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Let’s start in the town of Palm Springs, a city that’s sure had its share of the best of southern California’s riches during the last century. The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway remains one of the most popular attractions in all of southern California, taking visitors from the bottom of the Coachella Valley to the top of the San Jacinto Mountains. To get started, enjoy some of the scenic hiking at Indian Canyon or Palm Canyon; the trailheads are located right outside town.
Another worthwhile activity is spending an afternoon at the Palm Springs Desert Museum, where you can brush up on your natural history of southern California. Before leaving town, stop by the Palm Springs Air Museum. This fantastic indoor museum features one of the world’s largest collections of flying vintage World War II aircraft, and has an artifact collection as well as original mural art works that will impress visitors, young and old.
Down the road from Palm Springs, east on I-10, you’ll pass by Indio and eventually come to the General George S. Patton Memorial Museum. Gen. Patton established the nearby U.S. Army Desert Training Center for the purpose of training fighting men and machines for action under the harsh conditions of the North African deserts. First opened in 1942, today the sites, and the museum, are major draws for military buffs. For other folks, a great spot for bird watching awaits, some 30 miles south of Indio, along Hwy 111. The Salton Sea, the largest lake in California, attracts hundreds of species of birds.
From Indio, jump on I-10 for a few minutes to exit 163. Hang a left and suddenly-gasp!-you’re on another planet populated by strange aliens (just kidding). This is actually Joshua Tree National Park, one of the most unique landscapes in all of North America. More than 1,200 square miles await your exploration among forests of these unusual Joshua Trees that flourish here in the southwestern U.S. A stop at the Cottonwood Visitors Center should point you towards all the “hot spots” to visit, but we recommend the Cholla Cactus Garden and Hidden Valley if your time is limited.
The small city of Twentynine Palms will greet you as you exit I-10 on the park’s north side, along Hwy 62. Come in mid-May and enjoy the Joshua Tree Music Festival, a three-day event held at Joshua Tree National Park. Don’t miss the annual Twentynine Palms Street Fair and Car Show, the extravaganza held each year on the first weekend in June. If you make it down here in October, Pioneer Days is a multi-day celebration with over a dozen fun events and all the small–town personality you could hope for.
Driving through the Yucca Valley you might feel a bit like you are wandering around in the desert. However, you are not alone. In Desert Christ Park, biblical characters wander through the desert as well. In the park are 35 elegant, concrete statues of ancient figures—including the Hebrew prophets, the twelve apostles, the tomb of Christ, and even a replication of the Sermon on the Mount. To return to A.D., visit the Hi-Desert Nature Museum, to explore the history of the area. With exhibits on the wildlife of the desert, Native American artifacts, a fossil collection, a gem and mineral collection, and even a mini-zoo with live, desert animals, the museum is a perfect stop for the recreational naturalist.