the living desert zoo and gardens

Best Gifts Ever

Give them something they’ll remember.

Emily Chavous Foster Attractions, Current Guide

the living desert zoo and gardens
PHOTOGRAPHS BY TARA HOWARD / COURTESY THE LIVING DESERT ZOO AND GARDENS
Forget an old-fashioned gift like a pair of socks and puzzles. Gift your loved one an adventure they’ll talk about for years to come. From automotive racing to a private safari, these gift ideas are not only thoughtful and impressive (because, let’s be honest, it feels good to be responsible for the coolest gift under the tree), they’re also superb last-minute gift grabs, available to purchase over the phone or online as you’re rushing to your Secret Santa dinner.
RhinoSavanna
Be sure to visit the Rhino Savanna, one of the latest additions at The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens.
Embark on a
private safari.

The animal enthusiast in your life will love cruising through The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in Palm Desert on a two-hour private safari tour. A knowledgeable guide will regale your group (minimum two people) with fun facts about the flora and fauna as an open-air shuttle whisks you to every major habitat in the park, so you can walk with wallabies, meet the new mountain lions, and scope out the Rhino Savanna enclosure, home to 12 African species. livingdesert.org

bmwperformancecenter
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY BMW PERFORMANCE CENTER
Channel your inner race car driver.

Put your auto-obsessed buddy behind the wheel of a high-performance BMW M for six adrenaline-pumping laps around one of three racing circuits at BMW Performance Center in Thermal. During the hourlong M Track Drive program, they’ll follow a race instructor’s car around the track for a warm-up lap before unleashing their inner Schumacher.

 (Younger recipients will appreciate the high-octane Teen School.) Call 888-345-4269 to book through Dec. 31 using the exclusive code 22THEGUIDE20 for 20 percent off a gift certificate for either program. bmwperformancecenter.com
marvynsmagictheater
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY MARVYN'S MAGIC THEATER
Marvel at magic.

Theater host Jeff Hobson performed on the Las Vegas strip for 15 years before founding Marvyn’s Magic Theater in La Quinta. The 21-and-over venue presents lively variety and magic shows with savvy entertainers who bounce between your favorite television networks, Broadway, and famed stages like the Magic Castle in Hollywood. Go big with the Super MagicPass, which is good for 50 tickets and never expires. marvynsmagictheater.com

coveredwagontours
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY COVERED WAGON TOURS
Experience life on a wagon train.

History buffs will relish this opportunity to caravan through the Sonoran Desert on mule-drawn wagons with Covered Wagon Tours. After exploring rugged canyon landscapes and natural oases, riders can optionally add an evening chuck-wagon-style barbecue at the company’s private ranch in Indio, complete with a barn dance, live Western music, and marshmallow roasting. coveredwagontours.com

fashionweekelpaseo

PHOTOGRAPH BY YASIN CHAUDHRY
Take in the West Coast's largest consumer fashion show in Palm Desert.

Become a Fashion Week “diva.”

What to get that special someone who’s always dressed to the nines? Front-row seats to Fashion Week El Paseo, of course. The West Coast’s largest direct-to-consumer runway event takes place March 17–23 in Palm Desert. A limited number of Diva Packages include two front-row seats to every show, nightly access to the VIP Fashion Week lounge, and VIP parking, as well as invites to special events. fashionweekelpaseo.com

fantasyballoonflights
PHOTOGRAPH BY DANIELA STALLINGER
Float up, up, and away.

For thrill-seekers, look no further than a sunrise hot air balloon ride over the Coachella Valley with Fantasy Balloon Flights. An FAA-certified commercial pilot will escort your pal across the skies, covering about 10 to 30 miles in 60 to 90 minutes. True to a 200-year-old ballooning tradition, they’ll enjoy iced Champagne after touchdown. fantasyballoonflight.com

Learn to throw clay.

On a 16,000-square-foot campus in La Quinta with six art studios, a culinary center, and a store, the nonprofit Old Town Artisan Studios hosts four-week classes and single-day workshops for artists of any age and level. Treat the creative in your crew to a three-hour session for a primer on ceramics or go all in with a monthlong class, so they can master the pottery wheel. Private lessons are also available. oldtownartisanstudios.org

palmspringsairmuseum
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY PALM SPRINGS AIR MUSEUM
Feel the G-force of a military plane.

Clocking a top speed of 525 mph, the Lockheed T-33A Shooting Star was originally used by the U.S. Air Force in the 1950s to train fighter pilots. Accommodating only one passenger per flight, it’s the priciest — and fastest — of five warbird rides available at Palm Springs Air Museum. Buying for a group? The the Douglas C-47 Skytrain (pictured) is most budget-friendly and carries five to 10 passengers per flight. palmspringsairmuseum.org

freyhouse2
PHOTOGRAPH BY J. PAUL GETTY TRUST, GETTY RESEARCH INSTITUTE, LOS ANGELES (200 4.R.10)
Tour that house
with the boulder
in the living room.

Now is the time to grab tickets to the most coveted home tours held during Modernism Week, the architecture event that takes over Greater Palm Springs every February. On the Frey House II Tour, your favorite design afficionado can step foot inside acclaimed architect Albert Frey’s one-time residence on the hillside behind Palm Springs Art Museum. Documented in countless design tomes, it boasts one of the best valley views and is perhaps best known for the boulder that juts through its living area. palmspringslife.com/our-events

cabotspueblomuseum

PHOTOGRAPH BY DANIELA STALLINGER
Cabot's Pueblo Museum in Desert Hot Springs.

Have a museum all to yourself.

Ever wondered what it would be like to wander a museum on your own? At Cabot’s Pueblo Museum in Desert Hot Springs, you can — and, surprisingly, it doesn’t cost much more than a steak dinner. This curious adobe building was hand-built by one of the desert’s earliest homesteaders, Cabot Yerxa, known as the first settler to tap the hot springs. Book “My Time at Cabot’s” to have the museum, grounds, and trading post to yourself and up to three guests for two hours. cabotspueblomuseum.org

redjeeppalmdesert
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY RED JEEP TOURS BY DESERT ADVENTURES
Explore the San Andreas Fault.

Nature lovers and those who prefer to spend their weekends scrambling up mountain trails rave about this tour of the fault zone. While basking in the breeze in the back of an open-air Jeep CJ-8 Scrambler, passengers get a close-up view of the California desert — and learn about the plants, animals, geology, and Indigenous communities along the way. The San Andreas Fault Jeep Tour, one of many available through Red Jeep Tours by Desert Adventures, also includes a scenic stroll through a slot canyon. Private tours are available for groups.
red-jeep.com

tylerflorence

PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY PALM DESERT FOOD & WINE
Tyler Florence joins an all-star cast of chefs in March 2023.

Rub elbows with celebrity chefs.

Every March, El Paseo sizzles with the sounds and smells of gourmet tastings and celebrity chef demos during the three-day Palm Desert Food & Wine festival. Your foodie friend will flip for a VIP ticket to the Celebrity Chef Reception, an exclusive cocktail soirée where attendees get to party with the participating chefs that they know and love from TV — this year’s lineup includes Gale Gand, Tyler Florence, Afrim Pristine, and others. palmdesertfoodandwine.com

• READ NEXT: 60 Things to Do in the Desert in December.