PHOTO BY TOM BREWSTER
A short drive from downtown Palm Springs, a beautiful oasis rises from the San Jacinto foothills.
The region has been preserved by the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians since time immemorial. More than 60 miles of trails switchback through pristine scenery, from gorges and desert-scape to waterfalls and the world’s largest grouping of Washingtonia filifera palm trees, also known as the California fan palm.
The Indian Canyons comprise the Palm, Andreas, and Murray canyons. This sacred land was once inhabited by the ancestors of the Agua Caliente people, who were drawn to the shelter of its jagged cliffs, the shade of its lush palm groves, and the perennial water flows. Remnants of irrigation ditches, rock mortar grounds, and rock art remain in the area today.
Pick up a trail map at the Palm Canyon Trading Post as well as mementos and collectibles such as artisan pottery, baskets, and jewelry.
Located on the lower level of the Palm Springs Art Museum, this 430-seat theater named after late philanthropists Walter and Leonore Annenberg stages a variety of live visual and performing arts productions, from jazz and classical concerts to stand-up comedy and informative lectures. The venue also hosts community events and symposiums.
Palm Canyon Theatre
This nonprofit regional repertory company has produced live stage performances and fostered education through the performing arts for 27 years. Highlights this season include Steel Magnolias (Oct. 6–15, 2023); Elf, The Musical (Dec. 1–17, 2023); Something Rotten! (Feb. 9–25, 2024); Sweeney Todd (March 8–24, 2024); and Bye Bye Birdie (July 5–14, 2024). Individual tickets and season packages are available for a variety of musicals and plays that run from September to July in the comfortable 208-seat theater. In June and July, Palm Canyon Theatre holds a kids’ summer camp for acting, singing, dance, stagecraft, makeup, and other theatrical skills.
PHOTO COURTESY PALM CANYON THEATRE
PHOTO COURTESY PALM CANYON THEATRE
As an Equity-sanctioned theater, Dezart Performs draws on the rich talent pool of the Coachella Valley and the surrounding Southern California region, allowing the company to cast gifted amateurs alongside experienced professionals. Founded in 2008 by Michael Shaw and Daniela Ryan, Dezart Performs stages productions at the Pearl McManus Theatre at the historic Palm Springs Woman’s Club.
Agua Caliente Casino Palm Springs
Open 24 hours, the downtown casino features slots, table games, and high-limit gaming along with a sports bar and a steakhouse. Evenings heat up on the dance floor at Cascade Lounge, known for Latin music nights every Sunday.
Moorten Botanical Garden.
PHOTO COURTESY VISIT GREATER PALM SPRINGS
Moorten Botanical Garden
There’s far more to Moorten Botanical Garden than nailing the perfect Instagram snapshot inside the Cactarium, although you’ll definitely come away with a ton of amazing photos. Founded in 1938, the garden occupies approximately 1 acre. Owner Clark Moorten grew up on the property and continues to care for his parents’ thriving flora. The self-guided tour is a must, as is visiting with the resident tortoises and doves. This is a special place, so take your time. The plants are priced well — you may find your own mini cactus (or 20) to remember the visit.
Agua Caliente Cultural Plaza.
PHOTO COURTESY AGUA CALIENTE BAND OF CAHUILLA INDIANS
Agua Caliente Cultural Plaza
The Agua Caliente Cultural Plaza in downtown Palm Springs is a cultural heritage destination celebrating the history, culture, traditions, and modern life of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians.
The Spa at Séc-he offers a state-of-the-art spa fed by the ancient Agua Caliente Hot Mineral Spring. The rest of the 5.8-acre complex features the Agua Caliente Cultural Museum and an education garden. The facilities are joined by a Gathering Plaza and Oasis Trail, activated with flowing water, Washingtonia filifera palm trees, and stunning rock formations that capture the essence of the Indian Canyons and Tahquitz Canyon, the Agua Caliente people’s ancestral home.
The 48,000-square-foot museum offers exhibits and programs covering topics from Cahuilla history and culture to contemporary land stewardship and conservation. Galleries focus on the creation and migration stories, the Indian Canyons, Tahquitz Canyon, archaeological discoveries, and artistic expressions such as ollas and baskets. Many artifacts on display, including projectile points, were recovered from the plaza site during construction in 2018. Remarkably, some items were radiocarbon-dated to be more than 8,000 years old.
