LAY OF THE LAND
The desert resort town of Palm Springs is situated in what was once the purely Native American stomping ground of the Coachella Valley. The desert valley, which extends for approximately 45 miles southeast from Southern California's San Bernardino Mountains, is home to eight other cities including Palm Desert, Indian Wells, and Desert Hot Springs. But Palm Springs, sheltered by the Little San Bernardino Mountains to the north, the Santa Rosa Mountains to the south, and the San Jacinto Mountains to the west, is the desert's largest and, thanks to its storied Hollywood past, best known oasis. At its heart is Palm Canyon Drive, the main drag where you'll find most of the city's galleries, shops, and restaurants. Slightly north of the city center is The Movie Colony area (a.k.a. TMC) named for the celebs (Cary Grant, Jack Benny and Marilyn Monroe) who frolicked there between the 1930s and 1960s. These days, TMC is enjoying a remodeling renaissance, and has recently debuted several new hotels including the Colony Palms and the Indian Manor. Further north is the ritzy residential Racquet Club area, which also catered to Hollywood bigwigs back in the day. To the south you'll find the popular Indian Canyon hiking trails, striped with running streams and plenty of indigenous flora and fauna.
WHEN TO GO
Nicknamed America's Mediterranean, Palm Springs's balmy temperatures make it a good year-round destination. High season is January through April, when the weather is most comfortable and wildflowers are in bloom (though bring a jacket: The desert can get quite cold at night). Temperatures average in the triple digits all summer. If you plan to take advantage of low-season deals, remember it can get pretty hot, but at least it's a dry heat.
HOW TO GET THERE
There are direct flights to Palm Springs International Airport from 12 major U.S. cities such as Chicago, Houston, and Seattle (3400 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way; 760-318-3800; www.palmspringsairport.com). Most long-haul travelers must fly into Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and either catch a connecting flight to Palm Springs or drive the 107 miles east to the ritzy desert oasis. Hotels operate free shuttles to and from the airport, which is about two miles from downtown.
Palm Springs is easily navigated on foot but if you're planning to visit shops, restaurants, and nightspots in neighboring cities, rent a car. After all, no one walks in California.
The Palm Springs Official Visitors Information Center
2901 N. Palm Canyon Drive
Tel: 760 778 8418
This visitors center has maps, brochures, and a hotel reservation service.
Palm Springs Desert Resorts Convention & Visitors Authority
70100 Highway 111
Tel: 760 770 9000