Date of Trip: April 2007
This has been a dreary winter in the North. A quick business meeting in Rancho Mirage afforded me the opportunity to spend a few glorious days in this spectacular paradise.
Flying into Ontario, California with Southwest, I was impressed with the location and design of this “New Generation” airport. Interstate 10 runs across the U.S. from the Atlantic Ocean in Jacksonville, Florida to Santa Monica, California and the sparkling Pacific. Ontario lies some forty miles east of the Los Angeles basin, right off the I-10. It is easy to hop on the freeway to begin your adventure. Fares are far better (mostly due to Southwest) into Ontario than Palm Springs, and the ease of the drive into the Coachella Valley makes this modern air facility a great choice. Ontario is about seventy-five miles west of Palm Springs.
I splurged and booked a room at the Renaissance Esmerelda Hotel in Palm Desert, and was quite impressed with its lush grounds, swaying date palms and beautiful scenery. I used Hotels.com and really got a good rate on a beautiful (and huge) standard room, with a fantastic view of the golf course below. If you are a golfer or like to play tennis, THIS IS THE PALACE FOR YOU!
Nestled between the Santa Rosa and Chocolate Mountains, the Coachella Valley is truly a sportsman’s paradise. There’s no shortage of things to do here. The Palm Springs Arial Tramway is a MUST, as it presents a vista that is literally indescribable and unforgettable. The Coachella Valley is made up of (from west to east) North Palm Springs (where you’ll find the tramway), Palm Springs, Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, Indian Wells, La Quinta and Indio. North of Palm Springs, you’ll find Desert Hot Springs, a town that seems to be largely undeveloped, and lacking in the glitzy offerings of other valley towns.
On Thursday evenings, downtown Palm Springs hosts an open-air street fair, and it is absolutely worth the visit. You can stroll along Palm Canyon Drive in the shadow of the Santa Rosas and grab a coffee at Starbucks or a smoothie at Jamba Juice.
Downtown Palm Springs has a lot more to offer. The Desert Museum is a fascinating glimpse into the cultural side of this great place. With two shows on most days, the famous Palm Springs Follies offers a wonderful insight into spectacular theatrical productions, staffed with showgirls in their sixties, seventies and eighties (I couldn’t believe it myself … they are astoundingly beautiful and defy age itself!).
Palm Springs is the home of many, many fine dining establishments. A leisurely dinner at the Kaiser Grille was, in a word, memorable. The Palm Springs Air Museum on Gene Autry holds one of the largest collections of old warbirds in the World. Well worth a visit.
Palm Canyon Drive stretches from North Palm Springs all the way out to Indio, snaking its way east, nestled at the foot of the Santa Rosa range. If you have time, catch a show at the Annenberg Theatre in Palm Desert (Fred Waring and Monterey) for some world class entertainment. The theatre shares a campus with the College of the Desert. Across the street at Trader Joe’s market, you might just run into Kevin Costner pushing around a shopping cart.
A quick call to Stand By Golf and I had a morning tee time at one of the valley’s most beautiful golf courses. I was paired with a Japanese businessman who was in the valley after closing on a vacation and retirement home at PGA West in La Quinta, the home of the Skins game. Arnold Palmer is a resident there.
It was hard to concentrate on my game with all of the awe-inspiring desert scenery that surrounds you. The sunsets in this valley are, in a word, spectacular. An evening stroll along Palm Desert’s El Paseo (the Rodeo Drive of the Desert) was well worth the experience. Shops like Gucci, Prada and the like are shoulder-to-shoulder on this beautiful inviting street, full of the celebrities enjoying “la dulce vita” that the desert offers. A delightful evening repast at Vittorio’s Italian Restaurant completed this all-too short weekend.
Its no wonder the famous of Hollywood have homes here, and can often be seen driving and strolling around town everywhere. Bob Hope (a desert icon) had a home here, and it can be seen from just about everywhere in Palm Springs. The saucer-shaped structure, nestled into the mountainside, measures just under 50,000 square feet! Legendary luminaries such as Frank Sinatra, Lucille Ball, Liberace, Allan Ladd, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley and Clark Gable (and many more) all maintained residences here in the golden age of show business. It is still a mecca for the world’srich and famous.
Remember that this IS a desert community. The weather is beautiful for most of the year, but the temperature can soar into the 100-110 range in the dead of summer (July, August and early September). Be sure to bring along plenty of sunscreen and moisturizer because the desert heat and dry air can reek havoc on your exposed skin when it’s very hot.
It’s no secret why this has become a favorite retirement spot for the famous. The Valley has been the winter home of former-presidents (Gerald Ford lived in Rancho Mirage in Thunderbird Heights, and Mrs. Ford still maintains a home there). This is really a paradise worth a visit. A warning though … you might just want to stay!
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