Palm Springs, California

Palm Springs has been a popular resort community since Hollywood movie stars discovered its natural beauty at the base of the San Jacinto Mountains. You will also enjoy exploring the Indian Canyons, home of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians.

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San Jacinto Mountains in Palm Springs, California

Palm Springs is located in the Coachella Valley within Riverside County. This snow-capped mount defines its western border. The San Jacinto Mountains stretches majestically for about 30 miles. This escarpment of granite peaks at 10,834 feet. The range is nestled between the San Jacinto and San Andreas faults.

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Brief History of Palm Springs, California

The Cahuilla people have lived in the San Jacinto Plain for over 500 years. In 1862, the first non-Native American to settle in the area was a stagecoach station operator named Jack Summers. Eighteen years later, Mathew Bryne and William Slyke – a pair of developers – began purchasing land from the local tribe. They called their investment the Palm City Land and Water Company. John McCallum followed their lead in 1885. People started showing up in the early 1900s, attracted by the springs and wintertime temperatures. When movie stars arrived in the late 1920s, the town bloomed as a resort community. This further attracted rich retirees and members of the mob. Today, Palm Springs has about 45,000 residents. It is a hotbed for tourism during the winter and just plain hot during the summer.

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1 Agua Caliente Women Sculptures in Palm Springs, California

A group of Native Americans called Cahuilla lived across more than 2,000 square miles of Southern California beginning in the 1600s. In 1876, a 32,000 acre reservation was established for a band of this group named Agua Caliente. Over 6,500 acres of their land is in Palm Springs, including their headquarters. The “Agua Caliente Women” sculptures were created by Doug Hyde in 1994. They are on a medium at Tahquitz Canyon Way and Indian Canyon Drive.

100 S Indian Canyon Dr, Palm Springs, CA 92262
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2 La Plaza Shopping Center in Palm Springs, California

Two years before the City of Palm Springs was incorporated in 1938, local resident Julia Carnell was inspired to develop one of the earliest strip malls in California. She hired Harry Williams, an architect from Dayton, Ohio, to design and supervise the construction of premier residential units above 38 stores. Originally called the Palm Springs Plaza, the La Plaza shopping center retains a vital role among the city’s retailers.

122 La Plaza, Palm Springs, CA 92262
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3 Elvis Presley Star at Walk of Stars in Palm Springs, California

The Hollywood Walk of Fame is 112 miles from Palm Springs. You might assume these stars are mimicking the famous version. The distinction is all of the honored celebrities once lived in Palm Springs. The majority are from show business. You will also find civic leaders, literary artists and three former presidents. There are over 300 of these bronze stars along the Palm Springs Walk of Stars on Palm Canyon Drive in downtown.

100 S. Palm Canyon Dr.
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4 Palm Springs Art Museum in Palm Springs, California

Since 1938, the Palm Springs Art Museum has displayed a growing collection of western and contemporary artworks dating back to the 19th century plus hosts temporary exhibitions. It also stages plays and concerts in its Annenberg Theater. In front of the entrance on Museum Drive is the Alschuler Fountain. The centerpiece is this misshapen, stainless steel work by sculptor Zhan Wang entitled, “Artificial Rock #131.”

101 N Museum Dr, Palm Springs, CA 92262
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5 The Pacific Building in Palm Springs, California

When pediatrician Dr. Rothman commissioned architect Charles Chamberlin to design The Pacific Building in 1936, this four-story, Mission Revival tower was considered to be the gateway to the city. The mixed-use landmark has retail space along North Palm Springs Drive with apartments above.

139 E Tamarisk Rd, Palm Springs, CA 92262
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6 The Plaza Theatre in Palm Springs, California

In December, 1936, the classic movie “Camille” was released starring Greta Garbo and Robert Taylor. This film was the first to be screened in The Plaza Theatre on South Palm Canyon Drive. Both movie stars attended the premiere. The venue also served as a broadcasting studio for visiting celebrities like Bob Hope and Jack Benny. After closing in 1989, it reopened the following year for seasonal performances of a vaudeville show called “The Fabulous Palm Springs Follies” until 2014. Discussions are underway to renovate the landmark theater.

