Living Desert Zoo in Palm Springs, California still ranks as my favorite zoo, compared to the ones in Honolulu, Orange County, Santa Ana, and even San Diego. I recommend going sometime before May, during the winter or spring, when it’s not as hot in the desert and the animals are out for longer. I remember seeing notices that the animals would be off limits from the public during certain times when the day would start to get too hot.
When we went, it was in May, and we drove in from Orange County. It took us three or more hours to get there and we had just thirty minutes or so before closing time. It was still worth it to go, despite having to race walk with our then 19 month old in the sweltering heat. The scenic views, variety of animals, and the beautiful cacti everywhere made for an unforgettable experience.
Food-wise, we tried Firehouse Subs, which was good but doesn’t beat Jersey Mike’s, and also some delicious Mexican food recommended on Yelp. I’ll update later with the name of the restaurant. It’s in a random dusty strip mall with literal tumbleweed rolling around, and we were wondering if it was worth driving all the way out there at first, but it was.
Palm Springs Tramway is a cable car that goes all the way up one of the tallest mountain peaks. It’s one of those things everyone should experience at least once. The tram was built or designed with the help of the Swiss, if I remember correctly, to be just like the ones they use in the Swiss Alps. It’s not dinky, but rather modern with a 360 degree rotating floor so all the passengers can get incredible views and pictures, between panic attacks and gripping the bars so tight your knuckles and face lose all color.
We went up right before sunset, so we didn’t venture out of the lodge once we reached the peak. After hearing stories of people getting lost on a hike and of one woman who had to spend a frigid night up there alone with the coyotes and other animals, only to have to be rescued by the fire crew, we weren’t feeling brave, not after the stomach churning tram ride up. It was bad enough knowing that the only way down was another tram ride. We didn’t want to miss the last tram down on accident after it stopped running. There’s a restaurant up top and a couple of rooms with some stuffed dead animal exhibits. I’d recommend coming here when it’s light out so you can hike in the daylight and spend more time up there. I’ve heard that there is even snow up there, which we really wanted baby girl to see and experience for the first time. It seems so ironic that in a place as hot and dry as the desert in Palm Springs, that there would such a cold frigid place with snow like on this mountain.
We hope to come back as a family to Palm Springs to check out the Stagecoach Festival with an RV and the therapeutic hot springs one of these days. Although, I keep reading how you smell like manure all day after one of those mud baths. Worth it though??