PALM SPRINGS – California’s Desert Oasis
Basking in the heat of the California desert lies one of America’s most alluring vacation playgrounds. Nestled in a vast fertile valley surrounded by lush and ancient palm groves, banked by steep ravines and mountain peaks, the village of Palm Springs is no mirage as it proves to be a real desert oasis.
Some of the original residents included Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Lucille Ball, President Gerald Ford, Roy Rogers and Gene Autry just to name a few. This resident ancestry plus the subsequent Mayor and later Congressman Sonny Bono led to the development of a vibrant community which evolved to provide an escape from the frenetic pace of life in Hollywood.
Times have changed and today the community has become a year round destination for those seeking a vacation in the sun. With an average annual rainfall of only six inches you are almost guaranteed a hot and sunny holiday—a claim which very few places can promise. Whether you are a golfer, tennis player, enjoy horseback riding, can’t wait to shop, take a hike in the wilderness,or just want to relax poolside with a cocktail soaking up the rays, this desert sanctuary proffers everything for a perfect escape.
Plam Springs is one of nine adjacent cities that comprise the Coachella Valley sheltered by the Little San Bernadino Mountains to the north, the Santa Rosa Mountains to the south and The San Jacinto Mountains to the west. This affords spectacular mountain views in every direction creating amazing sunrises and sunsets that vary every day and never disappoint. When you leave Palm Springs to visit one of the other desert communities you are considered to be “going down Valley” and this journey provides plenty of new vistas to explore.
It’s a true paradise valley boasting an average 354 days of sunshine each year with winter temperatures which average a daily high in the 70’s Fahrenheit rising to over 100 degrees during the summer months. Patios are open year-round and outdoor activities never stop for the change in seasons. That’s why it’s a golfers dream destination.
In addition to all the daytime outdoor activities the vibrant nightlife and gourmet dining promises you will definitely feel as though you have discovered paradise.
Just ask any of the four hundred thousand plus valley residents why they never want to leave.
Palm Springs airport is located in the center of the city and is served by ten major airlines with approximately 100 flights daily. This includes direct flights from Calgary, Vancouver and Edmonton via Westjet plus connections to and from other major Canadian cities. Upon arrival at the airport it is easy to rent a car and drive to the other communities within the Coachella Valley or utilise public transportation to your final destination.
Driving times from nearby major cities are approximately three hours from San Diego,just under two hours from Los Angeles and slightly further with five hours from Las Vegas or Phoenix.
It’s understandable why this desert oasis has become so popular given the close proximity to many other major tourism destinations plus convenient airline connections.
FAST FACTS ON The Coachella Valley and Palm Springs:
The Coachella Valley is in Riverside County, California and is comprised of nine cities with approximately four hundred thousand residents. The desert cities of Palm Springs, Palm Desert, Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage, La Quinta, Indian Wells, Indio, Coachella, and Desert Hot Springs make up most of the resident population plus the native reserve lands.
The major San Andreas Fault runs down the Valley’s east side. Because of this fault the Valley has many natural hot springs.
More than two hundred golf courses blanket the valley making it one of the world’s premier golf destinations.
The most renowned mayor of Palm Springs was Sonny Bono and his statue can be found in the heart of Palm springs on Palm Canyon Drive.
The average annual temperature ranges from a high 108 F degrees in July to a low 70F degrees in January.
The average annual rainfall is less than 6 inches and overall there are 354 days of sunshine throughout the year. The perfect vacation climate.
DINING IN THE DESERT
After a round of golf, hiking in the mountains and canyons or a few sets of tennis you are sure to have a healthy appetite. For this reason there seems to be an abundance of hearty steak offerings at most restaurants throughout the desert valley. But you might also be surprised to know that this desert also claims some excellent seafood restaurants offering ‘straight from the ocean’ freshness. This is mainly due to the proximity to the Pacific coast and the fact that fresh fish can be in the desert restaurants within just a few hours of being caught in the ocean. Of course you can rest assured the locally grown produce lends itself to excellent salads with a wide selection of choices everywhere you dine. Palm Springs and the other desert communities are renowned for their gourmet dining options and choosing the best restaurant can be a challenging search so here is a list of ideas for a positive experience.
