In Palm Springs, guests vacation at their own pace.
By Jeff Atwell
Behind the gates of the enchanting historic inns revealed on these pages, guests tuck themselves away in private sanctuaries where leisure reigns. Over the past 100 years, Palm Springs has defined the “undisclosed location” as well as any resort destination in the world.
Outside the gates of these secret inns, the quaint village atmosphere of Palm Springs also reveals an active, inquisitive nature. Plenty of fun awaits guests who prefer adrenaline adventures to quiet days by the pool. With a history rich with movie stars, architecture that receives international acclaim, and some of the finest golf courses and tennis resorts in the world, guests have plenty of options to fill their sunny desert days. What’s more, many of the city’s unique activities are within walking distance from the historic inns.
Palm Canyon Drive delights with diverse gift shops, art galleries, alfresco dining, and coffeehouses. Indeed, downtown Palm Springs has evolved into a happening place. The street’s Walk of Stars honors entertainers, pioneers, and celebrities. The city’s most famous residents have also been memorialized with bronze statues along the main thoroughfare — look for Lucille Ball and Sonny Bono as you explore the village.
After dark, lively nightclubs up and down Palm Canyon Drive entice revelers to join the party. One legendary act takes the stage at the historic theater that once housed Jack Benny’s radio broadcasts in the ’40s and debuted many Hollywood premieres. Today, The Fabulous Palm Springs Follies attracts audiences from around the world to the Plaza Theatre.
Style and Substance
The bustling Palm Springs VillageFest takes over Palm Canyon Drive every Thursday evening and features quality arts and crafts, food, live entertainment, and a certified farmers market. Another popular area, the Uptown Heritage District — between Amado Road and Tachevah Drive along North Palm Canyon Drive — showcases art galleries, antique stores, and midcentury furniture shops.
The Palm Springs Art Museum serves as the community’s cultural center, with traveling exhibitions and an extensive permanent collection. Art exhibitions, performances, and special events take place all year. Admission is free after 4 p.m. on Thursdays. The Annenberg Theater — located inside the museum — presents an exciting mix of live events. For high-voltage fun, Spa Resort Casino in the center of downtown Palm Springs features Las Vegas-style slots, poker, blackjack, and video gaming machines in a full-service resort setting that includes a full-service spa and fitness center, award-winning dining, and entertainment.
Other popular visitor destinations require more than a leisurely stroll from the historic inns, but are well worth the drive, hike, or tour.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, the top attraction in the desert, offers the world’s largest rotating tram cars, with 360-degree views. Experience a breathtaking journey up the sheer cliffs of Chino Canyon to Mt. San Jacinto State Park. The 15-minute ride begins at 2,643 feet and rises to 8,516 feet above sea level. Enjoy spectacular views of the desert below, and stay for lunch or dinner at the The Pines Café or dinner at the elegant Peaks Restaurant.
Enthusiasm for midcentury modern architecture has revealed Palm Springs as one of the world’s most important cities for preserved examples of this style. Swiss-born architect Albert Frey, one of Palm Springs’ most famous modernists, designed prominent local landmarks including Palm Springs City Hall, Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Valley Station, Tramway Gas Station, and his own glass-and-metal home high above Tahquitz Canyon Way.
The distinctive Tramway Gas Station, identified with Palm Springs from the day its unusual frame took shape, remains the first landmark visitors notice when they enter the city at the north end. The city treasures the structure so much, in fact, that it currently houses the City of Palm Springs Official Visitor Information Center — a perfect starting point for all visitors who come to this creative city. Palm Springs Modern Tours helps you explore the city’s masters of midcentury modern architecture.
The Indian Canyons offer an incredible — and historic — place to hike and explore. Just drive south on Palm Canyon Drive to the entrance and pay a small fee (it’s private property owned by the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians). Then take a leisurely hike into one of the canyons (Palm, Andreas, or Murray). You can also experience the protected Tahquitz Canyon via ranger-led tours. All four canyons are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
For a look at World War II era aircraft, visit the Palm Springs Air Museum. Its programs, a 60-seat Buddy Rogers Theatre of the Air, photographs, memorabilia, and flight demonstrations bring this era to life. History buffs will also enjoy the Village Green Heritage Center in the center of downtown. It houses the McCallum Adobe, the Cornelia White House with memorabilia of our pioneers, Ruddy’s General Store Museum, and Agua Caliente Cultural Museum.
365 Days of Fun
The Palm Springs Convention Center brings more visitors to the desert for business and fun. For family fun, Knott’s Soak City USA features 14 water slides and attractions, including the 800,000-gallon Rip Tide Reef wave pool, raft ride, lazy river, a kids’ water playground and family area. Parents gravitate toward the mist-cooled private cabanas. The water park also has a gift shop and restaurant, so plan to spend a full day.
Annual events such as the Palm Springs International Film Festival, Tour de Palm Springs, Smooth Jazz Festival, Swing ’n’ Dixie Jazz Festival, Frank Sinatra Celebrity Golf Invitational, Kraft Nabisco Championship, Pacific Life Open, American Heat Motorcycle Weekend, Festival of Lights Parade, Palm Springs Exotic Car Show and Aution, and many others offer yearround opportunities to step out under the clear blue Palm Springs sky and create unique memories in the California desert.
Before You Come
Copies of the Palm Springs Official Visitors Guide are available by calling (800) 347-7746. For hotel information, call (800) 347-7746 or (888) 866-2744 for hotels that cater to gay and lesbian visitors.