Take a spin on Balboa Fun Zone's ferris wheel.
STAY Right downtown, the 1919 Hotel Congress once housed legendary outlaw John Dillinger. From $59.* (800) 722-8848, www.hotelcongress.com.
EAT Try anything served in the warm, hand-formed corn tortillas at Taquería Pico de Gallo, one of the city’s 150-plus Mexican eateries. (520) 623-8775.
PLAY For a primer on local wildlife, visit the renowned Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Go in the morning when the animals are most active. $12. (520) 883-2702, www.desertmuseum.org.
P.S. At Cortiva’s Desert Institute of the Healing Arts, relax with a 50-minute massage from a therapist in training for just $30. (520) 792-1191.
PALM SPRINGS, CALIF.
STAY Best Western Las Brisas Hotel resembles a villa with its flowering bougainvillea and arched corridors. From $89.* (800) 346-5714, www.bestwestern.com.
EAT Zin American Bistro (top) boasts a solid wine list as well as a $40 prix fixe dinner featuring a different country’s cuisine each month. (760) 322-6300.
PLAY For a sweeping view of the valley, hop on the aerial tram that climbs 5,800 feet up to Mount San Jacinto State Park. Take a sweater. $21.50.* (888) 515-8726, www.pstramway.com.
P.S. Golf in Palm Springs can be pricey. Save 10 to 50 percent by purchasing unsold tee times through Stand By Golf. (760) 321-2665.
NEWPORT BEACH, CALIF.
STAY Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort has two dozen cottages in addition to its 382 RV sites. From $52. (800) 765-7661, www.newportdunes.com.
EAT Since 1951, the Crab Cooker has been serving affordable seafood on paper plates. Tip: Order the charcoal-broiled fish or cracked crab. (949) 673-0100.
P.S. The Blue Beet café offers fish tacos for just $1. But there’s a catch: They’re only available from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. (949) 675-2338.
*Ask about the discount for AAA members.
Photography by Maxine Cass
This article was first published in January 2006. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.