Palm Springs, California

There is much to share about this thriving city in the Sonoran Desert, here are a few of the highlights.

Far less populated than Arizona’s Tucson or Phoenix, Palm Springs is a relatively small western desert city. It covers approximately 94 square miles (240 km2) with a 2010 census population of only 44,552. In the winter months, the climate is warm and sunny, attractive to additional visitors and snowbird residents.

Summers here in the desert are brutally hot. In the past it was virtually closed down in summer, but now it is a year-round community. In the hottest months, residents get their outdoor exercise at dawn and rely on air conditioning and swimming pools.

More info: Palm Springs Wikipedia.

The geography of the area is dominated by underground tectonic plates that have formed mountains and hot springs. It is called the Coachella Valley and is a rift valley in southern California’s Colorado Desert, a subdivision of the larger Sonoran Desert. The desert valley stretches for about 45 miles (72 km) from Palm Springs to the Salton Sea.

The city’s most attractive feature, towering mountains, defines Palm Springs. The San Bernardino Mountains to the north, the Santa Rosa Mountains to the south, the San Jacinto Mountains to the west and the Little San Bernardino Mountains to the east.

The arid desert biome of Palm Springs yields a splendid variety of cacti, succulents and palms. Whether you’re in a wild area or a residential neighborhood, desert plants and flowers decorate the landscape.

Native California Fan Palms (Washingtonia Filifera) are everywhere in Palm Springs.

There are many large and small parks in the Palm Springs area, below are two: Indian Canyons and Oswit Canyon.

Indian Canyons, the ancestral home of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, is six miles from the center of town; has three canyons with approximately 60 miles of trails traversing palm groves, rock formations, and mountain-fed streams.

Oswit Canyon, on the edge of town, is within the city limits on South Palm Canyon Drive. It offers a short desert trail flanked by the San Jacinto mountains.

Pre-colonial settlers to the area were Native American people of various Cahuilla Nation tribes. They developed extensive communities in many of the canyons. Today more than 10% of the city is part of the Cahuilla reservation, the most populated reservation in California.

The city’s history as a fashionable resort town with natural hot springs dates back to the 1900s when tourists arrived with medical conditions that required dry heat. Since then, spas, resorts and other vacation activities like golf courses and tennis clubs have also expanded in this pleasant winter climate.

It is only 100 miles east of Los Angeles, attracting Angeleno weekenders. In its early history, Palm Springs was a mecca for Hollywood film stars.

Over the past century, film stars, American presidents, British royalty, military leaders, famous architects and many other notables have enjoyed this community.

Link: Notable Palm Springs Residents, Wikipedia

Star-struck visitors today could spend days scouting out homes and mansions of early Hollywood celebrities and famous people. Here are two, below.

The first one is Marilyn Monroe’s home where she lived with husband Joe DiMaggio; and the second is Liberace’s home. Both homes are now private residences, but feature the original celebrity’s mailboxes.

Architecture became noteworthy in Palm Springs when wealthy film stars started buying up desert properties and building houses.

Architectural Digest calls it the “Mecca of midcentury modernism.”

Spanish Colonial architecture is prominent here too.

The downtown (below) is lively with al fresco dining and chic shops.

Museums, restaurants, bars, and hotels accommodate and entertain visitors and residents.

Below is an interior look at the Palm Springs Art Museum.

Not far from the art museum is a colossal 26-foot (8 m) sculpture of Marilyn Monroe, created by sculptor Seward Johnson. It is a popular and permanent tourist attraction. And just like Marilyn Monroe herself, the sculpture “Forever Marilyn” is heated with controversy.

Palm Springs highlights the natural features of a canyon desert, hosting generations of sun-loving inhabitants.

Written by Jet Eliot.

Photos by Athena Alexander.


54 thoughts on “Palm Springs, California

  1. Beautiful, such beautiful photos! Love the opening in the town hall roof.
    That may be considered a small footprint of a city out there, but that is a lot of square mileage and people (however spread out amongst the miles they may be).

  2. A true oasis. It’s been many years since I’ve been there. Marilyn is in her iconic pose. Did you drop by the Salton Sea?

    • Oh how fun you’re heading to PS next week, Jane! You might enjoy a visit about a half-hour north of PS at Big Morongo Canyon Preserve. No architecture there but lots of birds and nature scenes. Big smiles and thanks to you.

