"The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page." - Saint Augustine
Julie Kawaguchi Tourism Development Manager
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February 2024: There are probably many of you like myself, who has felt an overwhelming sense of peace when looking up at a star filled sky. But did you know that research shows that stargazing is actually good for your mental health and well being? Studies show that stargazing reduces feelings of stress, anxiety and depression, it reconnects you with nature, inspires creativity, and improves sleep. Stargazing is even said to make you kinder!
We are lucky to have 4 amazing stargazing areas around GPS that would make a good day trip or side trip. These areas have been designated by the International Dark-sky Association as "official dark sky parks and communities": Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Joshua Tree National Park, Death Valley National Park, and the community of Borrego Springs. These areas offer unbelievably beautiful views of the night sky. You can see constellations, star clusters, and distant galaxies. Locally for stargazing enthusiasts we also have the Rancho Mirage Library and Observatory you can visit.
This is sure to be an experience that will have you coming back time and time again!
January 2024: Who would have guessed that the fastest growing sport in the United States for the past five years is pickleball?! Before my first encounter with pickleball last week, I would not have believed it. Pickleball was invented in 1965, and the first known tournament was in 1976, but it seems only recently that I started hearing about the sport. Pickleball is popular in the United States, and although the number of players in 2022 doubled to 8.9 million, it is not as well known in other countries yet. It is said that the reason why pickleball is so popular is that it is easy to pick up, it is social, and you can play it without being in great shape. I became a "pickler" for the first time last week when I had a group visiting from Japan. I can attest that the three reasons why the sport is so popular is true.
The group I was hosting had never heard of pickleball before, but within minutes of the clinic with Jim Leupold, the Director of Tennis at the JW Marriott Desert Springs, we were already playing a simple round robin tournament, laughing a lot, and having a great time. If you are looking to try pickleball, Greater Palm Springs has plenty of courts to play on....come and find your "pickleball oasis"!
November 2023: Greater Palm Springs is a foodie's dream destination. There are so many great food finds, from food trucks, holes in the walls to fine dining and everything in between. Greater Palm Springs is home to 8 Michelin-recommended restaurants: 4 Saints, Bar Cecil, Boozehounds, Cheeky’s, Colony Club, Tac/Quila, The Barn Kitchen at Sparrows Lodge, and the Workshop Kitchen and Bar. I recently had the opportunity to try The Barn Kitchen at Sparrows Lodge. Walking past the misters spraying cool water by the lounge chairs around the pool, you come upon the small “Barn Kitchen” which also serves as the check-in spot. The communal dining area showcases simple cuisine that utilizes fresh local ingredients. Whether you are spending several days in town or just driving to the destination to eat good food, as foodies do, you will find what you are looking for in Greater Palm Springs!
October 2023: I found a new favorite hiking trail in Joshua Tree National Park! I got the hiking bug earlier this year, and am still a beginner hiker, but I wanted to share a new find. The Barker Dam trail is a 1.1-mile (1.8km) loop trail. It is not only a popular trail for its scenery, but also for its historic elements. Although it was after the summer season, I found many cute yellow, white and orange flowers still blooming, and the greenery was lush. Towards the end of the hike, you will come across the Barker Dam which showed the remnants of early ranching efforts. At the end of the trail, you will also see various rock art which depicts the story of human history at the site. The park ranger also told us that on this trail, there are many sightings of Big Horn Sheep due to the lush vegetation. We were not able to see one, but keep your eyes out, since they blend into the rock formations.
Three trails completed in the park, and about 25 more to experience! Let's go!
September 2023: If you get inspiration through cool art, architecture, and design, Greater Palm Springs is definitely for you! I recently had the opportunity to take some guests on the Palm Springs Mod Squad Architecture and Design Tour. They became instant fans of all things related to mid-century modern architecture, design, and lifestyle, and asked me to show them more. After a visit to the SHAG Store to view some Greater Palm Springs lifestyle art, we went on a self-driven exterior tour of more mid-century modern architecture homes and ended the day with a visit to the Palm Springs Architecture and Design Center. The Architecture and Design Center, Edward Harris Pavilion is housed in a classic midcentury structure design which was once the Santa Fe Federal Savings and Loan. They feature exhibits for 6 months at a time, rotating between architecture and design elements. When we visited, the exhibit was "Eso es la vida/This is life: Graphic Design from Mexico."A couple of hours should be enough to enjoy this museum. Be sure to stop by the museum store, a part of which is inside the original vault of the bank. The store is filled with neat gifts and books for everyone to enjoy.
August 2023: I am a foodie at heart, and love to find yummy food wherever I travel. Many would agree that sometimes the best food can be found in unexpected places.
I go through phases, and my current quest is finding delicious sandwiches. Greater Palm Springs has quite a few famous spots, but I was lucky to find a hidden gem right in Palm Desert, called The Lunch Spot. It is a very small shop tucked away in an area surrounded by car repair shops. After studying their menu, and a lot of internal debate, I decided on the #14, “The House,” and their homemade chicken salad. While waiting for my order, a person sitting at one of the tables came up to the counter and was talking to the staff that the sandwich she had was the best she had ever had. I must agree that their sandwich was delicious. There are many great dining options in Greater Palm Springs, but if you happen to be in Palm Desert, or driving out to Joshua Tree, these sandwiches will make a great picnic lunch! Bon Appetit!
