Palm Desert: The capital of cool

The mood is mod and the art is amazing. And you don't even need a car to enjoy it

David Lansing

48 hours in Palm Desert

Friday: Enjoy a killer margarita on the patio at Armando's Bar & Grill ($$; 73-260 El Paseo; 760/346-0744).

Saturday: Check out the desertart Desert Art Collection & Sculpture Garden (free; 45350 San Luis Rey Ave.). Then rent a bike (from $25 per day) or a moped (from $62 per day) at Funseekers (73-865 State 111; 760/340-3861) and ride down El Paseo, making a stop at Imago Galleries (45-450 State 74; 760/776-9890), which, with its blue-chip artists, is practically the MOMA of the desert.

The nearby Palm Desert Visitor Center (72-567 State 111; 760/568-1441) is a good place to pick up bike-trail maps and explore the surrounding Eric Johnson Memorial Gardens (free), a multisensory setting of desert plantings.

The Gardens on El Paseo (73-545 El Paseo), an open-air shopping plaza, has a number of excellent dining spots, including Sullivan's Steakhouse ($$$$; 760/341-3560), for steaks and jazz, and Pacifica Seafood Restaurant ($$$; 760/674-8666), for oysters on the half-shell and cheap martinis.

Sunday: At the Living Desert ($13; 47900 Portola Ave.; 760/346-5694), mornings are a good time to catch the young animals ― like Maliki, a giraffe calf born in May ― at their most active. But first check for the next docent-led tour (11 3; no set times) of 50 California landscape paintings.

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