On any given day, downtown Palm Springs is both a shopper’s and food lover’s paradise, but on Thursday nights, Palm Canyon Drive transforms into a street fair where local artists, musicians and vendors create an exciting atmosphere to enjoy as night falls on the desert. With free admission, lively performers and vendors of all sorts, VillageFest offers something for everyone to enjoy.

Although the night market begins at 6 p.m., consider heading downtown a bit earlier to enjoy a happy hour cocktail as the vendors begin setting up for VillageFest. Restaurants such as Lulu’s, Matchbox and Kaiser Grill offer happy hour specials in the hours leading up to the street fair. Don’t fill up on food, though – VillageFest has loads of tasty treats to indulge in.

The market’s food stalls are located at the north end of the fair near Amado Road. Try a falafel at Julian Food Company’s stall, a plate of stuffed grape leaves or a juicy bratwurst with grilled onions. Again, don’t overdo it – there’s still plenty to snack on as you make your way south down Palm Canyon Drive.

One of the first things you’ll notice at VillageFest is the music of live performers setting the mood for the fair. Don’t miss Marston Smith, an electric cello player who dons armor and a cape as he performs Celtic music at the fair. Another favorite local musician is David Wayne, an acoustic guitar player whose lively and soothing melodies are so popular they are featured on the VillageFest website. Various other musicians play throughout the fair, including an accordion player and a violinist.

If all the walking is working up your appetite, grab a snack from one of the many vendors peppered throughout the street fair. Local snacks include stuffed dates and date shakes, and don’t forget to grab a tall bag of freshly popped kettle corn, a fair favorite. Satisfy your sweet tooth with fudge, candied apples and chocolate-covered strawberries from Palm Springs Fudge and Chocolate, or chow down on a banana and Nutella crepe or any of the other dozens of dessert crepes from the nearby crepe stall.

Of course, one of the main draws of VillageFest is the locally crafted goods that artists and vendors come to sell. If you’re looking for flowers, stop by Clay Do Flowers’ stall. While their orchids and stargazer lilies look like the real thing, they’re actually intricately fabricated clay models that you’ll be able to enjoy for years to come.

Even if you’re on a budget, you’ll enjoy watching the artisans at work. Many of the vendors will create their wares on the spot, drawing crowds of fascinated customers. Suzy Durazo of Sue’s Tin Can Art creates beautiful and elaborate candleholders and other pieces of art from tin cans with a torch, and spray paint artist Arturo Martinez creates his entire breathtaking inventory on the spot, using spray paint cans and a few tools to create intricate works of art often featuring planets and landscapes.

Handmade jewelry, natural body products, scroll saw art, and pottery are just a few of the locally crafted products for sale. Many local photographers and artists also set up shop at VillageFest, offering plenty of options for shoppers looking for a new piece of art.

Children will enjoy pony rides, and the entire family can share a horse-drawn carriage ride through downtown Palm Springs. If you’re not up for a ride, make a small donation and grab a carrot to feed one of the horses. Children will also be amazed as costumed street performers perform magic.

VillageFest also celebrates holidays with special performances and activities, such as a “zombie walk” during Halloween and a special visit from Santa in December.

As the vendors begin to pack their goods and the tents start to come down, grab a late night snack or drink at one of the many restaurants lining the streets. Many shops and restaurants are open late on Thursdays to cater to the VillageFest crowd.

What & Where:

VillageFest (Downtown Palm Springs on Palm Canyon between Baristo Road and Amado Road, Thursdays from 6 – 10 p.m. October through May, 7 – 10 p.m. June through September)