Where does a family of five head for palm trees and warm weather without setting foot on an airplane? The answer is Palm Springs, according to Jim O'Malley of Lafayette.

"It's close enough to drive and the atmosphere is very relaxed, with a hotel or resort to fit every budget," he said.

The Lafayette O'Malleys spent an entire day hiking nearby Joshua Tree National Park. "One of my all time favorite Palm Springs restaurants is Las Casuelas Terraza. They have live music and good Mexican food," Jim said.

There's more than golf in Palm Springs. Ride Indian Canyons on horseback with Smoke Tree Stables, then head back to town for the "Taking of the Waters" at The Spa. This natural hot springs has been attracting visitors and Hollywood stars since the 1880s. Stroll the Uptown Design District, running along North Palm Canyon Drive. This hip retail corridor is the epicenter of fashion -- think Trina Turk boutique, as well as antique and consignment stores and retro galleries.

When you want to cool down, head to the Palm Springs Art Museum. Founded in 1938, the museum is located in an architecturally-significant building designed by E. Stewart Williams and keeps its 30,000 works of art at a pleasant 75 degrees year round.


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George Jetson meets Elvis Presley

Back in the day, Palm Springs was California's desert playground for the wealthy. Elvis and Priscilla Presley honeymooned here, as did countless celebrities. In fact, Marilyn Monroe still haunts the neighborhood. At 26 feet tall and over 34,000 pounds, her larger-than-life presence lives on as the "Forever Marilyn" stainless steel sculpture.

In the 1960s Palm Springs, second homes were often purchased on a whim. Priced around $15,000, six steel houses were built, impervious to heat, termites and fire. Unfortunately, the price of steel shot through the roof, leaving the planned housing tract abandoned. To view these homes, take a Modern Tour where you'll see Palm Springs' collection of mid-century modern architecture.

Temecula, Southern California's wine country

Ninety minutes from Palm Springs, Temecula is Southern California's wine country. Reminiscent of Sonoma and Livermore wine regions 15 years ago, Temecula Valley is home to 35 wineries, a dozen restaurants and some swanky new tasting rooms like Lorimar Winery and deluxe lodging digs. From small producers making handcrafted red wines, such as Doffo Winery and Robert Rezoni Vineyards and Winery, the winemakers are still very much approachable and excited to share their craft.

My weekend visit had me in wine country for Crush, a yearly tasting event in September, hosted by the Temecula Valley Wine Growers Association. It's easy to plan a jam-packed weekend if you like good food -- Leonesse Cellars has killer garlic fries and a unique pork belly pizza served at their restaurant -- while Miramonte Winery is the place to go for wine tasting and live music on Friday and Saturday nights.

Fall is a wonderful time to visit, taking a horse-drawn carriage ride through vineyards from Ponte Family Estate to Wiens Family Cellars, ending at South Coast Winery Resort & Spa. My ideal day would end with a spa treatment at South Coast Resort, then off to bed, surrounded by vineyards.

Then Sunday morning, head out before daybreak with California Dreamin' for a scenic hot air balloon ride over Temecula vineyards and citrus groves, followed with a sparkling wine brunch. Why not reach for the stars? After all, this is the place that inspired Disney to create the multisensory attraction Soarin' Over California. Sweet dreams.

Where have your travels taken you? Send an e-mail to NancyBrownConsulting@comcast.net. For insider travel tips visit Nancy's blog at www.nancydbrown.com. What A Trip appears monthly in the Sun.

ONLINE RESOURCES
California Dreamin' -- www.californiadreamin.com
Palm Springs -- www.visitpalmsprings.com
Palm Springs Art Museum -- www.psmuseum.org
Smoke Tree Stables -- www.smoketreestables.com
Spa Resort Casino -- http://www.sparesortcasino.com
Temecula Valley Winegrowers -- www.temeculawines.org
The Modern Tour -- www.themoderntour.com