heat too! One of my best purchases ever.
- Sunscreen. Obviously. Don’t forget to reapply and remember the physical block are the best and don’t break down in the sun as much. I like Goop’s Play SPF 50 for body which goes on easily, feels great and isn’t whiteish…..and for my face ELTA Spf 46 and also Goop Glow Screen SPF 40.
- A see through tote for lugging sunscreen, a scarf, snacks, a water bottle and a lightweight jacket for evening. Since 2020 Indian Wells has required bags be see through plastic. Many affordable and cute choices here.
- A jacket of some sort. I love this linen jacket that always bring for over tops or dresses. Those crushable lightweight down puffers seem to be a smart choice and a scarf. I loved this scarf from Tommy Bahama and brought it in a similar pattern.
- A refillable water bottle. There are kiosks all over to fill your bottle as much as you like for free. You have to bring your bottle in the stadium empty as a security precaution, but can fill it throughout the day after you are in. I also brought these Nuun electrolyte tablets I like for hot days. They help me from feeling lightheaded and getting dehydrated in the extreme temps
- A backup phone charger as the coverage can be sketchy out there and if you stay all day into the night and also use your phone as a camera you will need a battery backup!
- Snacks like a granola bar, nuts or an apple or banana are great to have on hand. There are many choices of where to eat, but it’s nice to have something if lines are long and you’re in a stadium.
- An umbrella -for both sun and rain. If it is sunny you can use an umbrella if you are in the last row and you are not blocking others. Some people actually prefer to set up camp towards the top of the stands on some of the smaller courts with their umbrellas and watch in the shade. I have this compact umbrella and it also blocks 98% of UV
Inspiring Spectator Style
Thanks to my friends we were having fun looking for a few folk who looked especially nice during our days at the tournament that we could share on the blog. There were so many stylish people!
A look at some of the best…
What we wore a few years ago on a much hotter tournament..
More hats and dresses at the Moet champagne garden. This is a good way to spend the afternoon when it gets just too unbearable in the stands.
The first day were were there 2023 we wore light jackets and shorts and pants..
Another year below, we were much hotter we did shorts, tanks and scarves to keep off the sun.
Add a Spa Day to Your Trip
On our third day we had a flight out that evening, (by the way Saturday flight out is cheaper and empty-so much room) so we decided to book treatments at the La Quinta Spa. It was a great choice as we all suffered from sore feet and dried out skin after two days of desert heat. The day of your treatment you can come early or stay after and partake of the lovely garden, outdoor fireplace and jacuzzi.
In 2023 I had a facial with Nicole who was amazing and the treatment room had French doors with pretty grapefruit trees in the view.. Was maybe one of the best facials I ever had. My skin looked amazing after too, which never happens to me.
We liked being there so much we ordered room service lunch in the garden and the four of us ate by the fire after relaxing on lounge chairs and enjoying the outdoor jacuzzi. It ended up being a cooler day so it was perfect. If you have the time this is a good way to end your trip. The spa facilities are first rate and the resort itself is beautiful surrounded by mountains and bougainvillea.
Many of you are veterans of this tournament. Can you add any tips below in the comments to help others plan a trip? Any great places to stay or strategies you use to get tickets or plan your days here?
Thanks so much!
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Photos NorthernCalifornia Style. Thank you to all those lovely people who allowed us to use photos them here.