by Terri Hardin | March 21, 2017

Palm Springs
Sun, spa, golf, gaming -- Palm Springs, CA, is famous for great weather and outstanding amenities. But visitors to the Coachella Valley will also be amazed at the opportunities for adventure, and how accessible they are for people with a range of interests.

Way out east in Thermal, past two Indian casinos and acres of carrot farms and date palmeries, you'll find the BMW Performance Driving School. Part of the elite Thermal Club racetrack complex (where millionaires go to race their toys), the Driving School offers a variety of fast and furious experiences, including a two-hour introduction to the Ultimate Driving Machine. First, our group sampled a selection of five BMWs that included the M5 -- or what our instructor termed "The Beast." He also assured us that the brakes on each vehicle we drove were calibrated for our safety. Which was a good thing, because the next task was to race against each other for the best time out of three-to-four laps.

Climbing mountains has never been easier since the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway began operation in 1963. Ascending to an elevation of 8,516 feet only takes about 10 minutes, which is plenty of time for visitors to take in a 360-degree view as their rotating tramcar climbs through three climate zones. In addition, a taped commentary details the construction of the Tramway and its engineers' determination, which is nothing short of amazing. At the top, Mount San Jacinto State Park is a winter wonderland with two restaurants, observation decks, natural history museum, and more.

Got a thirst for adventure? Slake it with a hike to a palm oasis (formed by the Earth's shifting crust), then follow an ancient seabed to a single-file climb into a tiny "slot canyon." All this and more is part of the two-hour San Andreas Fault Line Tour, an exclusive of Desert Adventures Jeep Tours and one of four distinctive tours on offer. As naturalist guides recount anecdotes about the indigenous people, plants, animals, and geology of the Coachella Valley (and how environmental changes are reshaping what was one of the most arid places in the U.S.), participants are sure to return to their nearby luxury resorts with a new sense of wonder.