Palm Springs is to Los Angeles what the Hamptons is to New York: An easy escape from urban life, a get-outta-town destination city that’s j-u-u-u-ust far enough away not to feel like a staycation. Ever since a host of 1920s-era Hollywood stars made Palm Springs their weekend retreat of choice, this area has been on the map for Angelenos. There’s consistently warm weather, cinematic desert scenery framed by the San Jacinto Mountains, and a wealth of mid-century architecture. And the best thing about road-tripping between L.A. and Palm Springs is—since the two are just a few hours apart—it’s easy to take your time behind the wheel and stop as you please.
The I-10 East leads the way to Palm Springs, the desert resort city that’s arisen as a playground for Angelenos. It’s a place known for hot springs, gourmet restaurants, a core shopping district along Palm Canyon Drive, and plenty of fine examples of mid-century-modern architecture. It’s also the perfect distance for a road trip from L.A., clocking in at around two hours of drive time (sans stops). Planning for this excursion is even easier now that Luxury Retreats combines the convenience of car rentals with its dedicated concierge services via a new partnership with Avis—where in addition to being able to pick up and drop off vehicles at Avis airport locations, it’s even possible to have a car delivered and returned to and from a Luxury Retreats’ vacation home (subject to restrictions). If you decide to try this classic drive, take your time. And don’t miss checking out these stops along the way:
Shop for Designer Pieces at the Desert Hills Premium Outlets
Versace—in the desert? You’ve come to the right place. It’s well-worth a small detour to the Desert Hills Premium Outlets to browse one of California’s best collections of luxury outlets. The 180 stores are a shoppers’ oasis and a destination in themselves. Hit up outposts from designers like Alexander McQueen, Bottega Veneta, Carolina Herrara, Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, Halston Heritage, Helmut Lang, Jimmy Choo, John Varvatos, Marc Jacobs, Prada, Saint Laurent Paris, Valentino, and, yes, Versace.
Stop for a Photo Opp with the Cabazon Dinosaurs
File this one under “just for fun.” As you near Palm Springs, it’s impossible to miss the 50-foot Cabazon Dinosaurs, a looming, 100-ton-plus Apatosaurus and Tyrannosaurus Rex. The pair were built by Knott’s Berry Farm sculptor Claude Bell as a way to attract drivers to his roadside diner, but their place in history was cemented during an appearance in the 1985 flick Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure. Browse the gift shop (it’s in the Apatosaurus’s belly), or drop a few dollars to walk through the fascinating (yet completely factually inaccurate) dino park. Top off a visit with a climb to the top of the T.Rex, where you can sit in his mouth—just as Pee-Wee did in the movie.
Try Your Luck at the Morongo Casino
A major marker along the route to Palm Springs, the flashy Morongo Casino rises out of the desert like a beacon. And if slots, poker, blackjack, or bingo is your thing, stop here. It’s Las Vegas-style gaming ages away from Sin City, with a 150,000-square-foot casino floor that’s actually larger than most Vegas casinos. There’s also regularly some big name entertainment, too. Recent performers have included the Gipsy Kings and Melissa Etheridge.
Nosh on a “Giant Taco” at Crazy Coyote Tacos
Just west of the Cabazon Outlets, right off the freeway, you’ll find a beloved family-run taco stand from Helen Miller and father Sonny, who’ve served up a unique style of “giant taco” for over 17 years. Come hungry: the tacos feature thick, massive tortillas with a choice of chicken, steak, or chile verde, along with cilantro, onion, and cheese…and yes, they are gigantic.
Down a Date Shake at Hadley Fruit Orchards
About 20 minutes outside of Palm Springs lies an absolute must-stop: Hadley Fruit Orchards, a Cabazon, CA institution since 1931 (it recently moved into a newer, stone-fronted flagship store). The best thing to get? The signature date shake, a rich blend of dates, vanilla ice cream, milk, and banana. For date connoisseurs, the store sells several different date varieties including Barhi, Deglet noor, and Medjool, as well as dates rolled with almonds or shredded coconut, date cookies, date cake, and date bars. There’s also various nuts, dried fruits, and other gifts for sale.
Admire the Massive Wind Turbines of the San Gorgonio Pass
One of the most surreal parts of the L.A.-to-Palm Springs path is the first glimpse of a sculptural wind farm, the first in the nation, that lines the San Gorgonio Pass. Here, 2,700 towering, white, windmill-like devices churn out enough energy to power 300,000 homes. If you pull over to snap a photo (many people do!) just beware: This area is ideal for harnessing wind power, as gusts routinely reach 80 miles per hour—faster than a Category 1 hurricane. And if you’re curious to learn more, it’s possible to arrange a wind turbine tour out of Palm Springs.
Ascend Mount Jacinto on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is one of the last stops along the route to Palm Springs, just outside the city. Nearly 18 million have ascended the 2.5 miles from the valley to the mountains since the tram opened in 1963—and you should definitely join them. The attraction was opened in the 1930s as a novel way to get away from the desert’s heat, as the temperatures are about 30 degrees lower atop Mount Jacinto. The journey takes about 10 minutes, and the views are nothing short of spectacular. And at the summit, you can hike or even cross-country ski and snowshoe in the winter. There’s also a cafeteria and a fine dining restaurant and bar.