With the Palm Springs area’s year-round sunshine, luxurious spas, chef-driven restaurants, and see-and-be-seen pool parties, it's no wonder that Hollywood A-listers and weekend warriors make the desert a getaway. Stretching south and east of the city along Highway 111, the Desert Resort towns—Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, Indian Wells, La Quinta, and Indio, along with Desert
Hot Springs to the north—teem with resorts, golf courses, and shopping centers. Yucca Valley, Joshua Tree, and other artistic communities lie farther north and northeast. To the south, the wildflowers of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park herald the arrival of spring.
Well before it became the darling of the current crop of überhip Angelenos, the Palm Springs area was the playground of the celebrity elite. In the 1920s Al Capone opened the Two Bunch Palms Hotel in Desert Hot Springs (with multiple tunnels to help him avoid the police); Marilyn Monroe was discovered poolside in the late 1940s at a downtown Palm Springs tennis club; Elvis and Priscilla Presley honeymooned here—and the list goes on.
Today’s desert landscape, though still peppered with midcentury modern architectural gems, has also become an exercise in sprawl, most notably in the resort towns, which attract travelers keen to lounge poolside at brand-name properties or tee off at golf courses that host major tournaments. The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, which owns 32,000 acres of desert, operates a hotel in Palm Springs with a casino and spa fed by hot springs. Visitors seeking a more sedate healing experience often repair north to Desert Hot Springs.
In recent years the desert arts scene has blossomed as spectacularly as the wildflowers of Anza-Borrego. For urban-chic contemporary artwork, stop by downtown Palm Springs’ Backstreet Arts District, but try to slip away to the rural areas—the aforementioned Yucca Valley but also Joshua Tree, Pioneertown, and Twentynine Palms. Each April, attention centers on Indio, where the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, California’s largest outdoor concert, generates a frenzy of cultural activity.