Last week I was fortunate to spend a few days at the BNP Paribus Tennis Tournament in Indian Wells with some of the most fun friends who also love tennis as I do. 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 night out- restaurants like Nobu and Wally’s Desert Turtle are a few, bars to take in the desert sunset, and even live music in the evenings. ( We enjoyed the excellent Bryan Brother’s band while dining alfresco at one of the restaurants.)
Before I left 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 may be to you if you go.
Day passes are a great thing to do and for the $50 you get to wander the grounds and especially in the first week catch so many- like Federer, Venus and others practicing and many terrific doubles and singles matches. With this grounds pass you can easily grab one of the unreserved seats in Court 2 which has sometimes even better matches than Court 1.
Court 1 is strictly reserved tickets, but going forward I would only buy tickets for it ahead of time if the plan was to be there on a weekend when they schedule the best players and the seats get filled. We bought tickets for a full day and night of play on Court 1, on our second day ahead of time which costs more than $400 for okay seats. That was on the first Friday and our matches were not as good as those in Court 2, which we could have seen with the $50 grounds pass. You just don’t know who will be playing and they don’t give out the lineup until the night before.
The first day we had a great time with the grounds passes, saw better matches and went first thing to the box office and bought tickets for Serena William’s first match back that evening. Those set us back around $135, but was money better spent. So I recommend getting a day pass and then seeing which highlight matches you could get tickets for in the evening.
Getting There and Where to Stay
We flew into Palm Spring airport from SFO on Virgin which was a great experience. The flight is slightly over and hour and we rented a car. We ended up staying at a Homewood Suites which worked well for four of us. We had two rooms and it allowed us to each have our own room and bed. These places book up sometimes a year in advance and this was what was available almost 8 months ago and thanks to our friend Elaine, we got these rooms. I slept on the pull-put couch and I have to say it was surprisingly comfy. The hotel provides a pretty extensive hot breakfast and a dinner. We never did the dinner, but the breakfast made it easy to grab something before we headed out to the Tennis Gardens for the day. Most hotels have shuttles to the event which make it so you never have to park. We had a rental car and we did park. It’s $25 a day and if you choose to leave and come back for the night session, you have to pay a second time unless you return before 4:30! Our hotel usually has a shuttle and this year did not. Look for a hotel with a shuttle if you can.
Entering Tennis Paradise with Cindy and Elaine which was a pretty good description.
Hotels that are particularly close are the beautiful and historic La Quinta, (above) where many of the players stay and practice. They also have a terrific spa which I highly recommend. The Homewood Suites in La Quinta is walking distance to the tournament and is a closer choice than ours was in Palm Desert and is a practical choice given you spend so many hours at the tournament. My friend Jeanne stays at The Miramonte Resort also nearby.
One fun thing is you get to meet a lot of fellow tennis fans who are also traveling in groups. This sweet group of women also staying at our hotel, were from Houston and 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 nice!
Some people plan a year or more in advance and always book a particular condo or Airbnb for the whole tournament.
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 layers that can take you from very warm days – close to 100 sometimes, to chilly evenings when the desert sun goes down. 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 pop-up clothing shop sells some nice choices if you forget. I still wear my hat from the Montecristi Panama hat shop in Yountville so much!
- 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 and 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.
- 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 Beauty Counter’s body one and for my face ELTA Spf 46.
- A lightweight tote as your bag. Many women opted for the cross-body, but we later agreed the tote was the best choice as you are lugging sunscreen, a scarf, snacks, a water bottle and a lightweight jacket for evening.
- A jacket of some sort for evening. Those crushable lightweight down puffers seem to be a smart choice.
- 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 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 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 multiple matches in the shade. Don’t forget it can rain too as it did when we were there. We had sunny 86 degree days, but on the third day it rained!
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! Yes there were the occasional bad – an older gentleman who stripped his shirt off during a Court 1 day match (yikes) and a few women who could be categorized as ‘desert cougars,’ – someone else’s words not mine!
A look at some of the best…
Darling Susan is a model and an Ambassador for the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund. She is married to French tennis player Jeremy Chardy who is on the pro tour. We had a great time chatting with her and her pal Julian who represents Voss and gets to travel the tour too. They had the inside scoop on what tournaments are the best. Let’s just say The Queen’s Club Tournament is on our list…You can follow Susan on Instagram.
We ran into Jill a fellow Northern Cal tennis player and loved her dress teamed with red accented Stan Smiths. Note her light sweater and hat for sun cover.
This woman looked like she would be cool yet covered in her flowey white jeans and soft and light wrap top teamed with floral flat sandals.
We loved the dress on the left and also her friend’s sport skirt and terrific hat.
White jeans in an ankle length also work if they aren’t too heavy and this light blouse paired with the cute sandals and hat worked.
More hats, colorful light pants and I love the lavender Vans sneakers!
Another great simple yet pretty look with comfy flats and backpack and using the light scarf again for the shoulders. The messy pony tail and large glasses are a smart choice.
Ponytails and buns, like my friend Elaine sports here is the way to go. I also love her Eileen Fisher pewter sandals and light athletic material skirt. Many opted for skirts like these from Athleta.
This was another pretty look with some cover, but probably felt cool in the heat.
More hats, totes 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. These balls light up in the evening and there a lively atmosphere.
A pretty look for the evening session with her lace shorts, cross body and cool glasses.
We loved this young gal’s mix of violet hues and her iridescent hat! Many people opted for sports clothes.
These ladies were all from Southern Cal- Manhattan Beach if I remember right and were wearing heels as they came for the evening events and drinks I think. Love their pretty and soft shades and florals.
Cute. With those sandals she was coming for an evening game and dinner I bet.
Add a Spa Day to Your Trip
On our third day we had a flight out that evening, (by the way Saturday evening flight out is cheaper and empty-so much room) so we decided to book facials or massages 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. I booked these a month or so before and the day of your treatment you can come early or stay after and partake of the lovely garden, outdoor fireplace and jacuzzi. We liked being there so much we ordered room service lunch in the garden and the four of us ate by the fire. 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. It smells of citrus everywhere and especially so in the garden. In the jacuzzi we relaxed while hummingbirds popped above us to get at the grapefruit blossoms above!!
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!
Photos NorthernCalifornia Style. Thank you to all those lovely people who allowed us to use photos them here.