For the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, no site is more significant than the hot mineral spring on its ancestral land, in what is now downtown Palm Springs. Its pure mineral water provided a place for ritual bathing, social activities, physical healing, and spiritual connection. They have called the spring Séc-he, the Cahuilla term for “the sound of boiling water,” since the beginning.
The Agua Caliente people have been sharing the healing water with visitors for more than 130 years, even before the turn of the 20th century, making it the Coachella Valley’s first tourist attraction.
With so many opportunities to reflect, learn, and experience aspects of Cahuilla heritage, the Agua Caliente Cultural Plaza is set to be a peaceful area to ponder the place the Agua Caliente people call home.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway — with the world’s largest rotating tram cars — travels more than 2 ½ miles along the cliffs of Chino Canyon, transporting visitors to the pristine setting of the Mount San Jacinto State Park and Wilderness. You begin the 10-minute ride at the Valley Station — elevation 2,643 feet — and end at the Mountain Station, elevation 8,516 feet. During this journey, tram cars rotate slowly, offering spectacular sights of the Coachella Valley below and close-up views of the rugged canyon.
At the Mountain Station, breathtaking vistas and delectable food at two restaurants provide a perfect Alpine escape with temperatures up to 40 degrees cooler than the desert floor.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.
PHOTO COURTESY PALM SPRINGS AERIAL TRAMWAY
Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy hiking more than 50 miles of picturesque trails, ranging from beginner to experienced. Overnight camping is available with advance reservation.
In the winter (snow conditions permitting), enjoy snowshoeing or cross-country skiing in a forest wonderland.
Palm Springs Air Museum
You can’t help but stand in awe when you walk through the 91,000 square feet of climate-controlled hangars at Palm Springs Air Museum, home to more than 73 aircraft from World War II and the Korean, Vietnam, and Cold wars. The latest addition: the F-117 Nighthawk Stealth Fighter that flew during Operation Allied Force and Desert Storm (pictured, below left).
Memorabilia, an expansive library, and interactive displays, including flight simulators, round out the experience. Plus, there’s a children’s area with airplane and helicopter cockpits to explore.
Palm Springs Air Museum.
PHOTO COURTESY PALM SPRINGS AIR MUSEUM
Volunteer docents, many of whom have flown these planes, are available to answer any questions. Some share stories from their experiences during museum lecture events, which supplement annual programming such as the Props & Hops Craft Beer Festival and the Memorial Day Air Fair & Flower Drop.
Care to experience one of these planes firsthand? Warbird rides start at $125.
Beautiful and serene Tahquitz Canyon has long been cared for by the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians. Today, this 2-mile canyon trail near downtown Palm Springs is a popular hiking spot, steering explorers from its opening at West Mesquite Avenue to a majestic desert waterfall a mile up the rocky trail. Discover native wildlife such as Peninsular bighorn sheep meandering through their natural habitat, preserved rock art, and ancient irrigation systems, then find respite at the 60-foot-tall Tahquitz Falls — a place of power that rejuvenates. Ranger-led interpretive hikes are also available.
Mogo Silent Disco
Dance your way through downtown Palm Springs! All ages are welcome to participate in this fun hourlong experience in which everyone in your group dons a pair of headphones and explores a 1.25-mile stretch of the strip to the same soundtrack. Expect upbeat pop, disco, and hits from the 1980s, ’90s, and 2000s. Grab a ticket to join a themed night, or book a private tour for you and your crew.
Mogo Silent Disco.
PHOTO COURTESY MOGO SILENT DISCO
Palm Springs Art Museum
At the heart of downtown in an E. Stewart Williams–designed building, Palm Springs Art Museum is a beacon of fine art and culture known for its modern and contemporary works and a vast collection of art from the American West. This season’s exhibitions include Picasso and Kali, Artographer, 1932–2019, both on view November 2023 through April 2024.
Architecture and Design Center
Another E. Stewart Williams–designed building contains Palm Springs Art Museum’s Architecture and Design Center. This 13,000-square-foot glass and steel structure houses the museum’s design-related collections. Don’t miss Albert Frey: Inventive Modernist, Jan. 13 to June 3, 2024.
Painting by Nita Harper.
PHOTO COURTESY DESERT ART CENTER
Kathleen Scoggins artwork at Desert Art Center.
PHOTO COURTESY DESERT ART CENTER
Desert Art Center
Established in 1950, Desert Art Center is the oldest arts organization in the Coachella Valley. The 2,000-square-foot gallery, located in Palm Springs’ Uptown Design District, is open daily October through May with new shows, exciting exhibitions, and special events happening monthly.