Palm Springs offers more than good food, fun, sun

Most people tend to stay at home during their long winter break, but if you’re looking for fun in the sun without that long drive to Las Vegas, then Palm Springs is your destination.

With a growing population and sunshine year-round, winter is the tourist season for this desert oasis.

With prime shopping, dining and more than enough pools to lounge by, you’re bound to find something you’d like.

If you are more of an outdoors type, then head on over to The Living Desert in Palm Desert. The Living Desert is a zoo that features desert animals from all over the world.

Some of the most popular animals include hyenas, giraffes, warthogs, mountain lions and many endangered birds. The zoo also has a large herd of bighorn sheep, the only native sheep in California, which are also on the endangered species list.

Besides animals, there are many nature trails that showcase many desert plants and flowers.

The Living Desert’s hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and general admission is $11.95.

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is the world’s largest rotating tram. It takes you up 2.5 miles, above the desert floor. The top of the tram offers hiking trails, camping and a restaurant. The hours of the tram are 10 a.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. on weekends. The last tram down is 10:30 p.m. so make sure you don’t get left on top of the mountain. Tickets are $21.95 and $34 if you want dinner.

If you are a night owl, then head to Palm Canyon Drive on any Thursday night. The entire street is shut down and turned into a street fair, full of local produce, flowers, food and local artwork. The street also has many karaoke bars and restaurants. The street is closed from 6 to 10 p.m. and the bars stay open past midnight.

For the shopaholics, travel down the 10 Freeway to the Cabazon Outlet Mall. Cabazon is an outdoor shopping center and offers many outlets of high-end retail stores.

A few of the stores include Gap, Lucky Brand Jeans, Saks Fifth Avenue, Vans Shoes, Puma, Nike and Ripcurl. After all of the holiday rushes, many of the stores will be offering big sales on leftover merchandise.

Next to Cabazon is the glamorous Casino Morongo. This casino is 18 and over, so all of your college friends can join in the gambling fun. Besides games, Morongo also offers a dance club, a Key Club, restaurants and a buffet. The buffet is overrated, so I recommend heading to Cielo, which is located on the 27th floor and offers the best view in the desert. Cielo is a little on the pricey side, but it would be a dining experience to remember.

Some higher-class shopping can be found on El Paso, located in Palm Desert. For some of these stores, you need deep pockets. But the street is great for window shopping and local favorite eateries.

I recommend Native Foods, which is a vegan restaurant. Trust me, the food is great and with most dishes under $10, it’s a great place for lunch or dinner.

A great place for young people to hang out is The River in Rancho Mirage.

The River is a man-made lake, which offers many restaurants and a stadium-seating movie theater. The restaurants are open late, but tend to be a little crowded on the weekends. Some of the restaurants are Yard House, Cheesecake Factory, P.F. Chang’s and Babe’s Rib Company. I recommend going to the Yard House, which usually has more seating and offers a great happy hour from 3 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Overall, Palm Springs is a great place to visit, but not a really good place to live. Rent maybe cheap, but new things to do may be hard to find.

Also avoid any hotels in the Desert Hot Springs area. The price may be right, but for all the wrong reasons. With a lot of crime the hot springs aren’t worth it.

If you’re looking to get a tan or just check out someplace new, then head out to Palm Springs, where the sun is always shining and there’s no freeway traffic.

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