The Falls Restaurant in the heart of Palm Springs is simply unforgettable. It is located at 155 South Palm Canyon Drive on the second level overlooking the heart of the city. With private balconies for two or four people and a wrap around terrace you are guaranteed a great view. Here you can enjoy Tapas and a cocktail or a complete dinner of steaks or seafood with excellent service and ambiance. From oysters on the shell to steamed mussels plus a house specialty of grilled stiletto sirloin steak or mustard and herb crusted lamb rack, the extensive menu even has vegetarian and kids dishes. The Falls Smokin’ Martinis or Classic Cocktails will sharpen your appetite and make the perfect end to a day of physical activity. Reservations recommended especially for the private balconies. They also have a second location in LaQuinta.
The Chophouse located at 262 South Palm Canyon Drive is a sanctuary for steak aficionados who enjoy a tender moment with their meals. The array of USDA Prime aged steaks and chops includes Kansas City Bone-In New York, Bone-In Filet Mignon, Cowboy Rib, and Porterhouse steaks, as well as double pork chops and rack of lamb. All meats, butchered in-house, are grilled the classic way at lower temperatures longer, allowing juices, tenderness, and flavors to develop fully. With outstanding service and a delightful patio, dinner here is for lingering enjoyment and people watching in the heart of Palm Springs. They also have a second location in Palm Desert.
The Fisherman’s Market and Grill is known throughout the valley as the place to choose your fish and have it cooked just the way you like it. Or simply buy the fish and take it home to prepare in your own kitchen or on the barbecue. From traditional fish and chips to swordfish steaks or local specialties this truly is a fish market and the chalkboard with the catch of the day specials denotes this. With the choice of patio or inside air-conditioned dining and take-out services this market caters to every fish lover’s desires. Additional locations in La Quinta, Palm Desert and Banning.
Blame It On Midnight is a unique place to dine or enjoy the cabaret entertainment and circular bar.
The recent new owners created a new menu which offers a wide range of American cuisine with grand sized appetizers and entrees that include soup or salad. Some popular menu items were retained (like the Chicken Breast Supreme and Baby Back Ribs). Others had their recipes upgraded (all their steaks are now 100% certified Angus beef), and some new items are quickly becoming customer favorites. For example, the Osso Buco is outstanding. Located at 777 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way reservations are only accepted for parties of six or more so you may have to enjoy a cocktail at the bar while you wait for your table. However, you may call ahead for smaller parties and be placed on their VIP list for that evening.
Dinks Restaurant and Ultra Lounge is a brand new restauarant housed in its own recently constructed stand-alone building at 2080 North Palm Canyon Drive and is already a very popular local bar and restaurant. You might recognise the name from the expression “Double Income No Kids” and this is exactly the crowd to which Dinks caters. And they are doing it extremely well. Experience flavors from around the world in portions that are meant to be shared with friends. But the generous drinks, martinis, mojitos and specialty cocktails are just for you. Add to this the best in nightly entertainment and a staff that holds a passion for what they do in creating the ultimate night on the town enjoying a unique, hip and cool, indoor and outdoor setting.
Cafe Italia is perhaps the most unique and entertaining restaurant in the entire Valley and is guaranteed to make for a night to remember. The unassuming small cafe is located at 74901 USA Hwy 111 in a shopping mall. But once you step inside the doors you are likely to be greeted by an operatic aria or one of your favorite songs from an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical performed by a member of the talented serving staff. The small cosy atmosphere is complemented by perfect northern Italian cuisine and fine wines. With unique salads, classic Italian dishes and decadent desserts plus the talented professional singers this will be a dinner full of memories to last longer than your vacation. Reservations are almost a must here.