124 S Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs, CA 92262
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7 Chairman of the Links Statue in Palm Springs, California

Thomas O’Donnell started the first links in Palm Springs in 1927. Today there are about 125 golf courses in Coachella Valley. Why so many in a desert? Because the average high in Palm Springs is 89° F with less than 15 days of rain and 300 days of sunshine. So golfers of all skill levels flock to Riverside County. This chap sporting an argyle sweater vest and tie is named, “Chairman of the Links.” Sculptor Jeffrey Alden Fowler created the bronze in 2003. The vintage golfer stands smugly next to the Welwood Murray Library.

100 S Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs, CA 92262
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8 Lucy Ricardo Statue in Palm Springs, California

In 1929, Lucille Ball started her career in modeling and theater plus a few movie parts. Her universal fame was launched in 1951 when she and her husband Desi Arnaz began filming the half-hour show, “I Love Lucy.” She continued appearing in America’s living rooms in four TV program formats until 1974. This bronze statue of the beloved comedian was created in 1995 by Emmanuil and Janet Snitkovsky. The tribute is located at the intersection of Tahquitz Canyon Way and Palm Canyon Drive.

100 N Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs, CA 92262
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9 Palm Canyon Drive in Downtown Palm Springs, California

Walking among the boutiques, museums and restaurants along Palm Canyon Drive is a delightful way to spend a day. Most of the art and antique galleries, parks and theaters are in the North and Uptown Design Districts. You will notice these unusual trees throughout downtown. Their scientific name is Washingtonia filifera. The later word refers to the unique cluster of threads hanging below the branches. The California palm can reach a height of 65 feet. This is the only palm native to the United States.

232 N Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs, CA 92262
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10 Rainmaker Fountain in Palm Springs, California

During the summer months, thermometers in Palm Springs often push beyond 110° F. When it is that hot, parents will often bring their children to Frances Stevens Park to experience “The Rainmaker” not as a form of outdoor art but with the hopes a slight breeze will send cooling mists from the four moving arms. The kinetic sculpture by David Morris was created in 2000.

518 N Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs, CA 92262
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11 Palm Canyon Theatre in Palm Springs, California

This building on North Palm Canyon Drive began in 1927 as the Frances S. Stevens School. After a renovation 70 years later, Bill Layne and his wife Sylvia reopened it as the Palm Canyon Theatre. The performing arts venue stages Broadway musicals and classic plays during the peak tourist season. The volunteer staff also hosts theater programs for local youth.

538 N Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs, CA 92262
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12 Aerial Tramway in Palm Springs, California

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway has been a major tourist attraction on the outskirts of the city since it opened in 1963. From the Valley Station, a cable car starts on the floor of the Chino Canyon at 2,643 feet. The ride reaches the Mountain Station at over 8,500 feet in about 13 minutes. Along the way are spectacular views of the Coachella Valley from inside your rotating tram compartment. When you reach the summit, expect the temperature to be cold. This is an exhilarating experience.

1 Tram Way, Palm Springs, CA 92262
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13 Palms Springs Visitors Center in Palm Springs, California

If you are driving into Palm Springs, it is worth stopping at the Visitors Center north of downtown near the Aerial Tramway. The staff can supply you with maps, answer questions regarding attractions and help you plan your visit to Palm Springs. Architecture aficionados come to see the building’s kite-shaped roof. The former gas station was designed with a Mid-Century Modern style by famous architects Albert Frey and Robson Chambers in 1965.

2901 N Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs, CA 92262
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Movie Star Homes in Palm Springs, California

Beginning in the 1920s and extending into the 1950s, the demand by celebrities and the wealthy for vacation homes merged with architectural flair called Mid-Century Moderns. Half dozen architects specialized in this Desert Modernism trend. An example is this former home of The Rat Pack. The post and beam design was built in 1959 by George and Robert Alexander. The Movie Colony neighborhoods were party-central for the stars. Now many of these historic hideaways are available as rentals or for tours.

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14 Spa Resort Casino in Palm Springs, California

In the early 1960s, the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians opened a hotel and casino on the outskirts of downtown. The name “Spa Resort” was more than just a moniker for your typical day-spa services. The property is located above a hot mineral springs that resulted in naming the town Palm Springs. The casino’s slot machines and gaming tables are open 24/7. The facility also offers a steakhouse, deli and buffet.

