7 Ways Palm Springs May Surprise You

When we think of Palm Springs, we imagine people relaxing by a pool, surrounded by the desert. However, there’s more to Palm Springs than that.

Palm Springs, or more accurately, Greater Palm Springs, is alive with unique attractions, engaging art, great food scenes, and a welcoming vibe for all kinds of travelers.

Leave your preconceived notions of Palm Springs at the door because we’ve got a list of things that just might surprise you and make you want to book your next vacation there.

There are nine cities.

Most people aren’t aware that nine cities make up the Greater Palm Springs area. Yes, Palm Springs is one such city but it offers just a minuscule of things to see and do in the valley.

There’s Cathedral City where Sonny Bono and Frank Sinatra are buried, and the affluent Rancho Mirage, home to plenty of resorts, golf courses, and lots of gated communities.

The upscale shopping street of El Paseo is located in Palm Desert, as is the Living Desert Zoo & Botanical Garden. Indian Wells has deluxe resorts and the BNP Paribas Open, the fifth largest tennis tournament in the world.

La Quinta has 14 parks and lots of public art installations. Indio is a city of festivals, including Coachella, and the location of the Empire Polo Club.

Coachella is not just a festival name, but a city in the Greater Palm Springs area and has a culturally Hispanic population, great local restaurant scene, and charming city center.

The art scene is fantastic.

You won’t miss out on unique art experiences when you visit Palm Springs and the surrounding area. There are high-end galleries all along El Paseo, the main shopping street, in Palm Desert. Palm Springs Art Museum is a great place to see international art by renowned artists like Chagall, Picasso, Warhol, and Lichtenstein.

Those who take a tour with Tallgrass Hiking & Tours can witness the desert art of Salvation Mountain and East Jesus. Salvation Mountain is a gigantic colorful sculpture created by a local, Leonard Knight, after having a desert revelation. East Jesus is a large art exhibit of sculptures created with junk in the desert.

If graffiti is your cup of tea, head to Coachella and walk around the square for some gorgeous renderings of Hispanic-influenced street murals.

It’s inclusive of LGBT+ travelers.

Palm Springs may just be the most LGBT-friendly city in California – even beyond San Francisco. Not only is it the entire city council part of the LGBT community, but the population is made up of over 50% gay people.

Travelers will discover a large selection of gay nightclubs, businesses owned by LGBT+ individuals, and a popular Gay Pride Festival.

There are even hotels specifically marketed to gay men like the Triangle Inn Palm Springs, Canyon Club Hotel, and Escape Resort.

Those aren’t (all) palm trees.

You may think all those trees in Palm Springs are palm trees, but you’d be wrong. Despite the name, many people confuse palm trees and date palms, which can be differentiated by how a date palms’ leaves reach upward like fingers.

Dates are an integral part of the agriculture of Palm Springs and you can see plenty of farms in the valley. Don’t forget to try a date shake – a milkshake with dates – a popular snack in the area. Oasis Date Gardens sells date shakes, as well as dates by the package, and cookies, bread, and pies all made with dates.

Coachella isn’t the only worthy event.

The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival is just a taste of the amazing events and festivals available in the Palms Springs area.

Desert X is a biennial exhibition that occurs over 11 weeks from February-April. The free exhibit involves about 15 larger-than-life and/or interactive sculptures by international artists scattered throughout the valley desert.

The National Date Festival and International Tamale Festival are a foodie’s dream and highlight the area’s important agricultural industry.

Modernism Week features more than 350 events in one week in February that showcase the city’s midcentury modern design, architecture, and art. Events include double-decker bus tours, live music, fashion shows, garden tours, films, and lectures.

In November, hot air balloons alight in the sky creating a charming scene against the desert and mountains at the Cathedral City Hot Air Balloon Festival.

It’s home to the largest collection of mid-century modern residential architecture.

The Greater Palm Springs aesthetic is a unique one and all it takes is a quick drive through the neighborhoods to see that. It boasts the largest collection of mid-century modern architecture, most often called Desert Modernism.

In addition to making up clean lines, it’s elegant and simple and uses the natural environment in the construction and overall appearance.

Guided tours are available year-round from downtown Palm Springs and many visitors are surprised by the insight they gain on the city’s architecture and how many celebrities had a hand in the development of the neighborhoods and style.

While the Palm Springs Official Tourist Center has maps for your own self-guided tour, you might also want to visit during Modernism Week.

Activities beyond golf, shopping, and spas.

Tourists are keenly aware that Palm Springs has long been known as a golf, shopping, spa, and resort destination. Unfortunately, many are in the dark about the plenty of other activities and attractions in the area.

We’ve already mentioned the wide range of art exhibits and installations to visit, as well as festivals. There’s also plenty of hiking opportunities around the city, either via the Aerial Tramway or by driving to hiking trails in Indian Canyon or to the Cactus to Clouds Trail.

Though the Salton Sea is a controversial environmental subject, it still remains a great place to boat, ski, swim, and fish.

For those who prefer a different spa experience, check out Desert Hot Springs’ cold and hot-water aquifers filled with mineral water.

While there are plenty of desert and art tours in the area, touring the San Gorgonio Wind Farm Park offers up-close views of the windmills in the area.

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