An Oasis In The Desert

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The history of Palm Springs is varied. More than 2,000 years ago, Palm Springs’ first residents were the ancestors of today’s Cahuilla bands. The Agua Caliente existed as peaceful hunters and gatherers, living off the land. Much of the tribal life centered on the lush vegetation and abundant water in the area known as Indian Canyon, site of North America’s largest natural fan palm oasis.

The area was first explored by non-Indians in 1774. An expedition traveled through the area in 1853 when a government survey party mapped Palm Springs and its natural hot springs mineral pool which is today the sight of the Spa Resort Casino.

In 1877 as an incentive to complete a railroad to the Pacific, the U.S. government gave the Southern Pacific Railroad title to the odd-numbered parcels of land for 10 miles on either side of the tracks running through the Southern California desert around Palm Springs.

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Photo by Stan Shebs

Photo of Palm Canyon with Palm Springs, Calif. in the distance.

Time and history continued through the many years with the Palm Springs Hotel being built in 1886 by a Dr. Welwood Murray. The area continued to attract visitors and in 1938 the Village of Palm Springs welcomed some of the Hollywood set by the names of Frank Sinatra, Marlene Dietrich, Bob Hope, Loretta Young and many more. Today, you’ll find Leonardo DeCaprio, Dakota Fanning and Halley Berry to name a few who own homes and live in Palm Springs part-time. European Royalty and business tycoons all come to enjoy the endless sunshine and serenity of the desert which is only two and a half hours from Los Angeles.

As of the 2000 census there are some 42,807 people living in the city. Down the valley are several other resort towns which are popular with the tourists as well.

Palm Springs and area features a number of sporting events including the BNP Paribas Open, one of the most significant tennis events of the world, after the four Grand Slam tournaments. And, the city has also hosted the Easter Bowl, the national junior tennis championships.

The number of golf courses in the Palm Springs area is 125, and the Coachella Valley is among the top 10 golf resort destinations in the world.

In nearby Cathedral City is the Desert Ice Palace ice skating rink which opened last year. And, there are hundreds of swimming pools for everyone’s pleasure.

You can drive, take the train or fly into Palm Springs year-round. From Phoenix it is an easy five-hour drive. You can travel at 75 mph most of the way.

You will find lodging in almost any price range. There are many older small hotels and motels which offer fair rates most months of the year. Summer is the low season, of course, but the weekends find Palm Springs quite busy with the Los Angeles crowd present. Many of the older, smaller properties have been extensively refurbished in the last 10 years and you will find them quite pleasant. Palm Springs is noted for its extra luxury properties and you may wish to stay in one of these.

There are various activities scheduled almost every weekend of the year here. Street markets, craft shows, film festivals, you name it.

The fabulous Palm Springs Follies is a stage-show at the historic Plaza Theatre downtown which features performers that are over the age of 55. Most are former singers and dancers from the 1950s upward. Often top stars of the ’50s also perform with the troop. It operates from October through April.

Every Thursday evening downtown Palm Springs hosts “Villagefest,” a diverse display of arts and crafts, a certified farmer’s market, food and live entertainment on Palm Canyon Drive.

You can bring the kids because there is so much for them to do here. You can choose from balloon flights, biking, bowling, golf, hiking, horseback riding, rent a motorcycle, museums, as well as parks and recreation. You could begin at Knott’s Soak City water park; explore a collection of vintage World War II aircraft at the Palm Springs Air Museum, then experience the Living Desert, a 1,200-acre wildlife and botanical park.

There is often live theatre available at several theatres in the area. Especially noted are the Annenberg and Palm Canyon Theatres. Nice movie theatres are located throughout the Valley. Dinner theater is also open.

You can see the Moorten Botanical Garden, or take an adventure Hummer tour through the desert, or rent a motor scooter, perhaps attend the Exotic Car Show and Auctions at 244 N. Indian Canyon Drive, even take a Plane Ride over the area, and attend the Coachella Valley History Museum in Indio.

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway has the world’s largest rotating tramcar where you will experience a breathtaking journey up the sheer cliffs of Chena Canyon. Begin the 10-minute ride at the valley starting at 2,643 ft., and end at the Mountain Station with an elevation of 8,500 ft. In the winter you begin with the temperatures in the 70s and arrive at the summit with snow on the ground and perhaps 30 degrees. The views are spectacular!

It’s a one-of-a-kind experience.

Horseback riding is available at the Smoke Tree Stables, phone 1-760-317-1372. You can book a helicopter sightseeing tour by calling 1-760-329-6468.

Bring some reading material because you will want to spend time around the pool getting a little sun and read.

Five days to a week would be good here. You’ll enjoy every minute.

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