The seven wonders of Palm Springs are some of the most beautiful desert landscapes in the world
This private resort community was Walt Disney’s own desert Magic Kingdom. The animation king bought a house here in 1948—then had to sell it to raise money to build Disneyland. When his Anaheim, California, amusement park became successful, Disney returned to build an even larger house at Smoke Tree. Visit today and you’ll understand why Walt, or anyone, might fall for this rustic resort. The centerpiece is the specimen garden: Sonoran and Colorado Desert plants arranged shortest to tallest, creating a jaw-dropping festival of spines with the San Jacinto Mountains as backdrop. Smoke Tree was also forward-thinking in terms of wise water use in the desert, banning front lawns in the 1920s. This is, however, one of the trickiest desert gardens to experience: Unless you own a home here, the only way to visit is to stay in one of the guest cottages, and these book up years in advance. If you’re one of the lucky guests, be sure to hit the specimen garden at dusk when the cholla spines glow like auras. From $400; smoketreeranch.