As I reflect on our trip to Palm Springs last year, I can’t help but feel nostalgic. My wife planned a week there for us, our kid, and a few friends. Coming right at the end of my tenure at Carrot, I knew even before I left our home that it would be memorable.
Stepping off the little airplane, Palm Springs Airport struck me with its unique charm. The terminal is open-air, reminiscent of the airports in Hawaii. Our child, who was getting comfortable with running, loved it.
We spent the first few days exploring the city of Palm Springs, admiring the stunning architecture and natural beauty of the surrounding desert. We then ventured to nearby Joshua Tree, where we enjoyed a few days of peaceful seclusion amidst the otherworldly landscape that has captivated artists and dreamers for generations.
The morning after our arrival in Palm Springs, we set out for our first destination, a staple of our travels no matter where we go — an art museum.
Nestled between the mountains and Downtown Palm Springs, the Palm Springs Art Museum is a cultural landmark that pays homage to the rich history and artistry of the region.
Originally founded in 1938 as the Palm Springs Desert Museum, it was established to celebrate the natural wonders of the desert landscape and showcase the indigenous flora and fauna.
Over the years, the museum evolved as it began to accumulate a substantial art collection.
When the current location was erected, the desert life part was separated into a new institution, the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens.
The building was designed by architect E. Stewart Williams, a native of Palm Springs. He is credited with helping to establish the region’s modernist aesthetic.
As we made our way through the museum, we were struck by the artwork on display, ranging from pieces by world-famous artists like Andy Warhol, Marc Chagall, and Roy Lichtenstein, to works by local emerging talents capturing the essence of the desert landscape.
It was a true celebration of the region’s artistic spirit and a perfect introduction to the beauty of Palm Springs.
One of the Palm Springs Art Museum’s satellite locations is the Architecture & Design Center. This building, like the main museum, was designed by E. Stewart Williams.
It began life as the Santa Fe Federal Savings and Loan Association, complete with drive-through teller window.
Williams was inspired by Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion. Though, this bank’s understated presence does not match the grandeur of its muse.
The museum purchased the building in 2011, after which it underwent renovation. Three years later it reopened in its current form. Original elements, like the drive-through teller window, are preserved in the wide open space.
We were lucky to experience the The Modern Chair exhibition. The lineup of chairs on display began with the legendary Thonet “B-9” bentwood chair, which we had seen years ago at Munich’s Pinakothek der Moderne.
The next day, we took a break from arts and culture for an adventure. A short way up North Palm Canyon Drive, we turned at the Palm Springs Visitor Center onto a nondescript road, which led us to the base of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.
This feat of engineering takes visitors on a breathtaking ride up to the top of the San Jacinto Mountains. The tramway was originally built in 1963 to attract tourism into the area. It was later updated at the turn of the millennium with new mechanicals and novel Swiss-built tram cars that rotate continuously, making two rotations per journey.
The Mountain Station at the top is yet another work by E. Steward Williams. We ate a cafeteria-style lunch and marveled at both the winter-like atmosphere on top and the panoramic views of the valley below.
The next day, we drove away from downtown on Palm Canyon Drive. Hidden within a neighborhood lies a gem — the Moorten Botanical Garden.
This hidden oasis showcases over 3,000 species of cacti and succulents from around the world. The collection started small, but eventually grew as the Moorten family collected specimens from around the world.
The garden is split into areas, each highlighting a different geographical region.
Given its humble size, we were able to take our time and not feel rushed.
The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, as I mentioned earlier was originally part of the Palm Springs Desert Museum until it was turned into its own institution. We stopped by for most of the day on our way to Joshua Tree.
It’s a cross between a zoo and a garden, featuring both animal enclosures and beautifully manicured landscapes.
Unfortunately, I was having such a great time there with my child, that I forgot to take photos.
The evening after our Zoo visit, we arrived at Joshua Tree . Named after the iconic a unique and twisted species of Yucca, the little town and nearby Joshua Tree National Park offered us peace and solitude.
We spent our days in the national park, hiking with our little one among the Joshua Trees and gigantic rock formations.
We stayed two nights in the Dome in the Desert in Joshua Tree. My wife had been eyeing this Airbnb for some time.
The roads leading to the house were a bit rough, but worth the bumpy ride. The decor and unique architecture were a treat both for the adults and our little child. I could imagine a couple or a party of adults finding it the perfect place to spend days reading or writing.
Looking back on our time in Palm Springs, I am grateful to my wife for organizing the trip and to our friends in joining us. It was a true escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and a transition point that will forever remain etched in my mind.
Thanks to Q for reading drafts of this.