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Shields Date Gardens

80-225 US Highway 111, Indio, CA - (760) 347-0996
Posted By Michael Stern on 4/3/2011 4:17:00 AM
Blast from the past! It is so strange and delightful to come upon Shields Date Gardens on Highway 111 in the midst of the development that has turned the Coachella Valley into a golf/resort/retirement paradise. This vintage roadside attraction doesn’t seem to have changed in decades, hearkening back to a time when the California desert was as exotic-seeming as Araby.

Located in a grove of stately palm trees, Shields is an airy showroom for dates and date products available by mail order. These include spectacularly sweet and creamy Super Jumbo Royal Medjools, deglets (semi-dry, smaller dates), date bits (like you’d get in trail mix), and date crystals, which are dried date bits suitable for cooking (a Shield’s invention). All these things are on display and available to buy and eat immediately. Also on sale are strips of photographic slides that show attractions of the California desert, booklets that sing of the glories of the dates that Floyd and Bess Shields began to cultivate and sell in 1924, and other assorted desert souvenirs. For free, you can step into a small theater to the side of the showroom and enjoy a film titled 'The Romance and Sex Life of the Date,' which explains the life cycle of what the narrator describes as “the least understood of all fruits.”

There are a few old wooden booths in the showroom, where visitors can sit and enjoy the two prepared foods available at the counter: date ice cream and date shakes. The former is vanilla ice cream laced with shreds of date, making it ultra-rich; the latter is a thick, date-flavored milk shake – one of the culinary glories of old California.

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Scorecard

5 - Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
date shake
Dates
date ice cream
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Reviewers Photos [Upload Your Photos]

Very thick but not too rich, this sweet date shake surely hits the spot every time.
"Very thick but not too rich, this sweet date shake surely hits the spot every time."
Chris & Amy Ayers





Jumbo Medjools: the richest fruit on earth.
"Jumbo Medjools: the richest fruit on earth."
Michael Stern


You can’t leave Shields without buying a tub of dates and their superior pistachios.
"You can’t leave Shields without buying a tub of dates and their superior pistachios."
Chris & Amy Ayers


Though not as powerfully sweet as the date shake, just one scoop of date ice cream should be enough to satisfy most sweet tooths.
"Though not as powerfully sweet as the date shake, just one scoop of date ice cream should be enough to satisfy most sweet tooths."
Cliff Strutz


To the left is the counter, to the right are the booths.  In between are dates for sale as well as California desert souvenirs.
"To the left is the counter, to the right are the booths. In between are dates for sale as well as California desert souvenirs."
Michael Stern


What was surely a real head-turning advertisement back in the ’60s is now a curious sign that hides a rather dry mini-documentary on date propagation.
"What was surely a real head-turning advertisement back in the ’60s is now a curious sign that hides a rather dry mini-documentary on date propagation."
Chris & Amy Ayers


The motion picture advertised on Shields' exterior wall is shown in a small theater to the side of the showroom. It is hardly a sex film. It's more like a mid-1950s science movie crossed with a travelogue.
"The motion picture advertised on Shields' exterior wall is shown in a small theater to the side of the showroom. It is hardly a sex film. It's more like a mid-1950s science movie crossed with a travelogue."
Michael Stern


This huge streetside knight puts the Shields metaphor over the top.
"This huge streetside knight puts the Shields metaphor over the top."
Chris & Amy Ayers


Arabian exotica in a suit of Medieval armor:  what traveler could resist this huge sign?
"Arabian exotica in a suit of Medieval armor: what traveler could resist this huge sign?"
Michael Stern


Once you finish your date shake and the movie, make sure you walk out back to check out the lovely scenery, which looks straight out of Lawrence of Arabia!
"Once you finish your date shake and the movie, make sure you walk out back to check out the lovely scenery, which looks straight out of Lawrence of Arabia!"
Cliff Strutz



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