The greater Palm Springs area includes a handful of small towns, connected by wide flower-lined boulevards, golf courses, and gated communities. The scenery, dominated by the towering ridgelines of the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto mountains that sweep down to the desert floor, is dramatic year round. The sun shines an average of 354 days a year in Palm Springs, but the sweet spot is from November to March, when temperatures drop from triple-digit highs to a balmier range of 65 to 80 during the day, with nights in the low 40s.
The region is a beacon for car collectors, with the iconic McCormick’s Classic Car Show & Auction kicking off the season in November. As temperatures cool, the event schedule heats up. Foremost is the Palm Springs International Film Festival, a 20-plus year, star-studded tradition, held annually in January. Later that month is the Humana Challenge, formerly known as the Bob Hope Classic, with top PGA players. In addition to golf, shopping, and al fresco dining, Palm Springs boasts an interesting architectural history. In late February, the city hosts Modernism Week, a ten-day event that focuses on midcentury modern design and architecture, replete with films, lectures, and swanky parties. For two weeks in March, the world’s top tennis players gather at the BNP Paribas Tennis Tournament in Indian Wells Tennis Garden in an event that attracts the elite of the international tennis circuit and more than 300,000 tennis fans.
Shoulder season is late April through the end of May, and then again in late September and October. Temperatures can still get high (80s and above) in these months, but the nights start to cool down to the mid-50s and 60s. Again, in October, you’ll avoid the extreme heat and be assured of good hotel rates and short waits for tables at the area’s top restaurants. There’s the chance of a fast-moving rainstorm, but they rarely last long enough to require a change of plans. In April, the Coachella Music Festival is a don’t-miss event. The hip-hop and alternative rock can get loud, but the concurrent arts festival with its focus on sculpture is a draw for all generations. May is a great time to visit the Palm Springs Air Museum; each Memorial Day the museum’s B-52 aircraft drops thousands of red and white carnations in commemoration of fallen servicemen and women.
Thanks to swimming pools and air conditioning, people visit Palm Springs in the hot summer months, too. June through September is considered the off-season in Palm Springs, due to the high (and dry) heat, but you can count on deep discounts (50 percent off or more) on hotel rooms, condos, green fees, and fixed-price menus. To escape summer heat, take the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway nearly 6,000 feet to the crest of the San Jacinto Mountains, or like many desert dwellers, sleep during the day.