Travel Guide to California - - DESERTS -

» Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

Re­volv­ing through 360 de­grees as it climbs more than two miles to the moun­tain sta­tion at 8,516 feet el­e­va­tion, this tram whisks you to an­other world. It’s a sen­sa­tional ride, per­fect for es­cap­ing the heat of sum­mer to hike amid pine for­est where the tem­per­a­tures are pleas­antly cool. Or head up to the snows in win­ter to ex­plore by snow­shoe or on cross­coun­try skis. The moun­tain sta­tion has a gourmet restau­rant—great for a can­dlelit din­ner with the lights of the val­ley sparkling far be­low. › pstramway.com

» Palm Springs Mod­ern

The mid 20th-cen­tury Mod­ernist move­ment im­bues Palm Springs with much of its unique ap­peal. For a fas­ci­nat­ing in­sight into so­phis­ti­cated de­signs, ex­plore the city with an ex­pert ar­chi­tec­tural guide who can ex­plain the in­spi­ra­tion for the iconic Bank of Amer­ica build­ing, Kauf­mann House and “Ship of the Desert.” Per­haps you’ll even get to see inside the fa­mous steel houses, and even a home or two of the rich and fa­mous.

› palm­springsmod­ern.com

» Wind­mill Tours

There’s a rea­son thou­sands of wind tur­bines stud the land­scape north of Palm Springs and north­west of Mo­jave: gale-force winds whip through the San Gre­go­rio and Te­hachapi passes, re­spec­tively. Thick as forests, the tur­bines in­spire a “WOW!” re­sponse. Cu­ri­ous to find out the facts be­hind these gi­ant fans with blades half the length of a foot­ball field? Palm Springs Wind­mill Tours will take you be­hind the scenes and give you the low-down on four gen­er­a­tions of tech­nol­ogy.

› wind­mill­tours.com

» Pioneer­town

Set amid an oth­er­worldly land­scape of boul­ders and Joshua Trees in the high desert, aptly-named Pioneer­town was built in 1946 as the Hay­den Movie Ranch—a set for Western movies. No longer a Nowheresville, this lived-in “mu­seum” has been re­vived as a trendy and thriv­ing des­ti­na­tion by an in­flux of artists and movie types. It fea­tures a real-life and lively sa­loon, an an­tique bowl­ing al­ley, a trad­ing post and a re­cently ren­o­vated old Western mo­tel where you can hud­dle around firepits at night.

› pioneer­town-mo­tel.com

» Liv­ing Desert

Wildlife abounds in the desert, but for the most part you’d never know it—crit­ters hide by day, es­pe­cially in sum­mer. It’s easy to get close to desert flora and fauna at Liv­ing Desert Zoo & Park, which dis­plays an­i­mals from arid en­vi­ron­ments around the world. Lo­cal denizens in­clude bighorn sheep, rat­tlesnakes and coy­otes, while ex­otic fauna in­clude camels, gi­raffes and chee­tahs. A new ad­di­tion, the Ant Lab, gives you an in­sider’s view of an ac­tive desert ant nest.

› liv­ingdesert.org

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