I know no other home but the desert. My parents moved to Palm Springs from L.A. when I was a year old. They are the original “wanderlusters,” fixing up a vacation house in the 1970s and making it into our forever family home. Growing up here influenced everything about who I am and what I adore about life. The sun, the colors of the sky, the mourning doves cooing, the lightly traveled dusty trails. For fun, as a kid, we would disappear into the mountains with a picnic and no plans — that’s exactly how I live my life today with my own family.
Windmills, Palm Springs
You know you’ve truly arrived when you catch a glimpse of the towering turbine giants that flank the western entrance of the Coachella Valley. The gap between the mountains is where hot and cold air meet, making it one of the best spots in the country to catch the wind and generate clean energy. Snap a selfie, or take a windmill tour.
Indian Canyons, Palm Springs
This is one of those spots that will make you want to write a thank-you note to mother nature. It doesn’t matter if it’s your first time or your 500th time hiking the canyons, every time it’s the definition of magic. Palm Canyon is the largest undisturbed palm oasis in the world. The area is cared for by the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians and entry is $9.
Gubler’s Orchids, Landers
I adore the unexpected, so this has become one of my favorite High Desert destinations. Embraced by the Mojave Desert, the tropical wonderland is almost too bizarre to believe. The Gubler family grows hundreds of varieties of orchids and carnivorous plants in their desert greenhouse and ships them all over the world. Make sure to ask for a free greenhouse tour.
Lord Fletcher’s, Rancho Mirage
Opening the door to Lord Fletcher’s is like stepping into the past — to a time when the host knew your name and the bartender your drink. The restaurant opened in 1966, and the English-pub-like décor has not changed one bit. Sit at the bar. You’re guaranteed to leave knowing more cool tidbits about the history of the desert.
Ladder Canyon, Mecca
Pack a picnic lunch and plenty of water. The hike will take you through narrow slot canyons, some of them with actual ladders fastened in place to help you climb to the next level. There are sheer cliffs, all painted with colors from mineral deposits. The landscape sits on top of the San Andreas Fault, which explains the dramatic geology.
Cabot’s Pueblo Museum,
Desert Hot Springs
In 1913, a man named Cabot Yerxa homesteaded here. For 24 years he built an eclectic pueblo, using all reclaimed and found materials. It’s four stories, 5,000 square feet, with 150 windows, 65 doors, and 35 rooms packed with all sorts of odds, ends, and art that were part of his collection. Take a tour and peek in the darling gift shop.