Palm Springs Less Traveled
These places, in Palm Springs and the vicinity, are something a little different for those who like to get off the beaten track.
Moorten Botanical Garden and Cactarium
The Moorten Botanical Garden is tucked into a south Palm Springs neighborhood and run by Clark Moorten, a 60-something cowbo whose family has owned the property for many years. As botanical gardens go, it’s small, but you’ll find thousands of species of succulents and cactus growing together from all over the world.
Cabot's Pueblo Museum
Desert Hot Springs
In 1913, at age 30, Cabot Yerxa homesteaded 160 acres in what is now Desert Hot Springs, California. Pressed for water, he dug a well with pick and shovel, discovering the now famous hot mineral waters of Desert Hot Springs. He began construction on his pueblo-style home in 1941, and worked on it until his death in 1965, at the age of 81. The house is 5,000 square feet, divided into 35 rooms and adorned with 150 windows and 65 doors. The tour takes you through much of it, and along the way you learn the history of Cabot and his bride, roughing it in this desert frontier.
The Cabazon Dinosaurs were built by Claude Bell from steel and concrete between 1964 and 1986 to promote his restaurant. Located just west of Palm Springs, the 150-foot-long Brontosaurus and the 65-foot-tall Tyrannosaurus rex are visible from the freeway to travelers passing by on Interstate 10. You may have seen them in the movie Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure. Claude Bell died in 1988 at age 91 and his family sold the property. Interestingly, it’s now owned by creationists. Go figure. Skip the gift shop and just get yourself some awesome photos to share with the folks at home.
Sheilds Date Garden
Shields Date Garden is a historic date palm orchard founded in 1924 by Floyd and Bess Shields. Floyd was one of the pioneering date farmers in the date industry of the Coachella Valley. He bred a number of his own hybrids and varieties, and came up with a film to market dates which he gave the racy title, “Romance and Sex Life of the Date”. You can tour the orchards, buy dates and homemade goodies from the gift shop, watch the movie, and have an excellent date shake. They also have a cafe for lunch and dinner that serves surprisingly good food. Try the date burger or the bacon wrapped dates.
The Integratron was designed and built by Ufologist George Van Tassel in 1959, who claimed the it was capable of rejuvenation, anti-gravity and time travel. He built the structure supposedly following instructions provided by visitors from the planet Venus.
After Van Tassel’s death in 1978, the building was bought by a group of sisters who now promote the Integratron as an “acoustically perfect structure,” give tours and offer “sound baths” which are meditations while listening to the playing of crystal bowls. This is truly unique and enjoyable on multiple levels.
Bonus: If you like orchids, the Gubler Orchid farm is just down the street.
Pappy & Harriet's Pioneertown Palace
Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace is a honky-tonk barbecue restaurant and music venue on a property that used to be a Western movie set for cowboy actors Roy Rogers and Gene Autry. Get some great BBQ and check out some music, then take a walk down the old west movie set, where some of the buildings have been converted to shops.
Pappy’s has become a pretty popular place, and it has attracted some amazing guest musicians, most notably Paul McCartney who performed a concert there in 2016.
Noah Purifoy Outdoor Museum
Noah Purifoy was a pioneer in the movement to make art from found objects. In 1989, he moved to Joshua Tree and spent the last 15 years of his life filling 10 acres of desert with his art. The property is open every day from sun-up to sundown and is free to tour.
Richard Breceda's Metal Art Sculptures
Take a day out to see the giant metal sculptures of Ricard Breceda. There are more than 130 of them spread over about 10 miles of desert. The owner of the Galleta Meadows Estate, Dennis Avery, commissioned the sculptures and they are there for everyone to see. Stop at the Borrego Springs chamber of commerce to pick up a map.
Salton Sea & Salvation Mountain
Mecca to Niland, east side of Salton Sea
The Salton sea was once an up-and-coming resort area until the unregulated flow of water into the lake drowned the resorts that were built there. The drive along the eastern border of the Salton Sea will take you past the renovated North Shore Beach and Yacht Club with its Albert Frey architecture. Just north of there is the quirky International Banana Museum. Further along, you can pull off and tour Bombay Beach. People still live there, but most of it is the burned out remains of more promising times. It’s kind of sad and fascinating at the same time. If you go, definitely go as far as Salvation Mountain, a folk art installation created with devotion by a man named Leonard Knight. Also nearby is Slab City, a seasonal “town” of people who arrive every year in the RVs, and a found-object art facility called East Jesus.
If the history of the Salton Sea piques your interest, check out the movie “Plagues and Pleasures on the Salton Sea”.
If you have any questions, please send me a note and I’ll get right back to you.