Tommy Bahama’s Tropical Cafe at 73595 El Paseo in the heart of the fashionable ‘Rodeo Drive’ district offers a colonial plantation style ambiance with Caribbean Island inspired cocktails and cuisine. Fruity drinks come complete with umbrellas and are perfect with appetizers like Big Island Goat Cheese, Loki-Loki Tuna Poke, Crab Calloway or Tommy’s famous Coconut Shrimp. Entrees include Ocho Rios Roasted Chicken, Port-Au-Prince Pork Chop, Little Palm Island Pasta, or Tommy’s Rib Rack just to give you the hint of Island menu selections plus many daily specials. The key lime pie for dessert is to die for! The relaxed Island attitude makes dining a leisurely pleasure and the friendly staff complete the great experience.
Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse is designed for those who have worked up a really hearty appetite and are ready for dinner with perhaps the largest portions and best steaks to be found anywhere in the desert valley. This famous chain of restaurants is renowned for its consistently good food and impeccable service and here in Palm Desert is no exception. Located at 74-740 Hwy 111 reservations are recommended.
Pacifica Seafood on El Paseo is perhaps the premier seafood restaurant in the valley with fresh fish every day from San Diego. With rooftop seating, cabanas and the finest view of El Paseo and the mountains this is the perfect setting for a seafood feast and of course something from the International Vodka Menu or the award-winning wine list. Sunset dinner specials run nightly from 3PM to 5:45PM and will be the most romantic experience of your vacation. Try the beet salad, swordfish steak and one of the wonderful chocolate dessert creations as the sun sets for a perfect end to your day in this desert paradise.
Rattlesnake at The Classic Club is definitely a case of saving the best for last and this will be the special treat for the highlight of your visit to the desert region. Here you will enjoy the valley’s most awarded cuisine by premier Chef Jimmy Schmidt featuring the freshest organic and sustainable ingredients from the Coachella Valley. Enjoy exquisitely presented food and wine pairings plus dessert creations which are out of this world. All this while seated on the terrace overlooking the beautiful cascading waterfall and the golf course with views framed by the mountains. The friendly staff deliver impeccable service and complete the perfect experience for the discriminating gourmand or those who simply desire a perfect dinner. This is a must visit at least once and you may find yourself returning as often as you can.
With a history steeped in Hollywood traditions you would expect Palm Springs and the entire Coachella Valley to be overflowing with great performances. You won’t be disappointed as talented pianists in lounge bars, the singing waiters at Cafe Italia plus numerous professional bands and singers are on hand to delight one and all. But the most unique performers on stage are the world renowned Fabulous Palm Springs Follies. Celebrating the music of the 30s, 40s and 50s in Vaudeville style with a cast ranging in age from 55 to 85 years old this show will delight audiences of all ages.
Whatever you might think don’t be misled by the age of these cast members because you will be dazzled by their agility, their strong voices and their stamina. And if that’s not enough the spectacular costumes, creative sets and guest performers will all leave you mesmorised by the end of the three hour spectacular.
The Fabulous Plam Springs follies have become a local institution since they were founded and now in their second decade of continuous performances—like its cast members—shows no signs of slowing down. Another Palm Springs institution—The historic Plaza Theatre opened in 1936 and located on Palm Canyon Drive—is home to the Follies and it is fitting that this history-making show takes place in a charming, neon encrusted, storybook renovated old movie house. Performances are five days per week from late October to mid-May and this season’s theme is a salute to the legendary road Route 66 in song and dance routines.
Each year the show grows in popularity and one of the reasons for this growth is the sheer extravagance of the production’s costumes which have to be seen to be believed. Costume creation begins about eighteen months prior to each season’s opening night and cost up to $35,000 each. Amazing as this sounds you have to see them to believe it!
Producers Riff Markowitz—who is also the evening’s host and comedian—and Mary Jardin have discovered a winning combination of amazing talent and unique entertainment from times gone by which they turn into dazzling spectaculars each season. All of the performers have enjoyed a career on stage, in television, in commercials or other live performances and Markowitz and Jardin have found a way to keep them busy in their years which might normally be retirement. And you can see that all the cast members enthusiastically love their new roles.
Even the Guinness Book of World Records has recognised the Palm Springs Follies’ performer Dorothy Kloss at 85 years old as the “Oldest ‘Still Performing’ Showgirl in the World.” As a precocious Chicago teenager Dorothy taught a young Bob Fosse how to tap dance and she is still tap dancing today!
