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Shields Date Gardens

80-225 US Highway 111, Indio, CA - (760) 347-0996
Posted By John Weiser on 12/8/2007 12:49:00 PM
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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Scorecard

5 - Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
Rate this place
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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