Seeking Winter Desert Warmth in Palm Springs

Urban Nature Design with Floral Water Fountain Palm Springs

This winter we went to Palm Springs to warm up in the desert sun.  I hadn't done much research, the location was chosen by Viliam, but I was interested to see that there were some gardens that I'd like to explore in the city and a wildlife reserve that offered a variety of habitats just 30 minutes outside of Palm Springs.  We chose to do a mixture of visiting tourist sites both within the Palm Springs area (Sunnylands, Moorten Botanical Gardens, Downtown) and just outside (Pioneertown, Joshua Tree Park, Big Morongo Reserve) and were thrilled with what we discovered.  We also lucked out with the weather!
BIRDING TIP:  Although we didn't specifically go to see the migrating birds (this area is part of the Pacific Flyway migratory route), we managed to discover some birding opportunities, that, if we went again, we might sign up for: 
- Big Morongo Reserve offers a free Bird Walk early Wednesday mornings.  (While this is a free tour and admission is free to the reserve also, I'd recommend a generous donation as the volunteers work hard to make this a great place to visit!) 
- Sunnylands offers an Estate Bird Tour to small groups on Thursday mornings - check their website for the cost.  (We overheard a bit of the bird tour as they walked by and I was impressed with all the information the guide shared!) 
- Living Desert Bridge has some great bird features including a walk-through aviary. (We didn't go to this spot as we had read that it can be very hot with little shelter from the sun)
It was amazing to see the desert landscape with mountains surrounding the area (Palm Springs is in Coachella Valley) and to see different types of plants used for landscaping along the streets.  There were so many Palms (some trimmed and some left natural), so many Cacti (lots of shapes, sizes and colours) and so many flowers (even in the winter).  Many drought-tolerant plants were used in the landscaping but we also did see a proliferation of lawn.  Our resort, which included a golf course, had signs letting visitors know that the lawns were maintained with a recycled water system.

For those who like plants, Moorton's species were well-labelled, while Sunnylands provided some details on their free brochure/map (and there is also a Plant Tour similar to the Bird Tour) but nothing was labelled in the garden itself.  We also went for lunch at an outdoor shopping mall called Gardens on El Paseo (with parking in the back) that had a lovely botanical display - look for a brochure that offers a map and details on each plant.  (They also have concerts on the lawn here!)

So here's some of what we saw in the urban Palm Springs area:

Outdoor Airport was Such a Delight Wild Here
 -- Palm Springs Airport had an open air design! --

Beautiful Colours in Palm Springs Desert Urban Nature
-- Some of the beautiful colours along the street -- 

Pollinators Insects Birds Seek Colourful Flowers
 -- More colours on the resort --

Palm Springs with Lawn using Recycled Water
 -- Great walking paths within the resort --

Urban Birds Take a Drink in Palm Springs Fountain Wild Here
 -- Brown-headed Cowbirds hanging out at the mall and our restaurant patio! --

El Paseo has a Drought Resistant Garden Landscape
 -- The El Paseo open air shopping mall --

Golden Barrel Cactus and her pups
-- Golden Barrel Cactus and "her" pups! -- 

Lawn and Drought Resistant Landscaping on the Streets of Palm Springs
 -- More landscaping along the streets of Palm Springs --

Flowering Shrub Attracts Many Pollinators in Palm Springs
-- This seemed like a non-descript shrub --

Palm Springs Pollinator in Red Flower January 2018
 -- But the pollinators loved it (top right corner) --

Sycamore at City Hall Palm Springs
 -- Beautiful tree beside City Hall - across from the airport --

Amazing Urban Tree at City Hall Palm Springs January 2018
-- Another interesting tree at City Hall --

  • Pay attention to the days that certain tourist sites are closed.  We found some places were closed on Wednesdays and others only open four days of the week so it took a bit of planning to coordinate our week's schedule.
  • By eating at a restaurant that is part of a resort, you can also walk around their property!  A few I wish we had had time for were: Norma's at The Parker Palm Springs (4200 E. Palm Canyon Drive) and the Essence restaurant at Two Bunch Palms Resort and Spa (67425 Two Bunch Palms Trail).
  • Keep in mind costs when planning the tourist sites you want to visit:
FREE: Sunnylands, Downtown, Pioneertown, Big Morongo Reserve (donations encouraged) 
COST: Moorten Botanical Gardens,  Joshua Tree State Park, Aerial Tramway to Mt San Jacinto


The (Urban) Birds of Palm Springs 2018
- Two Gardens of Palm Springs: Cacti & Drought Resistant Plants
- The Flora & Fauna outside (and above) the Palm Springs area!
- Short Drive from Palm Springs: A Favourite Wildlife Preserve

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