If you run out of things to do in Palm Springs, CA, there are many places close by to amuse and amaze. All these side trips are within an hour drive from downtown.
The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is just north of the town. If you come in on Hwy 111, you have to pass it on your way to downtown. It takes 15 minutes to travel to the 10,834-foot peak of Mt. San Jacinto. At the top are 54 miles of hiking trails. Even if you are not a hiker, just the trip to the top is an adventure. No matter how hot the valley is the temperature at the top 20 to 30 degrees cooler. The rotating tramcars have been providing visitors with breathtaking views 50 miles in all directions. The two trams hold 80 people and are the world's largest rotating cars. The tram was completed in 1963.
On Interstate 10 just before the turn off on Hwy 111 to Palm Springs, there is shopping galore. The Desert Hills Premium Outlet boasts such stores as Prada, Dior, Boss, Gucci and Giorgio Armani. If that’s not enough, the Cabazon Outlets is right next door. It is not hard to miss with the MorongoCasino right down the road.
However, overshadowed by the Malls and the Casino is the Wheel Inn. The Wheel Inn is a slice of Americana that unfortunately has closed. The food was wholesome and the restaurant itself was a museum. Claude Bell who ran the Wheel Inn built two dinosaurs on the property. Dinny is probably the largest dinosaur in America. His belly holds a gift shop. Dinny is an Apatosaurus. Mr. Bell passed away before the second dinosaur was completed. It is a Tyrannosaurus. The dinosaurs have appeared in commercials and the film "Pee Wee's Big Adventure". If you arrange your vehicle just right, you can make it appear the tyrannosaurus is attacking your car. I am sad it's gone because we used to drive out there on weekends just to have breakfast. I hope they'll bring it back.
The drive from Los Angeles to Palm Springs in the old days was a long and thirsty drive. There were no fast food places to get a drink and people often stopped at Hadley's Fruit Orchards. It was the place to slack their thirst with a date shake. It is still the place to stop for the shake. For those who think using date crystals to make shakes is just not right, they offer a free sample. I guarantee you will like it. We certainly do.
As you travel along Interstate 10, you will see giant windmills rising from the ground. They start around Cabazon and run well past Whitewater. They look like something out of a SciFi movie and used to creep me out as a young adult. There used to be tours but there are none at the present.
Leaving Palm Springs and heading south on Hwy 111, follow the highway to Shield's Date Garden. Mr. Shields started the date garden in 1924. He would give educational talks about dates to his visitors. He added a slide show to his lecture about date culture and recorded it on a 15-minute film. The film called, "Romance and Sex Life of the Date" is shown in the shop. He invented the date crystals used in date shakes and cooking. They sell many date products in the store, including some of the date varieties he cultivated. It is worth a stop just to see the film and the man who loved dates.
Continuing south on Hwy 111, is the town of Indio and the gateway to the Salton Sea. In December, they kick off the holiday season with the Indio International Tamale Festival. Admission is free and it is a county fair with a tamale flavor. They have a tamale cook-off and were recently ranked in the top 10 of "All-American Food Festivals by the Food Network. They won two Guinness World Records. In 1999, they won for the largest tamale. It was one foot in diameter and 40 feet long. In 2000, they won for the World's Largest Tamale Festival with 120,000 visitors.
It may be possible to run out of things to do in Palm Springs. If that happens, try out one of these side trips.