Actually in Indio, about a 25-minute drive east of Palm Springs, Shields is one of those corny old-fashioned roadside attractions you wish America had more of. It has been cultivating dates since 1924, when this part of the desert was pretty much only good for sand and earthquakes. Today, it can grow dozens of varieties. The central family attraction is the 15-minute film "The Romance and Sex Life of the Date," which despite its racy title is just about the laborious process of hand-pollination and harvesting of palm dates, which are not native to the United States and indeed could never propagate without human assistance. That's attached to an old-fashioned gift shop selling touristy nonsense and heaps of bags of home-grown dates (they'll ship), two of which, the "blonde" and and "brunette" styles, are only grown here, along with bags of "date sugar" sweetener made from ground-up, crystallized dates (good for baking, but they won't dissolve in coffee or tea). Out back, there's a 17-acre walk-through date palm grove with a path that wends past 23 life-size statues of Jesus (the addition of the current owner)—the religious lesson won't be for everyone, but the loveliness of the garden transcends dogma. Don't leave without visiting its soda fountain, which constantly serves up the "date shake," a milkshake sweetened with dates that despite its ingredients tastes as rich and as smooth as caramel—it's a must-try in these parts. The attached restaurant, alas, is no great shakes in the cuisine department.