California Road Trip with American Sky – Palm Springs
A desert delight
As part of a southern California road trip,
Palm Springs is top of the list of places to include. There are plenty of
reasons why so many north Americans and Canadians spend the winter in this
balmy paradise, sun, sun and more sun.
So, we couldn’t believe it when we arrived
in the middle of a ferocious rain storm and visibility was so bad that it
wasn’t until the next morning, when the blue skies returned, that we realised
this desert oasis is surrounded by amazing snow-capped mountains!
Palm Springs has hotels to suit every
budget, from top end luxury for the rich and famous, to more modest
establishments, and we discovered the wonderfully named ‘POSH Hotel’. Not POSH
in the British sense of the word, with butlers, maids and silver service; but
the American version which stands for PersOnable Service & Hospitality,
and it certainly delivered on all counts. POSH Palm Springs Inn is an affordable,
adult only, pretty property of just 9 rooms, all centred around a beautiful pool,
with a hot tub tucked away in a secluded corner. Highlights are a home cooked
breakfast every morning, served on the patio, and a particularly good ‘POSH’ martini as the sun goes down.
There is a lot to see and do in Palm
Springs, it is not all about lying around a pool (although we spent a good few
hours doing just that).
As always in America, sightseeing is easier
if you have your own car, but here you can leave your wheels behind and use the
city’s free trolley service called Palm Springs BUZZ. The brightly coloured trolleys will take you
into town and along the main streets. Check
the website for times and routes.
I was keen to explore the Air Museum and we enjoyed an
afternoon eyeing up old aircraft, admiring the wartime retro fuselage art work
and even trying out scarily realistic, hands on, aircraft simulators. The
museum is situated alongside Palm Springs Airport, so plane buffs can watch the
comings and goings of commercial flights at quite close range.
Next stop was the famous Arial Tramway that climbs high into the
wilderness of Mt. Jacinto State Park. The
cable car is unique as it rotates as it slowly climbs the 2.5 miles and really
does takes your breath away with views for miles in all directions. A very
useful tip is check the weather at the summit before you go as it averages 30
degrees cooler than the city. We visited after an unusually cold spell and
despite sun and temperatures in the 70’s on the ground, at the top we found 4
foot of snow and zero degrees! We managed a short walk along a walkway that had
been cleared of snow, before warming up with a hot chocolate in the visitors’
centre, whilst admiring the views. This is a year round attraction offering
many miles of trails for hiking in summer and skiing in winter.
As a complete contrast to our snowy morning,
we spent the afternoon in the desert tasting Californian dates under the sway
of palm trees at Shield’s Date Farm. These were dates, the like of which I have
never tasted before, plump and gorgeous and very delicious.
On the recommendation of our hosts at POSH
Hotel, we spent a lovely day at Sunnylands Estate, a place I had never heard of
but is known in the USA as the Camp David of the West. It is an architecturally
designed 1960’s house surrounded by elaborate gardens built by philanthropists Walter and Leonore Annenberg. From the swinging sixties and into the new
millennium they entertained everyone who was anyone from the world of politics,
royalty, TV and films.
The estate now hosts meetings of
Presidents and rulers from across the globe in an informal and tranquil
setting. There is a Sunnylands Visitor centre & garden open to the public
from Thursday to Sunday and where you can follow the time line of the Sunnylands Foundation. The main house and
private gardens can also be visited, but must be pre-booked. The estate is
beautifully kept and home to some stunning works of art both inside the house
and in the grounds. It felt a great privilege to visit and explore this amazing
place and hear about past visitors’ and grand events.
All this sightseeing gives you an
appetite and food is a great part of American life. In Palm Springs we escaped
the normal fast food for a while and tasted some innovative menus at
restaurants that are pushing the boundaries of modern cuisine. We had a
memorable meal with an Austrian twist at Johannes, famous for Wiener
Schnitzel, alongside other delicious dishes on an ever-changing menu.
Mexican food is popular, as Palm Springs is
not so far from the boarder, and we sampled some great dishes at Rio Azul. Guacamole made to order at
our table was a highlight as was the slow cooked pork dish for which the
restaurant is famous. They do a pretty good Margarita too!
Be sure to include a few days in Palm
Springs if you find yourself in Southern California – you won’t regret it!
If you are tempted to a California road
trip our partner American
Sky has some varied itineraries.
For more information on Palm Springs go to
- CaliforniaRoad Trip with American Sky – Santa Barbara
- CaliforniaRoad Trip with American Sky – San Diego