See nine desert cities in one short trip

Only one of Parker’s bars – Photo courtesy of Greater Palm Springs CVB

Palm Springs, California has become famous for being a Hollywood celebrity paradise, with stars from Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe to the Rat Pack run by Sinatra using the Desert City to wander around and recharge. It is also renowned for its modernist desert architecture inspiring Modernism Week which celebrates its form and substance every year.

But Palm Springs is just one of nine desert cities that make up the golf course-dotted oases flanked by the San Jacinto Mountains and Joshua Tree National Park. These nine cities all have bragging rights. And stretching just 30 miles along I-10, it’s easy to visit them, even if you only have one day. Start in Palm Springs and head north to Desert Hot Springs. From there, head to the furthest town, Coachella, then see the rest along Route 111.

Palm springs

Views stretch for miles from the tramViews stretch for miles from the streetcar – Photo courtesy of Greater Palm Springs CVB

Begin with a ride on the Palm Springs Revolving Aerial Tramway, a two-and-a-half-mile-long, over 5,000-foot ascent to Mount San Jacinto which replaces the barren desert landscape with a pine-scented mountain setting that is minus 30 degrees cooler than at the base. Stay for hike or snowshoe, and soak up the views that stretch across the nine towns on a clear day.

The Parker hotel is an ideal base for exploring. At the intersection of indulgence and funk, the Parker has fabulous bars, the Norma for breakfast and lunch, and the Mister Parker’s dining room for dinner.

Mid-century modern desert architecture is everywhere – Photo courtesy of Greater Palm Springs CVB

Where to eat

The Steakhouse at Agua Caliente Casino is an old-fashioned beef palate where the wedge, blackened rib eye, and loaded baked potato are the triple crown. For a savvy dinner, eat at King’s Highway at the Ace Hotel & Swim Club, a bohemian setting with an eclectic Cal-Mexican menu.

Watch the weekly Jazzville show produced by Barry Martin at the Cascade LoungeCatch the weekly Jazzville show produced by Barry Martin at the Cascade Lounge – Photo courtesy of Barry Martin

Things to do

Catch the weekly Jazzville show at the Cascade Lounge, a throwback to posh dinner clubs featuring the Sandra Booker Quintet. Take a self-guided tour of Modernism, by car or on foot. Or go for “starchitecture” and tour celebrity homes from the privacy of your own car – valued at $ 49.

Desert hot springs

Azure Palm Hot Springs Resort has the largest swimming pool in townAzure Palm Hot Springs Resort has the largest swimming pool in town – Photo courtesy of Greater Palm Springs CVB

This town just north of Palm Springs is all about the water – drinking it and soaking up its healing properties. Resorts range from clothing-optional lodging to celebrity havens like Two Bunch Palms. Azure Palm Hot Springs Resort and Day Spa is a new day or night retreat where you can swim in the 100 foot mineral pool, bathe in steam rooms, and enjoy a massage.

Where to eat

Desert Hot Springs is not known as a foodie destination, which makes the Capri at Miracle Springs Resort a true gem. Try the spaghetti and meatballs, prawn scampi and / or lasagna.

The eccentric Pueblo de Cabot museum is worth a visitCabot’s eccentric Pueblo Museum is worth a visit – Photo courtesy of Greater Palm Springs CVB

Things to do

Discover the eccentric Cabot’s Pueblo Museum, a collection of Native American pottery, photographs, and Alaskan artifacts spread across 35 rooms in a series of Hopi-inspired pueblo houses.


Just one of the Coachella muralsA single of the Coachella murals – Photo courtesy of Greater Palm Springs CVB

This small farming town, which actually has an intersection of Grapefruit Boulevard and Cesar Chavez Street, is a date farming region, an industry fueled by generations of migrant workers. Take a self-guided walking tour to see murals paying homage to farm laborers, Cesar Chavez, and Mexican folklore.

Where to eat

Locals flock to Jalisco, steps from the serene, stamp-sized Veterans Memorial Park in downtown, for fresh birria tacos, carne asada burritos and more.

The BMW Performance Center is a blastThe BMW Performance Center is awesome – Photo courtesy of Greater Palm Springs CVB

Things to do

Although Thermal sits just beyond the Coachella border, it’s close enough to the fun-loving BMW Performance Center, where you can ride pumped-up bimmers, designed to hug those dangerous curves and stop you on a dime. Then let the experienced instructor show you how to do it – hang on for a lifetime.


