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So You Think You Know Greater Palm Springs?

The Coachella Valley's string of cities from Indio to Desert Hot Springs offer surprising diversions for locals and seasoned travelers

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Posted 5 months agoby Ann Marie Brown

Like those Canadian snowbirds, you're no stranger to the Coachella Valley and Palm Springs. You're well-schooled in four-hour brunches and midcentury-modern furniture. You've watched plenty of tennis tournaments and music festivals, even attended a polo match. You've swam in dozens of sparkling pools and sipped tiki cocktails under swaying fan palms.

But have you snapped a selfie with a windmill? Ridden through the desert in a mule-drawn wagon? Tasted the nuance of a Black Gold date? Played golf after dark? If you haven't, it's time you did. Greater Palm Springs is loaded with off-the-radar discoveries to rescue you from "been-there, done-that" doldrums. Here are 13 great options to lure you out of the pool.

PS Air Bar, Palm Springs

Remember air travel? Right, that was fun. Relive the joy at Palm Spring's aviation-themed speakeasy, PS Air Bar, where you can plop down in a first-class seat, claim the arm rest, and eat dinner at a table that resembles an airplane wing. Tucked into Bouschet marketplace and bistro, this nightspot looks just like a 737 cabin, but with major upgrades to the food, drinks, and mood lighting.

The Lights at Indio GC, Indio

Too hot for a daytime tee-off? Play golf ‘til 10 p.m. at The Lights at Indio, the Coachella Valley's only night-lighted course. The par-3 rating may sound easy on paper, but with seven holes longer than 160 yards, you'll be challenged more than you expect.

Mariscal Cactus and Succulents, Desert Hot Springs

No matter where in California you live, you can create a fabulous drought-smart garden by planting cactus and succulents. Shop for these sometimes spiny (but always beautiful) plants at Mariscal Cactus and Succulents, an outdoor nursery with rows upon rows of agaves, aloes, echeverias, euphorbias, opuntias, and even saguaros.

Monkey Tree Hotel, Palm Springs

A close-to-home getaway might be just the right ticket during this challenging year. Escape in classic Palm Springs style at the Monkey Tree Hotel, a 1960 Albert Frey design that oozes old Hollywood vibes. A-listers who've stayed here include Lucille Ball, the Beatles, and President John F. Kennedy (accompanied by Marilyn Monroe, according to legend). Ask if you can peek into the Jungle Room to see the macramé owls—they're a hoot.

Rancho Relaxo, Rancho Mirage

Hidden inside Rancho Mirage's Atrium Mall is hip Rancho Relaxo, a retail shop featuring a clever selection of clothes, accessories, and curios, much of it handcrafted by American artisans. Browse an eclectic trove of Yunizon's perfect-fit sunglasses, Compendium's creativity journals, Conway Electric's chic extension cords, and Eric Javitz's sustainable sunhats.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Chúla Artisan Eatery, La Quinta

Coachella Valley residents take brunch very, very seriously, and their new morning hotspot is La Quinta's Chúla Artisan Eatery. Chef Katherine Gonzalez puts a hyper-local, farm-to-table spin on her mother's traditional recipes for tamales, chilaquiles, and huevos rancheros. As long as you're indulging, her oh-so-pretty cupcakes and pastries are Instagram darlings—and delicious.

Coachella Walls, Coachella

In historic downtown Coachella, vivid large-scale paintings celebrate the life and struggles of Mexican immigrant farmworkers. The Coachella Walls mural project features 13 life-size works by local and international street artists, the most dramatic being a 1,000-foot-long mural depicting the history of Chicano culture. Head over to Shady Lane, and you can't miss it. While in downtown, stop in at Jalisco Restaurant for tacos or tortas.

Sam Cobb Farms, Sky Valley

Chewy, sticky, yummy dates pair with everything—wrap them in bacon, chop them into salads, stuff them with goat cheese, serve them over ice cream. Sam Cobb Farms in Sky Valley grows seven date varieties, including Medjool, Barhi, Empress, and his specialty, the delicately sweet Black Gold. Buy Cobb's dates online now, then in October, sign up for a date farm tour with Sam himself.

CODA Gallery, Palm Desert

Even for people who flunked out of art history, Palm Desert's CODA Gallery is a joyful, unpretentious experience. Named one of the nation's 25 best galleries and museums in the 2020 American Art Awards, this El Paseo landmark sells refreshingly accessible art, from vibrantly colorful pop-art paintings to kinetic wind sculptures to whimsical glass animal sculptures.

Brandini Toffee, multiple locations

Crunchy-sweet Brandini Toffee has been lauded on the Food Network and such programs such as The Martha Stewart Show and served to President Obama. The confection company was founded in 2006 by two La Quinta high school kids, and now Brandini's almond toffee and toffee popcorn have garnered a huge fan base. Try a sample at Brandini stores in Palm Springs or Rancho Mirage.

Covered Wagon Tours, Palm Desert

Recharge your Western spirit as you ride through the 30,000-acre Coachella Valley Preserve in a mule-drawn covered wagon. A seasoned mule-skinner drives a pair of mules through palm oases and along sandy washes and rugged hills while you sit in a comfy open-air wagon and watch the sun set. After the ride, listen to live cowboy music and enjoy a chuck-wagon barbecue and campfire marshmallow roast.

El Morocco Inn and Spa, Desert Hot Springs

There's nothing like a spa day to ease the searing heat of the desert. Make reservations for a foot massage or Moroccan clay body treatment at El Morocco Inn and Spa. Then spend a luxurious day savoring the boutique resort's mineral pools, dry sauna, and Casablanca-style canopies and hammocks. Better yet, spend the night in one of 13 rooms.

Windmill Tour, Desert Hot Springs

You've seen that giant windmill farm near Desert Hot Springs a million times, but how much do you really know about it? Take a 90-minute self-guided driving tour and learn how windmills work, why there are so many here in San Gorgonio Pass, and how much electricity they produce. Guide Randy Buckmaster narrates the digital audio tour.

Before you explore, be sure to visit our Responsible Travel Hub, which includes helpful Travel Updates.

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