    • Hi Willy, wonderful that you have been to Palm Springs. The Marilyn Monroe sculpture was first stalled temporarily in 2012, then it came back for a permanent installation in 2021. So you might not have seen it if you were there before 2012. I’m glad I could share it with you here. Cheers.

  3. Wonderful pictures. I have to admit, this is not my favorite place to visit – my ex had elderly relatives living there and so I have always associated the place with tasteless rich people! But it does have glorious scenery.

  4. I really enjoyed reading this post, guys! I’ve been to Palm Springs just once when was married and loved the entire area. We rode the tram to the top of the mountain, I forget which but it was so beautiful. Thanks for the memories. ❤️ Happy weekend.

  5. Wonderful photos, Athena, and a fascinating narrative, Jet. I have never been to Palm Springs and only had a vague idea of what it was like. I really like how you balanced the natural and man-made beauty of the city. When I was in the Army, I spent three years at Fort Huachuca, south of Tucson, and the vegetation was a lot more sparse–no palm trees there.

    • Wonderful to hear from you, Mike, and I’m happy you enjoyed the Palm Springs post today. Glad I could give you an idea of the city, as you say, natural as well as man-made. I have two sisters who both had husbands in the Army, and they were stationed in Ft. Huachuca at different times, so I have been there. It, too, is a beautiful place. thank you.

  6. Interesting post, Jet. Loved the last 2 photos. It looks as if the same puff of air is holding up the hummingbird and lifting Marilyn’s skirts! ha

  7. Thanks for the trip down memory lane…sort of. It’s been ages since I was last in Palm Springs, but I did tour Liberace’s house once. The half bath I think it was had a throne for the toilet and the whole house was so opulent.

    Palm Springs would make a great place to be a snow bird especially after this winter. Have a great week-end, Jet! 😄

  8. I had great fun reading about your Palm Springs visit! We’ve only been there once, visiting with friends of friends who live there, and they loved their little desert city. We went in the summer, and it was hot, hot, hot!
    The mid century modernist style really appeals to me, so distinct.
    Thanks for this, a bright and warm start to a long (rainy!) weekend!
    (Those museum visitors are very chill given the large spider climbing the wall. Who volunteered with the glass and piece of paper to set it free?)

    • I enjoyed your comment, pc, and hearing about your visit. I’m glad you brought up the spider because it was one of my favorite exhibits in the whole museum. Fun joke you made. It was such a big spider you would need a butterfly net to catch that arachnid. Cheers, good buddy, and have a great weekend. Rainy here, too.

  9. I haven’t been there for ages and then it was for my uncle’s art show, so we didn’t see much else, although we did visit some shops. Lots of familiar places names thought and I’ve put Anza-Borrego on my list of places to visit as well as at least driving by the Salton Sea. 🙂 About all that stands out to me while driving there are those blasted windmills!! Yuk!

  10. I think Palm Springs would be a difficult place to live because of the heat – beautiful because of the mountains. I notice there is a very big spider on the wall of the Art Museum.

  11. I remember days exploring the Sonoran Desert. It was some time ago now.
    The Joshua Tree was plentiful. There wasn’t much around except the park.
    It was quiet an peaceful. Spent most of my time there then moved on, I was
    a drifter back then.
    Loved your photos, brought back some good memories. Great post Jet!

      • I love deserts in winter, Jet. But my travels usually take me to more wild places like Death Valley. I think my favorite desert town in Sedona, Arizona. I enjoy its quirky New Age atmosphere but even more the beautiful surrounding red-rock country. –Curt

  12. Jet, you took me on yet another journey to a place dear to my heart. I first went to Palm Springs over 40 years ago when my best friend from high school moved there and I visited her. Then later we took a few trips to Palm Springs for family vacations and oh, how it had changed. Your post makes me want to go back. Hope you are well and enjoying spring.

    • I was happy to hear the Palm Springs post brought you happy memories, LuAnne. Thanks very much for your visit. I am well and enjoying spring immensely. Cheers to you.

  13. I will definitely add this site to our list of places to visit if/when we finally make it to the west coast. Had no idea it had such a celebrity calling. Laughed when I saw the Marilyn statue – did they plop that down in the middle of the road?

    • Yes, that Marilyn Monroe statue is in the middle of a short road that once connected the main street to the art museum. Now it is swarming with tourists usually, we just happened to be there on a rainy day and Athena waited until a moment when the tourists had dispersed. MM was “discovered” there in Palm Springs. I’m glad you enjoyed the Palm Springs post, Brian, thank you.

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