Greater Palm Springs, California
Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley are not only a desert oasis, but a bonafide lifestyle. Visitors started flocking to this playground in the 1920s for rest and relaxation. Trust me, there’s a lot more to here than lounge by a pool (though let’s be honest… that’s okay, too!). From mid-century modern design to sprawling, otherworldly landscapes, it’s easy to see why Greater Palm Springs is a place to love.
PLACES AND STORIES TO LOVE
A Lounging sort of lifestyle
Palm Springs is synonymous with mid-century modern style. What makes the homes here extra special is that they started out almost exclusively as vacation properties. These spaces were designed with a focus on fun over functionality. Some of the Palm Springs neighborhoods truly feel like stepping back in time, while simultaneously stepping into a Jetsons-like future. Michael Stern, writer and creator of The Modern Tour—the official tour of the Palm Springs Art Museum Architecture and Design Center—showed me a few of the most iconic designs in town. From pre-fab steel homes to Wexler designs, these unique dwellings will leave your jaw on the floor.
IF YOU GO
If you happen to be in Palm Springs over the weekend, you can do a little self-guided home snooping– er, I mean touring, by visiting open houses. Check out listings in Vista Las Palmas, Indian Canyons and Twin Palms, some of the best ‘hoods for this style of design.
To book your own tour with Michael, visit The Modern Tour.
A Pop of Color in the middle of the desert
The moment your plane touches down in Palm Springs, you can’t help but want to look and feel the part. There’s loads of consignment shops, thrift stores and vintage emporiums stocked with mid-century goods. Once I saw Gypsyland’s window display featuring a pink dog named Pucci, I knew I’d found my place. Shop co-owner Stephanie Santos fills her fun, eclectic store with art, furniture, clothes and more. Browsing here feels like walking into a mid-century time capsule, with Brutalist sculptures, Regency sideboards, and lots of funky clothes.
IF YOU GO
Throwing a party in the Coachella Valley? You can rent pieces from Gypsyland! Lots of people throw destination weddings and parties here. File this piece of info away in your memory bank. It may come in handy one day.
2675 N. Palm Canyon
Palm Springs, California 92262
A wild experience that’s fun for all ages
While the Coachella Valley allows you to experience the Sonoran Desert, the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens is dedicated to the plants and animals of deserts all over the world. Over 450 species call this place home, and they all need to be fed! I helped prepare breakfast for a few of the herbivores and omnivores… when you watch the episode, you’ll see I will not be quitting my day job for a career in zookeeping. Other zoo highlights include an operating center, where visitors can look on as veterinarians care for animals; a giraffe feeding area; and my favorite, a meerkat exhibit.
IF YOU GO
Check out the cheetah run! Every day, you can watch the cheetahs run for their lunch. Though they don’t hit anywhere near 70 mph, it’s still fun to see these big cats up close and personal.
The Living Desert Zoo
47900 Portola Avenue
Palm Desert, CA 92260
Par for the course
Golf remains a favorite Palm Desert pastime. In fact, there are there are over 100 golf courses in the area, but the Desert Willow Golf Resort is unique for one thing: foot golf. I met up with Roberto Belestrini, the founder and chairman of the American FootGolf League. It’s played much like it sounds—it’s like a round of golf, except instead of clubs and a teeny ball, you play with your feet and a soccer ball. The rules are essentially the same: you tee off (aka kick that ball as far as you can!), putt and must play the ball as it lies. You swear and shake your fist just about as much, too! I was shocked to learn this sport is played in 40 countries around the world, and the US is home to over 300 footgolf courses.
Drive it like you stole it
Most of us haven’t had driving instruction since our freshman year of high school. That all changed for me at the BMW Performance Center. Here, expert driver Adam Seaman showed me how to properly adjust my mirrors and fix my seat height. Then, we did all that stuff from car commercials that come with a DO NOT ATTEMPT warning. As a mom who normally drives a minivan to and from the grocery store, learning to drive like I stole it was the most fun I’ve had on the road in a long time!
IF YOU GO
Forget the stunt driving, I learned so many valuable real-life skills! I highly encourage anyone who drives to sign up. And yes, they have classes for teens, where they teach useful things, like how to handle a skid, panic situations and more.
BMW Performance Center
86-050 Jasper Lane
Thermal, CA 92274
There are many easy day trips from the Coachella Valley, but the one that tops my list is Joshua Tree National Park. Sprawling over the Mojave and Colorado desert, this beloved park’s energy is the thing of legend. Designated as a National Monument in 1934 by FDR, and a National Park in 1994, this 1,235-square-mile park features excellent hiking, mountain climbing, and panoramic views featuring its namesake plant, the yucca brevifolia, more commonly known as the Joshua tree.
I met up with George Land, a park ranger whose enthusiasm for the national parks began as a child. He brought me to Keys Ranch, the pioneer homestead of William and Francis Keys that was inhabited until the late 1960s! I can tell you with absolute certainty that I wouldn’t have lasted an hour living at this ranch, but fascinating to learn about those who did.
DID YOU KNOW?
U2’s album, The Joshua Tree, actually has nothing to do with the park… the band snapped a photo with a Joshua tree in Darwin, California, located 200 miles away. In other music trivia, rocker Gram Parsons body was stolen from a mortuary and cremated in the park in 1973. Read all about it here.
Joshua Tree National Park
74485 National Park Drive
Twentynine Palms, CA 92277-3597
Luxurious serenity, near all the action
There are a lot of lovely hotels in Greater Palm Springs, many of them boasting a thumping soundtrack and see-and-be-seen pool parties. 25-year-old Samantha would’ve said, “Yes please!” These days, I crave serenity. There’s no better place for that than El Paseo, the first new luxury hotel in Palm Desert in over 30 years. Imagine sipping on a cool poolside cocktail, or practicing your short game on their putting green. There’s also a fabulous restaurant with room service and a spa (can I get an amen!). Many of the spacious rooms come with a private balcony overlooking the mountains, perfect for enjoying your morning cup of coffee.
It’s also worth noting the proximity to El Paseo, the area’s notable shopping, dining and entertainment hub. Walk out the door and you’re there!
A daytime date in the desert
You could easily assume Shields Date Farm is just a kitschy roadside attraction… and you would be so, so wrong. For almost a century, Shields has been a place where people come to learn about (and eat!) dates. I met up with owner Heather Raumin to learn about what makes dates to special. Did you know palm trees are male and female, that they grow palm dates, and that they’re hand pollinated? These tasty gems require a lot of work, which really makes you appreciate every delicious bite. For the best date experience, belly up to their 1960s shake counter for a delicious date shake. The building also features an old school movie theater that continuously plays their proprietary film, The Romance & Sex Life of the Date.
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