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Palm Springs may be well-known for its wide appeal to golfers and spagoers, but during a recent trip with my 13-year-old son, Evan, I learned why it’s a great option for families, too.
Since it’s hard to escape work and school, vacation time spent with kids is precious. Although it’s hard to nail down an affordable option that includes natural beauty, convenience, learning and relaxation, I found all that — and more — in Palm Springs, Calif.
Evan and I are from Portland, Ore., and being able to escape the rain and enjoy so many outdoor activities in Palm Springs in the middle of winter was a huge bonus. The region has 350 days of sun per year, so clients can count on plenty of Vitamin D, blue skies and pleasant temperatures practically year-round.
When I travel with my kids, I seek out activities that will expose them to new people and new environments. Evan and I opted for a park and canyon tour, and we booked the San Andreas Fault Red Jeep Tour with Desert Adventures, which was a favorite activity during our Palm Springs trip.
Our guide, Darrell “Blackfeather” Eisman, had deep knowledge of the region and brought to life the desert’s unique beauty. He shared insight into the geology’s ever-changing resilience; gave an overview of the Cahuilla Indians, who originally lived in Southern California; and explained the biology of plant and animal life that is vital to the desert ecosystem. Evan was riveted by Eisman, who also explained how mountains and canyons were formed through water-carving, wind erosion and tectonic activity over millions of years.
We also explored Living Desert Zoo & Gardens. Guided tours are available for the plant and animal exhibits; there are habitats for more than 450 animals native to places including Africa and North America. Evan visited the zoo’s animal hospital, fed a giraffe, rode a camel and hung out with lorikeets. A full schedule of daily programs, which include animal meet-and-greets, zookeeper talks and seasonal events, can be found online.
What we learned from these guided tours also enhanced our own explorations throughout the area’s Indian Canyons and Palm Canyon, which were filled with running streams, dramatic mountains and desert landscapes. We hiked a few leisurely miles along a stream trail, but if clients prefer to be escorted, there are rangers available for guided walks and to answer questions about the land’s history and natural surroundings.
We also did a small hike at the top of San Jacinto mountain, which is accessible via The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, the world’s largest rotating tram car. It took us to an elevation of 8,516 feet to San Jacinto State Park and through more than 2 miles of Chino Canyon’s awe-inspiring cliffs.
All throughout the ride, our tram slowly rotated, showing 360-degree, picturesque views of the valley below. Once at the top, we had the option to take escorted nature walks, visit observation decks, have lunch and peruse a natural history museum.
WHERE TO STAY After long hours of exploring, Evan and I were happy to head back to our hotel, Hyatt Palm Springs. Although there are several accommodation options to choose from, we found this all-suites property to be extremely family-friendly. Our suite had separate living spaces, which allowed my son and me plenty of space to wind down in the evenings. Then, in the mornings, I sipped coffee on the balcony, which showcased an endless blue sky and mountain views, while Evan splashed in the pool.
HOW TO GET THEREWe found that arriving to Palm Springs and getting around was incredibly easy. With such limited vacation time, it was important that we were able to get to our destination without spending all day on a plane, at an airport or in a car.
Palm Springs is conveniently located for West Coast clients and has several nearby airports, including Palm Springs International Airport, Ontario International Airport (in San Bernardino county) and McClellan-Palomar Airport (in San Diego county).
Additionally, most accommodations and attractions are close to downtown, so rather than time spent traipsing to go do things, there’s more time to actually do them.
Hyatt Palm SpringsPalmsprings.hyatt.com
The Living Desert Zoo & Gardenswww.livingdesert.org
The Palm Springs Aerial Tramwaywww.pstramway.com