top of page

TENNIS TOURNAMENT TRAVEL GUIDE

BNP PARIBAS OPEN

Indian Wells, California

By Mayleen Ramey

I always know when the BNP Paribas Open is around the corner. Not because I made sure the date was added to my calendar a year in advance; instead, I’m reminded almost daily by the flood of messages I receive as the event draws near. Because of these inquiring texts and DM’s about where to stay, how to buy tix etc. I’ve decided to put together my first Tournament Travel Guide to answer these burning questions about my favorite tennis tournament in the US.

The BNP Paribas Open is a WTA & ATP Masters 1000 tournament in Indian Wells, California. It’s lovingly referred to as the “5th slam” and also “tennis paradise” because both fans and players adore being here. Taking place on the sprawling grounds of the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, every inch and corner of this 54-acre property, with its 29 courts and 16,000-person stadium, has been upgraded by tournament owner and former Oracle co-founder & CEO, Larry Ellison. From bringing his favorite restaurants on-site (Nobu, Spago, etc) to ensuring every detail of luxury (heated toilet seats, spa-like public restrooms), Uncle Larry has become the sport's most generous and loved patron, consistently putting "Indian Wells" at the top of the tournament approval ratings. In addition to the finer things, they've also covered all the bases and exceeded every tournament-goers expectations. The logistics of getting here and around town are super convenient, the access to players is unparalleled, and of course, there are these views!

LINK TO INSTAGRAM VIDEO: TOURNAMENT TRAVEL GUIDE

Mayleen Ramey in the FILA Suite as the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells Tennis Garden
Practice courts with gorgeous mountain view at Indian Wells Tennis Garden

Stay & Play: La Quinta Resort & Club

 

For over a decade, my top pick is always La Quinta Resort & Club. Coming here feels like you've escaped reality and arrived at the most picturesque country club hidden in an Andalusian Village. Following the winding pathways lined with orange trees and vibrant bougainvillea, you'll pass countless villas and fountains, before discovering the most impressive racquet sport facility.  The 21 tennis and 8 pickleball courts are set against the Santa Rosa mountains and bright blue skies. Along with the beautiful backdrop,  they also boast an incredibly well-run program with plenty of daily clinics and a great level of players, as well as a fully- equipped fitness center.

Other highlights include: a complimentary shuttle to/from the tournament (only 10 minutes away), forty one pools (yes 41!), great restaurants and unmatched ambiance. 

 

More on La Quinta Resort & Club here.  

Sunken stadium court at La Quinta Resort & Club
Mayleen Ramey on a Racquet Roadtrip adventures enjoy the beautiful La Quinta Resort & Club

Family-Friendly: JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa

For families with kids, JW Marriott Desert Springs is a perfect option! It's reminiscent of upscale family-friendly properties in Hawaii and the Caribbean that have seamlessly created a relaxing, fun-filled getaway for both adults and children.  Guests are immediately welcomed into this playful, tropical oasis when entering the grand lobby,  a eight-story atrium with its own lake and water taxis. Around the grounds, you'll find two championships golf courses, swimming pools, putt putt, an arcade with bowling, and...flamingos!

But my reason for visiting was solely for racquet sports. Their Desert Spring Tennis Club has an enviable offering of all types of court surfaces - this includes 16 hard courts, three clay and two grass courts, as well as four pickleball courts. Their sunken lawn tennis court is absolutely breathtaking and mind-boggling. This pristine court grass court, surrounded with rose bushes, looks like a scene from the English countryside that has magically appeared in the middle of the desert. Staring in awe and filled with nostalgia, I found myself wondering if it was actually a mirage. 

The grand lobby vista at JW Marriott Desert Springs
Sunken grass tennis court at JW Marriott Desert Springs

How to Watch: Indian Wells Tennis Garden

Once you’re at the tournament, any seasoned tournament attendee will tell you that the grounds pass is the best deal on tour. Indian Wells Tennis Garden has the most fan-friendly viewing areas around their practice courts, where you can comfortably watch your favorite players from just a few feet away! The pass also allows you to queue for access to stadiums 2-9. It does get busy, so my pro tip is download the app, check the practice & play schedule, then map out your day.

 

For a splurge, my picks are Stadium One courtside box seats. And dining at Nobu inside Stadium 2. You must do this once in your life, it’s unreal! If I plan to attend the BNP Paribas Open for several days (and don't have a media or player credential), this is my standard itinerary: 

 

Day 1 - Grounds pass: focusing on practice, outside courts and on-site activities

Day 2- Stadium One courtside box seats: for me, the closer the better!

Day 3 - Stadium ticket or another grounds pass and plan to eat at Nobu

 

This gives a full experience of Indian Wells Tennis Garden, with access to practically every court and view. 

Courtside view of Stadium One tennis court at the BNP Paribas Open
Unparalleled view from Nobu Restaurant inside Stadium 2 and Indian Wells Tennis Garden

Food, Fun & Player Parties
 

If you’d like to see and meet your favorite players in a fun, relaxed environment you must arrive before the tournament starts. This is when all the best parties, events and exhibitions happen! These are the stand-outs that I've been attending for years:

 

Monday Night: Taste of Tennis
An elegant, fun food tasting event that brings together the best local restaurants and chefs, coupled with pro tennis players. Nosh on delicious bites while schmoozing with your favorite players under the stars, it's absolute perfection!

