Old Town La Quinta
Step back in time with a stroll through this enchanting village. Follow Main Street’s cobblestone road between old Spanish Colonial–style buildings adorned with colorful tiles, twinkling lights, and pink bougainvillea. Trickling fountains and mountain views set the mood for romance, as do a host of restaurants. There’s something, too, about wintertime light in La Quinta: Golden hour is enhanced by a hazy, hot-tangerine sky. www.oldtownlaquinta.com
Old Las Palmas
While its winding streets are hard to navigate, even for Siri, it’s a lovely neighborhood to wander. Nestled in central Palm Springs against the backdrop of Mount San Jacinto, this prestigious community is speckled with lavish Spanish-style estates and midcentury modern homes, many owned by celebrities and other notable characters. Once a citrus grove (prior to subdivision in the 1920s), the neighborhood still grows many a fragrant tree behind some very private walls, and their fragrance fills the air with a sweet and tangy aroma. Between South Palm Canyon Drive and North Via Monte Vista, West Stevens and West Alejo roads.
Moorten Botanical Garden
This desert nursery on South Palm Canyon features about 3,000 types of cacti. Take the gravel path through the towering prickly plants to the enclosed “cactarium,” where a narrow walkway stretches below serpent-like succulents dangling from the ceilings and potted cacti of all shapes and sizes clustered in dirt “flower” beds. It’s a tiny plot of botanical bliss you really shouldn’t miss. www.moortenbotanicalgarden.com
One of Palm Springs’ most beautiful hiking attractions is also an ideal place to unwind. A short drive into the Agua Caliente tribal lands (you’ll need to pay a fee at the gate) leads to a thicket of green fronds contrasting with the otherwise beige landscape. The California Fan Palm oasis shelters a babbling brook, making this a peaceful place to seek shade and amble about. If you want to go farther, a fairly flat (albeit a bit rocky) trail leads about a mile to a fast-flowing stream covered by an even denser cluster of California’s only native palm. Hikers take this path to reach the waterfall, but you don’t need to make a trek of it to enjoy the ambiance. www.indian-canyons.com
PHOTO BY TOM BREWSTER
Indian Canyons tribal lands meander through a natural palm oasis that hugs a gurgling stream.
The preserve is a gateway to the San Gorgonio Wilderness, offering some of the most magnificent views in the valley. Once a trout farm, it still houses trout ponds along a scenic pathway at the entrance, where you can feed the rainbow-colored fish (pick up free food at the Visitors Center). Inside the nearly 3,000 acres, rain and snowmelt from the mountain range form the wild Whitewater River, which washes over the dry, rocky basin each spring to nurture several species of birds, bighorn sheep, deer, and even bears. When water is abundant, this barren landscape becomes blanketed with bright-yellow wildflowers and verdant shrubbery. To get here, leave your car in the lot and follow the dusty path marked by a series of cairns and two lanky palm trees. www.wildlandsconservancy.org
Dubbed “The Rodeo Drive of the Desert,” this Palm Desert destination is known for luxury shopping, fine-art galleries, and a lively culinary scene. Accented by the distant mountainscape and dotted with palms, the boulevard also features rotating public artworks along its central median. Events run throughout the year, including Palm Springs Life’s Palm Desert Fashion Week and Food & Wine Festival, as well as holiday parades and the renowned First Friday El Paseo Artwalk. Stroll at sunset and watch the salmon-pink sky give way to darkness as the sidewalk palms light up the night. www.elpaseo.com