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Coachella

10 Best Reasons to Visit Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley (Besides Coachella)

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Tue, Apr 10, 2012 at 2:28 PM

click to enlarge Biomorphic architecture at its finest - COURTESY CABAZON DINOSAURS
  • Courtesy Cabazon Dinosaurs
  • Biomorphic architecture at its finest

With the temperature hovering around 65 degrees, it's safe to say it's officially winter here in L.A. And as the local climate gets cooler, the Coachella Valley is in its high season, in part because of almost-certain sunshine from December through May. But in recent years, Coachella has sadly become synonymous with just one thing: Coachella. The late-April hipster Mecca aside, we thought we'd give you 10 reasons to head east in the meantime, and not just to escape the so-called deep freeze.

click to enlarge Welcome to the jungle, aka the maid's quarters at the Twin Palms Frank Sinatra Estate - BRENDAN A. MURRAY
  • Brendan A. Murray
  • Welcome to the jungle, aka the maid's quarters at the Twin Palms Frank Sinatra Estate
10. Offbeat lodging

Sure, you've racked up your Starwood hotel points, but really, how fun is it to stay at a chain? Out in the Coachella Valley, you have your choice of a wide range of alternative accommodations, from camping on the shores of the Salton Sea to shacking up at one of hundreds of boutique inns and cool little B&Bs in the surrounding desert cities. The Rendezvous in Palm Springs has a themed bedroom for everyone, from the Western-inspired "Stagecoach" to "Pretty in Pink," where Marilyn Monroe once stayed. If you have an extra $10K to throw around, consider a three-night stint at the Twin Palms Frank Sinatra Estate, a sumptuous, four-bedroom, seven-bathroom party pad custom-built for Ol' Blue Eyes back in 1947. Don't mind the hairline crack in the sink: Right after she married Sinatra, screen siren Ava Gardner got mad when she caught him skinny-dipping in their piano-shaped swimming pool with another woman. So, she smashed a Champagne bottle in the sink. The cracked sink is still there, but now, it's actually insured.

click to enlarge Biomorphic architecture at its finest - COURTESY CABAZON DINOSAURS
  • Courtesy Cabazon Dinosaurs
  • Biomorphic architecture at its finest
9. Gigantic dinosaurs

If you've driven east on the 10 through Riverside County, you've likely noticed Dinny the Dinosaur, a 150-ton fake Brontosaurus, along with his buddy Mr. Rex, a 100-ton homage to the Tyrannosaurus rex. Both were built in the 1960s by Knott's Berry Farm sculptor Claude K. Bell, who wanted to attract people to his Wheel Inn Cafe. The dinosaurs and cafe remain after Bell's death in 1988, and while the area is still an iconic landmark of California roadside culture, it has since been bought by a group of Christians who are using the dinosaurs to promote a highly contested creationist theory of evolution. Still, the Cabazon Dinosaurs are a great place to visit, if only because they have cameos in Tim Burton's 1985 classic Pee-wee's Big Adventure.

click to enlarge The Desert Hills Premium Outlets offer retail goods at wholesale prices - COURTESY PREMIUM OUTLETS
  • Courtesy Premium Outlets
  • The Desert Hills Premium Outlets offer retail goods at wholesale prices
8. Endless outlet malls

Speaking of Cabazon, we'd be remiss if we didn't mention another of the area's distinctive features: the sprawling outlet malls. Though the Cabazon Outlets have nifty stores such as Le Creuset and Adidas, they're eclipsed by the massive Desert Hills Premium Outlets next door, with a whopping 130 discount emporiums, including Barneys New York, Tory Burch, Gucci and L'Occitane. Whether it's picking up a new pair of Vans, a pair of 501s, a Coach handbag or a diamond necklace, you're liable to save a ton of money at the outlets compared with your local mall. Just be careful about racking up the credit card debt, or you probably won't be saving at all.

click to enlarge More than 12 million people have taken a ride on the Tramway since it first opened in 1963 - COURTESY PALM SPRINGS AERIAL TRAMWAY
  • Courtesy Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
  • More than 12 million people have taken a ride on the Tramway since it first opened in 1963
7. The great outdoors

It should come as no surprise that the Desert Empire is a haven for nature lovers, with dozens of spots that appeal to outdoorsy types, like the gateway to Joshua Tree National Park, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. The Indian Canyons feature more than 100 miles of hiking and horse trails, ancient palm groves, panoramic vistas and a huge, 60-foot seasonal waterfall, earning it a spot on the National Register of Historic Places. Meanwhile, the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway takes visitors on a ride in the world's largest rotating tramcar, and off-road tour companies give jeep rides through the San Andreas Fault. Just pray the big one doesn't hit while you're out four-wheelin'.

click to enlarge Hacienda Hot Springs: one of many tranquil retreats in the desert - TANJA M. LADEN
  • Tanja M. Laden
  • Hacienda Hot Springs: one of many tranquil retreats in the desert
6. Your sanity

Colonics, ethnic massages and an all-male nudist colony -- oh, my. The desert has long been famous for its healing and restorative powers, but there's more than one way to get healthy out here. We Care Detox Spa and Spiritual Retreat in Desert Hot Springs is all about a demanding juice-fast program and colon hydrotherapy, not to mention a magnesium detox, Korean body splash and something called "raindrop therapy." For less esoteric services, there's Hacienda Hot Springs, which has a Finnish rock sauna and a range of spa treatments, featuring native plants and herbs from the garden. And for anyone looking to go au naturel, there's the Sea Mountain Nude Lifestyle Resort Spa, Living Waters, the Terra Cotta Inn Clothing Optional Resort and Spa and finally, the Triangle Inn Palm Springs, a "clothing-optional resort for men."

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