Snowbirds have fled; we get the desert back

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Jamie Lee Pricer

Desert Willow Golf Resort, owned by the city of Palm Desert, is one of many desert courses offering special rates this summer.
Photo courtesy city of Palm Desert

It’s been said that the Coachella Valley has two seasons — hot and hotter. A bit of an exaggeration for sure — it’s really more like cool/warm and really, really hot.

In another sense, however, there are two seasons in the desert — snowbirds and no snowbirds.

Not discounting the millions of dollars they bring to our economy, but there is a valley-wide palpable sigh of relief when they leave. Thousands arrive by November as golf courses are refreshed with new grass. Most don’t linger past Easter, particularly Canadians who, for legal reasons, are limited to six-month stays. What a shame for them, one might think. That’s just as many unheated pools have warmed up enough to take a dip and the snowbirds often head back north or east to a home world that is still chilly and slushy.

Gridlock is gone

You hear most often gripes about heavier traffic, a relative complaint for sure if you’ve tried to drive on Los Angeles freeways between 7 and 10 a.m. and 2 and 7 p.m. Coachella Valley drivers are still spoiled in that respect. And it’s not just snowbird drivers — more than 220,000 people attend the Coachella and Stagecoach music festivals over three weekends in April. Most of them arrive via Interstate 10.

The Coachella Valley Economic Partnership estimates about 100,000 snowbirds visit. After the relative calm of their departure, it’s time for full-time residents to embrace desert life and buckle down for the summer.

Museums, golf and more

A few reminders and suggestions:

• The street fairs. Due to the heat, by early June the popular College of the Desert Alumni Association and Palm Springs shopping arcades will shorten their hours. COD’s shaded booths will close earlier — noon instead of 2 p.m. Palm Springs’ shopping and people watching will start later in the evening. — 7 p.m. instead of 6 p.m.

By the end of May, the Certified Farmers Markets in Palm Desert and La Quinta will close. The Palm Springs market will offer summer hours on Saturday indoors at the Pavilion in Sunrise Park.

• Now’s the time to golf. Preferably early in the morning or after 4 p.m. Courses drop green fees for the shoulder season and the summer. So golf rates take a dip in May, then drop again in June and sometimes again in July. By that time, green fees that during season were at the $50 or $60 level might drop to under $30. Watch the ads and you’ll see breakfast or lunch before or after a round tossed in.

• Go check out small local museums. Swoop by the La Quinta Historical Museum from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 22 for a twofer — a free piece of birthday cake marking the museum’s 7th year and a chance to look at a display of 1930s-era photographs by Ansel Adams and Dorothea Lange. Can’t get better than that!

At the other end of the valley, you’ll need more time absorb the detailed “Sec. 14 — the Other Palm Springs” display at the Agua Caliente Museum. It covers the life experiences of the people who lived on the historic and lucrative downtown Palm Springs tract in the 1940s-1960s. Section 14’s history is a shower of diverse cultures, races, ethnicities and conflicting economic interests.

• Quick before it closes for a July to September break, stroll the Sunnylands Center and Garden grounds in Rancho Mirage. A 1.25-mile path wanders through the 9-acre garden at the former estate of the late Walter and Leonore Annenberg, where they hosted royalty, presidents and entertainers. Selections from their art collections are rotated and on display in the Center. Admission is free.

If you go

Palm Springs VillageFest:

College of the Desert Alumni
Association Street Fair:

Certified Farmers Markets:

La Quinta Historical Museum:

Agua Caliente Museum: