Welcome to the intersection of quirky meets quirky! A parallel universe also known as Palm Springs. Surrounded by desert, mountains and windmills and an abundance of palm trees lies a town like nothing I have ever encountered before!
Although small and rather quaint, Palm Springs is lively, vivid and fun. A picturesque movie set if you will, set among avid art collectors, dog lovers and workout enthusiast alike. There is an older vibe for the most part during the week but once Thursday hits, the town becomes alive
with a weekly street festival filled with food, jewelry, clothing, street performances and artwork. People of all walks of life come out for this and the younger crowd stays throughout the weekend. It an interesting contrast to get to see both sides of this town...the calm before the crowd and the weekend get-a-wayers escaping their big city lives for a few days.
If you go to Palm Springs (which you should), there are a few things that I highly recommend to do while you are there. First off, an absolute MUST is the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway! Normally when something comes highly recommended as the main tourist attraction, I will go just to say I did it, but rarely am I shockingly impressed. In this case, I am still dreaming about the views and experience from the tramway. The ride up is definitely not for the faint of heart as you reach altitudes of 8,500ft and can feel the wind on a breezy day; however, the upgrades to the tramway make this a joyful experience even for those that are fearful of heights. The ride up offers views of the valley and desert and stays steady and smooth through tower 3. There are 5 total towers that the cart climbs slowly but steadily along to make its way up to the observation deck and look out points in about 10-12 minutes. Tower 3 is where the transition happens in cable pulls where the car needs to be pulled up for altitude instead of just a steady incline. With that being the case, the cables start pulling at more of a vertical angle to bring you up to the dock and the tram car must hit tower 3 at a certain speed for this to happen. This creates a slight swing after passing through that tower so just be slightly prepared for this motion. Luckily, the tram car is quite spacious and offers a center space and railing for those that don't necessarily want to be peaking out at our gradual height increase the whole time. Don't fret though, even if you are in the middle, you can still see plenty of scenery (besides I recommend being closer to the windows for the amazing ride down the San Jacinto mountains if you have to pick one of the 2). Even my mom was able to handle this ride and I would have bet money on the fact that she would never venture upon this journey. She is absolutely beyond terrified of heights and would have normally stayed at the hotel or enjoyed time away while I embark on this adventure. However, there is something to the idea of YOLO and she fully embraced this after learning what this means. I mean...why not? You live and work your whole life to take excursions and trips like this and then not to experience one of the main attractions would be a shame, Once we were at the top, she so elated that she declared it and did it because the views would have been unmatched in photographs and it would have been a shame to miss out on this experience with her daughter.
There is so much to do once at the top with restaurants of casual and fine dining as well as a museum, overlooks, a history theater, gift shop and hiking trails galore. Although my mom was able to make the journey up the tram, she unfortunately cannot do the level of hiking that I can. However, being the wonderful mom that she is, she offered to hang out for 5+ hours while I explored the heavens of the San Jacinto mountains and climbed to the almost 11,000ft/ 16 mile peak from the observation space. If you don’t have time to make it to the peak then I would recommend hiking along the Desert Trail from the park area below the observation deck. This one trail makes your whole entire trip to Palm Springs worth it with gorgeous photo ops and a journey so full of wonderment and breathtaking views that it makes you question if there really is a difference between heaven and earth. You feel euphorically as if you have found heaven ON earth.
Ok I have rambled on and on about the tramway and mountains and they are well worth it but there are a few other must-sees in the area. Morton’s Cactorium is a random pick but definitely high on my list! It's the first of its kind and features a variety of cacti growing in a multitude of directions and ways. For me not even being a plant person and doing this solely as a surprise gift to my mom, I thoroughly enjoyed this and highly recommend spending an hour of your time there. Everyone there was very friendly and the abundance of cacti was beautiful and amazing. I have told everybody about this unique experience, especially since it was the first of its kind and it is such an easy stop to take to break up your Palm Springs Itinerary.
Another recommended tip while in the area is to take advantage of the day passes to the local mineral spring pools at some of the hotels in Palm Desert. The water is therapeutic for your skin and you can really feel the difference while there. I believe we paid $15 each to spend the day at a location like this and it was well worth the contrast to hanging out poolside at our hotel. However, definitely profile the hotel and drive over to it before purchasing your day pass. I saw a few on my drive that I would have been extremely disappointed in an advance purchase! Palm Desert offers more great vies of the San Jacinto mountainsso you can relax in absolute tranquility.
I have a few more things for you to see in the area but since it is lunch time as I am writing this and all I can think about is food, I am going to give you a place to eat while there. I am going to be pretty direct on this. YOU MUST EAT at Sherman’s at least once! It is a famous NYC inspired delicatessen and bakery with larger than life mouth-watering portions and an overlook of the stereotypical California scenic setting with mountains in the near distance and palm trees lining the nearby streets. At Sherman’s there is no sharing unless you want to pay a small fee but with the portion size….unless you have a SERIOUS appetite, the fee might be worth it. I have never quite seen a sandwich or portions like this but oh was it soooooo good. Don’t burn your whole appetite on the food though because the bakery portions are just as generous and delicious. I indulged in the pistachio cake (you can share a dessert without a fee) and the only regret I had from it was that I couldn’t buy it back home in Texas. It’s a must see, a must eat and is great after a long day of travel so this is what I did right after I checked into my hotel. Oh….and in case you didn’t know, it is Guy Fieri approved : ). Great, now I’m even hungrier lol. Not into the idea of Sherman’s? That’s ok, the town is filled with a great variety of delicious restaurants so don’t feel you have to eat every meal here. It was just my one thing that you should see while there.
After discussing food, I feel that some more physical activitiy should be discussed. Gotta burn off those bakery goods ya know? Located within town is the Tahquitz Canyon. It’s a short 10 minute drive from the main part of town and offers a well maintained trail and picturesque views of the dessert that contrast those of from the Aerial Tramway. You almost wonder how your are still in the same area. You can take a guided tour or follow the trail yourself (which is what I did). It is very easy to follow and I would say it is accessible for anyone but there are some parts with tricky footing and where there are large steps. The Tahquitz Canyon trail leads back to a 60ft waterfall that you can wade about thigh deep in the water to actually go under the waterfall. I will warn you though….the water was ice cold in May since it is the run off from the mountains and there was still snow so take a deep breath before even dipping your toes in it! It takes about 30 minutes to get to the waterfall so you could easily do a quick hike in under an hour. I recommend taking time to enjoy the scenery of the red rocks and Indian preserved land and marvel at just another quirk that makes Palm Springs so unique. There is a small visitor center where you must pay a small fee to do the hike and it holds some artifacts and information on the canyon and tribe. If you are leaving a family member behind while you hike (like I did my mom), then there is a restroom and outdoor seating area that overlooks the town where they can wait in peace and serenity.
My last absolute must for this area is to remind you that you are only about an hour away from Joshua Tree National Park! GO or you will be sorry. I am working on a separate write up about the park but it is majestic, beautiful, stunning, odd, and amazing all at the same time and there is no reason for you to be so close and not go!
Overall, Palm Springs is a must getaway to add to the bucket list. So much charm and uniqueness is held in this scenic California desert town and it’s worth 3-4 days of your lifetime to check it out along your travels. Just make sure you don’t miss my highlights above and you will be good to go for a long weekend trip there.
Quirky and Weirdly In Love with Palm Springs