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Shields Date Gardens

80-225 US Highway 111, Indio, CA - (760) 347-0996
Posted By Michael Stern on April 3, 2011 4:17 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.
5 star rating
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date shake
date ice cream
Dates

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Posted By Carol Bayer on April 20, 2013 12:06 AM
Date shakes are fabulous. I would skip the cafe. Just go into the store, buy a date shake, see the excellent movie, and buy some things to take on the road. This is a real piece of Americana and educational to boot.
4 star rating
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date shake

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Posted By Dan Colegrove on October 25, 2012 5:08 PM
I was just in Palm Springs and was craving a date shake. I remembered Shields from when I was a kid and, since it was close by, I ran over there. The shake was delicious, very filling but really refreshing and not just because it was 112 that day!

Shields is such a wonderful throwback to what roadside attractions used to be. It is a joy to visit. I bought some dates and brought them all the way back to DC where my wife declared them the best ever. Long live Shields.
3 star rating
Overall Rating
date shake
Dates

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Posted By John Weiser on December 8, 2007 12:49 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.
5 star rating
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