Palm Springs, California

Palm Springs, California

Palm Springs was America’s original desert showplace. A striking patchwork of low-profile buildings and lush landscapes is interspersed with barren sand and rocks along the base of a precipitous mountain. Towering Mt. San Jacinto (elevation: 10,804 feet) looms abruptly, with the greatest vertical rise above any American city. Its mantle of winter snow is a remarkable contrast to the broad valley floor where warm sunny days prevail.

The stark natural desert in and around town offers memorable beautyBas undulating sand dunes, endless beaches without water, and dramatic boulder gardens. Here also are America’s most phenomenal oases. Desert canyons shelter thousands of giant native fan palms. The groves provide an exotic backdrop to pools and waterfalls along clear cool streams. Nearby, irrigation has transformed the flat valley floor into a myriad of golf courses, tennis courts, swimming pools, parks, and gardens.

More than a century ago, the tiny settlement of Palm Springs was named for the oasis hot springs and native palms. Early-day film stars and other celebrities “discovered” the hideaway and made it famous as America's first desert playground. But growth was slow until the 1950s, when air conditioning made the desert livable year-round, and freeways and improved air service made getting there easy.

Today, a few timeless restaurants and hotels and a world-class live theater and museum share the palm-shaded business district with many fading facades hawking a memorable potpourri of trinkets and treasures, glitz and glamour.