Agua Caliente Cultural Plaza, Museum To Open in November

Agua Caliente Cultural Museum
Rendering of the Agua Caliente Cultural Museum

PALM SPRINGS, CA – The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians will host the much-anticipated grand opening of the Agua Caliente Cultural Plaza and Museum on Friday, Nov. 3, 2023. 

Owned and operated by the tribe, the 5.8-acre Agua Caliente Cultural Plaza in the heart of downtown Palm Springs celebrates the history, culture, and traditions of the Agua Caliente people. The Agua Caliente Cultural Plaza features the new Agua Caliente Cultural Museum, The Spa at Séc-he that celebrates the tribe’s ancient Agua Caliente Hot Mineral Spring, a Gathering Plaza, and an Oasis Trail.

“The Agua Caliente Cultural Plaza provides an incredible opportunity for us to share and celebrate our history, culture, and traditions with this community and visitors from around the world,” said Tribal Chairman Reid D. Milanovich. “Each federally recognized tribe throughout this country has a distinct culture that includes traditions, language, historic clothing, and housing styles as well as historical food and medicine preparations. We want to share our culture with visitors through our authentic voice. This is our story, in our own voice. We are here today just like we have been since time immemorial.”

Inspiration for the Agua Caliente Cultural Plaza design is rooted in Agua Caliente traditions such as basket weaving, pottery (ollas), bird songs, and elements native to the Agua Caliente Indian reservation including desert landscapes, rock formations found in the Indian Canyons, the Tahquitz Canyon waterfall, and the Washingtonia filifera palm trees – the only palm tree native to the California desert.

JCJ Architecture, of Phoenix, is the project designer. JCJ Architecture’s design concept for the Agua Caliente Cultural Plaza reflects the tribe’s values and ongoing commitment to the Agua Caliente people.

The Agua Caliente Cultural Plaza comprises outdoor spaces, including the Gathering Plaza adjacent to the Agua Caliente Hot Mineral Spring, originally known as Séc-he (the Cahuilla term for “the sound of boiling water”). The Oasis Trail provides an interactive, cultural learning environment. This trail mimics, on a smaller scale, the distinctive character, geology, flora, and beauty of the nearby Tahquitz Canyon and Indian Canyons, ancestral homes of the Agua Caliente people.

The new museum is approximately 48,000 sq. ft. and features permanent exhibition space dedicated to the history and culture of the Agua Caliente people, a dedicated changing gallery, educational classroom, adjacent teaching garden, and meeting/event space. The museum store showcases art, jewelry, and other products sourced directly from Native American artists and Native American-owned businesses from across the nation. The Museum’s Creation Migration Theater welcomes guests with a 12-minute, 360-degree animation of the tribe’s creation story.

The Spa at Séc-he, which opened earlier this year, includes more than 72,000 sq. ft. to celebrate the ancient healing waters of the Agua Caliente Hot Mineral Spring with treatment rooms, men’s and women’s bathhouses, a tranquility garden, a salon, fitness center, outdoor pools, and health-forward dining. The water from the Agua Caliente Hot Mineral Spring is estimated to be upwards of 12,000 years old and is unique as it contains a mineral make-up that has not been found anywhere else in the world. The tribe has shared the healing water with visitors for more than 130 years. This new spa is the fifth bathhouse or spa at the site, with the first one operating in the late 1880’s.

Agua Caliente Seche Spa
The Spa at Séc-he

Building upon the traditions of the Agua Caliente people and the natural features of their ancestral lands, the new Agua Caliente Cultural Plaza encompasses a wide range of experiences and learning opportunities that convey the values and legacy of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians.

“The Agua Caliente Cultural Plaza is one of the most important achievements in our tribe’s history,” said Chairman Milanovich. “It allows us to share and celebrate our culture and educate guests about our history and who we are as a people. For us, it’s a dream come true that has been in the making for 30 years. When we share our culture, we preserve our culture.”