Greater Palm Springs' Unexpected Side
Images of over-sized pools and green golf courses come to mind when thinking of Greater Palm Springs. But there's more to this desert playground than first impressions suggest. You can relax in the mineral springs of Desert Hot Springs, ride the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway above the canyons or go off-roading on a desert Jeep tour.
Greater Palm Springs, which is comprised of nine cities, is about 100 miles east of Los Angeles with its own airport. Travelers can fly directly from 18 cities, including Chicago, New York and Dallas. Plus, fall boasts pleasant temperatures of 70-90 degrees and plenty of hotel specials (before the peak winter months).
Here's more of the unexpected:
Craft brews & tasty eats
The craft beer and spirit scene is taking off. Spend an afternoon sampling local brews at Babe's Bar-B-Que & Brewhouse, Coachella Valley Brewing Company and La Quinta Brewing Co. or try hand-crafted gin from Desert Distilling.
For dinner, head to Draughtsman, a new gastro-pub specializing in craft beers and modern pub food with a patio stocked with bar games. Or try the classics, such as steaks at Lord Fletcher's (once frequented by Frank Sinatra) or authentic Mexican dishes at family-owned Rincon Norteno.
The best way to explore the valley is by Jeep. These four-wheel drive adventures from Desert Adventures take you through Joshua Tree, Indian Canyon and the San Andreas Fault. Night tours of the fault are popular too, as the desert sky is ideal for star gazing and the temperatures are cooler.
If high-speed experiences are more your style, check out the BMW Performance Center. Get behind the wheel of an M Car for a track drive or go on an off-road course with a BMW X3 or X5. This is one of only two centers in the U.S.
Golf with your feet
A regular stop on the PGA Tour and LPGA Tour, Greater Palm Springs is a go-to for avid golfers with more than 1,800 holes and 300 days of sunshine.
But at Tahquitz Creek Golf Resort there's a new twist: FootGolf. The rules are similar to golf, but instead of putting, you kick a soccer ball down the fairways. Dressing the part, with a argyle knee-high socks and a flat cap, is encouraged.
Hidden waterfalls & ancient rock art
Explore canyons just minutes away from downtown Palm Springs in the Agua Caliente Reservation. Indian Canyons is made up of three canyons and was once the ancestral home of the Cahuilla Indians. Expect to see rock art, tribal house pits and maybe big horn sheep along the trails. More advanced trails in nearby Tahquitz Canyon will lead you to a picturesque 60-foot waterfall.
For panoramic canyon views, take the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway up to Mt. San Jacinto. It's a one-of-a-kind experience on the world's largest rotating tramcar.
Mineral hot springs
A luxurious spa experience is synonymous with a desert escape. Book a massage that uses ancient healing methods like the Sec-He rock ritual at The Ritz-Carlton Rancho Mirage or a body scrub with locally grown citrus and dates at Spa Desert Springs at JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa.
For those in search of a more therapeutic experience, there are hot and cold mineral springs in Desert Hot Springs. Unlike many other natural springs, they have no sulfur odor. There are 12 hotel spas with mineral spring pools to choose from. Day passes start at $5 per person.
Modernism Week has a fall preview
Palm Springs' signature celebration of midcentury architecture and design is held in February. There's a lesser known (and less crowded) fall preview of Modernism Week held Oct. 19-22.
Tour some of the valley's most famous homes once inhabited by Old Hollywood; such as Katherine Hepburn and Debbie Reynolds -- there's even a cocktail party at Elvis Presley's Honeymoon Hideaway. Other highlights include free lectures, a vintage car show and a double-decker bus tour hosted by Charles Phoenix of Food Network's "Cake Wars."
Dig for your own cactus
Sure, there are cacti everywhere in Greater Palm Springs. But the 1,200 acre Living Desert Zoo & Gardens showcases more than 2,000 flora specials (specializing in desert species) and over 450 types of animals. Feeding giraffes is just $5.
If you want to take home your own cactus head to The Cactus Mart off Highway 62. The store's charm and prices -- it's 59 cents to dig for your own cactus -- haven't changed much since the 1960's.
Festivals aren't only in spring
Come spring, Indio is jam-packed with concertgoers for Coachella and Stagecoach. The same grounds will transform for Desert Oasis, Oct. 7-8. It's smaller in scale, but has the same promise of craft brews, exclusive VIP lounges and all-day (and night) music headlined by Rebelution and Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley (Bob Marley's son).
Resorts are more affordable come autumn
It's no surprise that Greater Palm Springs has a wealth of boutique hotels and resorts -- there are more than 150. But did you know that fall is considered shoulder season? That means you can scoop up some of the hottest deals of the year.