Palm Springs (285 miles round-trip from Los Angeles)
A nouveau–Rat Pack oasis on the desert floor of California’s Coachella Valley, Palm Springs draws both the country-club set and the design-obsessed. But this resort town famed for its superlative vintage shops and classic architecture is also pleasantly rough around the edges: rocky landscapes, cactus forests, and alpine villages are all there to explore—if you can tear yourself away from that poolside chaise.
Lay of the Land
It’s a straight shot east on I-10 from Los Angeles to Palm Springs, past numbingly identical suburban shopping centers—but for a much richer experience, stop at the spots that most visitors whiz past. In Pomona, a half-hour outside L.A., a quick drive south off the Garey Avenue exit leads to the world-class American Museum of Ceramic Art and the pedestrian-only Antique Row on nearby Second Street.
Want to see pines as well as palms? Detour north from I-10 onto the panoramic Rim of the World Scenic Byway, which snakes up into the San Bernardino National Forest. In under an hour, you’ll arrive at the upscale mountain hamlet of Lake Arrowhead, where you can have lunch overlooking the water.
If your idea of shopping is bagging designer goods for less, then Cabazon, just off I-10, is sheer heaven. The highway-hugging Desert Hills Premium Outlets features 130 stores—from the usual mass-market brands to exclusive labels like Gucci, Etro, Prada, and Tod’s.
Farther ahead, giant silver energy-generating windmills appear on the horizon. To reach Palm Springs, follow U.S. 111, which morphs from a windy strip in the sand into tree-lined Palm Canyon Drive, where much of the best shopping is located. Put the top down and cruise a city rich in Midcentury Modern sights.
The areas outside Palm Springs—like legendary Joshua Tree National Park, about an hour away on rugged Twenty-Nine Palms Highway (CA-62)—are known for almost-lunar expanses. After a self-guided hike on one of the nature trails, end in Desert Hot Springs for a massage and a soak at one of the many thermal mineral-pool resorts. —David A. Keeps