In the southern portion of the Mojave Desert lies the city of Twentynine Palms and the world’s largest Marine Corps training base — Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center.
This Military installation is home to thousands of families who find that “Life is fine in 29!” MilSpouses living in the desert oasis of Twentynine Palms have access to beautiful star-filled nights, thousands of acres of national parks, mountain vistas, and world-class public art.
Looking for things to do near Twentynine Palms? Here are 10 ideas to get you started.
Joshua Tree National Park spreads across 800,000 acres, offering visitors spectacular desert and mountain views. Whether you go rock-climbing, bouldering, hiking, or camping, Joshua Tree is one of the country’s most coveted outdoor playgrounds.
The park can be visited year round, on foot or by car. Drive on the well-maintained roads or hike to one of 550 campsites to experience all that Mother Nature has to offer. Channel your inner “ranger” and enjoy activities like nature walks, hikes, campfire talks, and tours of the sites such as Desert Queen Ranch, which has been around since the gold ming era.
Tip: Bring plenty of water! In the summertime especially, Twentynine Palms can reach highs of 115 degrees Fahrenheit.
Sweeping mountains separate Twentynine Palms from the surrounding major cities. This lack of bright city light means there’s a remarkably dark night sky filled with billions of stars. The Sky’s The Limit Observatory and Nature Center is one of the best spots in the world for stargazing.
Sky’s The Limit (STL) is the non-profit associated with the observatory that is dedicated to bringing free, hands-on education to those visiting the Joshua Tree National Park communities. Every Saturday night, except during full moons, you can participate in free star-viewing events.
For a night on the town, head on over to Tortoise Rock Casino. You can grab drinks at their sports bar, Shelley’s Lounge, or chow down on some food at the Oasis Grille between your table games and slot machine wins.
This Indian Mission casino offers a generous rewards program and excellent customer service, making you feel like a local. In the summers, you can enjoy free concerts outside on the weekends.
Go back in time and visit Smith’s Ranch Drive-In. This blast from the past brings you two movies every Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, for only a $5 admission price. Kids ages 3 and under are admitted free!
The theater adds two new movies every Friday. Doors open at 6:30pm and the movie starts at 7pm. You won’t find the old, clunky, static-ridden radios hanging from car windows here, either. Instead, you’ll tune in to an instructed AM radio station to receive high-quality sound. Nosh on your favorite movie treats — popcorn, candies, nachos, and hot dogs — while you enjoy your flick.
5. Palm Springs
Just a 45-minute drive from Twentynine Palms, Palm Springs is an ideal destination for a day trip or weekend getaway. Stroll along streets lined with palm trees as you explore boutique shops, museums, and art galleries under the warm sunshine.
You can plan an entire weekend around one of the many festivals hosted in or around Palm Springs, such as Coachella, Modernism Week, Palm Springs International Film Festival, and Stagecoach Music Festival. Visitors often find that there is a sense of “stardust” in Palm Springs. Also known as Hollywood’s Playground, Palm Springs tends to be a popular reprieve for celebrities escaping the hustle and bustle of show business.
In fact, Hollywood icons like Frank Sinatra, Kirk Douglass, Elizabeth Taylor, Bing Crosby, Lily Tolman, Bobe Hope, Marilyn Monroe, and Elvis Presley have been (or were) known to frequent or reside in Palm Springs.
If you’re not easily starstruck, opt for a different type of entertainment and ride the world-famous Palm Springs Aerial Tramway to the top of Mount San Jacinto, play golf at Tahquitz Creek Golf Resort, or hike the ancient Indian Canyons.
The Glass Outhouse Art Gallery is truly one of a kind. Off the beaten path, this half outside/half inside, not-for-profit gallery brings you some of the most unique art in the area. There is indeed, a glass outhouse on the property, with one-way glass and a working toilet. You’ll also find a repurposed rabbit barn turned art gallery, a small chapel, and more than two acres of desert garden filled with sculptures.
The Glass Outhouse Art Gallery features local artists on a first come, first served basis. Fun fact: The owners, Laurel and Frank, do not see the art before it’s featured!
The historic 29 Palms Inn sits on the 9,000-year-old Oasis of Mara, occupying 70-acres of land right beside Joshua Tree National Park. You can enjoy a drink poolside, dine at the restaurant for lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch, explore the organic garden, or get artistic at their on-site creative center.
In the evenings, you can bask in breathtaking sunsets and watch the Milky Way appear in the night sky. The inn also offers nature walks, bird watching, art classes for both adults and kids, yoga on the lawn, and easy access to explore Joshua Tree National Park.
The 49 Palms Oasis Trail is a 3-mile, round-trip hike that leads you directly to a fan palm oasis. Once you land at the oasis, you’re greeted by towering palms that create a canopy over beautiful, clear pools of water. Soak in the view while you relax on one of the nearby boulders.
The hike is rated moderately-strenuous by National Park Service and takes about 2 to 3 hours to complete. So grab your friends, pack a picnic lunch, and enjoy the sights and sounds of this special ecosystem in the middle of the desert.
The Oasis of Murals started in 1994 by a local Merchants Committee in Twentynine Palms, and later became the non-profit Action Council for 29 Palms, Inc. By 2014, the non-profit commissioned 26 outdoor murals to illustrate the mystic beauty of the Mojave Desert, the nature found in Joshua Tree National Park, and the history of Twentynine Palms.
You can use the map featured on the brochure to find all of the murals throughout the city. The brochure also features information on the backstory of each mural in the collection. Action 29 Palms created limited edition signed and numbered prints of the murals to help finance the program for upkeep and the creation of new murals. Some are still available and can be bought for $125 from the organization.
The Hidden Valley Loop Trail provides an exceptional outdoor adventure for all hiking skill levels. This 1-mile hike is in the heart of Joshua Tree National Park. Encircled on all sides by the golden rock outcroppings, the trail features ideal spots for bouldering. As you scramble up the rocks, you’ll gain some gorgeous views before returning to the loop trail.
As you make your way through the route, don’t forget to stop and observe the plants and wildlife. There are signs along the way to help you identify different species.
Whether you’re an art lover, hiker, or amateur astronomer, there are plenty of things to do near Twentynine Palms. Like the locals say, “Life is fine in 29!”
Meet SpouseLink Ambassador Andrea
She served as our representative at Twentynine Palms, CA for 5 years and is currently at Camp Pendleton, CA. Connect with her for insights about the areas she’s lived in.
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