Go where the wind takes you with Balloons Above (www.balloonabovethedesert.com) and Magical Adventure Balloon Rides (www.hotairfun.com) and see how they work firsthand. The sunrise or late afternoon flights last about an hour.
Sit in the open cockpit of a World War II–era 1940 three-seat Stearman biplane, side by side with your partner, while the pilot takes you on the flight of a lifetime. Palm Springs Biplanes packages range from a 15-minute flight to an hour. www.psbiplanes.com
See the galaxy through a Meade telescope with 100-mile range laser pointer at GarganOptics. This state-of-the-art, climate-controlled private observatory — one of the largest in California — hosts stargazing shows and dining events. www.garganoptics.com
palm springs air museum
Climb inside and explore an operational Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress at the Palm Springs Air Museum. The museum offers an ever-changing display of 29 planes from one of the world’s largest collections of operable WWII aircrafts. Set aside a minimum of 90 minutes to tour the 65,000 square feet of climate-controlled exhibit space in the three main hangars. Don’t miss the annual Props & Hops Craft Beer Festival (Nov. 21, 2015) featuring Southern California’s premier breweries, flight exhibitions, live music, and food vendors.
745 N. Gene Autry Trail, Palm Springs. 760-778-6262; www.palmspringsairmuseum.org; www.propsandhopsfestival.com
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
Ascend 2.5 miles in just 10 minutes aboard the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway’s 80-passenger rotating tramcar, often called the “eighth wonder of the world.” Enjoy magnificent vistas from the top of the Tram (8,516 feet) while dining on locally sourced produce at Peaks Restaurant. Venture into the surrounding Mount San Jacinto State Park’s 50 miles of wooded hiking trails. In the winter, weather permitting, plan for a day of snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
One Tram Way, Palm Springs. 760-325-1391; www.pstramway.com
Travel off the Beaten path
Explore the desert’s fascinating rock outcroppings, flora, and fauna from the comfort of open-air and air-conditioned Hummers. Choose Adventure Hummer Tours’ Palms to Vines wine-tasting package to nearby Temecula for a deluxe experience. www.adventurehummer.com
Satisfy your need for speed and heart-thumping fun at the BMW Performance Driving School in Thermal. Pick your BMW of choice, rev the engine, and race around the track. www.privatepavement.com; www.bmwusa.com
Go the extra mile with Big Wheel Tours on a customized group bicycle outing or on the Earthquake Canyon Express trek. This 20-mile tour descends 1,200 feet through the heart of the San Andreas Fault zone on a paved road to grape country near Mecca. The ride includes a stop at the Oasis Date Gardens for a date shake. www.bwbtours.com
Be Don Quixote for a day when you visit the working wind farms. Learn about the inner mechanics of the Coachella Valley’s iconic windmills with The Best of the Best Tours (www.thebestofthe besttours.com) and Palm Springs Windmill Tours (www.windmilltours.com).
Desert Adventures Eco-Tours and Events Hop on a Jeep to get a closer look at some of Greater Palm Springs’ best natural wonders, including the San Andreas Fault, Indian Canyons, and Painted Canyon. Ride in a climate-controlled vehicle to Joshua Tree National Park or Palm Springs for a city and celebrity home tour. Desert Adventures offers numerous packages (including the San Andreas Fault Sunset & Stargazing Jeep Tour) with optional lunch or dinner. Group events and weddings can be held at The Enchanted Desert, a venue featuring magnificent natural desert settings and a replica of an Indian village.
74794 Lennon Place, Suite B, Palm Desert. 760-324-5337, 888-440-5337; www.red-jeep.com
Find the Wild and Famous
Fans of Hollywood can explore local star power on self-guided strolls along the Palm Springs Walk of Stars. The streets of downtown Palm Springs are dotted with plaques dedicated to more than 380 TV and film celebrities. www.palmspringswalkofstars.com
Get a good look at homes that belonged to Hollywood royalty — Dinah Shore, Frank Sinatra, Liberace, and Clark Gable, among others — on Palm Springs Celebrity Tours, which offers a 2.5-hour bus tour filled with more than 50 stops and fun facts about the stars who loved the desert. www.palmspringsalive.com
Tour the glamorous Movie Colony and other star-studded neighborhoods or experience Greater Palm Springs like the rich and famous. Five Star Adventures Tours offers a Wednesday night Mob and Movie Star Experience. Go bar-hopping and enjoy food and drinks where Al Capone and the Rat Pack hung out. www.fsatours.com
The Living Desert Zoo & Gardens
Get up close and personal with bighorn sheep, zebras, mountain lions, jaguars, and countless other animals at The Living Desert, a plant and wildlife sanctuary with a mission of conservation through preservation and education. Explore the unique vegetation of North American and African deserts through self-guided, behind-the-scenes, and private group tours. Feed the giraffes, ride a camel, or take in an educational show. Kids can attend zoo camp or be a junior conductor at the model train exhibit.
47900 Portola Ave., Palm Desert. 760-346-5694; www.livingdesert.org