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Escape to Palm Springs

tahquitz canyon

By Kevin Perry

If you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life, Palm Springs is the perfect place for you. Serenity has cemented our city as the ideal place to wash away your worries. Rejuvenate at a perfect pace unparalleled by any other getaway. Palm Springs is the pinnacle of escapism.

History of a Healthy Escape

Relaxation bubbles up from deep within our landscape… literally.

Natural hot springs put Palm Springs on the map.  They were discovered by the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians who have lived in the area for centuries. Agua Caliente means “hot water.” The springs are a vital part of their culture, and they believe that the water has healing properties. In the 1900’s, health seekers from all over the world began flocking to Palm Springs to experience the benefits of the hot springs. They would stay at Welwood Murray’s Palm Springs Hotel and enjoy the hot water he had leased from the Indians.

agua-caliente-hot-springs first bathhouse 1910 pshs
First bathhouse, 1910. Credit: Palm Springs Historical Society.

Nellie Coffman stayed at the Palm Springs Hotel in 1908, and while she liked the visit, she thought she could provide much better accommodations, so she purchased the Desert In in 1909. She, her husband Dr. Harry Coffman, and two sons, transformed the Desert Inn into a restorative respite for those suffering tuberculosis, asthma and arthritis. However, as medicine advances and cures for tuberculosis are found, Nellie converts her Desert Inn into more of a luxury resort.  Your stay included your meals, and Nellie was a great cook. Guests who escaped to Palm Springs loved it and spread the news of their great stays at the Desert Inn.  It became increasingly popular by the wealthy, social elite, and famous stars of Hollywood. She would later add an Olympic size pool, expand the dining room and add more rooms. [This was located in the blocks that surround the Kimpton Rowan Hotel]

She would be a major influence on Palm Springs until her death.

Earl Coffman, Nellie Coffman and George Roberson circa 1926. PHOTO COURTESY PALM SPRINGS HISTORICAL SOCIETY
Earl Coffman, Nellie Coffman and George Roberson circa 1926.

Hollywood Escapes

El Mirador Hotel is later opened which also helped put the town on the map as a Hollywood destination. The relaxed atmosphere and natural beauty of the area appealed to many stars, who began spending time there both to work and to play.  The Racquet Club would later open and cement Palm Springs as Hollywood’s Playground.  It became a welcoming wonderland of celebrity activity. Hollywood stars could escape to Palm Springs from the hustle and bustle of Tinseltown and enjoy some rest and relaxation. The town was also convenient for stars who were working on films in nearby Los Angeles.

Superstars like Rudolph Valentino, Rock Hudson and Cary Grant could shed their pretense and live their respective truths, if only for a glorious weekend.

Palm Springs is an escape in every sense of the word. You can get away from judgment, you can get away from obligation, and you can get away from the everyday… let us count the ways.

Rock Hudson at the Racquet Club
Rock Hudson at the Racquet Club

Escape on Horseback

In addition to the fact that silver screen legends have lived in our hometown since the advent of cinema, we also embrace the best that film has to offer. As Westerns ruled the box office, Palm Springs became a living, breathing movie set filled with cowpokes and stallions. Walt Disney owned a home in Smoke Tree Ranch before he opened Disneyland.  Later, personalities like Gene Autry continued to establish Palm Springs as a western theme aesthetic, and nowhere is that legacy more vibrant than at Smoke Tree Stables.

walt disney at smoketree
Mr. and Mrs. Walt Disney looking at building plans for their home in Smoke Tree Ranch.

With a variety of tours and rides available there’s something for everyone at Smoke Tree Stables. From scenic desert rides through Andreas Canyon to educational tours about the area’s history and wildlife, your sure to have a memorable experience on horseback. “In terms of scenery, it’s spectacular,” declares stable operator Stacey Johnson. But the beauty of the trails extend from visual grandeur into an all-consuming escape for the soul.

“Horses tend to mirror our own behaviors,” she continues. “So people get to experience their behaviors in real time. And it also offers them an opportunity to sort of reflect and then maybe make some adjustments that they’re noticing while working with the horses.”

smoke tree ranch Horseback-riding

Off the Beaten Path

There are many modes of transportation that can take you from the ordinary to the extraordinary. Red Jeep Tours provide an open-air passport from the comfort of Palm Springs to the majesty of Joshua Tree, Indian Canyons and the San Andreas Fault, just to name a few options.

desert adventures red jeep tours

Explore the iconography that defines the northern ridge of town with the help of Palm Springs Windmill Tours. Get up close and powerful with the turbines that keep Coachella Valley running strong. Snap selfies, ask questions, and elevate your escapist experience! Or ascend even further into the stratosphere with Skywatcher Star Tours, a guided experience that brings the cosmos into sharp focus through a uniquely PS lens.

Palms Springs Windmill Farm

Now that you’ve gazed at the galaxies, bring your perspective back down to earth for Five Star Adventures. You’ll be whisked away to a mid-modern wonderland of architectural excellence and celebrity gossip. Cavort with the likes of Lucille Ball, Liberace, Elvis and Marilyn as you walk in their glittery footsteps in an escape from reality. It’s unreal!

Bikes, Hikes and Likes!

Woven around the celebrity esteem of Palm Springs, you’ll find a maze of amazement. Cycling paths criss-cross our city, lending safety and possibility to your visit. Flex your pedal power with some help from Bike Palm Springs, a retro rental house stocked with vintage wheels. Choose your color and color yourself impressed! Even the storefront of this local landmark is Insta-worthy. Pose with your besties before setting off on a traditional ride OR upgrade your journey with an electric bike. Zap to it!  Here’s a self-guided bike tour through South Palm Springs.

Two women on bikes in front of home

If hiking is more your speed, step up to the majestic mountain trails perched just at the edge of downtown. Tahquitz Canyon, for example, boasts tribal art along the rock walls. The fascinating etchings usher you to a seasonal waterfall, so plan your trip and plan for transcendence and be sure to bring water. You can also wing it with a birdwatching trek to Andreas Canyon or go green with the verdant views of Murray Canyon, both in Indian Canyons.

No matter which path you choose, you’ll be a Social Butterfly in no time. Post your pics and share your escape with all of your (envious) followers!

several palm trees

A Pampered Escape

Looking to relax and rejuvenate? What better way than to unwind and be pampered at a spa day.  From luxury resorts to serene day spas, there’s something for everyone looking to pamper themselves.  Weather you’re looking for a massage, a facial, or just some time to unwind in a tub, you’ll find it all here.

The St. Somewhere Spa at Margaritaville is full-service and perfect for those seeking a spa with a more relaxed, yet modern feel. The Estrella Spa at the Avalon is an excellent choice for those looking for a spa with a more unique setting. The Palm Springs Yacht Club at The Parker is a luxury spa that offers a variety of services, including massages, facials, and body treatments. The spa also features a sauna, steam room, and pool.

St. Somewhere Spa
St. Somewhere Spa

And don’t forget pool time!

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