Up The Road: Where To Now? Enjoying Palm Springs
Sitting around the pool doing nothing is no sin in Palm Springs. Countless swimming pools here, reportedly one for every six residents—all kinds of water use hard to believe in the middle of a desert. It’s the first thing you’ll notice, along with acres of lawns, and well over 100 golf courses.
No worries, people say. Plenty more where that came from, thanks to our underground lake.
In fact, without regular infusions from the Colorado River, the water situation would be dire. Yet the oasis fantasy flows on, encouraged by some of the lowest water rates anywhere.
Palm Springs has other oddities, like an excessive number of plastic surgeons and psychiatrists. And unique charms—such as world-class second-hand shops. Start at The Estate Sale Company, colossal consignment space for the art, furniture, fine jewelry, and odds and ends left behind by the well-off.
Winter is tourism high season, with plenty going on in spring and fall too, so the community’s calendar runs from October through May.
Palm Springs is an attitude as much as place. The entire valley shares its identity. Directly north is Desert Hot Springs, right atop the San Andreas fault—a geologic fact that explains the location here of most of the valley’s natural hot springs and historic spas.
The glitz, though, is due east, where the money migrated—Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, Indian Wells, La Quinta—home to the ritziest resorts and shops. The larger valley is semi-agricultural, good for farmers’ markets and produce stands, the latter farther east in Coachella, Indio, and Thermal, where many ag and service workers live. Do try a date milkshake, whenever you can find them. Yum. Truly.
Otherwise: A taste of Palm Springs includes The Living Desert in Palm Desert, 1,200 acres of innovative zoo and educational park. Desert Adventures’ fun open-air jeep tours offer access to great out-there places.
The Palm Springs Air Museum spit-shines its rare collection of World War II aircraft—many warbirds flight-ready. With extra cash and some planning, you too can fly in them. For more dubya-dubya-two, head for nearby Chiriaco Summit, near Joshua Tree National Park, where the four-star attraction is the General George S. Patton Memorial Museum.
Get more ideas about things to do at the 1963 Tramway Oasis Gas Station near Palm Springs’ northern entrance, a midcentury-modern landmark designed by architect Albert Frey, now the official Palm Springs Visitor Center. Put together your own “desert modern” architecture tour and—once COVID-19 is behind us—take a very informative walking or biking tour with the Palm Springs Historical Society.
Frey’s icon marks the turn to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, which carries people straight up Mount San Jacinto—a vertical mile and five distinct biomes, desert to alpine forest, in less than 15 minutes. “Crocker’s Folly” took electrical engineer Francis Crocker 28 years to design and build. Albert Frey also designed the modernist lower tramway station, E. Stewart Williams, the mountain tram station.
Up the Road Encourages Responsible, Safe Travel
Here are previous Up the Road episodes that explore why we should travel, how to do it responsibly, and how to travel responsibly now, in the shadow of COVID-19. Not everyone should be traveling now, of course. But everyone who does travel needs to do so responsibly, to prevent viral spread. Take a listen:
- Up the Road: Why Travel?
- Up the Road: Why Travel in Northern California
- Up the Road: How to Travel
- Up the Road: Why Local Travel Matters
- Up the Road: Travel That’s Not About You
- Up the Road: Heading Up the Road Again—Responsibly
- Up the Road: 2020 Travel Strategy
- Up the Road: More on Responsible Travel 2020