Surrounded by the San Jacinto mountain range in the Coachella Valley, Palm Springs comprises around 60,000 permanent residents, of which 60% is gay. When winter is in full swing, the population grows to nearly 150,000.
Is Palm Springs the ideal getaway for anyone seeking calmness from the fast pace of everyday life? Let’s explore the city and highlight its great points of interest.
A Winter Wonderland
The locals will tell you that only a brave few come to vacation in the summer, when swimming pools feel more like hot tubs than a place to cool off. Perhaps that doesn’t sound like a dream holiday, it is, however, one of the best winter destinations in the United States. Snowbirds come from all over to escape from the frigid temperatures of the snow-covered north.
Livable and comfortable, winter is very pleasant with ideal temperatures that range from the mid-70s to mid-80s. At the same time, winter in deserts tend to be chilly at night—even Jack Frost will be nipping at your nose. Of course, there is the occasional rain shower to give the gift of life even to the harshest of places.
Take a Hike
Palm Springs isn’t ideal for outdoor activities in summer, but winter is the best time if you’re an outdoorsy kind of person. You’ll be pleasantly surprised with a hike through Taquitz Canyon. Admission is $12, which may sound like a lot for a one-mile hike, but there are fantastic points, such as Native American pictographs, hikers would never discover without the knowledge of an accompanying guide. There’s even a path that leads to a waterfall. Other great hikes include Indian Canyons — comprising Palm Canyon, Andreas Canyon and Murray Canyon. Be on the lookout for resident bighorn sheep, mule deer and plenty of darting lizards. Bird-watchers will also enjoy getting a glimpse of the various species that live here. For spectacular views of the valley, take a hike on the San Jacinto Trail.
Regardless if it’s a blazing summer or a delightful winter, hikers need to keep the the following in mind:
- Check the weather before heading out.
- Most trails don’t have any shady areas or restroom facilities.
- Dress appropriately and, most of all, wear a hat.
- Bring plenty of water and some food. If you run out of water, turn around and go back.
- Be careful where you step and beware of rattlesnakes. The landscape is remote and challenging, so it’s best to stay on the trails.
Some hikes are easier than others, but it’s still good to go with a friend.
Palm Springs Attractions
The Air Museum of Palm Springs: Listed as one of the best aviation museums to visit in the USA by CNN, the museum aims to educate the public about the role American air power played during conflicts of war. The cost is $10, which includes visits to three hangars and other outdoor expositions.
The Aerial Tram: This is one of the main attractions in the city. To escape the heat in summer, locals and visitors alike head to Mt. Jacinto, where the temperature is 25 degrees cooler.
Summer months are less crowded, but expect to wait in a long line during the popular winter months. During peak season, the tram runs every 15 minutes and transports up to 10,000 people per day for the 10-minute ride. Tickets cost $25 per person, depending on when you’re heading, and $60 for a season pass.
Once reaching the top, there are some easy hikes to do, places to rest for a picnic and enjoy the breathtaking view of the valley below. There is a restaurant from this lofty perch, but the wait time can be long and the food isn’t worth it in the end.
Star-studded Streets: At one point, there were almost as many celebrities living in Palm Springs as in Tinsel Town. Fans of Hollywood can stroll down the Palm Springs Walk of Stars on Palm Canyon drive.
Visitors can also go on tours through the “Old Movie Colony”, Las Palmas neighborhood and Racquet Club Estates, as well as other secret locations with some 50-60 beautiful homes to see along the way.
The list of famous residents reads like a who’s who from the Silver Screen. Legendary celebrities who had their hideaways in Palm Springs include Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, the Reagans and even Elvis and Priscilla Presley. Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor and Dinah Shore were also frequent visitors to this desert oasis.
The Moorten Botanical Garden and Cactarium: This one-acre, family-owned botanical garden boasts 3,000 examples of cacti and other desert succulents that are grouped by geographic regions. The entrance fee is $4 for adults and $2 for children.
Visit the Wind Turbines: These sleek and towering beacons stretch along I-10 and rotate at a rapid speed, helping to generate one and a half percent of California’s electricity. There are 3,500-plus wind turbines in place and create enough energy to power nearly 200,000 homes. Some refer to the area as being the second windiest place on earth.
Enjoy the Laid-back Desert Lifestyle
Relax at a city park: If you visit with kids, there are some nice parks for them to run around and have some fun. Located near Mt. Jacinto, the Ruth Hardy Park is one of the best in Palm Springs, with tennis courts, volleyball courts and a basketball court. Dimuth Park is also another option, but Sunrise Park isn’t recommendable.
Ride a bike: There are plenty of bike trails and rentals are affordable. Most bike paths are shared with pedestrian sidewalks, which may annoy some. Click on the following links for more details.
Let the festivities begin! Winter is also a time when endless festivals fill the city. The Palm Springs VillageFest runs all year in downtown on Thursday evenings; the Palm Springs Film Festival, founded by former mayor Sonny Bono, takes place in January, and the hot air balloon festival on 14 and 15 February. Along with art festivals on weekends, there’s the Tour de Palm Springs Bike Event in February, Gay pride in November and the Palm Springs Light Festival in December—just to name a few.
Other attraction to visit may include Irwin Junior’s Robo-lights, which display the largest single-family home light display in California from November to the end of December.
A Night on the Town: There are plenty of bars and night clubs open until late, and there’s something for everyone. Why take a chance with Lady Luck at the the Spa Resort Casino? It also has one of the best spas in town.
Palm Spring is diverse and exciting, with a population from all over the world. Don’t be afraid to chat with the locals—they won’t bite. Everywhere you go, people are simply friendly, helpful, fun and engaging. It feels good to meet people who love others and love to live peacefully.
Heterosexuals may feel uncomfortable to see gay couples holding hands and showing affection for each other on the streets just as anyone else would towards their significant other. However, don’t stare or say something inappropriate. Accept the indifference, be a tolerant and decent human being.
Eat and Be Merry
People love to shop at the local and farmers’ markets. Every Saturday, the organic farmers’ market (7 am – 12:30 pm) is fantastic for buying certified, organic food for reasonable prices.
There are also plenty of Palm Springs restaurants that serve up international dishes. For a taste of the Med, have a seat in the “Greek Island Restaurant;” Asian food-lovers will leave happy after dining at “Thai Smile,” and for authentic French cuisine treat your taste buds at “Atelier.” If you want to have your cake and eat it, too, you’ll find the best cakes in the Coachella Valley at Sherman’s.
Palm Springs may not immediately cross one’s mind for a vacation, but it seems that’s the case for at least the one million who do visit each year. If you’re looking for adventure, recreation and relaxation, you can’t beat Palm Springs.