It may seem long ago, but really not so, when it was the playground for movies stars who could escape the smog and problems associated with Los Angeles and still report for a film call within a couple of hours.
Spotting a movie star of the 50’s and 60’s in Palm Springs was not difficult. So it should not be surprising that thousands of others from around the world would arrive to discover what this small region had to offer.
It was the perfect climate, in an area that seemed protected from the rest of the world by a small mountain range that offered scenery and escapes of their own.
The main street or Palm Springs, Palm Canyon Drive, still honors the movie people of the past and present with sidewalk plaques literally every few feet.
With high production costs, the production of movies left Hollywood. And when they did, so went the movie stars.
But not the tourists.
They discovered what I did on my very first chance to explore Palm Springs and its surrounding communities.
While the region for a period of time built upon its reputation as a retirement destination, today’s Palm Springs has moved far beyond those days.
Notwithstanding its attraction as one of the major golf destinations in the United States, it has become a place that hikers and campers also put near the top of their lists.
The canyons and mountains around Palm Springs have been developed for both the casual explorer and the fittest of those who love to trek the valleys and major hillsides that meander through the area.
While our prime objective was to continue long standing inter generational travel experience of a week of father/son golf with my son Carey, as we have always done on these trips, we make sure we participate as much as possible in whatever other attractions the region has to offer.
So without hesitation we grabbed the opportunity to partake in one of the Red Jeep tours that took us to the Andreas and Palm Canyons for an afternoon of education and interpretation of the Agua Caliente Cahuilla native culture that formed the foundation of most of this area of California.
It can be hot in Palm Springs in the early fall, with midday temperatures hovering around the 30C mark.
For escape we took the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway to the top of nearby Chino Canyon. At almost 9000 feet above sea level, temperatures are dramatically cooler. So much so that wearing long trousers and sleeved shirts is advised.
Here too the hiking opportunities abounds with over 50 miles of trails available for every fitness level.
Billed as the world’s largest rotating tramcar, the journey up the side of the sheer cliffs is enhanced by the 360 views as the floor rotates twice during both the ascent and descent.
Once you reach the top the view is breathtaking. From the mountains in the distance to the view of the city below it is easy to understand why so many choose to remain on the peak for hours.
Back in Palm Springs the atmosphere is one of relaxed comfort as shoppers wonder in and out of the retail outlets that range from high end art shops to tee-shirt purveyors who seem to offer 2-for-1 bargains on just about everything in store.
At night there is a dramatic change as streets come alive with the buzz of activity as more and more people begin to populate the dozens of bars and restaurants whose lights and outdoor patios signal invitations to enjoyment.
One of the most unique attractions you will ever find on a main thoroughfare of any city takes place at the core of Palm Canyon drive.
Every Thursday, several blocks of the street along Palm Canyon Drive are closed to traffic so shoppers and revelers have the space and comfort to search out their take -home treasures or culinary delights.
Culinary and beverage options are immense.
This area was once the home to the Beachcomer/Tiki Bar craze of a few decades ago when the producers, directors, and movie stars of occupied the most expensive homes.
The Tonga Hut, following the revivalist trend in this style bar, offers alcohol loaded drinks with names like Rose’s First Date, Cucumber Caliente, and the Scorpion Bowl.
For upscale dining there will be no better place in the area than the French restaurant Le Vallauris. This restaurant has been a Palm Springs tradition for over forty years. If star gazing is on your agenda you are most likely to still spot them here.
If not there when you are, you can still look up beyond the trees that shelter patrons under this outdoor patio, to the real galaxies that twinkle above you.
There is a decided small community feel to Palm Springs and its closely connected cities that make up greater Palm Springs. Easy to navigate from one to the other, surprising doors of discovery seem to open as you travel between them.
But in the end this journey was above all meant to be about the golf experiences in an area where golf is king and thousands of people come here every year for those opportunities.
Golf we did. A lot of it on excellent tracks throughout the area.
In my next blog I will focus on that part of our trip as well as other experiences we encountered beyond downtown Palm Springs.
If you would like more information on Palm Springs contact the Palm Springs Bureau of Tourism at www.visitpalmsprings.com or call them at 1 (800) 347-7746.
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