- Business Advocacy
“Get ready to rock and roll!” the smiling attendant announces. “Wheeeeee…” We all cheer as our tram car glides over Tower Number Four, and gently (and safely) sways in the air. I’m riding the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway up one of the world’s steepest cable car inclines to the top of Mt. San Jacinto.
The sky is blue and clear, ideal for enjoying the sweeping panorama of the Coachella Valley that unfolds below. As the floor of the tram slowly turns, my fellow tram passengers and I stand in place admiring the changing vistas of desert and mountains as we rise from 2,643 to 8,516 feet in about 10 minutes.
A must-do since it opened in 1963, the Tram is a perfect example that Greater Palm Springs, a direct two-hour drive on the I-10 from Alhambra, offers something for everyone. With me in the Tram are families on their way to enjoy the alpine forests; hikers setting out for day-trips or over-nights along the miles of trails within Mt. San Jacinto State Park; and couples and friends who, like me, are going up to enjoy cocktails and fine dining with a view at Peaks Restaurant. The Tram is scheduled to reopen April 1 following repair of Tramway Road, which sustained damage during the Feb. 14 flood, according to Greg Purdy, Palm Springs Aerial Tramway vice president of marketing and public affairs.
What to do once you’re back down on the valley floor? Take your pick from the desert’s nine communities. There’s spa-centric Desert Hot Springs; the restaurant, cocktail, shopping, and mid-century modern scenes of Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage and Palm Desert; the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, home of the world’s second largest outdoor stadium and the BNP Paribus Open; championship golf-intensive La Quinta; and party-time Indio, site of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, aka Coachella, happening now April 12-14 and 19-21 at the Empire Polo Club.
I chose a unique animal encounter — Camel Painting — at the Living Desert Zoo & Gardens in Palm Desert. It’s the only zoo in the world dedicated to a single eco system — deserts.
“Barbara meet Clyde. Clyde meet Barbara.” An animal keeper introduces me to a handsome dromedary (one hump) camel in the camel’s private holding area. Clyde batts his long eyelashes at me and stretches his head through the bars in anticipation. The keeper hands me a blank 8X12-inch canvas and four tubes of bright colored, water-soluble paints. “This is a collaborative mixed media project,” she explains.
I squeeze a bit of my chosen colors on the canvas, pile on some camel kibbles, and hold it out to Clyde. As he gingerly nibbles the kibbles, his big rubbery lips smear the paint across the canvas. Three times I add kibbles, and Clyde nibbles. Voi ‘la! I have a masterwork. And Clyde’s lips are crimson, as if he’s wearing lipstick. Instagram moments all round.
If you’re into fine art, numerous galleries are close by on El Paseo (nicknamed the Rodeo Drive of the Desert). Local favorites include Coda Gallery, which specializes in first-run works by modern artists and is somewhat affordable (around $300 on up), and Heather James Fine Art, with Picasso and other masters. If you’re just looking, like me, the Palm Springs Art Museum has three wonderful locations. Contemporary works by Ansel Adams, Roy Lichtenstein, Warhol and the like are in the main museum in downtown Palm Springs. Admission is free on Thursday nights. The Palm Springs Art Museum Architecture and Design Center showcases the acclaimed mid-20th century architects who lived and designed in the desert, giving Palm Springs the world’s largest concentration of residential mid-century modern architecture. And in Palm Desert, the four-acre Faye Sarkowsky Sculpture Garden features significant works by modern masters.
For modernism fans, a mid-century modern architectural tour is a must. My favorite is the Palm Springs Mod Squad’s Martinis & Midcentury Architecture tour. Owner/guide Kurt Cyr points out the best of the best from the Elvis Honeymoon Hideaway House to Frank Sinatra’s 1947 party pad, followed by the signature drink of the era — martinis — usually at Melvyn’s, where the Rat Pack once gathered, and still the hottest late night spot in Palm Springs.
And shopping — oh my! El Paseo has it all from Louie Vuitton to Talbots. But my favorites are the resale shops. My resale soirees have given me a wardrobe, including St. John, Chanel, and Dior, at pennies on the dollar. My picks include in Palm Springs: Angel View Prestige Boutique thrift shop; Gypsyland resale; Mitchells Palm Springs, for vintage designer wear; and Iconic Atomic. Also Luxury Consignment in Rancho Mirage and Marga’s Repeat Boutique in Palm Desert.