Palm Springs Road Trip to Historical Citrus Park
Feel like you have been home for a long time? You want to get away but are not sure where to go. Here's an idea. Grab a friend, head out to West Riverside, California, and explore the California Citrus State Historic Park.
I'm not sure where I heard this place existed, but when I did, I knew I had to go there when the citrus fruit would be ripening. Once I connected with my travel buddy and confirmed the date, we waited in anticipation for the day to arrive.
Unfortunately, the only way to get there was via the freeway. Google Maps guided us on the 62-mile drive there. Once we turned off the freeway, we noted industrial parks and residential areas were leading to the main entrance to the park.
The Site of the Historical Park
There were many locations where you were high-up and could take in the vastness of the 300 acres planted in citrus trees. Rolling hills, unobstructed views of distant snow-capped mountains, and a glorious Southern California sun-filled sky immediately brought our senses alive. They assured us we had made the right move taking ourselves on this journey.
It is designated a historical park by the State of California because it contains The Gage Canal. To gain the title to 640 acres, Matthew Gage built 11.91 miles of the canal between 1985 and 1889 from Santa Ana River, which still supplies water to local citrus ranches.
Tour of the Orchards
The Ranger met us in front of the Visitors Center, and we were off for the next hour. Online the times for Ranger tours are listed. We had opted for the 11:00 a.m. one, which turned out to be just the right one for us.
(The tour and Visitors Center are totally handicap accessible. The trails are wide and can accommodate a wheelchair.)
Some of the things we learned:
· There are over 1,000 varieties of citrus fruit.
· This park has 70 varieties of citrus.
· Bees do not pollinate the trees.
· Citrus trees cross-pollinate when next to each other. So, no two years will the fruit taste the same if there is another kind of citrus planted next to it.
The list above is just a teaser. You will learn so much more.
The building that houses the Visitors Center was one of the old packaging sheds. Walk around the space, read the display panels, and watch the two movies. They will open your mind to even more appreciation of the citrus fruit industry.
You will be surprised what you learn about the history of oranges. Did you know oranges became of real prominence in California when food sources were sought to feed the influx of gold miners?
Cliché, but true, the Eliza Gift Shop is charming. Floor-length tablecloths draped on the tables filled with merchandise, much of it made from oranges.
A fine collection of books about the orange industry is available, and refrigerator magnets are touting the great designs once used on orange crates.
Getting Ready to Walk Out the Door of Visitors Center
Since we were on the tour, we were handed a bag weighing five pounds full of a variety of citrus fruit. So good and sweet. Let's just say it was opened before we finished our road trip.
Touring the Grounds
We got in our car and started driving. Discovering the site for weddings caused us to get out and explore more. Complete with a gazebo, a large building to hold a reception, and citrus trees surrounding the entire area. There is more than enough ample parking.
If you come to the park and have a group of people or fancy having a picnic lunch, picnic tables are scattered through this beautiful area with a view of the mountains.
We didn't know about bringing a lunch, so we were starving when we were through exploring the park. We asked the lovely woman in the Gift Shop where we could go to have a satisfying meal. She immediately recommended Olivia's for Mexican food.
We headed there, thanks to Google Maps, found our table, and ordered our go-to Mexican food. The Chili Rellenos did not disappoint, nor did the cactus salad.
Again, we tried to find an alternative route rather than heading back on the freeway. However, there appeared to be no alternative route. Alas, it was time to head home.
Final Thoughts on the Day
Years ago, I heard Tony Robbins say; you should spend a day in an industry that you know nothing about to help open your creativity. While exploring this industry, we asked questions, learned, and safely learned about a place that played a significant role in developing California's economy.
So, if you are ready for a day trip, seriously think about going to this beautiful park halfway between Los Angeles and Palm Springs.
Kathy Condon is a freelance journalist and travel writer. She is the Founder of the Palm Springs Insider Guide. Her book It Doesn't Hurt to Ask: It's All About Communication was named Best Book Finalist By USA Book News.