Inexpensive Desert Fun in Palm Springs

Posted August 24, 2009 by Jamie Moore

Ca-palmspringsindiancanyon-def We could all use a hit of sunlight therapy once the dreary days of fall set in, so now's a good time to start planning. Palm Springs, as a suggestion, just happens to be the perfect place to play in the desert sun. Hike historic canyons, sip creamy date shakes, and stay at a small inn with big value.

Play
Indian Canyons: Just south of downtown, you can hike three historic canyons once inhabited by the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians. The gorges and desert lands are still home to rock art, pit houses, irrigation ditches, and other remains of Cahuilla society. Between November and March you'll likely see waterfalls and streams—refreshing spots for a picnic or meditation. The world's largest stand of California fan palms is in Palm Canyon, and bighorn sheep inhabit the remote Murray Canyon. Admission is $8 for adults.

Drink
Shields Date Garden: Date farms dot the area, but Shields Date Garden in nearby Indio has been a roadside attraction since opening in 1924. Its date grove, fun visitor center, and free movie on the sex life of date palms have something to do with it, but its real claim to fame is the date shake. Shields blends vanilla ice cream with ice-cold milk and date crystals to create this creamy desert treat. There's hope for the hooked: You'll find bags of date crystals at the visitor center and the recipe online for your own at-home shake making.

Stay
Old Ranch Inn: This little independent hotel gets big marks for charm, location, and attention to detail. It garnered SmarterTravel.com sister site TripAdvisor's 2008 Travelers' Choice awards for best hidden gem and best value. The stylish eight-suite inn sits at the foot of San Jacinto Mountains and is only a five-minute walk from the downtown village's shops and restaurants. Escape the desert heat in the outdoor pool or watch for shooting stars from your private patio. Luxurious furnishings—from rare woods to hand-painted raw silk—are a welcome change. Rates start at $89 per night in summer and early fall.

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(Photo: Palm Springs Bureau of Tourism)

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