Located in the Colorado Desert, 100 miles (161 kilometers) southeast of Los Angeles, Palm Springs is an oasis of sun, fun, and money that’s not just for retirees anymore. Thanks to events such as the Coachella music festival, it’s taken on a hip, laid-back vibe that attracts all ages. Here’s how to get the most out of one day there.
Begin your day with expansive desert views from Palm Springs’ Aerial Tramway. Ascend 5,783 feet (1,790 meters) into the San Jacinto Mountains and experience the transition from hot and dry to cool alpine temperatures. At the top, enjoy the scenery from the observation deck or restaurant, then head out to hike, snowshoe, or cross-country ski on the trails around the station. Alternatively, join a Jeep tour and explore the surrounding desert before the afternoon sun becomes uncomfortable.
Once known as “Hollywood's Playground,” Palm Springs boasts an impressive lineup of celebrity homes, including the former residences of Marilyn Monroe, Nat King Cole, and Elvis Presley. Join a guided tour to view some of these properties, as well as learn about the architecture and history of the area, which is renowned for its mid-century modern designs. Another trademark of Palm Springs is its windmills. Take a tour of the town’s 2,000-plus windmills and learn why this renewable energy source is so important to the region. Along the way, try a date milkshake, the signature treat of the California desert.
One of the big advantages of being out in the desert, away from the city lights of Los Angeles, is the chance to see the stars—in the nighttime sky. Come evening, small-group tours venture out into Palm Desert via 4WD vehicles to do some stargazing. In addition to learning about desert wildlife and geology, get a clear view of the visible planets and stars, with the help of a telescope and your guide. Alternatively, you can book an aerial tram ride for the evening, then enjoy dinner at the Mountain Station restaurant or café and grab a drink at the lounge.