A desert delight
As part of a southern California road trip, Palm Springs is top of the list of places to include. There are plenty of reasons why so many north Americans and Canadians spend the winter in this balmy paradise, sun, sun and more sun.
So, we couldn’t believe it when we arrived in the middle of a ferocious rain storm and visibility was so bad that it wasn’t until the next morning, when the blue skies returned, that we realised this desert oasis is surrounded by amazing snow-capped mountains!
Palm Springs has hotels to suit every budget, from top end luxury for the rich and famous, to more modest establishments. Located just three blocks from fashionable Palm Canyon Drive and directly linked to the Palm Springs Convention Centre, the newly renovated Renaissance Palm Springs is a perfect retreat.
There is a lot to see and do in Palm Springs, it is not all about lying around a pool (although we spent a good few hours doing just that).
As always in America, sightseeing is easier if you have your own car, but here you can leave your wheels behind and use the city’s free trolley service called Palm Springs BUZZ. The brightly coloured trolleys will take you into town and along the main streets. Check the website for times and routes.
I was keen to explore the Air Museum and we enjoyed an afternoon eyeing up old aircraft, admiring the wartime retro fuselage art work and even trying out scarily realistic, hands on, aircraft simulators. The museum is situated alongside Palm Springs Airport, so plane buffs can watch the comings and goings of commercial flights at quite close range.
Next stop was the famous Arial Tramway that climbs high into the wilderness of Mt. Jacinto State Park. The cable car is unique as it rotates as it slowly climbs the 2.5 miles and really does takes your breath away with views for miles in all directions. A very useful tip is check the weather at the summit before you go as it averages 30 degrees cooler than the city. We visited after an unusually cold spell and despite sun and temperatures in the 70’s on the ground, at the top we found 4 foot of snow and zero degrees! We managed a short walk along a walkway that had been cleared of snow, before warming up with a hot chocolate in the visitors’ centre, whilst admiring the views. This is a year round attraction offering many miles of trails for hiking in summer and skiing in winter.
As a complete contrast to our snowy morning, we spent the afternoon in the desert tasting Californian dates under the sway of palm trees at Shield’s Date Farm. These were dates, the like of which I have never tasted before, plump and gorgeous and very delicious.
We spent a lovely day at Sunnylands Estate, a place I had never heard of but is known in the USA as the Camp David of the West. It is an architecturally designed 1960’s house surrounded by elaborate gardens built by philanthropists Walter and Leonore Annenberg. From the swinging sixties and into the new millennium they entertained everyone who was anyone from the world of politics, royalty, TV and films.
The estate now hosts meetings of Presidents and rulers from across the globe in an informal and tranquil setting. There is a Sunnylands Visitor centre & garden open to the public from Thursday to Sunday and where you can follow the time line of the Sunnylands Foundation. The main house and private gardens can also be visited, but must be pre-booked. The estate is beautifully kept and home to some stunning works of art both inside the house and in the grounds. It felt a great privilege to visit and explore this amazing place and hear about past visitors’ and grand events.
All this sightseeing gives you an appetite and food is a great part of American life. In Palm Springs we escaped the normal fast food for a while and tasted some innovative menus at restaurants that are pushing the boundaries of modern cuisine. We had a memorable meal with an Austrian twist at Johannes, famous for Wiener Schnitzel, alongside other delicious dishes on an ever-changing menu.
Mexican food is popular, as Palm Springs is not so far from the boarder, and we sampled some great dishes at Rio Azul. Guacamole made to order at our table was a highlight as was the slow cooked pork dish for which the restaurant is famous. They do a pretty good Margarita too!
Be sure to include a few days in Palm Springs if you find yourself in Southern California – you won’t regret it!
If you are tempted to a California road trip our partner American Sky has some varied itineraries.
For more information on Palm Springs go to
- CaliforniaRoad Trip with American Sky – Santa Barbara
- CaliforniaRoad Trip with American Sky – San Diego