The Coachella Music and Arts Festival is back in 2022The Coachella Music and Arts Festival is back in 2022 – Photo courtesy of Greater Palm Springs CVB

Indio is at the crossroads of festival action, with the two greats, Coachella Valley Music & Arts and Stagecoach Country Music, performing in April 2022 at the Empire Polo Grounds.

Where to eat

Heirloom Craft Kitchen has a plethora of vegetables on its menu of soups, salads, sandwiches and exclusive dishes made with local and organic produce.

A date at Shields is a mustA date shake at Shields is a must-try – Photo courtesy of Greater Palm Springs CVB

Things to do

Have you ever wondered about the sex life of a date? Head to Shields Date Garden, where vintage film builds up and the world-famous date shake is the must-have treat. Buy dates to take home for your friends – you won’t get them any fresher.

The quinta

The compact old town is a cobblestone haven of adobe shops, galleries and bougainvillea. Head to the Old Town Farmer’s Market or rent a bike from Old Town Peddler and explore. Hiking trails are easily accessible in the La Quinta Cove area, so take a stroll.

RD RNNR is a culinary hot spot in the old town of La QuintaRD RNNR is a culinary hotspot in the old town of La Quinta – Photo courtesy of Francisco Flores

Where to eat

RD RNNR is the baby of Chris and Anita Chmielak, an artisan American restaurant with a warm, welcoming vibe and a great menu of high pub fare from Chef Jose Hurtado. Lamb chili is a staple, as is the date salad with cheese.

Things to do

PGA West is one of the best golfing experiences in the valley, a group of nine courses where the American Express Golf Tournament is played each January. Have a drink at Ernie’s Bar and Grill and take in the views.

Indian goods

Indian Wells Tennis Gardens hosts the annual BNP Paribas tournamentIndian Wells Tennis Gardens is home to the annual BNP Paribas Tournament – Photo courtesy of Greater Palm Springs CVB

This well-heeled town is all about tennis and golf, home to the Indian Wells Golf Resort, with its Shots in the Night golf course, and the Indian Wells Tennis Gardens which host the annual BNP Paribas tournament.

Where to eat

La Quinta Cliffhouse is literally built into desert rock, a great place for an early dinner (or late lunch) with $ 25 specials, happy hour, and a fine menu of sophisticated American fare.

Things to do

Don’t just visit the Tennis Gardens, work your service on one of the 29 courts – non-members pay $ 25 for adults, $ 12.50 for juniors. Or improve your game with a lesson from former World No. 1 Doubles player Danie Visser.

Palm desert

With its El Paseo shopping street (a mini version of Rodeo Drive), tons of restaurants and galleries, and its McCallum Theater, Palm Desert is a hub of arts, food, and culture.

Where to eat

Guillermo’s is a family-run Mexican restaurant that offers large portions, friendly service, and powerful margaritas.

The living desert is more than a zooThe living desert is more than a zoo – Photo courtesy of Greater Palm Springs CVB

Things to do

The Living Desert is a wildly landscaped zoo, rich in giraffes and cheetahs, kangaroos and camels and a new rhino exhibit that will open in fall 2021.

Rancho mirage

This city is full of green spaces, from ubiquitous golf courses to numerous public parks. Discover the beautiful public library where a presidential exhibit offered by Gerald Ford includes some of his favorite books.

Where to eat

Sometimes you have to eat dessert first. Do it at Brandini Toffee Factory, the family owned artisanal chocolate toffee shop founded by Brandon Weimer. What started as a fundraiser to pay for a school trip to Europe has turned into a delightful cottage industry.

Sunnylands shows personal memorabilia of royalty and presidentsSunnylands shows personal memorabilia of royalty and presidents – Photo courtesy of Greater Palm Springs CVB

Things to do

Sunnylands was built by Walter and Leonore Annenberg as Camp David West. Take a tour of the mid-century modern home and 200-acre property filled with native plants from October through June to see personal keepsakes, such as a wall of Christmas cards sent by Queen Mum and the bedroom with twin beds favored by Ron and Nancy.

City Cathedral

Cathedral City is known for its balloon festivalCathedral City is known for its Balloon Festival – Photo courtesy of Greater Palm Springs CVB

This residential town has an artsy plaza, a popular casino, and great hiking opportunities with wildflowers and great views. Check out the Fountain of Life downtown, the same location that hosts the annual hot air balloon festival in November.

Where to eat

Trilusa is a modern Italian bistro with vegan options and good wild mushroom ravioli.

Things to do

Hike the Araby Trail, a four mile walk that starts in a neighborhood – don’t be discouraged, just keep going. You will be rewarded with the opinions shared by what was once Bob Hope’s home. No wonder he built there.

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