Travelling to Palm Springs on a Budget
By Bill Malcolm
You can’t beat Palm Springs, Calif., for a winter trip. Nestled against the snow covered mountains, you can be walking around in the desert, where it is 80 degrees.
I took the United Airlines non-stop to San Francisco then connected on a regional jet into Palm Springs. The fare was just $200 and I was there by noon local time. You are on an Airbus 320 to SFO and the service is top notch. (The state of Indiana subsidizes the route so please take it. The state guarantees United a certain revenue amount).
On the way back I went through Dallas on American Airlines for a similar fare.
Although Palm Springs is just 2 hours from Los Angeles (105 miles) and also close to San Diego (140 miles) (and less than that from Ontario, CA or Orange County airports), it’s not worth fighting the Southland freeways (plus I didn’t rent a car) although there are nonstops into LAX.
However, you can also visit LA and San Diego very easily on your trip to Palm Springs if you do. However, Southland traffic is not for the faint of heart.
Southwest, American, and Delta all go nonstop from Indy into LAX.
Where to stay
There are lots of options here. Budget lovers (like me) enjoy the Motel 6 Downtown (complete with pool). It’s a steal and you can walk to downtown and the Starbucks in next door. There’s a gourmet deli across the street.
Other options include the Courtyard by Marriott, the Ace Hotel and Swim Club, and the Warm Sands area resorts.
Hipsters will like the New Arrive Hotel (1551 N. Palm Canyon) with a courtyard pool and the very good Reservoir Restaurant. (www.arrivehotels.com)
The Embassy Suites in La Quinta is another option if you have a car although it is a bit of a hike from Palm Springs.
What to Do
Your first stop is the Aerial Tramway which takes you on a tram 2.5 miles up to the top of the mountains. You go up to 8,516 feet to Mt. San Jacinto through four climate zones. Bring a jacket since it is 30 degrees cooler. You can have lunch at the top. Nearby Joshua Tree National Monument is always nice to see the Yucca “trees” and spring wildflowers.
First time visitors will want to check out the Indian Canyons, a Palm tree oasis in the desert mountains.
Thursday nights they close the streets for the downtown Palm Springs art fair.
I swam daily at the Palm Springs Swim Center for $5. Lap swim hours are 5:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. It’s a short walk from downtown. (For details, phone 760-328-8278) You can also swim with the adult masters group, Piranha Pride (piranhaswimteam.org).
The Frontrunners meet at Sunrise Park on Ramon at 8 a.m. for a run or walk. It’s a great way to meet the locals. The Great Outdoors hiking club is another option.
LaQuinta (the town, not the hotel)
I also stayed in nearby LaQuinta, which has an Art Fair in their downtown square Saturdays and a farmers market on Sundays.
It’s a cute village, home to the Waldorf Astoria LaQuinta Resort. This was a movie star retreat and has been re-done into a posh resort with numerous pools, a golf course, and more. They also have a very good Mexican restaurant on the grounds. The Embassy Suites La Quinta is excellent.
I took the SunLine bus, which goes everywhere. The No. 30 bus will soon serve the airport (and three bus lines already go near it). The fare is just $1.
The Commuter Link 220 even connects to Metrolink in Riverside which can take you into L.A. Yes this is Southern California so it is easier to rent a car and drive around. Unfortunately, they don’t have a shared bike rental program yet so biking can be problematical.
Where to Eat
I liked the Fresh Juice Bar PS where (as the name says) you can get fresh juices and other healthy options.
As I mentioned, the new restaurant at the Arrive Hotel is very good.
Many of the bars are downtown on Arena Avenue. My favorite is the video bar, Hunters.
Note that December and January can be cooler, so if you are looking for hot weather, February and March are better bets.
You’ll love Palm Springs so much you will want to make frequent visits or even retire there. Many have moved from the Bay Area and Seattle for that reason.
For more information, pick up a copy of the Daily Desert Guide (or read it online), check out www.PSMAP.net or www.visitPalmSprings.com.