Bucket List Worthy
It’s not just the year around sunshine, palm tree lined roads, shopping and championship golf courses that draw people to Palm Springs, California, located just a 2-hour drive from Los Angeles and 2.5 hours from San Diego (so long as you avoid the I-10 during peak hours). Tourists are also attracted to this desert oasis by the rugged outdoor adventure, fabulous resorts and classic food in the spot where the San Jacinto Mountains meet the Coachella Valley.
Hop on a tour with Desert Adventures Red Jeep Eco-Tour to roll over the San Andreas Fault Zone and crevices and canyons formed by the movement of the region’s tectonic plates. The really cool part about this tour is that the land is leased exclusively to this jeep company, which means no big crowds and seemingly untouched earth. And you can see it all from an open-air jeep that allows for wide-open views in every direction.
Along the way, expect tight turns through different canyons all with a distinctly different feel. My favorite is Fossil Canyon, which features narrow slot canyons you can hike through. As we traversed them, our guide Morgan, who has been leading tours in the area for 27 years, pointed out the lake shells that are well over a million years old for which the canyon is named.
We also passed by an active Indian Village where the Cahuilla Indians lived until about 95 years ago. On our way out, we passed a natural Palm Oasis to see the Palm native to Palm Springs. It stands out with a thick long skirt wrapped around the trunk. These are also one of the few types of palms that don’t drop their leaves.
Tour Info: 3 hours. Adults $135/person
Palm Springs has the largest concentration of mid-century modern architecture of anywhere in the world. Hop on a tour with Mod Squad to cruise through different neighborhoods and along the main drag of downtown for a crash course on the different styles- most of which evolved from 1945 to the 1980s.
Our expert guide, Kurt, pointed out the sleek and modern designs with clean lines and a simple finish, and also noted that homes and buildings have flat planes, large glass windows, giant sliding doors and open floor plans meant to encourage people to get outside.
The tour also drives by the homes of celebrities, like the one Elvis Presley once owned and a vacation home Leonardo DiCaprio owns today before winding through pockets with a Polynesian influence, a style that emerged when Hawaii became a state in 1959. The Royal Hawaiian Estate, owned by Donald Wexler is one of the most notable examples. The tour ends at the Saguaro Palm Springs, a hotel with bright pops of color on both the inside and out that are inspired by the desert.
Tour Info: 90 minutes. $60
The Coahcella Valley harvests 30 million pounds of dates a year, which makes up more than 90 percent of the dates grown in the world. One of the best spots to grab a taste is Shield’s Date Garden, an old-fashioned roadside attraction. Inside, you can sample dozens of locally grown dates and two varieties (the blonde and brunette styles) that are only available here.
Don’t leave without visiting the soda fountain for a date shake, which is made with vanilla ice cream and pureed dates. There is also a restaurant with a lovely patio serving salads, burgers and pancakes, all topped with the sweet fruit.
If you have time, take a walk on the path outback that winds through a date palm grove. If you visit in the fall, make sure to look up and you will see ladders leading to bags wrapped around the fruit that protects them from insects and catches ones already ripened.
You could easily spend an afternoon at the Vintage Market searching for treasures from local vendors from all over the state. Aside from mid-century modern finds you will also spot retro and vintage crafts, jewelry, furniture and clothing all in an outdoors setting. The Market is open on the first Sunday of every month from October through May at the Camelot Theatres in downtown Palm Springs.
Greater Palm Springs is filled with charming desert resorts and the city of La Quinta is home to one of the most talked about, the La Quinta Resort and Spa. Not only was this the first in city, but it was also a former Hollywood Hideout where some of Hollywood’s biggest starts (Katherine Hepburn, Clark Gable and Bette Davis) came to escape the spotlight.
Today the hacienda style resort, which still sees plenty of stars, is also a spot people come looking for warmth and relaxation. Whether you stay in a casitas or villa you will find a private patio facing either a garden or enclosed pool.
Inside rooms you will find a contemporary Spanish Style architecture and some rooms with thick log fireplaces.
When it comes to recreation on site, you will have plenty to keep you entertained. The resort, which introduced Coachella Valley’s first golf course, now has 5 championship courses on property along with 23 tennis courts, 41 pools and 53 hot tubs. You can also browse on site shops and boutiques or rent a bike and ride along the Santa Rose Mountains for a more active kind of day.
When it comes to dining, there are eight different dining options but Morgan’s in the Desert steals the show. Jimmy Schmidt, a three time James Beard award winner, focuses on a menu that changes with the seasons. Choose from an a la carte menu or a three-course pre fixe menu with a wine pairing. The restaurant sits inside the original 1926 venue and features wooden rustic setting with white washed walls.