An almost mythical land, lionized on the big screen ever since the movies were young, the California Desert (actually made up of at least three main deserts, the Mojave, the Colorado and the Great Basin) is a place of grandeur. Mountains tower, sand dunes are cast in great shifting swathes, and volcanic springs bubble up from deep underground. The desert is a magnet for free spirits, who drove in along historic Route 66 and dropped out to live a life of spirituality and seclusion under the ever-present sun. It’s also home to desert cities such as Palm Springs, where golf courses, swimming pools, and spas have been pampering vacationers since the golden boys and girls of Hollywood made it their playground back in the 1930s. So whether you seek sun-soaked R&R or enlightening exploration, jump in your automobile and hit the road.
Joshua Tree, immortalized on the cover of the 1987 U2 album of the same name, is perhaps the most famous of California’s desert State Parks. Named after the twisted, spiky and frankly downright weird-looking palm tree that is rarely found outside the Mojave Desert, it is home to specimens said to be several hundred years old, some reaching a height of 60 feet. Spanning almost 800,000 acres, this huge park is made up of the dryer, sparser Colorado Desert to the east, and the sandy plains and monolithic rock formations of the Mojave to the west. A $25 car pass will grant you access to the whole lot for a full seven-day week, giving you plenty of time to drive and hike your way across the Wild West terrain, dodging rattlesnakes and spotting desert tortoises, antelopes, and coyote.
The sculpted forms of the Wonderland of Rocks are a breath-taking introduction to the artistic skills of Mother Nature, while a half-hour drive away you’ll find a wonderfully leftfield example of man’s efforts. The Noah Purifoy Outdoor Museum is a fabulous collection of sun-bleached structures scattered across the desert. Alabama-born Purifoy lived here for 15 years before his death in 2004, and the ten acres of sculpture on a giant scale, constructed entirely from junked materials makes an otherworldly arena well worth a visit.
Set against the backdrop of the snow-topped San Jacinto Mountains, the palm-lined pools and mid-century modernist architecture of Palm Springs are instantly recognizable motifs of this quintessential Californian city of leisure. With winter temperatures in the 70s, health-giving hot springs and a burgeoning golf scene, the area was a magnet for Hollywood’s Golden Age movie stars, tied by the so-called ‘two-hour rule’ that meant they had to be available within two hours’ distance of the big studios – which in turn meant nearby Palm Springs was the ideal spot for a quick escape. Loretta Young, Dean Martin, and Frank Sinatra all built swanky vacation homes here, and many others came to stay and play in the stylish new hotels that sprang up to cater to their every moneyed whim. Today the city has the highest concentration of mid-century modern architecture in the world, and these desert modernist buildings with their low-slung profiles, huge glass windows, and clean lines have been restored to cater to a new wave of visitors keen to enjoy their retro flair.
The city also has a thriving art scene, centered around the Palm Springs Art Museum. Founded in 1938, the museum moved several times, until in 1974 it came to rest in its current 150,000 square foot home in the heart of downtown. Its art collection is mostly made up of works either loaned or donated by the city’s many wealthy residents and includes modern and contemporary art, glass, photography, architecture and design and Native American art, with works by Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Henry Moore and Ansel Adams among others.
For less illustrious names but equally visually stimulating works, head to Palm Springs’ Backstreet Art District. This collection of small independent galleries is a great place to visit studios and meet artists at work creating sculptures, photography, jewelry, paintings and more. On the first Wednesday of every month, there’s an evening Art Walk from 5 to 8 pm, where you can sign up to join tours of these boutique businesses.
Strung out along the Route 10 highway, the cities of the Southern California Desert are great places to base yourself when you want to explore the wild beauty of the desert landscape. They’re also welcoming resort cities where you’ll find all the ingredients for a fabulous vacation.
Do you want to make like a movie star in the Golden Age of Hollywood, stretched out on your sun lounger, martini in hand, next to a pool of perfect blue? Well, with our Palm Springs vacation rentals , you can actually sleep where Ol’ Blue Eyes himself once did – the 4-bedroom Twin Palms Sinatra Estate with its piano-shaped pool is just as glamorous as it was in its Fifties heyday. Switch on the vintage audio system, head to the wet bar in the pool house and shake up a storm. If Frank’s pad doesn’t float your boat, we have a whole host of mid-century modern beauties and more to choose from.
Home of the Coachella Music Festival, Indio is known as the City of Festivals – visit almost any time of the year and you’re sure to find something to celebrate. Our Indio vacation rentals are the ideal haven to retreat to once you’ve partied till you can’t party any more. Smooth blue pools surrounded by loungers and essential shade-giving umbrellas, hot tubs to soothe dance-weary legs and huge, super-soft beds for when it’s finally time to hit the sack.
Want to shop, spa, play golf or tennis, hike or just hang by your pool? Our Palm Desert villas give you access to all of the city’s shopping malls, sports facilities and of course the desert right on your doorstep. Choose a villa with panoramic mountain views and all you need for the ideal vacation under the Californian sun. Fire up the barbecue and gather around the fire pit to reflect on another perfect vacation day. Conveniently located just a couple of hour’s drive from bustling L.A., California’s desert cities have all the key ingredients for total relaxation. Year-round hot, dry temperatures make for a golfer’s paradise; an endless portfolio of great courses, such as the Escena Golf Club, are lined with palm trees and mountains in the distance. Our villas in Palm Springs, La Quinta, Indio, Indian Wells and Rancho Mirage feature fully equipped outdoor spaces to bring the comforts of indoors into the open air to take advantage of the climate: comfortable lounge areas, alfresco dining and inviting pools provide the perfect excuse for reading a book poolside all day, followed by feeling the warmth in your outdoor spa under the stars.