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The Storied Past of Indian Wells, CA. A City Worth Visiting Many Times Over

What was once a flourishing tribal well and wagon stop has since become a prosperous wellspring of luxury, synonymous with fine living and world-class events.

Nestled in a cove of the Santa Rosa Mountains, the city of Indian Wells, California, blossoms with palm trees, gardens, and lush, breathtaking scenery in all directions and features some of Greater Palm Springs’ most luxurious resorts offering world-class diningspas, and meeting facilities—yet is just a 20-minute drive from the Palm Springs International Airport.

Steeped in a rich and colorful history, Indian Wells has long been a source of prosperity for its inhabitants. In 1823, a Mexican explorer, Captain Jose Romero, gave Indian Wells its name upon discovering a thriving Cahuilla (Kawee-yah) Indian village formed around a hand-built well. The women of this tribe dug 30 feet ~ by hand ~ to find the water that enabled the growth of the community.

For nearly 40 years, Indian Wells was the Coachella Valley’s only established watering point and a pivotal stagecoach stop for intrepid gold prospectors seeking their fortunes on the Colorado River. The first settlers, including Caleb Cook, arrived around 1910 and were credited with pioneering the valley’s date industry.

In the 1950s, savvy residents, led by E.M. Peterson, transformed their prosperous agricultural community into a premier residential and resort destination. That golden era began in 1957 with the construction of the Eldorado Country Club and Golf Course, followed by the Indian Wells Country Club and Golf Course, with Desi Arnaz as one of the founders. In 1958, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz also opened the Indian Wells Hotel (now the Indian Wells Resort Hotel) and Indian Wells grew into an intimate, celebrity-studded retreat. When President Dwight D. Eisenhower first vacationed here, he was so impressed with Indian Wells that it became his winter residence. In 1960, Arnold Palmer won the first Bob Hope Desert Classic at the Indian Wells Country Club, which was the start of Indian Wells’ legacy as a top-ranked golf destination.

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