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Palm Springs

Palm Springs is the best known city in the desert and one of the oldest.  Its celebrity heritage was the highlight of its history and in recent years has had a rebirth as the mid-century architecture developed during that time has become renowned for cultural significance and historically worthy of site preservationists. Many of these celebrity homes and architecturally significant homes reside in the multitude of identity worthy neighborhoods such as: Las Palmas, Little Tuscany, The Movie Colony, Deepwell, Smoke Tree, and more.  Its home to Desert Hospital and the Palm Springs International airport, one of the few substantial yet still quaint airports in the world where you can disembark from the plane onto the tarmac. The Palm Springs Public Golf Course, now Tahquitz Creek Golf Resort, hosts two 18 hole courses: the Legends Course and Tahquitz Creek. The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway takes you to the ridges of Mount San Jacinto which looms over the western border of the city providing spectacular views of tall fir tree lined cliffs overlooking the city and its downtown is a quaint collection of singular retail shops and restaurants. On Thirsday the main street, Palm Canyon Drive, is closed for about a 5-6 block length and street vendors, food booths and musicians make the downtown a very lively place. But if you just want to go downtown and look around, make sure and allow time for a drink at the bar at Las Casuelas and/or The Village Pub. Both have live bands and an excellent atmosphere worthy of a full evening all to themselves and your special someone. The city is bordered on the east by Cathedral City, to the north by the Cahuilla Indian Reservation (Home to some of the wealthiest Indians in the country and the first tribe in California to own 2 casinos. One of which is downtown Palm Springs.) The city’s boundaries also reach far to the south beyond Interstate 10 and well into the Wind Turbine area. About half of the windmills are in the city of Palm Springs.

Rancho Mirage

Rancho Mirage has always been known as “The Playground of Presidents” and rightfully so. Thunderbird Country club was the home of former President Gerald Ford for several decades and for the longest time every President I can remember spent New Years Eve at Walter Annenberg’s Estate (Owner of a huge media empire, including TV Guide). Most homes are behind high security guarded walls in this city. It is a bedroom community of some of the more expensive homes in the desert. Yet in more recent years it has gone a bit more mainstream, allowing the building of many affordable, yet incredibly nice developments. It also, a few years back, built my most favorite shopping and entertainment center where my husband and I spend most of our “date nights” out to catch dinner and a movie. The River is a beautiful complex with half a dozen great restaurants. My personal favorite is Acqua Pazza, which has the best outdoor patio seating directly in front of the large lake which is the focal point of the center. From the seats there we get great sunsets over rugged jagged rock strewn desert mountains and a forefront view of a cityscape as the cars buzz at a comfortable distance away along Highway 111. The stores are all quaint high end boutiques. My husband calls it “shopping light” but there is a Borders Books (where he spends all his time), some art galleries, a wine shop which gives taste samples, beauty stores, clothing stores and a jewelry store. It’s just enough shopping, dining and movies for an adult evening of real fun. The city sits due east of Cathedral City and on the western border of Palm Desert.

Cathedral City

Cathedral City is one of the larger cities in the desert, located on the eastern border of Palm Springs and the western border of Rancho Mirage and has many moderate priced homes. The southern city limits embraces what is called the Cathedral City cove and to the north is Interstate 10. Many tradesman type businesses make up the business sections of the city: i.e. The Cathedral City Auto Center, Perez Road (Many of the deserts best metal, wood, textile, printing and import/export shops) Big Box Discount Stores, Latino Grocery Stores, and several of the valleys largest thrift shops. The downtown core of Cathedral City is an area with room for a major developer to complete its identity. Currently it has the Mary Pickford Theater at one end of a 4-5 block area and the IMAX theater at the other, with City Hall, a beautifully fountained park and a large bell tower located at its center.