Tickets & Info here.

Tuesday: Desert Smash
Bringing Hollywood to Tennis Paradise, this is certainly the most glamorous event. It’s a daytime exhibition match with A-list celebrities and tennis pros, followed by an afterparty at Zenyara, the most jaw-dropping estate you’ve ever seen. This year, Charlize Theron is hosting. And there’s a new addition of pickleball!

Tickets & Info here.

Taste of Tennis host, Nicholas Monroe
P!nk and Grigor Dimitrov pose courtside at Desert Smash, charity tennis event

Activities & Entertainment

 

Once the tournament starts, there’s plenty of entertainment on-site at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. From nightly live music, to meet and greets with players, a plethora of concessions and interactive sponsor booths. 

 

For food and fun off-site: nothing beats sitting outside in the plaza at La Quinta, listening to a soft guitar and sipping their famous margaritas & freshly-made guacamole (both of which are massive).

 

For a more lively scene...there's one place in town well-known for its epic evenings of dining, dancing and debauchery...the Nest. The queue to get in wraps around the building on most nights, so make a dinner reservation in advance then stay for live music and mischief. There’s nothing in the world quite like it!

Mayleen Ramey and her Mom pose at the FILA store at Indian Wells
Dining al fresco with the famous margaritas and guacamole at La Quinta Resort

Tennis Paradise: Pro Tips

 

From the tournament to the town, I adore everything about the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells and believe it's the best tournament in the world (next to Wimbledon).  It's absolute perfection if navigated properly. But like any events with large crowds, the ease of logistics will make or break the experience.

The only challenges I would point out are transportation and wait times, which the tournament manages well. But a newbie attendee could end up wasting HOURS of precious tournament time.

Here's how to avoid traffic, long queues and wait times. 

First off, getting here. Most people will fly to Los Angeles and drive to Indian Wells. While some will opt to fly directly in Palm Springs, I (obviously) prefer a roadtrip! It's an iconic, serene drive that shows off the diverse Southern California landscape, from bustling city to lush rolling hills to the desert. In theory, this drive should take two and a half hours tops. BUT you must take LA traffic into account. My longest drive here was almost five hours. The key is timing your departure to avoid rush hour. Most assume rush hour starts at 5pm when people leave work, this would sound reasonable but is a laughable misconception and costly mistake. The harsh reality is - if you leave LA any time after 3pm, you will be miserable. And Friday rush hour starts even earlier. To be safe, leave as early as possible (after morning rush hour)! I'd say the sweet spot is to start your roadtrip to the desert between 10am-12pm from LA. You'll have a leisurely drive, time to stop for photos, grab an In & Out burger and arrive in time for an early check-in. 

My second tip is: when going to/from the tournament grounds, I try to avoid Uber when possible. Driving and parking here is rather convenient and general parking is free, though it does involve a 10 minute walk through a dirt lot so be mindful of footwear. There is an option to pay for valet and preferred parking.  Also, the hotel shuttle system is well-organized and awesome. All the shuttles pick up directly in front of the tournament site with labeled areas and timely transportation. This is huge perk if you're staying at at hotel with a shuttle service, plus it's free

And don't forget the clear bag policy, they are so strict.

Third, once you're on-site you will have to deal with some crowds and queues, especially if you're visiting on the first weekend. It's absolutely packed! This will mainly affect you if you have a grounds pass and need to line up for access to Stadium 2-9 courts. Personally, I don't usually attend on weekends but I understand most people will. The best way to hack this is planning ahead. Download the app, check the play and practice schedule and map out your day the night before. For example, if you see Alcaraz is practicing on Court 6 at 12pm. Get there at 11:30am or sooner and snag a front row seat. Have a snack, chill out. If you get there at noon or later, you will likely be standing on your tippy toes three rows back. 

More info on transportation logistics at the official BNP Paribas Open website

This concludes my Tournament Travel Guide! If you have any other questions, feel free to reach out via Instagram @racquetroadtrip and I'll add to this guide. Also, see links to IG handles below for everything I've mentioned in the article. Have an amazing time in Tennis Paradise, see you there!

LINK TO INSTGRAM VIDEO: BNP PARIBAS OPEN 2024 - RECAP REEL

Mayleen Ramey, travel host and tennis player, enjoys the sunshine at BNP Paribas Open
Aerial view of Indian Wells Tennis Garden

Indian Wells Tennis Garden

78-200 Miles Avenue

Indian Wells, California 92210

STAY & PLAY

▪️ La Quinta Resort & Club: @laquintaresort

▪️ JW Marriott Desert Springs: @desertsprings

Check hotel availability here

MORE INFO

▪️ BNP Paribas Open: @bnpparibasopen

▪️ Indian Wells Tennis Garden: @indianwellstennisgarden
▪️ Taste of Tennis: @tasteoftennis

▪️ Desert Smash: @desertsmash

▪️ The Nest: @gotothenest

bottom of page