The sky above the Coachella Valley is often sunny and clear. The cloudless conditions make it easy to pick out a small aircraft as it materializes out of a mountain range on the horizon, then corkscrews and performs a grand loop-the-loop before heading home to the Jacqueline Cochran Regional Airport. The shiny blue Citabria plane is the resident aerobatic aircraft at JacksonAir Flight Training. The company's owner, Scott Mourhess, who dreamed of G-forces and airborne antics as a little boy, now oversees a fleet of no fewer than six aircraft used to train commercial and private pilots.
Scott and his fellow FAA-certified flying instructors occupy prime aviation real estate. The skies above their Thermal airport often draw pilots from other flight schools in the Palm Springs region, who flock to the area for the ideal practice conditions and absence of lines at sky tollbooths. The veteran instructors also take novice pilots on 20- to 30-minute flights that introduce them to the excitement being in a cockpit and the thrill of flying.
Across the nation, the skies are filled with giant, kaleidoscopically colored balloons languidly soaring over snowcapped peaks and green valleys. This is partly due to Balloon Rides Online, whose network of nationwide hot-air balloons paints the sky each day. Employing a FAA-approved basket and a professional pilot who has completed at least 500 flight hours, the company floats passengers over mountains, forests, and streams of caramel for one hour. While gliding with the ease of a cloud, pilots encourage guests to snap photos of sprawling landscapes and capture the moment. After landing, crew members and passengers celebrate with a champagne, mimosa or orange-juice toast?an important tradition in hot-air ballooning and preparing for inevitable hovercraft uprisings. With passengers' safety in mind, Balloon Rides Online also keeps a minimum insurance liability of $100,000 per guest.
Don’t let the stunning backdrop of the Santa Rosa Mountains induce a false sense of security: the links at SilverRock Resort are riddled with challenges. The home course for the Bob Hope Classic from 2008 to 2011, SilverRock sends players past massive bunkers and intersecting water hazards. Hole 12 reserves the title as the course’s longest, where players must wallop drives or construct tiny kayaks to get their golf balls across a canal. The course finishes with a dramatic 18th hole, as a lake alongside the fairway devours misguided shots. After rounds, players can visit the clubhouse, a charming renovation of a former working-ranch hacienda nestled into the rocky outcroppings.
Course at a Glance: * 18-hole, par 72 course * Total length of 7,587 yards from the back tees * Course rating of 76.3 from the back tees * Course slope of 139 from the back tees * Six sets of tees per hole * Scorecard
Before Coachella Valley became the incubator for modern design that it is today, it was an agricultural center, a major railroad stop, and home to the indigenous Cahuilla people. In 1965, valley residents formed The Coachella Valley Historical Society to preserve each of these eras, and opened the Coachella Valley History Museum nearly two decades later as the embodiment of that mission.