Palm Desert

Palm Desert is the central city in the desert for location, shopping and culture. In my opinion it is the best run city in the desert too. The city budget is large and balance and most years there is a surplus in the city’s general fund. This means that the community center is always well staffed, the basketball courts and parks are well maintained and there’s never a shortage of city sponsored activities, like concerts and movies in the park. The homes here are upscale and vary from country club lifestyles to traditional single family residences to condominiums and apartments. The College of the Desert is a beautiful community college campus which offers a plethora of classes, hosts a weekend Street Fair and is home to the Bob Hope Cultural Center and McCallum Theatre. The city has some of the highest rated schools in the state and  also has the first new University in California in I don’t know how many years. Its currently under the supervision and an extension of UC San Bernardino but its highly likely that sometime in the near future it’ll become the University of California at Palm Desert. The largest Mall (Westfield Shopping Town Center) is located in the heart of the city and the nicest public Golf Course (Desert Willow) is home to Palm Desert too.

Indian Wells

Indian Wells is the home of the wealthiest desert residents on a per square mile basis. Most homes here are behind security guarded gated walls. It is also home to the Tennis Gardens, a deluxe outdoor tournament facility unlike any other venue in the desert which hosts the BNP Paribas Tennis Open in March.

Bermuda Dunes

Bermuda Dunes is a bedroom community bordering the eastern boundary of Palm Desert and the western edge of Indio. It is primarily known for the Bermuda Dunes Country Club, a very large golf course community with several sub-developments within the larger country club. This city is primarily accessed by Washington Drive(the main route for shopping and dining in the area) which runs the length of the city between Interstate 10 and Highway 111. There is also a small executive airport in the northern section of the city.

La Quinta

La Quinta is family land. It has the great 3+ bedroom large homes on good sized lots and in my opinion has the most kids per square mile of any city in the desert. At one time, this city was known only for the La Quinta Resort, one of the deserts oldest hotel/country club destinations and then more recently PGA West all surrounded by spectacular mountain views. But these days, it has big box shopping stores, a great school district, and nice restaurants. It’s directly adjacent to the eastern border of Indian Wells and West of indio.

Indio
Indio is a very good location for the value conscious home buyer. The Indian Palms Country club, home to one of the deserts first golf courses, is a great place to find affordable fairway frontage homes and the Northern section of the city, across interstate 10, has many of the newest and largest homes bult in the desert and at the best prices. Not all areas of the city are comparable to the rest of the valley as Indio has a large farming community too. But this aspect also gives rise to some great horse properties, especially near the Polo Grounds.

Greater Palm Springs Area Sights & Sounds

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

About the Aerial Tramway
PALM SPRINGS, CA – The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, constructed in the rugged Chino Canyon on the north edge of Palm Springs, did not just happen. It required foresight, planning, financing and, most of all, vision.
As a young electrical engineer, Francis Crocker’s dream began in 1935 while he was on a trip to Banning, California, with newspaper publisher Carl Barkow. Mopping his brow in the heat of the day, Crocker gazed at the still snow-capped peak of Mount San Jacinto 10,834 feet elevation and longed to “go up there where it’s nice and cool”. At that moment, “Crocker’s Folly,” as it was soon dubbed by one newspaperwoman, was born – a tramway up the sheer cliffs of Chino Canyon.

Palm Springs Tram history listing the aid of desert pioneer and co-manager of the famed Palm Springs Desert Inn, O. Earl Coffman, Crocker’s dream became a plan.
Even though the enthusiasm for the tramway idea was high locally, political roadblocks caused numerous disappointing setbacks. Twice, a tramway enabling bill passed the California State Legislature, only to be vetoed by then-Governor Culvert Olson. With the outbreak of World War II, the plans were postponed.

However, Crocker’s vision of a tramway to scale those cliffs to the coolness of the San Jacinto Mountains never died. Years after the original plans were shelved, they were dusted off and the battle began anew.