401 E Amado Rd, Palm Springs, CA 92262
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15 Former El Mirador Hotel Tower in Palm Springs, California

On New Year’s Eve in 1928, Prescott Thresher Stevens welcomed movie stars and the social elite to his new El Mirador Hotel. The centerpiece of the luxury, 20-acre resort was the 68 foot, Spanish Colonial Revival bell tower. After the high-flying developer went broke when the stock market collapsed in 1929, the hotel exchanged hands until it was converted into a soldiers’ hospital during World War II. Although it reopened after the war as a hotel, it was later purchased by the adjacent Springs Community Hospital. In 1991, the renamed Desert Regional Medical Center incorporated the renovated tower into their Jerry Stergios Building.

1150 N Indian Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, CA 92262
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16 Frank M. Bogert Statue in Palm Springs, California

Frank M. Bogert is considered to be a 20th century legend in Palm Springs. In addition to being an actor and heavily involved in rodeo, he was a City Council member and then the major twice. When he left office in 1988, he was succeeded by Sonny Bono. Bogert was a few months away from being a centenarian when he died in 2009. This equestrian sculpture by Raymundo Kobo was erected in front of City Hall in 1989.

3200 E Tahquitz Canyon Way, Palm Springs, CA 92262
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17 Palm Springs Air Museum in Palm Springs, California

The cardboard shooter – an aircraft carrier crewmember who signals a plane for takeoff – is signaling a Grumman A-6 Intruder. The attack jet served the Navy and Marine Corps from 1963 until 1993. Now this plane flown by Lt. Craig Munsen is retired at the Palm Springs Air Museum. The collection includes about 30 vintage aircraft, many dating back to World War II.

745 N Gene Autry Trail, Palm Springs, CA 92262
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18 Barren Desert of Indian Canyons in Palm Springs, California

The Palm, Murray, Andreas, Tahquitz and Chino Canyons are collectively known as the Indian Canyons. They are part of the ancestral home of the Aqua Caliente Cahuilla Indians. Much of their 32,000 acre reservation is barren desert with the San Jacinto Mountains as a backdrop. But you will also discover fertile land next to streams where the Native Americans thrived for millenniums.

38500 S. Palm Canyon Dr. Palm Springs
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19 Split Rock at Palm Canyon in Palm Springs, California

Shortly after paying a small entrance fee at the Indian Canyons toll house, you decide which of the five canyons you want to visit. If you select Palm Canyon, then the road initially winds along a dry desert floor. The scenery is sparse and tranquil. Suddenly, an oasis appears as you drive through Split Rock parallel to the West Fork Palm Canyon Creek.

38500 S. Palm Canyon Dr. Palm Springs
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20 Yellow Brittlebush at Palm Canyon in Palm Springs, California

Now look up towards the cliff where the Palm Canyon Trading Post is located. When blessed with spring rain, the mount is covered with bright yellow flowers. Their scientific name is encelia farinosa. Most people call them brittlebush. After parking your car, take a moment to enjoy this valley view while breathing the fresh air scented with the fragrance of these beautiful wildflowers.

38500 S. Palm Canyon Dr. Palm Springs
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21 Hiking Trails at Palm Canyon in Palm Springs, California

The Indian Canyons are very popular among hikers. There is a network of trails rated from easy to strenuous. Novices may prefer the ranger-led hikes and talks. Along the way you will be treated to stunning rock formations, desert flora and wildlife. The biggest animals are the mountain lion, coyote and big horn sheep. Only a few will be lucky enough to spot them. Be vigilant for red diamond rattlesnakes.

38500 S. Palm Canyon Dr. Palm Springs
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22 West Fork Falls at Palm Canyon in Palm Springs, California

If you have limited time or limited physical mobility, the easiest natural attraction to see is the West Fork Falls. It is a short distance from the Palm Canyon Trading Post. Avid waterfall fans prefer the 40 foot drop at the end of a trail in nearby Tahquitz Canyon.

38500 S Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs, CA 92264
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23 California Fan Palms at Palm Canyon in Palm Springs, California

Palm Canyon has the world’s largest forest of California fan palms. The scientific name is Washingtonia filifera. The Cahuilla tribe calls it Ma ul. According to an ancient legend, no palms existed here until an elder named Ma ul willed himself to be converted into the unique roots, bark and palm leaves we see today. For thousands of years, the Augua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians has relied on the California fan palms’ fruit for food plus its fronds for building homes and weaving baskets.

38500 S. Palm Canyon Dr. Palm Springs
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