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Palm Desert, California

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Palm Desert is a city in Riverside County, California, United States, in the Coachella Valley, approximately 14 miles (23 km) east of Palm Springs, 121 miles (195 km) northeast of San Diego, and 122 miles (196 km) east of Los Angeles. The population was 48,445 at the 2010 census. The city has been one of the state’s fastest growing since 1980 when its population was 11,801.

A major center of growth in the Coachella Valley, Palm Desert is a popular retreat for “snowbirds” from colder climates (the Eastern and Northern United States, and Canada), who swell its population by an estimated 31,000 each winter. Palm Desert has seen more residents become “full-timers”, mainly from the coasts and urban centers of California, who have come for both affordable and high-valued homes.

The ancestral homeland of Cahuilla, a division of the Morongo Band of Mission Indians. Their bird songs and funeral songs share the oral tradition of how they were present on these lands for over 10,000 years.

The area was first known as the Old MacDonald Ranch, but the name changed to Palm Village in the 1920s when date palms were planted. Local historians said the main residents of pre-1950 Palm Desert were Cahuilla Indian farmers of the now extinct San Cayetano tribe, but a few members of the Montoya family of Cahuilla/Spanish descent were prominent leaders in civic life.

The first residential development occurred in 1943 in connection with an Army maintenance camp in the area. That site was later developed into “El Paseo”, an upscale shopping district not unlike Rodeo Drive. In 1948, the Palm Desert Corporation began to develop real estate, and in 1951 the area was given its present name.

  • Coachella Valley Firebirds of the American Hockey League; affiliate of the Seattle Kraken of the National Hockey League.
  • College of the Desert Roadrunners in football, baseball, basketball, soccer and volleyball.
  • Golf – Palm Desert is home to about 30 golf courses.
  • Tennis – tennis courts in the Marrakesh and Shadow Mountain golf clubs.

Resorts and golf clubs

The city’s first golf course and tennis club was Shadow Mountain in 1952, followed by Marrakesh in 1954, the Palm Desert Greens mobile home park golf course in 1961, and the Palm Desert Country Club in 1962. The latter, located five miles (8 km) east of the original city, was formally annexed in 1992. The total number of golf clubs (more than 30 located within 10 miles or 16 kilometres from the city) have made Palm Desert known as the “World’s Golf Capital.”

Desert Willow Golf Resort is the City Of Palm Desert’s municipal golf course, and has two championship courses: Mountain View and Firecliff. It is associated with the Westin Desert Willow Resort at the golf course location. The Firecliff course is listed at No. 13 in Golf Magazine’s ‘Best Courses you can Play’ 2010 list for California.

In the late-1970s and 1980s, a spate of private golf clubs, destination resorts and hotels appeared in the northern half of Palm Desert, such as the four-star JW Marriott Desert Springs Golf Resort and Spa in 1987 and the four-star Desert Willow Golf Resort in 2002. The city has over 30 motels and 5,000 motel rooms, since lodging and hospitality is a major portion of the local tourist-based economy.

Palm Desert is the home of the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, a combination zoo and botanical garden featuring an extensive collection of desert plants and animals and a state-of-the-art animal hospital.

Palm Desert is also the site of the main campus of College of the Desert, the local community college, which has expanded greatly in size since the campus opened in 1961 and one of the buildings was built by donations from the local Cahuilla Indian tribal nations. The state higher education system opened an extension campus duplex (the Indian Wells Education Center for both California State University, San Bernardino and the University of California Riverside.

The primary high school is Palm Desert High School (with 2200 students) which is part of the Desert Sands Unified School District. The main Middle School (with 1100 students) is Palm Desert Middle School, a charter school. The four elementary schools in the city are: George Washington Charter, Abraham Lincoln, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. The northernmost part of Palm Desert is served by the Palm Springs Unified School District, so the students can attend Rancho Mirage High School in Rancho Mirage, or Nellie Coffman Middle School and Cathedral City High School in Cathedral City, California. Some students in the eastside are zoned to La Quinta High School and Colonel Mitchell Paige Middle School.

The Riverside County Department of Education operates San Cayetano Community School, a grade 1 to 12 educational facility. Palm Desert has 8 private schools in the immediate area: Desert Adventist Academy, Palm Desert Presbyterian School, Sacred Heart Catholic Academy, The Palm Valley School, the Learning Tree Academy, Xavier College Preparatory High School (Catholic-Jesuit), the Hope Academy, and the Desert Torah Academy, a Jewish community school and its social recreational Jewish Community Center. It also has meetings by the Jewish Federation of the Desert based in Palm Springs, serving an estimated 35,000 Jewish people in the Coachella Valley.

Electricity in Palm Desert is served by Southern California Edison.


Modern transportation services include:

Palm Springs International Airport serves Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley.
Historical note: during World War II it was operated as the Palm Springs Army Airfield.
SunLine Transit Agency provides bus service in the Coachella Valley.
Highways include:

I-10 – Interstate 10 runs north of the city.
SR 74 – The Pines to Palms Scenic Byway (California State Route 74) runs from the coast, over the San Jacinto Mountains and has its eastern terminus at Highway 111 in Palm Desert before continuing northbound as Monterey Avenue.
SR 111 – California State Route 111, which passes through the city.
Palm Desert has 14 city parks:

Cahuilla Hills Park
Cap Homme/ Ralph Adams Park
Civic Center Park
Community Gardens
Freedom Park
Hovley Soccer Park
Ironwood Park
Joe Mann Park
Magnesia Falls City Park
Palm Desert Dog Park
Palma Village Park
University Dog Park
University Park East
Washington Charter School Park
South of Palm Desert is the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument, and north of Palm Desert is the Coachella Valley National Wildlife Refuge.
The Desert Memorial Park in Cathedral City is maintained by the Palm Springs Cemetery District. Also in Cathedral City is the Forest Lawn Cemetery, maintained by Forest Lawn Memorial-Parks & Mortuaries.

  • Desert ARC Italian Festival
  • Greek Festival
  • Armenian Festival
  • CanadaFest
  • Scottish Festival
  • Palm Desert
    • College of the Desert
    • Philip L. Boyd Deep Canyon Desert Research Center, a unit of the University of California Natural Reserve System
    • Living Desert Zoo and Gardens
    • McCallum Theatre
    • Circle of Land and Sky temporary art installation by Phillip K. Smith III, part of the inaugural Desert X
  • Surrounding communities
    • Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert in Rancho Mirage.
    • Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells.

Palm Desert had been in the sister cities program, as designated by Sister Cities International. Six to nine cities that are or were associated with Palm Desert:

  • Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia
  • Osoyoos, British Columbia, Canada
  • Haifa, Israel
  • La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico
  • Gisborne, New Zealand
  • Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
  • Port Elizabeth, South Africa
  • Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico

Palm Desert has a community exchange program with

  • Ketchikan, Alaska, U.S.

Also a community exchange relationship with the major city of Concepcion, Chile.

Palm Desert, California Schools


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