In 1945, a new tram bill was passed and Governor Earl Warren signed the measure creating the Mount San Jacinto Winter Park Authority. Coffman, who had labored long and hard to see the vision realized, was named the Authority’s first chairman and Crocker was named the first secretary.

Palm Springs Tram HistoryBy 1950, technicians were moving ahead on designs for the tramway, spending more than $250,000 solving riddles of road and tower construction. Funds for the construction of the Tramway were raised by the sale of $8.15 million in private revenue bonds. Culver Nichols, who donated the land for the Valley Station and parking lots, helped stretch the funds raised. Not one cent of public funds was used for either the construction or operation of the Tramway. The 35-year bonds were successfully paid off in 1996.
The Korean War was to cause another delay, but the ambitious project began to take form in July 1961.

Construction of the Tramway was an engineering challenge and was soon labeled the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” The superlative was earned because of the ingenious use of helicopters in erecting four of the five supporting towers. Twenty-years later, the Tramway was designated a historical civil engineering landmark.

Palm Springs Tram HistoryThe first tower is the only one that can be reached by road. The helicopters flew some 23,000 missions during the 26 months of construction, hauling men and materials needed to erect the four other towers and the 35,000 sq. ft. Mountain Station.
Francis Crocker’s dream was completed in 1963; the inaugural ride occurred on September 12th of that year with local and state dignitaries, and celebrities on hand.

Crocker rode the Tramway numerous times and fellow passengers often would receive a narration from him as they rode up to “where it was nice and cool.” Francis Crocker died in 1992.

In 1998, the Tramway announced that it was embarking on an ambitious modernization program that would see the construction and installation of new cars and an update of its facilities. Beginning in September 2000, passengers first rode the world’s largest rotating tramcars.

Since 1963, over 20 million people have traveled the 10-minute, 2.5-mile ride, which begins at the Valley Station (elevation 2,643 feet) and ends at the Mountain Station (elevation 8,516 feet).

The Living Desert

About The Living Desert
The Living Desert was established in 1970 by several trustees of the Palm Springs Desert Museum who foresaw the impact that resort development would have on their local desert ecosystem. This foresight led to an interpretive nature trail and preserve in Palm Desert. Among the trustees was Philip L. Boyd who also founded the Riverside campus of the University of California and the Deep Canyon Research Station in Palm Desert. Among his first tasks was to hire a resident naturalist. This person turned out to be a young woman with energy, intelligence and ambition, as well as experience as a zoo keeper and park ranger, plus graduate work in wildlife biology.ings.

The McCallum Theatre

About the McCallum Theatre
In May 1973, a group of Coachella Valley business, education and cultural leaders organized as Friends of the Cultural Center, Inc. and committed themselves to the creation of a state-of-the-art performing arts center.  Their vision was to enhance and enrich the lives of Palm Springs & Palm Desert residents by making the performing arts available to as many people as possible.  Fundraising began in earnest with thirteen sold-out performances by Fred Waring. By 1984, local developer Terry Hahn contributed $1 million to the project and Gerald Ford became part of the board of directors. Ford, in turn, convinced Bob Hope to contribute to the project.

 

Vision became reality in January 1988, with the opening of McCallum Theatre.  Opening night was an all-star tribute to Hope. According to Palm Springs Life, Van Cliburn inaugurated the Steinway piano. Lucille Ball had guests teary-eyed from laughing. Alvin Ailey dancers put their best feet forward and Sarah Brightman sang a tune from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera a month before it opened on Broadway.  In the audience that night were Ronald and Nancy Reagan,Gerald and Betty Ford, Walter and Leonore Annenberg, and many other notable VIPs.

 

Named for a pioneering desert family, the McCallum has gained acclaim as one of the country’s finest presenting theaters by audiences, entertainers and peers alike.  Ticket sales consistently place the McCallum in the top 50 theaters in the world.  Education programs have served more than 400,000 local schoolchildren, educators and community members, while top entertainers praise the venue and its audiences.

PALM SPRINGS WEATHER

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