Shields Date Gardens | Date Shakes in Retro California

Review by: Michael Stern

When California Was the End of the Rainbow

Seeking southern California’s date shakes, we went to Shields Date Gardens on Highway 111. Here we came upon a virtual time machine. Shields provides a taste of early 20th century California. How strange that it still exists in Coachella Valley, which has become a premier golf/resort/retirement paradise! The vintage roadside attraction doesn’t seem to have changed in decades. It hearkens back to a time when the California desert was as exotic-seeming as Araby.

All About the Date

Located alongside 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. The crystals, which Shields invented, are dried date bits suitable for cooking. All these things are on display and available to buy and eat immediately.

Souvenir hunters will find photographic slides that show attractions of the California desert. Booklets tell the story of Floyd and Bess Shields, who began to cultivate and sell dates here in 1924. For free, you can step into a small theater to the side of the showroom. Here patrons watch a short film titled ‘The Romance and Sex Life of the Date.’ It explains the life cycle of what the narrator describes as “the least understood of all fruits.”

Eating Dates

At the counter, customers enjoy two prepared foods: date ice cream and date shakes. The former laces vanilla ice cream with shreds of date. The date shake is super sweet and as rich as butter – a taste of California when the Golden State was luxurious.

Stroll behind the front room and you find a sit-down cafe. Here the menu does include such date items as jalapeno & cheese-stuffed dates, dateburgers, and date pancakes. But the cafe kitchen devotes most of its attention to such Mexican specialties as chilaquiles for breakfast and tacos or nachos for lunch. As retro as Shields Date Gardens feels up front, this cafe is modern. It offers hormone- and antibiotic-free beef and free-range chicken. Freshly baked bread contains no preservatives or additives. Breakfast includes a “fit omelet” made of egg whites; and lunch features such nutritionally enlightened items as a summer berry salad and a portobello “burger.”

What To Eat

Date Shake

Date Ice Cream


Date Pancakes



Shields Date Gardens | Date Shakes in Retro California Recipes


What do you think of Shields Date Gardens | Date Shakes in Retro California?

2 Responses to “Shields Date Gardens | Date Shakes in Retro California”


December 2nd, 2021

I remember when old HWY 111 past Indio was filled with little mom n pop date shake places—any one of which’s date shakes tasted BETTER than Shields, which seemed to have mainly advertising (“Sex Life of a Date”) going for it.

That said, I stopped for a shake there last month, since Shields is now the only date shake spot left.

And it was DELICIOUS! I was in heaven (and I don’t even like dates).

Don’t miss it!


John Weiser

December 8th, 2007

Forty years ago as a young teenager, I would visit my father in Palm Desert where he spent winters. At that time, Highway 111 heading west of Palm Desert was lined with date groves. Citrus trees were growing in the groves between the date palms and the fragrance when they were in bloom was intoxicating. Driving out into the desert toward Indio we discovered Shields Date Garden. Even then it was something from another era (1924 to be exact). A large stucco building was surrounded by date palms. We entered the large showroom through a screen door and were cooled by overhead fans. Glass cases displayed various types of dates: Medjools, Deglet Noors, and their own varieties, blondes and brunette dates. A woman behind a long counter with green Naugahyde-covered stools served the occasional customer a date shake. In the little theatre at one end of the showroom a 15-minute movie adapted from Floyd Shields’ original slide show, The Romance and Sex Life of the Date, played continuously.

Nothing apparently has changed at Shields in the last four decades (or possibly eight decades). My stepmother still lives in the area and sends me a box of blonde dates from Shields every Christmas. There is something about the dusty, hot, fragrant, slow-paced, old California desert life that still charms me. Someday, maybe this winter, I will make a trip back from New York City and stop for a date shake at Shields.


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