Exploring Palm Springs

by Emma Hackwood

Our Travel Consultant Julie Urquhart recently travelled to Palm Springs; a vacation destination she thought was reserved for retired golfers. She shares with us what she learned, and why she thinks you’ll love exploring Palm Springs as much as she did!

I recently had the opportunity to visit Palm Springs, a city I knew very little about and had never really planned on visiting. Isn’t Palm Springs a place for retired golfers? Greater Palm Springs, impressively, has more golf courses per capita than anywhere else in the world, but golf just scratches the surface of the many exciting things this city has to offer.

driving palm springs

What first thrilled me was the quick flight from my home in Victoria, BC. Within 2.5 hours I arrived in Palm Springs, and was relaxed and laying by the pool before noon. Easy access to Palm Springs from Western Canada and the US makes the city very popular for a quick weekend getaway. In fact, this is what drew many of Hollywood’s early legends there and put Palm Springs on the tourist map from the 1920s onward. Celebrities including Frank Sinatra and Bob Hope, on contract with studios in Los Angeles, had a “two-hour” rule and could not be farther than two hours from the city in case they were called back to work. This made Palm Springs the perfect hideaway where Hollywood’s elite could retreat from the big city.

palm springs hotel room

The hotel I stayed in, Riviera Resort and Spa, hosted several famous artists including Elvis Presley, who would rehearse there before heading out on tour to Las Vegas. Even Walt Disney considered building Disneyland in the desert of Palm Springs, before settling in Anaheim.

So what attracts tourists and long-stay visitors to the area year after year? The first thing I noticed was the fabulous, dry desert heat. It wasn’t too hot, (about 25 degrees Celsius in November) which was perfect for lounging by the pool or going for a walk. I loved getting away from the coastal humidity I’m accustomed to. No wonder many Canadians live there for 6 months of the year!

Another thing that impressed me was the rich cultural heritage of the Palm Springs area. I learned about the Agua Caliente Cahuila Indians who have lived for thousands of years in the Indian Canyons and still have a predominant influence in the area today. I had the opportunity to go on a desert tour by jeep into the canyons which was unbelievably beautiful and a must-do while there! Not only was it excellent for hiking, our guide also educated us on how the Agua Caliente lived off the very land we stood on and their traditional practices. I always love learning more about the history of the places I visit and doing a desert tour was a great way to do this. You can also do trips to the San Andreas Fault!

If you have more time, you can head out to Joshua Tree National Park. Another a great way to see the entire desert in a short period of time is on the Palms Springs Aerial Tramway – the world’s largest rotating tramcar that takes you to an elevation of 8,516 feet. It was a bit daunting going up the steepest cliff I have ever been on, but let me tell you the view is well worth it!

Palm Springs with mountains

The temperature drops considerably at this altitude so dress with layers. There is a restaurant where you can have a bite to eat and a rest, and many more trails to explore from the top and even snow in the winter if you fancy snowshoeing! The recreational activities in Palm Springs are endless.

Another area that really impressed me was the vast amount of excellent quality dining options in Palm Springs. The downtown core has great local restaurants with some amazing chefs, so make sure to try as many as you can! Also check out the Village Fest (night market every Thursday), where you will find vendors selling their goods and services; it really gives you a feel for the community and a chance to chat with the locals!

desserts in palm springs

If you have children, or are a big kid at heart, make sure you head to the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens. Although I’m not a fan of zoos, I found this one to be very different than others I have visited. The Living Desert was founded to preserve the desert environment and its animals. There was an animal hospital on site, and a big focus on educating the public about the importance of protecting and appreciating the desert and its wildlife. My favourite animals to see were the mountain lion, bobcat and honey badger!

One last thing I would like to mention is the shopping. Oh the shopping!! The outlet malls are absolutely fabulous (and massive), with amazing deals, so bring your credit card and comfortable shoes for a whole day trek! There are also some amazing local boutiques in downtown Palm Springs.

I was only able to spend a short time in the city, but I fell in love with its history, people, climate, and diverse activities. It’s not just a city for golf (although it has the best golf courses if that’s what you’re looking for!). I would highly recommend the Palm Springs experience to people of all ages!

Ready to explore Palm Springs? Give us a call at 1-866-299-5614 to start planning your sunny escape!

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