Travel – Palm Springs

Desert Oasis

By Suzanne Ferrara

It’s no wonder why U.S. Presidents and Hollywood celebrities have retreated to Palm Springs Coachella Valley desert for more than a half a century.   This southern California oasis has been labeled ‘Hollywood’s desert playground’ since the 1950s; but the Hollywood nostalgia reminiscent of the glamour era and the plethora of historically-significant examples of mid-century modern architecture are just pieces of its allure.

Its cinematic natural wonders rising from the desert floor are sights to behold! The Coachella Valley is not only surrounded by the lush palm oasis of the Indian Canyons, but also the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains, and the iconic Joshua Tree National Park. Adding to the Coachella Valley’s magical splendor is the San Andreas Fault, the Salton Sea, Little San Bernardino Mountains and the Chocolate Mountains. It’s truly a geologist’s heaven.

An exhilarating excursion into the area’s natural majesty is a must. Board one of Desert Adventure Jeep Eco-Tours for an up-close look at this cinematic, breathtaking oasis. You’ll witness jaw-dropping rock formations and cascading water features shaded by canopies of the one-of-a-kind California fan palms.  The Couchella Valley extends to the San Bernardino Mountains to the northern shore of the Salton Sea

Through a variety of 4WD tours you can experience the twisted landscape of an active earthquake fault system, walk between deep canyon walls created by powerful forces of plate tectonics, and witness a natural palm oasis where crystal clear water bubbles come up from the underground aquifer. Adding to this hypnotic experience comes a history lesson of the valley, one which includes the Cahuilla Indians and tales of how they used desert plants to survive.

The Desert Adventure guides know this terrain like the backs of their hands: you can hire one of the naturalists for a few hours and customize your trip, or you can opt for a sunset, stargazing, or overnight adventure. The Desert Adventure Jeep Tours are unforgettable journeys for friends and families, and they’re ones you will remember forever, and long to experience again and again.

This valley is also home to nine stunning resort communities, including the desert resort city of Palm Springs. After taking in the desert’s most magical sights, be sure to tour several estates, many of them once belonging to the likes of Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Marilyn Monroe, Bob Hope and many, many more celebrities who left Hollywood for Palm Springs. As you tour these Movie Colony neighborhoods, informative and entertaining guides also reveal what went on behind the walls of these private estates.

You can even live like a star and sleep overnight at Frank Sinatra’s Palm Spring’s desert escape. “Old Blue Eyes” four-bedroom luxury vacation home can accommodate eight guests and can be rented for your vacation, and be sure to dip in Sinatra’s famous piano-shaped swimming pool, and relax amid period furnishings and memorabilia. This famous and unique estate was designed for Sinatra by architect E. Stewart Williams.

Need other options? Relax and unwind at several luxury resorts surrounded by southern California’s mountainside and palm trees, one of which is the Omni Ranchos Las Palmas Resort and Spa in Rancho Mirage. From the moment you arrive at this Palm Springs Valley resort, you will be swept off your feet by the people, the endless amenities, and the luxury accommodations.

While the kids will surely love the resort’s Splashtopia water park, which includes two 100-foot water slides and sandy beach, the grownups can relax at the gorgeous adult-only Azure Pool. Be sure not to leave this resort without an amazing spa experience at the Spa Terrace, which offers the ultimate in relaxation services surrounded by panoramic mountain views. You will not leave Spa Terrace the same person you were before.

Playing a round of golf on one of three nine-hole courses at the Omni Ranchos Las Palmas Resort and Spa is a hypnotic experience as well. The lush fairways are surrounded by spectacular views of the San Jacinto and San Bernardino mountains.

After working up an appetite, tempt your taste buds at the resort’s bluEmber for an unforgettable dining experience.   You can enjoy Executive Chef Robert Nyerick’s scrumptious California New American dishes outside at the restaurant’s award winning patio, inside the dining room, or cozy up by the fire pit while surrounded by with the spectacular desert mountains and panoramic vistas.

Another option for accommodations is the Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort and Spa which has San Jacinto Mountains as a mesmerizing natural backdrop.   From golf clinics on luscious greens to bicycle rentals along winding paths, the Westin has it all.

After getting a good night’s rest, climb aboard The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway which features the world’s largest rotating tram cars. Take a 10-minute ride from the desert floor, up 8,200 feet (two and a half miles) to Mount San Jacinto, for some of our planet’s most awe-inspiring views. The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway offers the best views in the Greater Palm Springs area and is the biggest tourist attraction in Greater Palm Springs.

But the stunning views and the ride up isn’t the only reason tourists come here. Once you reach the top of Mount San Jacinto there are observation decks, two restaurants, 50 miles of hiking trails, a natural history museum, and two documentary theaters. The Tramway Valley Station and The Tramway Mountain Station also draw in architectural buffs because they were both designed by notable mid-century architects between 1949 and 1963.

Did you know southern California is the largest producer of dates in America?   It’s true, and for a special experience head to the historic date palm orchard, the Shields Date Garden, which was founded in 1924 by Floyd and Bess Shields. Visit the nostalgic store that sells nearly every kind of date delicacy you can imagine (including the deliciously famous ‘Date Shake’), and you can have lunch at the outdoor café.

Among the plethora of fruit dates are the Medjool dates, Deglet Noor dates, pitted dates, Halawi dates and many more, and there are also a host of date confections, stuffed dates and date sugar. The Shields Date Garden’s California dates are grown right in the Coachella Valley and delivered fresh from their garden.

Among some of the most popular menu items are the famous ‘Date Shake’, Shields Date Pancakes, and Shields Signature Salad, and they also serve traditional American and Mexican fare. You can enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner while being surrounded by the lush Shields Gardens, which has stunning life-sized statues depicting the life of Jesus amid date palms and stunningly tranquil water features.

These dramatic statues were donated to the Shields Date Garden because they needed a new home after the property on they were once standing on in Vancouver, Canada was sold in 2011. Visitors use their smart phones to hear about the 14 scenes which include 23 statues as they walk through the winding pathways on the 17-acre date farm.

In a somewhat contrasting offering, a continuous 15-minute film entitled “The Romance and Sex Life of the Date” runs continuously during store hours. The short flick was created by Floyd Shields whose voice is still on the piece.

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