If you're like me, you sometimes say to yourself, "I'm bored. I wonder where I can pet a pig, feed a horse, eat plantains, buy fresh dates, ask a rabbi a question, listen to street musicians, get my fortune read, apply flip-flop heel balm, walk among a crowd of thousands and drink lemonade?" Luckily, I can do all of that — and get a jump on the weekend — in Palm Springs, where VillageFest takes place from 6-10 p.m. every Thursday from October through May (7-10 p.m. June-September) on Palm Canyon Drive between Baristo and Amado roads. The tab: A queen bed at Caliente Tropics is about $130, depending on the season, and dinner for two can be had from VillageFest street vendors for less than $20.
Forget the corporate hotels, and stay less than two miles from VillageFest at the Caliente Tropics Hotel (411 E. Palm Canyon Drive;  327-1391, http://www.calientetropics.com). The 90-room, Polynesian-themed resort features nonsmoking rooms and suites with free Wi-Fi, mini-refrigerators, coffee makers, in-room safes and an on-site gym, but no one goes to Palm Springs to sit inside a hotel room. Get outdoors as quickly as possible so you can enjoy the 12-person spa, barbecues, a grass area where children and dogs can play, cabanas, shuffleboard, a 100,000-gallon pool and a view of the San Jacinto Mountains so perfect that you think you can reach out and touch them.
Plenty of restaurants have Thursday night specials. For example, LG's Prime Steakhouse (255 S. Palm Canyon Drive;  416-1779, http://www.lgsprimesteakhouse.com; no item more than $66.95) offers half-price appetizers and drink selections. Village Pub (266 S. Palm Canyon Drive;  323-3265, http://www.new.palmspringsvillagepub.com; no item more than $27) has $5 tapas; and the Crazy Coconut Bar & Grill (166 N. Palm Canyon Drive;  327-8175, no item more than $12.95) serves two hamburgers, two orders of fries and two drinks for $20. That said, around 7 p.m., the wait at many eateries can be about an hour, so snack on funnel cake and kettle corn while you walk Palm Canyon Drive. Or enjoy gyros, paella, Mediterranean food and island-style cuisine and visit the traditional restaurants some other time. Whichever you choose, you won't leave Palm Springs on an empty stomach.
Palm Springs Art Museum (101 Museum Drive;  322-4800, http://www.psmuseum.org) offers free admission 4-8 p.m. during VillageFest, which, depending on how you look at it, is a good or bad thing. The good is that the museum isn't the sort of place you can walk through in 20 minutes. The bad is that you'll want to spend all four hours browsing the 150,000-square-foot property, meaning you can miss much of VillageFest. Spend four hours viewing world-class art for free or walk a populated street eating food — this is what we call a win-win situation. If free art isn't enough, there's a free parking structure across the street from the museum, so, really, you have no excuse not to go.
The lesson learned
My version of heaven has 90-degree weather at night, but if you disagree, now is the time to visit Palm Springs as evening temperatures are in the mid-70s. VillageFest attendees wear flip-flops and shorts while walking dogs — all, seemingly, without a drop of sweat.
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