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Palm Springs

National Parks

Palm Springs, California

Palm Springs is an old resort city located 114 miles (190km) east of Los Angeles, California. It is located in the upper Colorado Desert just east of the 10,804 foot (4,500m) San Jacinto Mountain Peak. This arid desert valley lying in the rain shadow of the Santa Rosa Mountain Range offers a warmer, dryer and sunnier climate than the city of Los Angeles less than two hours drive to the west. It was once known for its natural hot-water springs. Today it is better known for its many beautifully manicured golf courses.

Aerial Tram © PS Bureau of Tourism
A rotating aerial tramway located in Chino Canyon can take you up 8,500 feet (2700 meters) to Mount San Jacinto State Park where the temperature is often 30 degrees cooler and the hiking trails are surrounded by giant redwood forests.

Retreat for Hollywood Stars

Years ago, Palm Spring was the weekend refuge for many famous Hollywood film stars and movie moguls. As far back as the silent picture era, it was the place where the rich and famous sought relief from the Los Angeles smog, and the crowds of city dwellers. Many Hollywood personalities built their lavish vacation homes in the desert surrounding Palm Springs. Some of those magnificent villas still stand as testament to the glamorous days when Palm Springs was the vacation retreat for Hollywood legends. Many streets, boulevards and civic centers still bear the names of its famous inhabitants like Frank Sinatra Drive, Dinah Shore Drive, Gene Autry Trail and the Bob Hope Cultural Center.

Palm Springs has grown from a small desert spa to a conglomeration of intertwined towns that spread along the Coachella Valley for many miles. Palm Springs, Desert Hot Springs, Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, Indian Wells and Indio are a few of the many communities that form this fashionable metropolitan area. As you cruise along Highway 111 through these connected villages, you pass endless developments of expensive homes, lush green golf courses, upscale shopping malls featuring designer boutiques and trendy restaurants interspersed with thousands of palm trees.

Palm Spring is a short drive east of Los Angeles

As you drive interstate highway I-10 east out of Los Angeles, you pass through a narrow gap in the San Bernadino Mountains known as San Gorgonio Pass. A windmill farm with hundreds of giant propellers atop slender towers attests to the fact that this geological feature acts as a funnel for the coastal winds off of the Pacific Ocean. Then you drop into the flat desert basin of the Coachella Valley and enter the suburban developments of expensive desert homes, golf courses, swimming pools and palm trees. You have arrived at Palm Springs and its neighboring villages.

Palm Springs has a small but very beautiful airport with commuter flights from many destinations in the USA especially from West Coast cities. Taxi fares from the airport can vary greatly depending on destination. It may cost only $10 to a hotel in nearby Palm Springs, but a trip to a resort in Indio can be as much as $40. Rental cars are usually a better choice. There are more flight options at Ontario airport about one hours drive to the west or at Los Angeles International Airport which is located about a two hours drive from Palm Springs. Amtrak, the US passenger rail system, has a station in Palm Springs but only one train heading west and one train heading east stop there each day, and those are in the middle of the night. Greyhound offers long-distance bus service from Palm Spring to Los Angeles and to destination across the USA.

Palm Springs is becoming a party town

For many years, Palm Springs was known as the vacation spot for wealthy elderly folks. It was especially renown for attracting affluent gray-haired gentlemen in green golf pants who spent their days on the fairways while their very young glamorous escorts lounged by the hotel swimming pool or shopped in the exclusive designer boutiques in town.

I hear the scene has changed. Young affluent urban professionals from West Coast cities like Los Angeles have discovered this weekend getaway a few hours from home. Today, a younger trendier set of tourists can be seen golfing, shopping and cruising the classy restaurants of Palm Springs. It is once again becoming more of a party town like it was in the days when the Hollywood elite spent their free time here.

Village Fest Shopping © PS Bureau of Tourism
Shopping is another popular diversion in Palm Springs. Every Thursday evening a portion of this main thoroughfare is closed to all but pedestrian traffic for an open-air Village Fest.

Palm Springs Accommodations

There are a wide variety of accommodation options in Palm Springs. You can find elegant resorts that offer spacious rooms, picturesque swimming pools, tennis courts and private golf courses. You can also find plenty of modestly priced hotels with similar accommodations in a slightly less glamorous setting. You can even find a variety of budget priced hotels. Check our Palm Springs accommodations page to read about some of the lodging options in the Palm Springs area, to compare the prices and book your reservations.

Palm Springs' major attractions

The major attractions in Palm Springs are its climate, its golf courses and its elegant vacation resorts. Temperatures can get quite hot during the summer and a bit chilly during the winter, but the climate is quite pleasant most of the year. Rainfall is always sparse, and blue cloudless skies are the norm. Tourists from the cold northern states tend to flock to Palm Springs from January until May. I prefer October or November, which are usually very pleasant months with less tourist crowds.

Golf is a year-round activity at Palm Springs, and there are over one hundred courses in the area. The lush green fairways seem so incongruous to the surrounding barren desert. I heard that it takes over on million gallons (4 million liters) of water every day just to maintain the grass on the golf courses. Swimming pools and tennis courts are almost as numerous as the palm trees in this area. Palm Springs is typically a place to relax, play golf and lounge around the pool under a warm desert sun.

Shopping and dining in Palm Springs

Shopping is another popular diversion in Palm Springs. There are hundreds of shops, designer boutiques, art galleries, and markets. Most are located on South Palm Canyon Drive. Every Thursday evening a portion of this main thoroughfare is closed to all but pedestrian traffic for an open-air Village Fest. El Paseo in nearby Palm Desert is another shopping area that has been compared to Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills because of its collection of elite designer shops. If you are a bargain hunter, the Desert Hills Premium Outlets in Cabazon, about 15 minutes west of Palm Springs features 120 factory outlet shops.

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There are a variety of restaurants in Palm Springs and its neighboring communities. The dining options include everything from very classy fine dining establishments to modestly priced ethnic cuisine and inexpensive fast food. The dance clubs and bistros are favorite after-dark hangouts for the trendy urban professionals that flock to Palm Springs on weekends. Sometimes, you can even spot a few Hollywood celebrities.

Other attractions in Palm Springs

Indian Canyons, located on the tribal lands of the Agua Caliente natives, is a delightful place to see some of the great natural beauty of the desert geology and desert foliage. These picturesque canyons featuring a natural desert oasis provide a great place for walking and hiking. A rotating aerial tramway located in Chino Canyon can take you up 8,500 feet (2700 meters) to Mount San Jacinto State Park where the temperature is often 30 degrees cooler and the hiking trails are surrounded by giant redwood forests.

Palm Springs has a Desert Museum and an aircraft museum. Nearby Palm Desert offers a large Living Desert Zoo and Gardens. Joshua Tree National Park is only 35 miles east of the city.

Written by: Mike Leco
Top Photo Credit: © Ronnie Allen /
Photo Description: Golf course and San Jacinto Mountains