by Andrea Hanson Carter

If you’ve been in the Coachella Valley for a while now, you’ve undoubtedly heard of the La Quinta Arts Festival – which is held every March, and is about to host its 32nd annual Festival March 6th-9th. It’s received many accolades over the years, but perhaps its biggest honor to date is being named the #1 Fine Arts Festival in the Nation by Art Fair Sourcebook for the second straight year, with an additional distinction this year of being named the #1 Fine Craft Festival in the Nation as well.

If you think art isn’t your “thing” or are intimidated by art in any way, perhaps you may have never seriously looked at attending the Festival in years past. But what you might not realize is – you’re missing out on an experience that is so filled with fun – you may not even notice you’re being “cultured” at the same time!

Art is definitely the star of this Festival, but there are so many other things to enjoy no matter where you’re at in your art journey. Imagine spending the day browsing incredible ceramics, drawings, pastels, glass art pieces, jewelry, painting, photography, sculptures and more, while stopping occasionally at “Restaurant Row” to savor tastes by restaurants like Ruth’s Chris Steak House and Fisherman’s Market and Grill. Shanghi Red’s Zen Oasis Lounge will be serving Asian style and lighter fare.

Of course, there’s always time to lounge at The Island Bar to relax with a craft beer or a selection of fine boutique wines hand selected for the event. Start the day off right, and make it a Mimosa Morning with a Canella Blood Orange Mimosa or Peach Bellini on the amphitheater lawn.

Along the way, you can count on great entertainment, as well. Don’t miss DiosGracias VoceDans Theater, a company of curated dancer/singers who integrate butoh-inspired movement and contemporary dance forms. You’ll also enjoy the smooth flamenco guitar stylings of Milton Merlos, the haunting Bolivian pan pipes of Oscar Reynolds and the swing and jazz standards from renowned Steve Madaio and Friends.

On Saturday, be sure you ‘play artist’ at the Festival photo booth and get your free, commemorative photo, as well. Art-themed props will allow you to have some fun in front of the camera, and give you a nice take-away to remember your day at La Quinta Arts Festival.

The La Quinta Arts Festival is so prestigious, that it draws contemporary artists from 36 states, Canada, Israel and Nicaragua – receiving a record number of more than 1,100 applications this year for the coveted 234 spots at the Festival.

Featured artists include Teresa Saia (Seattle, WA), chosen as the 2014 Poster Artist for her original pastel entitled “Spring’s Gentle Awakening;” Jason Napier (Friday Harbor, WA), whose bronze sculpture of a regal peacock named “His Majesty” is the focal image of La Quinta Arts Festival’s 2014 marketing campaign; and John Ha (Garden Grove, CA); who is best known for his signature Koi fish mixed media paintings where each fish explores various themes from pop culture to customary Asian symbolism.

Your smartphone can be your guide – making navigating the Festival easy and convenient! While at the Festival, patrons can visit from their mobile device to locate individual artists, checking out all artists in a particular medium, reviewing entertainment and dining options, and looking up other event information.

And here’s an idea – take your kids! With arts exposure diminishing in school systems, it is important for you to introduce them to art and culture at a young age so they can grow with an appreciation for art that will benefit them in many aspects of their life.

There’s a special treat for kids of any age – and anyone with a sweet tooth – at The Chocolate Bar, tended by the sweet masterminds from Brandini Toffee. Here you will be able to indulge in an extra special snack of creamy vanilla ice cream bars, hand-dipped into decadent milk or dark chocolate, then rolled in their famous toffee as featured on “Oprah.”

You do not need to be an art aficionado to love the La Quinta Arts Festival. You just need to be up for a beautiful day, or weekend, in the scenic La Quinta Civic Center Park, with a palette of experiences just waiting for you. And who knows – you may even purchase your first piece of art! You’ll find artwork at all different price ranges, so there’s truly something for any budget – to adorn yourself, your loved one, your home or office.

Ticket prices are: Adults $12, Multi-Day Pass $15, Children under 12 are free. Tickets may be purchased at the gate or in advance at for a value added offer.

Free parking is available in the Village of La Quinta, along with paid valet and self parking options.