Palm Springs is located in Southern California and lies on the western edge of the Coachella Valley in Riverside County. Located approximately 110 miles southeast of Los Angeles and 140 miles northeast of San Diego, it’s a little over a two-hour drive by freeway.
Palm Springs is sheltered by the Little San Bernardino Mountains to the north, the Santa Rosa Mountains on the south, and the San Jacinto Mountains to the west with its towering 10,831 foot Mt. San Jacinto, site of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. Geography gives Palm Springs its warm, dry climate and over 350 days of sunshine annually. Winter temperatures average in the 70s with nights in the mid-40s. The dry desert heat of summer pushes daytime temperatures into the 100s enjoyed by sun lovers.
Centuries ago, ancestors of the Agua Caliente Cahuilla (pronounced Kaw-we-ah) Indians settled in the Palm Springs area and developed extensive and complex communities in Indian Canyons. Within Indian Canyons you can explore Palm, Murray, and Andreas Canyon. Tahquitz Canyon sits at the base of the San Jacinto mountains slightly south of the downtown area and features an waterfall about a mile walk from the Tahquitz Visitor Center. Many traces of these communities exist in the canyons today, including rock art, house pits and foundations, reservoirs, trails, and food processing areas
Archaeological research has discovered that the Cahuilla have occupied Tahquitz Canyon for at least 5,000 years. The Cahuilla Indian name for Palm Springs area was Sec-he (boiling water); the Spanish who arrived named it Agua Caliente (hot water). And then came the name “Palm Springs” in reference to both the native washigtonia filifera palm tree and Agua Caliente Hot Mineral Springs.
In 1876, the U.S. Federal Government deeded in trust to the Agua Caliente people 32,000 acres for their homeland. At the same time, they gave the So. California Railroad ten miles of odd sections of land to induce them to build the railroad. Of the reservation’s 32,000 acres, some 6,700 lie within the Palm Springs city limits. The remaining sections fan out across the desert and mountains in a checkerboard pattern.
As early as the 1890’s, Palm Springs and the surrounding area have been described as a recreation oasis. Tahquitz Canyon and three southern canyons are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Palm Canyon is considered the world’s largest California Fan Palm Oasis.
The Aqua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians remains actively involved with the City of Palm Springs.
Since the 1920’s, visionary modernist architects have designed sleek, modern homes that have embraced the desert environment. The dramatic geographic surroundings of the Coachella Valley inspired a design aesthetic in the middle of the 20th Century now called Desert Modernism.
Notable for its use of glass, clean lines, natural and manufactured resources and indoor/outdoor spaces, Desert Modernism evoked a lifestyle of simple elegance and informality. Influenced by the dictates of desert living and the intense climate, the style grew out of the architects and designer’s adaptive use of inventive materials, modern construction techniques, new (post-war) technologies…and served an enthusiastic and willing clientele. Talented architects were drawn to the desert by chance and opportunity.
Many celebrities stayed and purchased hideaway homes in Palm Springs, such as Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Bob Hope, Kirk Douglas, and Cary Grant, just to name a few. Several ladies were frequent visitors including Marilyn Monroe, Dinah Shore, Lily Tomlin, and Elizabeth Taylor.
Famous couples did rendezvous in Palm Springs including Clark Gable and Carole Lombard, Steve Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner, Lucy and Desi Arnaz, and Elvis and Priscilla Presley. President Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, and the Obamas were frequent visitors.
Modernism Week is one of Palm Springs most popular annual events. Modernism Week’s signature February Event is an annual celebration of midcentury modern design, architecture, art, fashion and culture. This exciting festival takes place in February in the Palm Springs area of Southern California. Modernism Week features more than 350 events including the Modernism Show & Sale, Signature Home Tours, films, lectures, Premier Double Decker Architectural Bus Tours, nightly parties and live music, walking and bike tours, tours of Sunnylands, fashion, classic cars, modern garden tours, a vintage travel trailer exhibition, and more.
In addition to the events in February, Modernism Week hosts the “Fall Preview” weekend in October. Partner organizations collaborate to produce a “mini-Modernism Week” to kick-off the active social and recreational season in Palm Springs.
The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is the world’s largest rotating tram car and travels over 2.5 miles along the cliffs of Chino Canyon, transporting visitors to the pristine wilderness of the Mt. San Jacinto State Park and Wilderness Area. During this ten-minute journey, tram cars rotate slowly, offering spectacular vistas of the valley below. The Mountain Station is at 8,516 feet, about 30 degrees cooler than the desert floor, and offers stunning viewpoints and over 50 miles of trails. In the winter (snow conditions permitting), enjoy snowshoeing or cross-county skiing in an Alpine wonderland.
The Palm Springs Art Museum is located downtown and the museum’s extensive permanent collection includes significant works by western, contemporary and glass artists, and features temporary exhibitions from internationally acclaimed artists. Entry is free every Thursday from 5-7 pm.
The Palm Springs Architecture and Design Center, Edwards Harris Pavilion, part of the Art Museum, is the country’s first historic structure to be transformed into a free-standing architecture and design museum that is housed in a modern building.
The Palm Springs Air Museum is a non-profit educational institution and home to one of the world’s largest collections of flyable WWII Airplanes. In addition to flying aircraft, related artifacts, artwork and library sources are used to perpetuate American history. The significance of WWII is unparalleled in all of the history of the world in that it was the greatest, most costly conflict ever fought, taking the lives of more than 70 million people.
Palm Springs offers a large collection of boutique resorts and Inns. We define these as properties with 50 rooms or less and Palm Springs has an abundance of gorgeous small hotels with over 50 to choose. From Desert Modern to Hollywood Glam, Mediterranean Romantic to Urban Chic, Palm Springs boutique hotels are known for their attention to style and design. Mid-Century Modern aficionados flock to this award-winning design hotspot year round to stay in some of the finest and most authentic examples of mid-century design.
Palm Springs is the home to a thriving LGBT community that truly shapes the direction of the city. Here, you can let your hair down and be yourself under the desert sun. It’s a hip oasis for the LGBTQ traveler. While people enjoy visiting Palm Springs for the weather, architecture, and to relax, there is more to Palm Springs than meets the eye. Come out, come out, however you are. Learn more about Palm Springs LGBTQ travel.
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