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This Small California Community Is a Dupe for Joshua Tree and Palm Springs

This Small California Community Is a Dupe for Joshua Tree and Palm Springs

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Overflowing with otherworldly beauty, it’s no surprise that the deserts of southern California attract a lot of travelers. But if you’re looking to beat the crowds in Joshua Tree and Palm Springs — not to mention the hundreds of thousands that flock to nearby Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival each year — there’s a different destination to consider. Meet Twentynine Palms — a small community that offers a more local-minded and affordable jaunt into the high desert.

An artistic vibe suffuses this desert oasis, with exhibits and dozens of large-scale hand-painted murals just about everywhere you look. Twentynine Palms Art Gallery hosts rotating exhibits and art classes for adults and children alike if you want to try your hand at making a masterpiece. And just five miles from downtown, Glass Outhouse Art Gallery has some of the most unique pieces of artwork and folk art you’re bound to see dotting the landscape. (This includes an actual outhouse made of glass, hence the name of the gallery.)

While Joshua Tree National Park and its wealth of natural beauty wait just a few miles away, Twentynine Palms boasts breathtaking nights and some of America’s best stargazing. Thanks to its wide-open skies and relatively low light pollution, the skies are awash in stars at night and you can actually spot other planets. There are monthly events around the new moon, where visitors can gaze at stars and deep-sky objects through the telescope at the Sky’s the Limit observatory.

To enjoy the night sky more privately, consider booking a private cabin or house at the nearby Wonder Valley Hot Springs, where you’ll feel like you’re alone in the world. Or, for a song-filled sanctuary with fire pits and live music, there’s Ramsey 29 — a 1940s motel transformed into a boutique beauty a few years back. The nine rooms and recently expanded suites with their luxe-meets-wanderlust vibes are perfect perches for low-key times in the high desert.      

Come mealtime, skip the chain restaurants in favor of spots favored by locals, like the classic all-day diner John’s Place. Dig into the scratch-made pub bites at quirky Grnd Sqrl, where granny smith apples and caramelized onion jam add a zing to the grilled cheese. And Kitchen in the Desert showcases mashups of New American and Trinidadian-inspired dishes. The signature jerk chicken is best savored with a mezcal Paloma on the expansive outdoor patio.



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