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Signature City Palm Springs

Learn about the Cahuilla people, explore protected deserts, visit hot springs and enjoy an expert-led walk with a preservationist as you discover the city of Palm Springs.
Rating (4.88)
Program No. 21384RJ
6 days
Starts at

Signature City Palm Springs

Learn about the Cahuilla people, explore protected deserts, visit hot springs and enjoy an expert-led walk with a preservationist as you discover the city of Palm Springs.
6 days
Starts at
Program No. 21384 RJ
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At a Glance

Put on some Elvis or some Frank Sinatra — you’re off to discover the best of America’s favorite desert oasis, Palm Springs. Half a century after the King and Ol’ Blue Eyes put this desert burg on the map, Palm Springs lures a new generation of visitors with its modernist charms, the famous hot springs and picturesque Coachella Valley and San Jacinto Mountains. Venture into canyons and museum halls to learn about those who have settled the desert from prehistory to the modern day and discover the city’s treasury of mid-century architecture around every corner. Ride the world’s largest rotating aerial tram up the sheer cliffs of Chino Canyon and visit a windmill farm to glimpse the future of sustainable energy.
Small Group
Small Group
Love to learn and explore in a small-group setting? These adventures offer small, personal experiences with groups of 10 to 24 participants.

Best of all, you'll ...

  • Analyze Palm Springs’ “desert modernism” style of architecture with a preservationist who introduces you to the architects, builders and designers who developed it.
  • Walk in the footsteps of the ancient Agua Caliente band of Cahuilla Indians in Palm Canyon.
  • Explore the 1,200-acre Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, reflecting the desert environments of North America and Africa.
Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
Palm Desert California
by Palm Desert Historical Society
Desert insiders know Palm Desert as the geographic and cultural heart of the Coachella Valley. This resort town with over 30 golf courses started as a barren outpost aptly named Sand Hole. Founder Cliff Henderson envisioned a modern utopia growing from the scrub and—as a centerpiece—built the Shadow Mountain Club in 1948. With its glamorous figure-eight swimming pool and high-dive competitions, the club drew celebrities, presidents, and future residents. Cliff’s brother Randall Henderson spotlighted another side of desert life when he established the headquarters of Desert Magazine in the new town, luring readers to pack up their jeeps and move to Palm Desert. The brothers’ twin vision made Palm Desert the irresistible blend of city and wilderness it is today. Visitors can shop El Paseo, known as the “Rodeo Drive of the Desert,” then in 10 minutes embark on a mountainous thrill ride—the Palms to Pines Highway.
Palm Springs, CA (Images of America)
by Moya Henderson; Palm Springs Historical Society
Nestled beneath the San Jacinto Mountains in an oasis of palm trees is a mineral hot springs. For thousands of years, this was the winter home of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, the original inhabitants of this harsh desert region. A U.S. government survey party discovered the spring in 1853 and identified the area located at the base of “two bunches of palms.” In 1884, Judge John McCallum of San Francisco purchased land near the springs for $800 and built the first adobe structure, which still stands today. Stage lines and railroads provided transportation through the area, bringing in visitors year-round. Dr. Welwood Murray built the first Palm Springs Hotel, and in 1909, Nellie Coffman built The Desert Inn, which would become famous as a tourist attraction. This was the beginning of the area’s major industry. Today Palm Springs is still a destination for visitors throughout the year and home to a growing population of permanent residents.
Palm Springs Holiday
by Peter Moruzzi
This is the story of Palm Springs in its golden years, a city that had it all, including marvelous midcentury Modern architecture, fabulous fly-in hotels, and a swinging nightlife. Through vintage photographs, postcards, and other ephemera, Palm Springs Holiday recalls the Palm Springs area from the 1910s through the 1960s, where people vacationed in the desert, dined, danced, and lounged poolside. Features vintage images of the Coachella Valley and shots of the area’s famous hotels and gambling dens.
Palm Springs (Then and Now)
by Robert C. Palmer, PhD
In the late 1800s, lands of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians were subdivided into sections. Even-numbered sections were designated as Indian, and the Southern Pacific Railroad was given odd-numbered sections. This book focuses on Section 15, sold by the railroad to early Palm Springs settlers.
8 Reviews
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4.88 Average

The Palm Springs experience was a perfect foil for the cold, February weather of the east. Great hotel, abundant sunshine, al fresco dining, interesting field trips, friendly, well-informed guides, fun shopping, and a blast of nostalgia for curious baby-boomers. The program certainly surpassed all of our expectations. Wow! What a great place to spend a week!


A great and diverse program for an enjoyable week. The hotel location was ideal for walking to restaurants and the two main streets of activities. Our leader was fantastic.


Wonderful program, fascinating history and architecture of this desert oasis. Lots of interesting activities; I particularly enjoyed the architectural tour, the visit to the wind turbine farm, and the date farm (never realized how challenging it is to grow dates, how many varieties of dates there are and taste differences, plus free samples). Hotel was in a great location. The included meals were consistently outstanding. Highly recommend the lobster ravioli at Lulu Bistro and the sushi option (808 Roll) at Mitch's for the lunch in Palm Desert. Not as part of the included menu, but you have to try a date milkshake, offered at many places in downtown. Joanne, our group leader, was one of the best group leaders in the over 40 Road Scholar programs I've taken. She was delightful -- enthusiastic, caring, very knowledgeable and organized. All in all, wonderful activities, great meals and excellent traveling companions in a smallish (22 individuals) group combined to make this an excellent trip. In the free time, recommend a visit to the Palm Springs Art Museum -- not large, but an interesting contemporary collection, plus treasures from pre-Columbian Mexico. Also, visit the Sonny Bono (former mayor of Palm Springs) and the Lucille Ball statues along the Walk of Palm Springs Stars in the downtown area - about a block from the hotel. In summary, this was a great experience! Highly recommend this trip.


Since it was my first trip with a large group - difficult to be objective. Most enjoyed seeing part of the US. Being surrounded by mts.is quite awesome If you enjoy being outdoors and becoming acquainted with desert life in lush surroundings with an interesting history - try it!


The program covers Palm Springs and life and living in the desert from the indigenous peoples to the wind farms of today. The variety of programs within this framework is wonderful.


My wife and I just experienced our first Road Scholar program and it will definitely not be our last...


We just returned from the Palm Springs trip. I highly recommend this experience. The leader, the activities and the location were outstanding.


Your website is excellent, yet I continue to use and enjoy telephone answering staff for booking.

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