So make a date with the legendary long-legged chorus line and performers that will entertain you, make you laugh and leave you stunned by their sensory extravaganza. Miss this at your own folly!
RECREATION IN THE DESERT
When you are patiently waiting at the baggage claim in Palm Springs Airport you will suddenly realise that there are more golf bags than suitcases or passengers. Instantly you become aware that you are visiting the premier world destination for golfers. And they are in town to spend their leisure time at one of the two-hundred plus world class golf courses in the Coachella Valley. Or perhaps the reason you are here is because you are the owner of one of the golf bags. Either way it’s impossible to escape the fact that with the guaranteed sunny climate and lack of rainfall this truly is a year-round golfers’ paradise. Even though Palm Springs and the whole desert region is world-renowned for this particular reason the desert valley has much variety to offer for holiday recreation.
Celebrities like Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Bob Hope with their passion for golf probably inspired the early development of Palm Springs as a golf resort and today their legacy lives on and has multiplied several hundred fold into a golfing mecca. Throughout the entire Coachella Valley there seems to be a golf course around every corner and each with spectacular mountain views and an abundance of water keeping the greens in perfect condition. Many of the clubs are semi-private and allow for visitors to have equal access with the members creating sufficient tee times for all.
Although this isn’t Hollywood’s Palm Springs anymore there are still some nice gentle courses with Palm trees galore and mountains at a safe distance for an easy round of golf. But there are now plenty of score crunching devilish courses to lay claim to the reputation as one of the most challenging golf regions in the world. The PGA West TPC Stadium Course is the hardest course in the region and perhaps anywhere in the world. Ten different golfers could play this course and come up with ten different holes which destroyed their scorecards and still have a smile on their faces.
The Palm Springs Golf Guide assists with seasonal rates, course descriptions and online reservations and many other individual clubs offer online reservations and information.
But recreational activities in this desert vacationland are not just restricted to golfers and many options exist for outdoor adventures. Perhaps you might choose a natural high with a trip up the aerial tramway to the top of Mount San Jacinto,elevation 8,516 feet, where hiking trails abound in the State Park. Or you might enjoy renting a bicycle and taking one of the cycling tours around Palm Springs using the map of suggested routes published by the City of Palm Springs. There is also the Indian Canyons walking trails which provide nature lovers with pleasant walks and ranger-led interpretive hikes into the serene beauty of the canyons.
For those seeking a less strenuous activity Celebrity Tours will take you around the city in comfort to learn about the famous past and legacy of the stars that discovered this desert oasis and started to make it a vacation paradise.
DESERT SPA EXPERIENCES
Believe it or not the hot, dry desert has certain similarities with the cold, dry winters in Canada—parched skin problems. And what better way to discover the cure for this northern curse than to experience a spa treatment designed specifically to moisten a male body’s surfaces using local desert remedies. I set out to compare a couple of these special treatments and judge their effectiveness for myself.
First I visited Spa Terre at the Riviera Resort & Spa. After explaining my major reason for the visit my therapist recommended the Native Desert Sage treatment and massage. He assured me that this would not only solve my skin problems but it would enlighten my senses and lift my spirits. First I enjoyed the hot pools and developed a nice warm glow all over before the treatment began. Once on the massage table my workout began with a gentle exfoliating body polish which was followed by a warm shower without soap. When I returned to the massage table heaven and the angels enveloped me as the aromatic massage began using a rare desert sage oil for effect. I gently slipped into a lower level of consciousness as strong hands worked the magic oils into my parched skin. It seemed to last forever but when his hands ceased their marvellous work it felt like it had only lasted for seconds and I wanted more. Alas it was over! It was time for me to return to normal levels of awareness, head to my room and prepare for dinner. However, I was definitely moving slowly and in the mood for a nice long, relaxing dinner at the Falls Restaurant. Whatever the excuse I could easily become very accustomed to this kind of pampering.
