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Saturday, March 2, 2024

Palm Springs, California travel guide and things to do: Nine highlights

World’s largest rotating tramcar … Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.

World’s largest rotating tramcar … Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is the world’s largest rotating tramcar. During the 10-minute cliffside ride, it slowly rotates to give everyone a view of the wilderness. Reaching the mountaintop, marvel at the panoramic vista of Coachella Valley and, on a clear day, the peaks of Joshua Tree National Park. Mimicking a Swiss chalet, the sky-high tram station houses a natural history museum, two documentary theatres, a gift shop, bar, cafe and fine-dining restaurant. Come prepared for camping in the state park or wear your walking shoes to follow one of the hiking loops. See pstramway.com

The museum

The indigenous-owned Agua Caliente Cultural Plaza has opened downtown. This new complex features a huge museum representing the culture and heritage of the local Agua Caliente band of Cahuilla Indians. An outdoor exhibition features a trail of native plants, rock formations and water features inspired by those found in the canyons of their ancestral lands. The indoor collection comprises tribal crafts, archaeological materials, memorabilia and archives of rare books, photographs and government documents. Many artefacts were discovered during excavations while building the facility. Sprawling across 4500 square metres, the plaza also has expansive public spaces for special events and festivals. See accmuseum.org

The spa

Getting the treatment at Spa at Sec-he.

Getting the treatment at Spa at Sec-he.

With an average of 350 days of sunshine a year, this dazzling oasis is made for poolside lounging, dining and drinking. The new Spa at Sec-he has shaded cabanas and daybeds around large pools and waterfalls, with food and beverage service available. Inside the complex are 22 hot mineral baths for natural healing of aches and pains. Visitors can buy a day pass to soak in one of these private baths before meditating in the salt cave, tuning out in the acoustic wellness lounge, and relaxing in the menthol sauna and eucalyptus steam rooms. For an extra charge, indulge in a massage on a quartz table layered with gemstones, light therapy, infrared heat and grounding pads. See thespaatseche.com

The desert

Buckle up for a bumpy ride in an open-air Jeep to explore the San Andreas Fault Zone. Hop out for a guided walk through a narrow canyon formed millions of years ago by the powerful forces of water, wind and plate tectonics. Learn about the geology, flora and fauna of the California desert, and why the Cahuilla Indians lived in this arid environment. Desert Adventures has exclusive access to trails leading to spectacular views of the valley floor. Keep an eye out for roadrunners (yes, they’re real animals and smaller than expected). See red-jeep.com

The art

Upcycling garments at Superbloom Studio.

Upcycling garments at Superbloom Studio.

Known for its diverse arts and culture scene, Palm Springs is the perfect place to get creative. Superbloom is a fun studio where beginners can throw on a raincoat and paint a personal item. Bring an old shirt, sneakers or denim jacket to upcycle, or choose one of the supplied bags, luggage tags or passport holders to splatter and spray. The friendly founders will assist you and put the finishing touches on your one-of-a-kind creation before delivering it to your hotel overnight. See superbloom.world/paintwithus

The bar

Pretty in pink … Barbara Bar at the Trixie Motel.

Pretty in pink … Barbara Bar at the Trixie Motel.

Trixie Motel offers more than an all-pink pool area and accommodation in wacky themed rooms such as “yeehaw cowgirl”. Owned by Trixie Mattel, winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars, the venue’s BARbara lounge is open to the public. Visitors can drop in for a cocktail in a flamingo-shaped glass or shop for souvenirs in the gift store. Events were launched last year, including “Three in the Pink” on Saturday nights (tickets $US45/$68), performed by three drag queens who mingle with the audience after the show. See trixiemotel.com

One more thing

The region is quite spread out, so it can take 30 minutes to drive between some venues and attractions. Uber, Lyft and taxis are available, or hire a car from the airport and take a road trip. Palm Springs is less than three hours’ drive from Los Angeles or four hours from Las Vegas.

The writer was a guest of Visit Greater Palm Springs. See visitgreaterpalmsprings.com

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