On The Road Again: Palm Springs, CA

Palm Springs became famous in the 1940s as the Southern California desert getaway spot for Hollywood film royalty as Bob Hope, Ginger Rogers, Frank Sinatra, Cary Grant, and Gene Autry. Elvis Presley spent his honeymoon with Priscilla Presley here. Performers such as Barry Manilow and Trini Lopez have long kept Palm Springs residences.

Palm Springs has certainly kept up with modern times in the entertainment industry as well. The Palm Springs International Film Festival just completed its 26th year and it now serves as the movie business kickoff for the new year since it commences as soon as the holiday season is over. The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival held a few miles southeast of Palm Springs in the city of Indio has become the nation’s largest annual outdoor series of pop music concerts, and the same can be said for Stagecoach, its country music counterpart that takes place two weeks later.

The Palm Springs Art Museum has one of the best collections of 19th and 20th century paintings and sculptures. You’ll find works by Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, Edgar Degas, Charles Russell, and Frederick Remington and many others in its permanent collection.

Just as Miami Beach is famous for its 1930s Art Deco buildings, Palm Springs is renown for its 1950s and 1960s low-rise architecture known as American Modernism. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs’ answer to Miami Beach’s Collins Avenue, is home to numerous boutiques and restaurants in these landmark structures in the Uptown Design District. The area is celebrated every Thursday night with Village Fest which is one of the biggest weekly street fairs in the United States.

The most famous landmark in Palm Springs is not a building or statue but rather the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway that climbs nearly 8,500 feet up into Mount San Jacinto. At the summit you can enjoy a lavish meal at Peaks Restaurant or engage in some strenuous hiking. No matter what season it is you are advised to bring a warm jacket because it gets very chilly up there. If you like hiking without the high altitude the Indian Canyons trail just a few miles south on Route 111 is a good alternative.

A very scenic place to hike or merely enjoy breathtaking views of nature is at Joshua Tree National Park which is approximately a 45-minute ride from Palm Springs. You should stop off on the way back to town at one of the many stands that make a local treat, a date milk shake. The Coachella Valley is the biggest grower of dates and figs in the country.

If you enjoy bargain shopping make sure to visit the Desert Hills Premium Outlets located on Interstate 10 in the town of Cabazon. While it has all of the stores that you would expect to find in an outlet center such as Van Heusen, Brooks Brothers, and Polo Ralph Lauren it also has such retailers as Jimmy Choo, Coach, Gucci, and Tourneau tht generally shun outlets.

Palm Springs has no shortage of lodging properties and they run the gamut from budget to very high end. The Triada is a recently opened boutique hotel that is part of Marriott’s Autograph line. Located in the Palm Springs’ Movie Colony section, named for the neighborhood where many Hollywood stars made their second homes, and is walking distance from the heart of the city, has a Spanish hacienda architecture. You’ll feel like a movie star here as all of the rooms are spacious villas. There are two outdoor pools on the premises. One is a traditional heated chlorine pool while the other has cold salt water.

The Triada offers a great view of Mount San Jacinto to the west and the San Bernardino Mountains to the east. Because there is so little light pollution coupled with the fact that the desert skies are generally crystal clear, one can see such star clusters as Orion as well as distant planets as Jupiter and Uranus with the naked eye. It’s a good idea to download the Google Sky Map app on your smartphone so you know exactly what you are looking at.

The free Palm Springs trolley known as the Buzz stops right in front of the Triada and it runs from Thursday to Sunday so if you are there for a long weekend you won’t need to use your car.

The one drawback is air service. Virgin America has a flight from JFK to Palm Springs and back that operates only on Saturdays. JetBlue has frequent service from JFK to Los Angeles, Long Beach and San Diego which are all about 2 to 2 ½ hours away. My suggestion is to fly in and out of San Diego and spend time in the San Diego neighborhood of La Jolla and stay at either the Grande Colonial Hotel or the Hyatt Regency and sandwich a trip to Palm Springs between the beginning and end of your vacation. Palm Springs hotel rates tend to be cheaper during the week than on weekends.

For more information, log onto visitpalmsprings.com or call (800) 347-7746.

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