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Trip of the Week

The Hot Bargains of Palm Springs

August 10, 1986|MICHELE GRIMM and TOM GRIMM | The Grimms of Laguna Beach are authors of "Away for the Weekend," a travel guide to Southern California.

If you don't mind the desert heat, now is the time for a visit to Palm Springs. Despite daytime temperatures that often rise above 100 degrees, one thing that won't get you hot under the collar is the summertime price for accommodations.

For example, you can live in luxury in the resort town's new all-suite hotel, Maxim's de Paris, for as low as $65 per night through Sept. 14. (A few months from now when Maxim's peak season begins, Dec. 20, suite rates climb to $185 and higher.) Many other lodgings offer equally good summer deals.

Another enticement for off-season visitors is the town's annual summer-long sale. You'll find bargains galore in such air-conditioned sanctuaries as the Desert Fashion Plaza, a sophisticated shopping mall recently rebuilt at a cost of $80 million. It's home to high-style stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue, I. Magnin, Gucci and Laura Ashley.

Palm Springs also boasts the Oasis Waterpark, a new attraction to help you cool off this time of year. Besides wet-and-wild water slides, you'll find California's largest wave pool that creates four-foot ocean curls for board or body surfing.

Alpine Retreat

Another thrilling way to beat the heat is to get aboard the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, which whisks you from the desert up to the San Jacinto Mountains, an alpine retreat 8,500 feet above sea level.

You can even cool off by breezing around an indoor ice skating rink in nearby Palm Desert. The Ice Capades Chalet draws skaters of all ages to another air-conditioned mall, Palm Desert Town Center, the area's major shopping plaza with 140 stores and restaurants.

Other refreshing news is that many of the Palm Springs' dining spots now remain open year-round instead of closing their kitchens for the summer. A few, like Las Casuelas Terraza on South Palm Canyon Drive, even offer service on outdoor patios by spraying a mist of water that cools the air but evaporates before reaching diners.

Despite all these choices for escaping the heat, you may also wonder whether Mother Nature has planned another summertime surprise for the city.

Actually there's little evidence of the earthquake that rattled Palm Springs last month, although Saks is still restocking its shattered Baccarat crystal collection. And you may spot a few concrete highway dividers that were smashed by tumbling boulders along California 111.

Forgetting about temblors and temperatures, drive west from Los Angeles on Interstate 10 beyond Banning and exit on California 111 into the heart of Palm Springs. The highway becomes Palm Canyon Drive, a main thoroughfare bordered by night-lighted palm trees that symbolize this famed desert resort.

Change of Temperature

At the north edge of town you can turn onto Tramway Road, which heads four miles up Chino Canyon to the lower station of the aerial tram. When the 80-passenger gondola reaches its mountain terminus, you'll step into fresh air that is 40 degrees cooler than the desert you departed 15 minutes before.

The tram delivers you to San Jacinto State Park, where there are panoramic views of the valley below and forest trails to meander on foot or on the back of a mule. Food and drink are available at the mountain station.

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway begins its high-flying trips at 8 a.m. weekends and 10 a.m. weekdays. The last car down leaves at 10:45 p.m. Adults pay $11.95 for the round trip; children 3 to 12 ride for $7.95. After 2:30 p.m. you can buy a Ride 'n' Dine ticket for $4 more that includes a barbecue dinner at the top. (The tram will be closed Sept. 2 to Oct. 10 for annual maintenance.)

If you continue south on Palm Canyon Drive, the highway swings east and crosses Gene Autry Trail at the edge of town. Turn left and go half a mile north to the 21-acre Oasis Waterpark, a theme park that offers valet parking and an adult beach club with a physical fitness center.

In addition to the featured wave pool, slide rides vary from the scary free-fall Scorpion and enclosed-tube Rattler to the tame Sidewinder. A kiddy playground with splash pools, mini-slides and water cannons is called Squirt City.

You'll find shade in covered pavilions or under an umbrella or cabana that can be rented by the hour or day. The park also has whirlpool spas, volleyball courts and a food stand.

Oasis Waterpark is open from 10 a.m. weekends and 11 a.m. weekdays until 9 p.m. All-day admission costs $12.95 for ages 12 and older, $9.95 for ages 4 through 11.

Going to Bat

America's traditional summertime sport, baseball, also can be enjoyed in Palm Springs. Many evenings the Palm Springs Angels, farm club of the California Angels, go to bat against Southland farm clubs of other major league teams. Play begins at 7:30 p.m. in the city's refurbished Angel Stadium.

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