Update: Check out my Palm Springs road trip video above.
If you’re thinking about taking a vacation in Palm Springs, I have one piece of advice for you: Don’t visit in September. I made the non-SoCal native mistake of assuming September would be cool in temperature like most normal places. Apparently, September is California’s hottest month of the year. The weekend I went to Palm Springs seemed to verify that. And being in a desert only made it worse.
For those of you, like me, who know nothing about California (except that its residents believe it’s the greatest place on earth) Palm Springs is a small town located in the middle of the desert. It’s about a two hour drive east of LA, right outside Joshua Tree. The drive there is interesting because at first you look around and just see mountains, sand, and dirt everywhere. Then all of a sudden, everything turns bright green and you see a welcome sign for Palm Springs. Every road is lined with perfectly straight palm trees and well-groomed plants. Shops, streets, and restaurants are up-to-date yet still have a lot of character. It’s hard to believe such a clean, wealthy, and modern city sits in the middle of a desolate desert.
One great thing about Palm Springs is that the city can act as a central hub to all the other sites and attractions on your road trip or vacation. the Coachella Valley, Joshua Tree, and Salton Sea are all easy day trips from Palm Springs. People go to Palm Springs to get away for a weekend. Golf, bars, pools, and casinos become their relaxation. Many people move there to retire. It’s not exactly a city to go do and see stuff. But don’t let that stop you from making a visit there! Spend an afternoon exploring the city and then spend the rest of your time outside it.
Let’s get back to why you shouldn’t visit in September:
- It will be a scorching 115 at any time of the day.
- You won’t see other people (This might be a positive thing depending who you ask).
- The people you will see are mostly old. Although this has nothing to do with September, I’m sure.
- The #1 attraction is closed. The tram/cable car up to Mt. San Jacinto was closed for two weeks when we visited. 😦
This makes it sound like a really depressing place, but I want to make it clear that I did have a good time. Here’s what I enjoyed:
The people are very friendly- probably because they never see anyone in September and get lonely. Pam, our dinner waitress, would strike up a five minute conversation with us every time she came to bring our food or drinks. The single woman (probably age 65) behind us joined in too.
Cheap prices. Did I mention I bought a beer for $4 dollars?
Abundant streets signs that said: “Free Unlimited Parking”. It was almost like they were trying to taunt people from LA.
So if you’re visiting Palm Springs, what should you see?
Cabazon Dinosaurs. If you’re coming from LA, stop in Cabazon and see the giant dinosaurs. There’s also an exhibit you can pay for, but the giant dinosaurs in front are completely free.
Wind turbines. You can’t miss them.
Downtown. Plenty of parking, nice shops, and a “Hollywood Walk of Fame” sidewalk. Unfortunately, I have to admit the one in LA is a little better.
Mt. San Jacino tram. I’m sure it’s open now. About $25 to take a ride to the top. #1 attraction on TripAdvisor.
Coachella Nature Preserve. Palm trees, lizards, oasis, and a view of the San Andreas fault. I highly recommend it. I’d also highly recommend bringing water and staying on the trails…
Any lake, pond, or swimming pool you can find.
Tip: Don’t ask your hotel concierge what to do because ours just said this: “Oh, the tram is closed? Then, there’s nothing to do here.”
The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians of the Agua Caliente Indian Reservation (that’s how you have to say their name every time) owns most of the land in Palm Springs. $$$
Apparently, there aren’t street lights on most of the main roads (truth) because the citizens want to be able to admire the stars at night (questionable). How does star gazing trump common safety practices??
Most restaurants and bars close around 9PM. Although they do have some clubs and a casino.
Premium beers in many of the bars are Heineken and Corona. We went to one place and they only had four kinds of beer.
They got rid of the giant Marilyn Monroe statue earlier this year. Now, it seems, the city really has nothing to attract tourists. Seeing giant dinosaurs and a giant Marilyn on the same trip would have made my day!
Who should visit:
- Old people who just want to relax.
- People who like taking trams up mountains.
- People who like nice, wealthy cities in the middle of deserts.
- People who don’t mind driving without street lights at night.
- People who like wind turbines.