While much of the nation (and the world) is in the midst of a cold, harsh winter, the desert oasis of Palm Springs, California is sitting pretty with an average daily temperature hovering right around 75 degrees and sunny.
Yes, the palm trees, warm desert breeze, and poolside cocktails are indeed calling your name this winter, beckoning you to come for a long weekend from Los Angeles, or an even longer stay from far off places. But once you land in paradise, hold off on sliding onto a lounge chair, because the Greater Palm Springs area, which includes Coachella, Indio, Palm Springs, and more, has much to offer beyond the pool.
Take a Jeep Tour Through the Desert
Palm Springs may look like an arid desert landscape, but there’s more to this view than meets the eye. Sit back in an open air jeep tour with Desert Adventures and learn a thing or two about Palm Springs. Things like: After tourism, its second largest industry is agriculture. (Where do you think all those yummy dates you eat come from?) And did you know that Palm Springs sits right along the San Andreas Fault? Desert Adventures will take you right up to the fault line so you can see it for yourself. Along the way you’ll learn about the different flora and fauna in the area and maybe run into a cute rabbit, owl, or field mouse sitting along your route. Just keep an eye out for rattlesnakes while you’re there as they too call the desert home.
Ride the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, which has been in operation since Sept. 12, 1963, is a favorite among locals and tourists alike for good reason: It’s super freaking cool.
According to the Tramway, an estimated 18 million people have traveled up the 10-minute, 2.5-mile ride since its opening. Each guest begins at at the Valley Station at the base (elevation 2,643 feet) and ends at the Mountain Station (elevation 8,516 feet). There, they are met with breathtaking views of all nine of Greater Palm Springs’ cities. Of course, beyond the views the top also offers guests the chance to eat at two restaurants, grab a drink at the cocktail lounge, or head out for more than 50 miles of nature trails surrounding the tram.
If you choose to add this to your Palm Springs adventure it may be best to reserve your tickets ahead of time so you can ensure you make it up and down during the timeframe you want. Roundtrip tickets are $25.95, or you can grab an annual pass for $160.
Check Out the Palm Springs Art Museum
The desert is home to many excellent artists, all of whom are worth checking out at the Palm Springs Art Museum. There, you’ll find a plethora of worthwhile permanent exhibits like their modern art room with items from around the globe and Native American art from around the American West. The museum also has some excellent rotating exhibits including their current showing of “Having a Ball” by Michael Childers. The exhibit showcases Childers’ photographs from Andy Warhols’ Interview Magazine and include Childers’ personal photographs of Warhol from the 1970s. So when you’re done with the sun, or need a little culture before cocktail hour, swing through, check out the art, and gather a little inspiration for dinner conversations.
Race BMWs Like a Pro
If you’re looking for an adrenaline rush in the desert look no further than the BMW Performance Center. There, you can get behind the wheel of a brand new BMW or Mini Cooper and race around the tracks, including a black lake wet track and a multi-configuration course with hairpin turns, high-speed straights, and a 300-foot, polished concrete skidpad, all while getting tips from the professionals. The staff includes Adam Seaman, a professional drift racer who also worked as a stuntman on "Drive," and Christopher Hill, a stunt driver on "Hot Rod" who was the runner-up on season three of "GT Academy." Just make sure to book your driving experience well in advance as classes tend to fill up for the one- or two-day events fast.
Take a Walk Through Sunnylands
In the middle of the paradise that is Palm Springs sits another oasis: Sunnylands.
The insanely beautiful property was established via a trust set up by Walter and Leonore Annenberg to “address serious issues facing the nation and the world community.” The couple, Sunnylands’ site explains, envisioned the space as a place where intimate and solution-driven meetings could take place as they had while the couple was alive. In the estate's history, Prince Charles, President Obama, President Reagan, and more world leaders have passed through.
If you’re on your own (you know, without a president or a prince in tow) you’re still more than welcome to visit the estate’s gardens for free Thursdays to Sundays. On the property, you can view the magnificent art left by the Annenbergs and tour the pristine, desert-friendly gardens. And make sure to check the Sunnylands website before you visit as you may even be able to join a bird-watching tour or a free yoga class on the lawn. It’s also totally OK to just go zen out in the garden alone for a bit. Nobody is there to judge you.