July 2023: Experience something unique in Greater Palm Springs this summer with a visit to the Lavender Festival. Just a 35-minute drive from Palm Springs, the 19th Annual Lavender Festival takes place at the 123 Farm in Cherry Valley. Explore two organic lavender fields, and indulge in lavender-inspired food, drinks, and desserts while enjoying live music. From lavender lemonade and cheesecake to ice cream and smoked brisket infused with lavender, there's a wide range of culinary delights to try. The festival offers diverse activities such as lavender distillation demonstrations, guided tractor tours, a tea room, lavender wand making, sourdough bread halls, and more. Don't miss the indigenous garden and winery tours on weekends. Browse through shops and galleries selling lavender products and 123 Farm merchandise. Hurry, as the festival ends on July 23rd, but mark your calendar for upcoming events like Lavender Nights (August 24 - October 29), Christmas Nights at 123 Farm (November 9 - January 7), the Sourdough Bread Festival (February 17 - March 3, 2024), and the Sheep Shearing Festival (March 23 - March 31, 2024).
June 2023: On my visit to The Integratron a long-awaited destination on my travel list, I was captivated by its unique shape and famous "sound baths." As I delved into its history, my fascination grew.
The Integratron was created by George Van Tassel, who claimed he received telepathic instructions from aliens after being abducted aboard a UFO. Combining these extraterrestrial insights with Nikola Tesla's works and Moses' Tabernacle design, Van Tassel brought The Integratron to life. Despite skepticism surrounding Van Tassel's alien claims, the all-wood structure stands out. With dimensions of 38 feet in height and 55 feet in width, it is constructed without nails or screws and even survived a 7.3 magnitude earthquake in 1992. Today, The Integratron is renowned for its hour-long "sound baths." These sessions feature a brief introduction, followed by live performances on 20 quartz crystal singing bowls and recorded ambient music. It's an indescribable experience that leaves your mind and body completely relaxed. A few interesting tidbits: The Integratron was primarily funded by donations, including contributions from Howard Hughes. In 2019, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Surprisingly, there were even plans to turn the building into a disco after Van Tassel's passing!
May 2023: Did you know that Greater Palm Springs is known as the “Date Capitol of the World,” and supplies about 90% of the dates grown in the United States? So, it comes as no surprise that experiencing a date shake is on most visitors’ to-do lists while visiting. There are many places where you can find different versions of the shake in the area, and Shields Date Garden in Indio is one of the most popular. The date shake had a sweet nutty flavor which is a nice surprise. While at Shields, you can walk through their 17-acre date farm and botanical garden, stop in at their Café at Shields for a bite to eat, and shop for everything “date” in their gift shop. They even have a film that explains the process of date cultivation. A fun fact is that there are hundreds of varieties of dates, and they are a superfood packed with numerous vitamins and fiber. Shields Date Garden was listed on Palm Springs Life Magazines' Best of the Best list in 2022, so be sure to stop in!
April 2023: What a great time for hiking in Greater Palm Springs! The flowers are in bloom, the weather is perfect, and the recent rains have gifted us with such lush scenery. This destination is well known for its abundance of outdoor activities, but I was surprised to learn the actual number and variety of trails to choose from. Over a hundred in fact! I I recently had the opportunity to take a group to experience a hike in Joshua Tree National Park with a professional guide from the Desert Institute. It was my first time hiking with a guide. Everyone in the group agreed that guides can give you so much information and history about the park which gives us a deeper appreciation of our surroundings. I have the hiking bug now, I am already planning my next hike—a ride up the Palm Springs Aerial Tram to the trails on Mount San Jacinto. Hope to see you on the trails in this hiking oasis!
March 2023: I always feel excited when I discover an interesting destination, restaurant, or shop that I can share with friends. I heard about the Galleta Meadows Estate. Sprinkled throughout the city of Borrego Springs (approximately 1.5 hours from Palm Springs) there are over 130 metal sculptures that were created by the artist/welder Ricardo Breceda. The amazing sculptures that pop up against the desert backdrop are a must-see! If you are planning a day trip from Greater Palm Springs in late February to March, how about an afternoon of metal sculpture finding after hiking and seeing the blooms in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park? Or perhaps going star gazing after sculpture hunting? The Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is officially designated as a dark-sky park. For a map of the sculptures, you can stop by the Anza Borrego Visitor Centre. On my first trip, I was able to see 16 and looking forward to taking more trips to eventually see all 130! If you happen to be driving home on the 79, past the 74 turnoff, you can also stop by Ricardo Breceda’s Art Gallery.
November 2022: "Omiyage” is a Japanese tradition of buying local products as gifts for friends, family, and coworkers when returning from a trip. The custom is deeply rooted in Japanese culture, and it has become a personal habit for many who practice it. I made it a point to find unique omiyage every time I travel, such as reusable bags, spices, flavored popcorn, and sports goods.
I recently visited the Moorten Botanical Garden in Greater Palm Springs, a small family-owned living museum that houses over 3,000 varieties of cacti and other desert plants. The garden, which opened in 1938, is a historic landmark and features winding paths lined with different desert plant regions, a bird sanctuary, wildlife feeding areas, and a cactarium that houses rare plants and cacti. I was thrilled to discover that the garden sells cacti and pottery made by local artisans, perfect for an omiyage gift.
Other insider tips for omiyage searchers in Greater Palm Springs include Brandini Toffee goods, date crystals or the date sampler pack from Shields Date Farm, Palm Springs Life reusable shopping bags, and miniature modern architecture homes tissue boxes from Destination Palm Springs. The Moorten Botanical Garden is an ideal destination for those looking to unwind and enjoy the unique desert scenery while also finding the perfect local gift to bring back home. The garden also serves as a venue for weddings, art exhibitions, and special events.