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Fort Bragg, California
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Vallejo, California
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Bodega Bay, California

Palm Springs

Bearing the moniker “Capital of Cool” and situated in the hot Mojave Desert, Palm Springs is a laid-back oasis with big cred in the world of midcentury modern design. Frank, Dean, Sammy and Joey all knew hip when they saw it, and when the Rat Pack hung out in the Coachella Valley, they helped to usher in a new architectural sensibility that hit the ground running in Palm Springs. Now tourists come to absorb the sunshine and the healing waters of mineral springs or drive a golf ball on emerald fairways. From casinos to canyons, from polo to pickleball, the region has staked its reputation on high-end amenities and low-key relaxation.

Lady grabbing golf clubs from golf cart in a desert setting.

DAVID A.LEE PHOTOGRAPHY

Hot Springs Escape

With so many mineral springs in the area, a soak is in order. Select any spa or resort for a relaxing interval in the hot spring pools, followed by a massage. But if the kids are looking for a splashing good time, take a dip at the Wet ’n’ Wild water park for water slides, lagoons and a wave pool. It is the best way to cool off when the summer temps hit the 100s.

Activities Galore

With over 100 manicured courses, Palm Springs ranks among the nation’s top golfing destinations. Lush green fairways compete for attention, with challenging hole placement on the greens, shadowed by rugged mountain backdrops. Play a round on an Arnold Palmer-designed course, or one created by Greg Norman or Jack Nicklaus. Even the PGA and LPGA have tour stops in California’s most popular destination for golf vacations.

It’s a Racquet

Tennis and its smaller cousin, pickleball, are staple activities in the region, with hundreds of courts to enjoy. Pick up your racquet or paddle, then ace your way to a victory, followed by the obligatory winning celebration at a craft beer brewery in town.

Native Heritage

Celebrate Native American history in Palm Springs at the Agua Caliente Cultural Museum, where exhibits, educational programs and research of the Cahuilla Indians inhabiting the region are on display. A new museum building is set to open in 2020, greatly expanding space along with gardens and trails honoring the heritage of the tribe. According to plans, the building’s exterior will take design cues from the basket-weaving techniques of the Cahuilla people.

A road winds through rugged landscapes. East of Palm Springs, Joshua Tree National Park treats visitors to otherworldly beauty

NPS

Cool View

The world’s largest rotating tramcar gives riders a stunning vantage point from which to view the Coachella Valley. Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is a 2½-mile ride up and over Chino Canyon, arriving about 2,000 feet from the top of Mount San Jacinto. This rise from the desert below deposits its cargo at Mountain Station, where cooler temperatures await. It was the goal of the tram’s creator to escape the broiling temps below with a 10-minute ride up the mountain. And although it took almost 30 years to see his dream become a reality, designer Francis Crocker successfully built the perfect “refrigerated” vehicle that doesn’t require air conditioning.

Dancing with the Desert

The entire Coachella Valley transforms into an artist’s canvas for 2½ months with Desert X. Artists assemble dozens of large and striking art installations in unique outdoor locations from February to April. From five staircases that rise from the ground to nowhere overlooking the Salton Sea, to a giant screen set in the desert with constant digital simulation, each display is thought-provoking and contemporary. Watch as fiber artists contemplate and construct shelter with only fabrics and yarns or download an app with instructions to a desert location. Once there, hold the phone to the sky and soon an oasis above your viewing point will appear. These and several other installations give the appearance of art as a dance partner, performing intricate choreography with its counterpart, the desert.

Architecture and Song

Every February, Palm Springs celebrates what it showcases best: midcentury modernism. Modernism Week is an 11-day event featuring groundbreaking architecture, landscaping and interior design through films and lectures. Tour half a dozen vintage homes that epitomize the low, flat look commissioned by celebrities moving to Palm Springs in its heyday.

Cool Coachella

Begun in 1999, the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in nearby Indio has grown into one of the largest outdoor music and arts celebrations in the world.  Held in April over two consecutive weekends in the desert, the event features indie, rock, hip-hop and electronic dance music, along with art installations and sculptures. With over 250,000 in attendance, no one will notice if you sing off-key.

Coachella Shopping

No trip to Palm Springs would be complete without a jaunt down Palm Canyon Drive, lined with high-end clothing stores, upscale boutiques and superb eateries to please every palette. Considered the desert’s answer to Beverly Hills’ Rodeo Drive, this iconic strip entices shopaholics with fine clothing, accessories and art. Next door in Palm Desert, the renowned El Paseo Shopping District features more than 300 world-class shops, locally owned boutiques, art galleries, jewelers, top-name retailers such as St. John and Gucci, and gourmet restaurants set against a scenic backdrop. Foodies will find outstanding local eateries, ranging from traditional Mexican food at Las Casuelas Terraza to tiki fare at the Tonga Hut.

Make a Joshua Tree Jaunt

Located about 50 miles west of Palm Springs, Joshua Tree National Park entrances visitors with its namesake plant life and surreal rock formations. Several trails in the 790,636-acre park lead travelers past gargantuan boulders that look like they were sculpted by a surrealist artist from another planet. Throughout the park, the legendary Joshua Tree — named by pioneers for its resemblance to the namesake Old Testament leader pointing to the promised land — dots the landscape, adding to the otherworldliness of the scene. Work up a sweat on a trail or find enlightenment in a lotus position in the shadow of a jagged rock outcropping. The hustle and bustle of Palm Springs will seem a million miles away.

Architectural Artistry

After World War II, celebrities hired architects like Richard Neutra to design homes for this desert locale, and the midcentury modern design hit all the right notes, with low flat roofs, glass walls and sleek interiors. The population grew, with wealthy residents from the film industry investing heavily in the region. Today, architecture buffs can sign up for a tour around town to see architectural gems that once served as homes to Hollywood A-listers.

Year-Round Getaway

But by 1970, retirees had heard about the warm winter temperatures in Palm Springs, and the town became a mecca for snowbirds. Their numbers doubled, then tripled the population from November to April. Today, the entire Coachella Valley carries the mantle of year-round getaway for everyone from Hollywood A-listers to former presidents, retired business leaders to converted “Northerners.” It’s a luscious oasis, tempting travelers to stop for a well-deserved rest and enjoy the fruits of the desert.

For More Information

Palm Springs Visitors Center

800-347-7746

www.visitpalmsprings.com

California Tourism

877-225-4367

www.visitcalifornia.com