As the weather in the city dips further into frozen tundra territory, New Yorkers turn to California as one of their warm getaways. But if you’re looking for a vacation that’s more than just a beach stay, the Palm Springs-Joshua Tree area, located about 100 miles east of Los Angeles, is an ideal spot.
From the minute you get into the city, either by flying into Palm Springs Airport or driving from LAX, which has more flights from New York, you’ll immediately notice the difference in density. Aside from the dozens of resorts and golf courses that are popular among the celebrity crowd, Palm Springs has a suburban feel to its architecture. Many of the homes and shops were constructed in the 1950s and have that retro aesthetic that screams West Coast style.
The main city has its share of fun locales, including art museums, shops and restaurants. The 78-year-old Palm Springs Art Museum (closed Mondays, admission $12.50/adults, $10.50/seniors, $5 students; 101 Museum Drive, 760-322-4800, psmuseum.org) is one of the most famous attractions. It features a variety of artwork, such as Mesoamerican sculptures from ancient tribes that lived in the desert, modern photographs and paintings.
For a West Coast shopping spree, the downtown shopping district, located on Palm Canyon Drive, has more than a dozen independent label clothing stores, a record store, art shops and more.
If you really want to take in the locale, get in a car and head east nearly 40 miles to Joshua Tree National Park (entrance fee $20/seven-day vehicle permit, $10/motorcycle, bicycle and pedestrians). At 792,510 acres, the desert space is bigger than Rhode Island by roughly 20,000 acres. It has two entrances — one in the north, and the other at the south of the park. Park rangers are staffed at visitors centers located just before the entrances, which are just simple car gates, and are knowledgeable guides for the ins and outs of the desert.
Once inside, the sky’s the limit for activities. Walking along the park’s paths, you can check out its fields of cacti, lizards and, of course, Joshua trees. The California drought has prevented newer trees from thriving, but there are still plenty of acres throughout the desert that are rich with the park’s namesake.
There are several hiking trails inside the park, one of the most popular being Indian Cove, which also features a sprawling campground space, perfect for stargazing on a warm night. Joshua Tree has several rock climbing spots and areas where one can boulder anywhere from 10 to 100 feet, too.
Need further inspiration? Park officials hold several events throughout the year, including a monthly full moon walk where hikers can see the night sky in its full glory.