5 MUST SEE, DO
» 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.
» 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.
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.
» 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.