Monday, April 30, 2012
FRANKLIN AVENUE IN PALM SPRINGS: Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
Sometimes a tourist attraction exceeds expectations. Not often. But for our first visit to Palm Springs, we knew the Aerial Tramway was a must. I knew the ride up to the top would thrill the kids, but once up there, the chance to hike high up in the mountains just 10 minutes after sweating in the desert was a treat.
Built in 1963, the tram is an engineering marvel that takes people from the burning heat of Palm Springs to the cool (and this time of year, the snow) of the San Jacinto mountains. In ten minutes, the ride takes you from Palm Springs' Chino Canyon (elevation 2,643 feet) to the mountain station at 8,516 feet.
Blogger Kid and Blogger Toddler 2.0 enjoyed the ride up -- although the toddler clutched my neck the entire time. (Afterward, he said it was "scary" -- and that he wanted to immediately ride it again. The kid's a thrill seeker.
Once at the top, the mountain station offers a full restaurant, a snack bar and a fully stocked bar, all overlooking Palm Springs, 8,000 feet below. But beyond that, there's plenty of easy, moderate and hard hikes that can take one or several hours to complete. We got ambitious, and walked a 2 mile hike that took us to the very edge, overlooking the Coachella Valley. Even the kids -- excited by all the patches of snow -- were up for it.
The tram cars' rotating floors allow everyone a chance to view both the canyon and the valley as they head up -- although I personally would have preferred a stationary floor. Cars depart at least every half hour; Monday-Friday, the first Tram up is at 10 a.m., and on Saturday, Sunday and holidays, the first Tram up is at 8 a.m. The last Tram up is at 8 p.m. and last Tram down is at 9:45 p.m. After that, I guess you're stuck up there for the night.
Adults are $23.95; kids 3-12 are $16.95. Annual and summer passes are also available. Go here for a coupon worth $3 off admission after 3 p.m.