My second experiment took place at The Spa in the Spa Resort Casino. I began with their signature service Taking of the Waters. This proved to be a truly incomparable combination of steam, sauna, Eucalyptus inhalation followed by a therapeutic, relaxing ten minute soak in my own private sunken tub filled with the Spa’s famous hot mineral waters. Then it was time for my aromatherapy one hour therapeutic massage with a custom-blended pure essential oil designed to soften and moisturise my skin. Here the emphasis was placed upon the massage and when it was over every muscle in my body seemed to have completely stopped functioning as total relaxation set in. After a few minutes resting on the massage table I was able to move again in order to shower, dress myself and head off to the Fisherman’s Market and Grill for a light luncheon of my favorite Halibut and chips.
Well now to my conclusions. I’ve been home for several weeks and instead of my usual immediate re-acclimatisation to the winter atmosphere with instant itchiness and dry finger tips I can almost say my skin feels like a baby’s bottom. That might be a slight exaggeration with my advancing years but all things are relative and I can feel like a baby if I want to. Without a doubt these desert spa therapists have some magic potions and they know how to make you feel rejuvenated.
SHOPPING PALM SPRINGS
Today almost all resort towns offer a veritable smorgasbord of shopping experiences to both residents and tourists alike and Palm Springs including the valley townships are no exception. Throughout the Coachella Valley there are numerous shopping malls which offer not only multiple shopping options with major retail store chains and small boutiques but also air conditioned respite from the unrelenting desert heat.
However, there are also some very unique alternatives to the kind of shopping experience which you are familiar with in your own home town.
Just a short drive down the valley to Old Town La Quinta and you will feel as though you have stepped back in time to an old Spanish town with beautiful white 18th century style Spanish architecture. The shops, restaurants and services will provide a pleasant leisurely shopping experience or a self indulgent visit to one of the day spas. The town is very proud of its artistic residents and local jewellers plus arts and crafts galleries are a highlight of this community. There is no rushed or pressured shopping here just relaxed shopping enjoyment.
If you’re looking for the Rodeo Drive luxury in the Valley then head to El Paseo Avenue in Palm Desert where you will find approximately 300 specialty boutiques, day spas, fine jewellers and the likes of Gucci, Theodore of Beverly Hills and Ralph Lauren. Plus when you need to rest your feet, enjoy a beverage or some great food you can enjoy indoor dining, patio dining and cocktail lounges at Tommy Bahama’s Tropical Cafe and Pacifica Seafood. Both promise a gourmet delight and exotic décor for a pleasant respite from the hard task of shopping.
Also, The Gardens on El Paseo is a collection of small boutiques, cafes and services plus Sax Fifth Avenue and Tiffany & Co. situated in an open air lush tropical garden and parkland with unique sculptures by local artists. You will probably find this to be the most laid back shopping experience you have ever partaken. You might even forget to spend money and just enjoy the tropical gardens, flowers and scenery.
Perhaps the most unique shopping experience in Palm Springs is the VillageFest when every Thursday night from 6PM to 9PM the main street Palm Canyon Drive is closed to traffic for about ten blocks in the heart of downtown. A diverse array of artists, artisans, entertainers, and purveyors of fresh fruits and vegetables, flowers, jewellery, snacks and sweets all set up booths on the street to sell their wares. The regular retail stores stay open late and the restaurants, bars and cafes welcome the crowds. This is one of Southern California’s most popular festivals and it is a weekly tradition with local residents and visitors to get out and enjoy the Festival. It provides a unique opportunity to purchase unusual and distinctive gifts to take back home to friends and family.
If you have just purchased your new vacation property somewhere in the valley then some home furnishings might be needed and there are plenty of stores ready to help you to furnish your new home. In Palm Springs the unique store Room Service can offer you modern furnishings, accessories and interior design assistance. Also, the Galleria of Palm Springs is a mid-forties California original arcade, with ten unique shops featuring 20th century art, design and fashion from Europe, Asia, Africa and the America’s.
When you’re ready for a break from the suns rays at the pool or need some time away from the greens then shopping can be a most enjoyable time out from the desert heat. This is a true nirvana for shoppers no matter what you are looking to buy.