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Palm Desert is overshadowed by its glitzier cousin to the west, Palm Springs, and locals and visitors in the know are probably just fine with that. Home to upscale shopping and fine dining and surrounded by the dramatic desert landscape that distinguishes the Coachella Valley, Palm Desert is a calm oasis. It’s not uncommon to see a golf cart — street legal here — in someone’s driveway instead of a car. The country club set lives at a slower pace, tooling around to the many marquee golf courses the city has to offer or heading to the Shops on El Paseo for luxury retail therapy. But don’t think Palm Desert is only for upscale tastes — it’s also known for its natural beauty in the form of wildflower blooms and desert gardens.
Palm Springs International Airport (PSP), which receives a mix of year-round and seasonal flights, is about 12 miles from Palm Desert. The closest major airport is Los Angeles International (LAX), at 138 miles away. A rental car is your best option for getting around Palm Desert and the Coachella Valley, although for nights on the town you can easily find taxis and rideshares. You can also hop on a SunLine bus, which services communities throughout the valley and makes stops in Palm Desert.
March through May in Palm Desert are sublime, with temperatures ranging from the high 60s to low 80s Fahrenheit. Temperatures quickly spike into the 80s and 90s — with occasional forays into the triple digits — June through September. From October through February, those looking to avoid chilly weather in other locales will enjoy temperatures in the mid 70s, although the temperature has been known to dip into the 40s during winter months. If visiting in the summer, pack breathable clothes that will be forgiving in hot weather, and during winter months pack layers.
This trail’s former name was the more demure Mirage Trail, but the descriptive moniker won out, probably because this moderate hike into the mountains will get your heart rate up as you climb 523 feet. Your three-mile trek starts unceremoniously behind the Desert Crossing Shopping Center, where you’ll enter the trail on Painters Path — but you leave civilization behind as you hike further on. Along the way you’ll be rewarded with sweeping views of the Coachella Valley floor and, during spring, wildflowers.
This picturesque municipal course is home to two 18-hole golf courses, Firecliff and Mountain View. A respected golf architect, known for his environmentally friendly approach, designed both, and the grounds are landscaped with native plants and fed with reclaimed water. Lots of bunkers make the courses challenging while also reducing the need for water. So no matter how well you play, you can take some solace in having shown respect for the local terrain.
This free outdoor sculpture garden, located in the Eric Johnson Memorial Gardens at the Palm Springs Art Museum in Palm Desert, features artists from the museum’s permanent collection in a beautifully landscaped desert oasis.